Headteacher's Blog 20.03.2019

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Head Teacher’s Blog – 20th March 2019

I would like to begin this blog by thanking parents and students for their support and the way in which you have responded to the letter I sent on Friday 8th March. I thank you and your children for not engaging in speculation discussion but for sharing questions or things of concern to you in the right way through school staff. We have been and will continue to provide counselling and other support to those students and staff who need it. This is a difficult time for our community, but as always students, staff and parents have responded wonderfully and quite rightly for the vast majority of people not directly affected school life has continued as normal.

I am a little delayed with this blog, which was set aside to just celebrate and recognise a wide range of achievement of our students, supported by staff and parents in the last couple of months. There is such a range of activity covering sports, academic competition, volunteering and service and so much more. The following examples are right to celebrate together, but I also know that they reflect many other acts of service and personal achievement that are going on all the time in school.

Inspiring Youth

On 18th January, a group of our students who have been working on the Inspiring Youth Programme were invited to the awards presentation evening. Anuvrat, Ananya, Maggie, Olivia and Takudzwa were all invited to the evening and Maggie was presented with a gold award, which is a great achievement for someone who is only in the first year of the programme. Since the awards, the students have been leading assemblies to promote the programme and working to coordinate and support those who want to take part. I must say particular thanks to Agnes Bangura, one of our Y13 students, who has been an amazing advocate for the programme and mentor to the students who take part in our school. She has established something great in our school and I thank her and wish her every success in her future as she takes her next step.

Sporting success

There is such a range of sports happening in school and I must thank the PE department and all ther other members of staff, parents and students who work so hard to provide opportunities for our students.

Two of our Y7 students, Patrick Siggs and Nathan Hawkins competed in the national ball hockey finals earlier in January. Patrick was playing in the first team who won after a nail biting penalty shoot-out.

We have continued to have considerable success with our cross country team. Before the half term break Olivia, Hannah, Maya, Ellie, Elayna, Isla and Olivia picked up bronze medals, for their team effort, at the South Yorkshire School Games. Then, just this weekend, James, Rebecca, Annie and Polly competed in the English Schools cross country championships. Rebecca, Annie and Polly were part of the South Yorkshire team that won the event and Annie qualified to represent England in Dublin this coming weekend.

In basketball both our Y9 and Y10 teams are now City Champions. Congratulations to our Y9 team; Declan, Chinua, Alex, Chama, Tukudzwa, Robert, Mario, Randell and Robert. Congratulations to our Y10 team; Charles, Ange, John, Marco, Tyler, Tomas, Tani, Rouneil and Vince.

Our bouldering team competed and came 3rd in city finals. The team included Tom, George, Tim, Sascha, Imogen and Alan.

Our students have also continued to do really well in trampoline competition too, with a large number of students and teams finishing in the top three in the recent Sheffield trampoline competition; U19 Elite 2nd place for Elise, U19 Intermediate 2nd place for Bethany, Y8 team 2nd place, Y7 team 2nd place, Jess achieving 2nd place as Y7 Novice, Ben Y7 Novice champion Daisy U16 Novice 2nd place and Olivia U16 Novice Champion.

This Saturday coming (23rd March), our Y9 boys football team will compete for the second consecutive year in the city cup final. We wish them every success after a heart-breaking loss on penalties after a superb performance last year.

Then, just this weekend, James, Rebecca, Zena , Annie and Polly competed in the English Schools cross country championships. Rebecca, Annie and Polly were part of the South Yorkshire team that won the event and Annie qualified to represent England in Dublin this coming weekend.


Frank Y8 and Nathan in Y9 were successful in auditioning for the DiME contemporary dance project at High Storrs. This will be featuring on the BBC this week, so very exciting as our dance group run by Miss Wildes continues to go from strength to strength.

The Great Big Dance Off

16 Y9s travelled to Halifax to perform at the Victoria Theatre last Thursday, they were absolutely wonderful and performed alongside A-Level and GCSE dance students. This was their first time on stage as a dance troupe and Miss Wildes said “ I couldn't be more proud of their achievements .“

Public Speaking

Two of our Y10 students – Maggie & Darcey competed recently in the Old Catenians Public Speaking Debate in Wakefield. Thank you to Mr O’Farrell who led the team and who had this to say about the students. “Despite being 3 years younger than most competitors and in the biggest competition entry they have ever had!), they were absolutely magnificent and represented all that is best of the school. Even better, Maggie came 3rd. I was very proud to see them perform so maturely.”

The Readathon has been taking place in school with Y7 and 8. They've raised a healthy total so far. The event was in the last week of last half term. Money has just been collected and we've raised around £1300 (more with giftaid) for the “Read for Good” charity that buys books for children in hospital.

Big Challenge

The Big Challenge is an annual city wide competition focused on business and entrepreneurship. Mrs Alison and Mrs Paine work hard to coordinate and support teams and we have once again had some excellent engagement in school. We are delighted that Clara in Y9 has been invited to receive an award for her team “Festive Fiesta”.

Big Bang Fair

Recently, 44 students from years 7, 8, 10, 12 went to the Big Bang fair in Birmingham. The students really enjoyed seeing spectacular shows, a HS2 simulator, a supersonic car and other cool experiments, as well as receiving useful careers advice. STEM club also has other projects running this year, including releasing a balloon into space. If interested, pop and see Dr Bruce for more details.


Top of the Bench Competition

For the 5th year in a row, we entered a team for the Top of the Bench competition, run by the Royal Society for Chemistry. This year we came 4th, with a team of students from years 9, 10 and 11.

UKMT (United Kingdom Mathematics Trust)
Sam, Theo, Caitlyn and Victor all did extremely well to reach the National Final of the UKMT Senior Team Challenge. Notre Dame were one of only 19 non-independent or selective schools that reached the final and they performed extremely well. From over 1300 schools nationally taking part, the team finished 52nd


Teaching School

It is not only our students who are doing things that we want to recognise and celebrate. You may be aware that Notre Dame is leading a number of educational research projects. These help colleagues within school, and across the profession more generally, find answers to important questions about what helps children make the best progress. We have recently led on two projects that involved almost 1000 pupils in total across 11 secondary schools. Both projects were funded by the Institute for Effective Education at York University. Our Maths, English and Sociology departments have been directly involved in these projects. The reports for both projects have just been published and if you are interested you can read them here: Audio Feedback, Comparative Judgement

Spoiler alert! The first research into the use of recorded audio feedback instead of written feedback at A Level found positive benefits on outcomes for students. Sociology students valued this type of feedback with teachers not reporting an increase in workload. Although student outcomes in Maths were higher with audio feedback, it was more workload for staff and not well-received by students. This provides useful information that we can respond to.

The second trial involved students in KS3 English doing peer comparative judgements in place of teachers providing written feedback. Student outcomes on GCSE style descriptive writing questions were comparable with a significant reduction in teacher workload. I would hasten to add that while we are not advocating removing written feedback, this finding provides evidence that a variety of assessment formats can be used to a similar effect, with some assessment strategies freeing up teacher time for other activities. At a time when there are national challenges recruiting teachers, a positive impact on teacher workload while achieving comparable student outcomes is an important finding.

We are currently leading on two further projects. One is a similar project across four secondary schools evaluating the use of a particular lesson structure in English. The other is a much larger national trial across 125 secondary schools evaluating our ‘SMART Spaces’ GCSE Chemistry resources. This latter project is the result of a collaboration between Notre Dame classroom practitioners and Queens University Belfast who have brought their neuroscientific expertise to bear on the project.

Spring Concert

Hot of the press, I must also highlight the Spring Concert which I attended last night. This annual event is always a varied programme reflecting the quality and number of students participating in the musical life of the school. This year’s concert was no exception. It featured orchestral music, musical theatre, jazz, rock and everything else in between. The quality of the performances was exceptional, showing the talent and the hard work of the students and the staff who work with them at its very finest. We are blessed to have such a thriving music department in school and I would like to thank Mr Ward, all the members of staff who work with him and all the students who gave us such joy by sharing their gifts with us.

Centenary Ball

Before I finish, I would like to remind you of our return to the City Hall on 10th May for our Centenary Ball. This will be a special version of our regular Friends of Notre Dame Spring Ball, with dinner, a live band and a disco. Tickets are available to parents of students, staff, alumni of the school and others connected to our community. It is always a great opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and at the same time, the event raises money to support the extra-curricular opportunities provided for our students. If you are interested in tickets for this event, please contact Mrs Parker Giblin on pparkergiblin@notredame-high.co.uk .

Dates for your diary

• Spring Concert Tuesday 19th March (7pm in the Salle)
• Last day of term Friday 29th March
• Students back in school Monday 15th April
• School closed for Good Friday Friday 19th April
• School closed for Easter Monday Monday 22nd April
• Notre Dame Dance Show Tuesday 7th May 7pm
• Centenary Alumni Morning Saturday 27th April 10am-12pm Oakbrook House
• Bank Holiday Monday Monday 6th May
• FOND Centenary Ball Friday 10th May at City Hall
• GCSE exams begin Monday 13th May*
• A Level exams begin Monday 20th May*
*Note that there are some exams in some subjects prior to these dates, but this is when the main exam sessions start and when we suspend the normal timetable for these year groups

Things happening in school over the coming weeks
• Lenten fundraising - Throughout Lent, students will be raising money to support various causes including the Hallam Diocese Good Shepherd appeal
• Holy week services Thursday 18th April – As we conclude the season of Lent in school on Holy Thursday, all year groups will gather for a service to mark this time
• Easter liturgies – Week beginning Tuesday 23rd April
• Y11 Leavers’ Day – Friday 10th May
• St Julie’s Day & Y11 Leavers’ Day 10th May – A day of celebration, thanks giving and prayers for our Y11 students. This day will include the Y11 leavers’ mass
• Y13 Leavers’ Mass 17th May


New from the Music Department

Cue the Music fanfare!!

In the music block over the past 2 week, the pupils have been busy on a variety of tasks and topics, and from the pictures below, I have been treated to a real musical feast!
The Y7 classes have been busy composing a piece of music using the ever popular Sibelius software in the style of a Javanese Gamelan.

music1 web

The Y8 classes have been working in groups, concocting their own versions of a late 1950’s classic “Let’s Dance!”.

music2 web

Our Long thin and Mid-Size GCSE classes have been researching music form the four Areas of Study using a new resource which allows independent study ; researching the music of the Beatles and Haydn in Yr10 and in their final year of GCSE course, the Yr11 are finishing their final composition.

Year 9 in action :-

music3 web

Year 10 class listening to their set work by Haydn…with very colourful notes!

music4 web

And part of the Y11 class using Sibelius software to compose their second compositions for GCSE.

music5 web



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