As I write this monthly letter, the sun is shining brightly outside and the signs of spring presage a lovely, late Easter break. At the Elmfield Road end of the school, construction of the new Science block is continuing apace and the refurbishment of the Rose Cottage Arts Centre is going well. We are tidying up ready to vacate Ashfield Towers as we move Junior House into the heart of the school and preparations are going well for that too. I hope that I will see many of you with fond memories of times spent in Ashfield Towers at our celebration and farewell picnic on Saturday 15 June.
Thank you to those parents who joined me for the second parent forum of the year. We had a wide ranging discussion and a number of ideas were put forward that we are building into our programmes going forwards.
Much of this month there has been the smell of greasepaint in the air as the theatre seems to have taken over Westfield. Junior House welcomed the very participative French performance when Théâtre sans Frontières brought their production of “Ti Jean et La Chèvre”, a collection of folk stories from around the francophone world encouraging consolidation of basic vocabulary, to a joint audience of Westfield and Newcastle School for Boys. This was followed by Upper Key Stage 2’s Shakespeare production which this year was a rollicking tale of “The Tempest”. That theme was followed through in Senior House when we welcomed parents and friends to a coffee morning preview of “Return to the Forbidden Planet”. I know that many of you then enjoyed the amazing performances at Northern Stage. It has made such a difference to our girls to work with NSB and at a professional theatre and I am glad to have been able to offer them the opportunity to do so.
Earlier in the month was National Science Week and we celebrated this in style at Westfield with the senior girls designing a time capsule to be buried outside the new Science labs and deciding what should go into it to demonstrate the technology of today and predictions about the future. Meanwhile, the Houses in Junior House were busy designing a snitch launcher, creating boats to keep as many Durmstrangers afloat as possible and creating ways to get as many names (Mentos) into the goblet of fire (bottle of coke) as possible before it exploded! This followed a wonderfully colourful World Book Day when we saw girls, and staff, dressed as all sorts of literary characters around the school!
In the last week of term our Senior House Captains organised a talent show for the girls. Heats were held and, on the last day of term, we sat back to be amazed at the brilliance of our girls. This is certainly, I feel, something that could become a regular House fixture in the calendar! Meanwhile, in Junior House, there was the annual eggstravaganza of the Easter egg decorating competition. I am always overwhelmed by the originality and creativity that is shown here and congratulations go to everyone who took part.
As well as enjoying the, hopefully, lovely weather over Easter, Dr Corbin has put together some ideas of stretch and challenge for the girls to have a go at if they wish over the holidays. Nothing is compulsory here and, although these are mostly aimed at Upper Key Stage 2 and above, there are some events that are suitable for all ages so please do have a look
Next term we are pleased to welcome to the Maths department Mrs Ruth Gates who will be covering for Dr Barnett while she is on maternity leave. Also new to the school is Mrs Wendy Locks who takes over from Dr Hardy as Director of Music. We are all sorry that Dr Hardy is leaving us and I would like to take this opportunity of wishing her every happiness and success in her new post at Durham High School for Girls.
Inevitably next term is dominated by external examinations for our senior girls as well as full programmes of events which are detailed in the enclosed Junior and Senior House calendars. Although there are still a few weeks to go, I do wish all our examination classes good luck for the summer examinations. There is still plenty of time for revision, so I would urge the girls to spend the Easter holidays wisely! The senior girls have been given a schedule of revision sessions for several subjects which will take place in school during the Easter holidays.
Enclosed with this letter is our end of term newsletter, with its lovely photographic record of some of the many activities that have taken place this term. Our annual school magazine is also having a radical makeover this year and some articles have been earmarked for that instead. I hope you enjoy reading these reviews of what’s going on in school and my thanks go to the many staff who give up their own time to organise and run these events for the girls inside and outside school throughout the term.
Finally, and on a personal note, over Easter I am undertaking a challenge in the hope of raising some funds for Parkinson’s UK. I'm starting with a reasonably strenuous 7 hour trek to over 1300 feet below the surface in Britain's deepest publicly accessible point, involving zip wires and abseiling down waterfalls in an old slate mine. From there I will climb, using ladders, via ferrata and miners' passageways, to the surface near Blaenau Ffestiniog. I will then get over to the base of Snowdon before scaling Britain's second highest peak at 1850m or 3560 feet and time-wise I am likely to have to overnight part way up/down the hill. If you feel able to support the charity in any way please do visit where I will also post updates from this adventure.
I wish you all a wonderful Easter break,
Dates for your Diary
Term Begins Tuesday 23 April
Key Stage 2 residential visit to Kielder Tuesday 23 April to Thursday 25 April
Bikeability Training for Lower 2 and Upper 2 Tuesday 7 May and Tuesday 14 May
Arts Soirée Thursday 16 May
North East Children’s Cancer Run Sunday 19 May
Half Term Monday 27 May to Friday 31 May
Teddy Bears’ Picnic for Early Years children Tuesday 11 June
Art, Textiles and Graphics Exhibition Friday 14 June
Celebration Picnic Saturday 15 June
KS2 and Senior House Sports Day Thursday 20 June
Lower 3 and Upper 2 Prom Friday 21 June
Lower 3 to New Entrants’ Day in Senior House Monday 24 June
Annual Awards Ceremony Thursday 27 June
Camellia Ball Saturday 29 June
Early Years/KS1 Celebration and Sports Morning Friday 1 July
Term Ends Friday 5 July