News & Events

Leadership Likes: Mrs Cook

In a world of algorithms, hashtags and followers, know the true importance of human connection.

I’m not sure who said this, but I love it. It reminds me of another ‘inspirational thought’ I scribbled in that scrappy quote book I kept in my teenage years.

‘Whilst enormous advances have been made in the world of technology, there’s still a lot to be said for the power of a smile.’

There have been lots of smiles at Croydon High this week and it is clear that however brilliantly we have embraced the wonders of technology over the last few months (and it has been transformational), we are all very happy to be back in our real (non-virtual) world.

Throughout the period of Guided Home Learning, there were plenty of initiatives which kept our community spirit nourished.  People have commented on the fact that this really was what kept us all going. Our weekly News Links, with video messages from Mrs Pattison (I think we all feel we have sat in her kitchen with her now!), inspirational stories and suggestions, staff videos (still being shared on social media!), and those incredible PE challenges, made us feel we were still a community, supporting and celebrating each other. And I speak as the proud winner of the Tea Bag Challenge – possibly one of my proudest moments.

In assembly today, we recognised the hard work of two members of that community, for whom ‘lockdown’ meant new challenges and an enormous amount of hard work. When our school site closed back in March, our caterers Thomas Franks wanted to use their expertise for the greater good – so they joined forces with Kitchen Social, a Mayor’s Fund for London programme and the largest provider of food for children in London during the school holidays.

Step forward Lisa and Justina: both long-standing and much loved members of the Croydon High family, who have been part of the catering team at Croydon High for many years. During the Covid-19 emergency response, the Kitchen Social programme delivered 35,000 meals to vulnerable children across London. During the summer, Lisa and Justina led a small team of volunteers here at Croydon High to prepare 17,000 of those meals, all distributed to children who may otherwise have struggled to access good quality meals. A remarkable effort delivered with smiles.

But this wasn’t enough for our Lockdown Heroes. The school also partnered with our neighbours at the Jubilee Church in Selsdon to deliver a hot meal every Friday to elderly or otherwise vulnerable local residents. Once again, Lisa and Justina were at the forefront organising the effort and making an enormous difference to those people, many of whom wrote to us to thank us not only for the delicious meals but also the thought and care that went in to each delivery. Thanks also to our local Fire Brigade who voluntarily delivered the meals for us – it was a true community effort!

It has been wonderful to be able to welcome new staff in person and we hope that despite ‘the new normal’ we are all getting used to, they are beginning to feel the legendary Croydon High warmth. For some, it has really felt like coming home as we have no less than six alumnae joining us this term, in various capacities. Mrs Humphrey, our new Head of Progression and Futures, and Miss Lipczynski in our English Department are familiar faces getting used to being on the other side of the staffroom door! And when it became obvious that our Gap Year students would not be able to return from Australia, the blow was softened by the fact that four relatively recent ‘alums’ have stepped in to the breach to help us out before they move on to the next stages of their careers. Covid-19 has meant that many plans have to be put on hold for the time being so we are delighted that Katie, Olivia, Rose and Leah are going to be able to spend some time with us and they will be an invaluable support. What has been so heart-warming in my catch-up conversations with all of them is the genuine love they have for the school and the sense of family they describe when they talk about their time here.

The Big Sister, Little Sister programme is one of the crucial components that continues to generate this feeling. It is a unique part of the Croydon High pastoral support programme, whereby Year 7 girls are matched with ‘big sisters’ in Year 10. We fully recognise that positive mentoring is a key factor contributing to a general sense of wellbeing. And who best to mentor our younger girls than the older ones who can relate first hand to all they are experiencing?

At the end of Year 9, girls can apply to be a ‘big sister’ and are interviewed by members of the Sixth Form and pastoral staff. Those who show the right attributes are given training and support and then, at the beginning of Year 10, they are matched with a ‘little sister’ who is starting Year 7. This year we are grouping the girls into small families who can meet up regularly and who are always available to help with any small worries and concerns. Some become good friends whilst for others, it’s just someone to wave to in the corridor. Just like real sisters…

The Big Sister programme was off to a great start this year even before term started. Our Big Sisters had sent personal video messages to their new Little Sisters, reassuring them that they would be ready and waiting to help them settle in. It was a lovely touch and very well received. Now we are all on site, the girls have met in person and it’s great to see those connections being made and confidence being passed on.

Because, ultimately, that is the Croydon High difference. Nurturing, supporting and challenging in an environment where everyone knows that in good times and bad, at school or at home, we will all still be together cheering each other on.

Keep smiling everyone, even behind your face coverings, because it’s really making a difference.

Mrs Fran Cook

Director of External Relations

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