Warmest greetings to all former students, staff and friends of St Bernard’s!
Regular readers of this newsletter will know just how much this school crams in to one scholastic year. Other schools are always amazed at the depth and breadth of the extra-curricular activities that are offered to our young people. This ethos has always been a feature of our school: we allow our students to flourish and develop in a multitude of ways, we truly believe in individual learning and we celebrate talents of all kinds not just the academic kind.
It is a testament to the hard work of all our staff that this is possible. Every single day there are lunchtime and after school clubs, opportunities to learn a new skill or revise and enjoy an old one. There are lots of tournaments: netball, football, hockey, rugby and basketball, which all enjoy enormous success and many trophies displayed around our school. There are also ‘academic’ tournaments such as Olympiads in Maths and Physics. Our public speaking competitions are growing in success: Year 9 won the regional heat of the Mock Trial in March, while our Sixth Form won the senior section of the popular Rotary Youth Speaks competition.
As this newsletter is written, our new Prefects have been elected and a fresh Junior Management Team is ready to leave their mark. These young people represent the school so well wherever they go. Year 12 (or Lower VI if you are of a certain era!) had already started duties before the elections when they held the annual Senior Citizens’ Party in December. Not only do they plan the event themselves, they also decorate the Hall, collect items to make individual hampers for each guest and put on entertainment for the afternoon with a delicious high tea. What a fabulous way to start their VI Form years!
The South Africa visit to our partner school Sinethemba High in Cape Town has just taken place. The process began 18 months ago, when students from the upper school were invited to apply for one of the 20 places. Mr. Stimpson (Headteacher) and Mr. Tomlinson (Deputy Headteacher) read every one of the hundreds of applications (students were asked to write a letter describing why they felt they deserved a place) and had to make some very difficult choices. The successful students threw themselves in to a frenzy of fund-raising in order to bring much-needed supplies to the school, such as school uniform. The 20 students have so far raised over £17,000. They departed on 5th February and sent a message to St Bernard’s which was read out to the whole school Assembly:
“…On Sunday we woke up early for mass. Without a shadow of a doubt, it was the most beautiful and moving ceremony any of us have attended. It is impossible to put it into words but - although we could not understand a word - the harmonies and hymns of the entire congregation spread a feeling of warmth straight down each one of our spines. For the first time many of us found ourselves itching to attend another two-and-a-half-hour service!....
…As a group we have prepared a poem outlining the entire message of our schools' partnership. We will present this to the students and staff in what we hope will be the start of a set of lifelong friendships for us all.
…The first thing we saw when driving out of Cape Town airport was the never-ending expanse of the township. The scrap metal shacks stretch beyond the horizon in a sprawling mass. As we left the airport we were buzzing with excitement at the realisation that we had finally arrived in South Africa, yet we all fell silent instantly as we were hit with a cold wave of pure heartache at the sight of such poverty.”
Educational visits are so important – nothing compares to visiting the places you have studied in History or attending a production of ‘An Inspector Calls’. Our visits encompass trips abroad: Pompeii, Ypres, Le Touquet, Cern and the Large Hadron Collider, Frankfurt for a Maths conference as well as those closer to home: Year 7 conducting a population survey in Slough High Street during a geography lesson, Art visits to the V & A Museum and the Savile Garden, Windsor.
Every year we say goodbye to colleagues and friends and last year was no exception as we bid au revoir to Mr Cornell, our Academic Deputy Head after 17 years’ service. As is traditional, there was a celebratory Mass held in his honour. Mr Cornell’s ‘catch-phrase’ is “education is valuable” and just to prove it, he returns in a part-time capacity to carry on teaching History to the VI Form!
At the beginning of 2016, we unveiled a new VI Form facility – a state-of-the art study centre, opposite the Common Room in what used to be the Sisters’ laundry area. The whole area was made good with Wi-Fi, sockets and heating, allowing VI Form students to bring in their own devices to link to the school system and enjoy their own private study area. The Library facilities are still available but not everyone can fit into these spaces during their free periods and it does not have enough electronic resource. It is proving very popular and is a great investment.
We hope you realise that you are always welcome back to school for visits and a chat – even if now there are not so many familiar faces. We are very proud of our legacy and we try hard to maintain our links with the Sisters in both convents in the UK and we urge you to do the same! It is now 10 years since the move from Slough took place and we strive to maintain our special welcome and ethos to the whole community, both past and present. We thank you all for your part in the life of St Bernard’s and hope you take that line of the school song most seriously when you sing “ a child of St Bernard’s is known everywhere”!
We look forward to welcoming you to the 2016 Reunion at school.