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News > Old Girls' Events > From the Headmistress - 6th November 2020

From the Headmistress - 6th November 2020

Keep up to date with school news and read Mrs Elphinstone's 'From the Headmistress' letter to Francis Holland School parents

6th November 2020

A dense fog hung over London yesterday morning as the second lockdown started, shrouding the city in clammy gloom. But the sun broke through and the cloud was replaced by a bright blue sky. It is good to remember this pattern of darkness and sunshine to help us through four more difficult weeks. Mind you, it would be hard to see that we were in the midst of a pandemic, that our economy was falling apart, and that the United States was sadly proving the utter ridiculousness of its name, if you took a snapshot of lesson time at FHS. There has been, once again, a palpable sense of energy and cheerfulness as the girls have returned and our community has pressed on with learning and giving. We were helped by a superb assembly on FEAR by our head girl, Rosie, and her deputy, Isabella, who spoke to the girls about the need for courage, calm and living in the present. Hearing the girls themselves urging each other to be brave and confident carries so much more weight than when we teachers do it.
For some, this second lockdown has brought fresh anxiety and stress, however. We are fortunate that we have a strong spiritual foundation and our chaplaincy room is busy with girls bringing their prayer requests, lighting a candle or simply having a quiet time of reflection or prayer. Although the School has a Christian tradition, we welcome individuals of all faiths and no faith, and everyone finds here a place of spiritual peace and a sense of meaning. Father Kenny provides spiritual guidance and support, which complements the pastoral help which is found in our counselling service, Contemplace. Every day, all day, there is someone to talk to for both pupils and staff, and in this safe and nurturing environment we are able to find our way through the confusion and uncertainty of this global crisis.

Other things can lift the spirits too. We thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful GCSE devised drama performances given by our Year 10 girls. Counting for a third of their GCSE marks, these short plays have been created and scripted by the students themselves, necessitating the choice of costumes, lighting and sound cues as well. Based on the theme of transformation, and referencing everything from Twelfth Night to Pygmalion, each one showed remarkable creativity and intelligence. Without doubt, these pupils are on track, like all students before them, for the highest grades.
Drama and music are both thriving, despite the Covid restrictions, thanks to the ingenuity and determination of the staff and enthusiasm of the girls. The staff choir enjoys a weekly oasis of pleasure and happiness (although probably not musical excellence) by rehearsing in St Mary’s Church, and we are extremely excited to learn we might make it on to the Christmas CD if we work really hard at our ding dongs. Two musical concerts are planned for the next fortnight which will be live-streamed to you. Outside, you will see various netball squads training hard in the early morning cold. And after school, orchestra, ballet, debating and a host of clubs keep the girls’ creativity burning. It’s strange to think that the rest of the country is closing down and climbing into its pyjamas. We are making the most of every second of being together and learning.
So as the nation switches on Netflix, many of our pupils are bursting into action, using school as a creative, innovative and enterprising outlet. This week, as part of the Upper School Enrichment programme, our Year 10s had the pleasure of listening to Zena El Farra (Founder of MasterPeace). Zena is one of our enterprise mentors who built the Barclays banking app and worked with the founders of Hello Fresh as a startup. FHS pupils were given an insight into how Zena developed her entrepreneurial spirit at school and have been set a challenge which will culminate in a pitch to a judging panel on 25th November. All Year 10s have embarked on this design thinking challenge: designing a face mask which serves a core purpose but also incorporates wearable technology.
Meanwhile, the Sixth Form Innovation Sprint is generating some fantastic new businesses in the form of bake-at-home frozen focaccia slabs, candles, jewellery and innovate trainer art. During this Enrichment course, our pupils get the time and space to work with our Director of Creative Enterprise, to create websites and trading channels. Where pupils in other schools may be judged upon ideas, we measure ourselves on the emergence of start-ups. The group is hoping to launch an Etsy-based trading channel via our website, so Mr Dyson would be delighted to hear from any parents who might have an idea, service or product to sell via our website. Two pupils have developed their business ideas into full Extended Project Qualifications which will be invaluable for university and job applications in the future.
We are also delighted to inform you that our Director of Creative Enterprise, Nick Dyson, will be launching a new podcast in the near future called FHQ (Francis Holland Questions). Over the course of the year, our pupils will be interviewing a wide range of enterprising, academic and creative contacts – short, sharp 10 minute podcasts will hopefully capture the imagination of many! We are so thankful to one of our Year 8 parents who has kindly donated the podcast hardware. Again, if you know of anyone who can help to inspire our community and podcast listeners then please do recommend them to
Earlier this term I spoke of our desire to explore the benefits of an air filtration system in the school which might also extract the virus. Several of you expressed interest in supporting this initiative and so we installed a couple of units to test the system’s efficacy. We have just analysed the data and to our disappointment the results were not as dramatic as we hoped, although there was evidence that it reduced lead pollution caused by traffic emissions. The report has been discussed at length by our governors who wanted to consider a roll out of such a system in both Sloane Square and Regent’s Park, but their conclusion has been that to make such an initiative effective, units would need to be installed in every room in the schools at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Since we have so far managed to prevent a single incidence of Covid19 infection with our protocols of face coverings, hand sanitisation and distancing, and as a vaccine hovers on the horizon, it has been concluded that we shouldn’t commit to a wholescale programme at this time. I am very grateful for your willingness to help, however, and we could consider installing at least one unit in our dining room which can feel quite crowded and one into our partner school, St Barnabas primary school, which lacks our space. I am sure that we will succumb, like all other schools, to incidences of infection in the days to come, and there is still the issue of traffic pollution to consider, so I am thinking about what we can do to improve air quality in the school. For the moment, we are wearing extra layers in school as we keep all the windows and doors open.
On traffic pollution, this term has inevitably seen a huge rise in pupils travelling to school in cars. Bourne Street and Graham Terrace are gridlocked in the mornings, which can do our health and the environment no good at all. The jams are created by cars stopping in the middle of the road to disgorge their children. This is both dangerous and unhelpful. Please draw up close to the pavement outside the school or along Graham Terrace to drop your daughters, or even slightly further from the School and allow her to walk a few yards. Hopefully some time next year we will revert to children using public transport or cycling/walking to school.
Next week we will mark Remembrance Day with our usual service in the playground. The Lower School and Years 5 and 6 will attend outdoors and the service will be relayed to the rest of the School in classrooms. It is a solemn occasion but one which draws us close together as a community. We invite the names of family members who fell in any war to be read out in the Roll of Honour. Do contact Father Kenny
Have a restful weekend!

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