Review of the year
Mr McCarthy celebrates a year which marks the milestone of ten years as Headmaster of Russell House. After three years of enforced disruption, the hope this year was for the school community to get back to enjoying trips, fixtures and camps. It has been a year of thriving and Russell House has embraced every opportunity to shine.
Much continues to be made of the gaps in children’s education caused by the pandemic. Yet all the evidence we have suggests that every Russell House pupil continued overall, to make at least good or better than expected progress.
When I meet prospective parents with their babes in arms, I always talk about the way in which we are market leaders in keeping parental choice for secondary schools at age 11, as wide as possible. This year especially, Form 7 has done us proud in proving this once again.
Our 24 leaving pupils are heading to 13 different secondary schools, including independent and super-selective grammar schools. Sevenoaks School remains the most academically competitive, and we are very proud of the six pupils who were offered places this year.
We enjoyed a record-breaking scholarship haul. Form 7 shared no less than 14 scholarship offers.
Eight scholarship offers were academic and we also received special recognition in English, an award for performing arts and an innovation in technology scholarship, to sit alongside the sports and all rounder awards. I congratulate Form 7 and their families, whilst acknowledging their teachers who led and supported them.
Three children in Form 7 were awarded medals in the Primary Maths Challenge - two Bronze and one Silver which placed Russell House pupils in the top 3% of entrants. As this competition attracts some very able pupils from around the world, we can be very proud of their achievements.
Mathletics remains a popular activity and this has been further developed over the academic year. InterHouse Maths has also been expanded to include every child from Form 3 to Form 7 working at their level and contributing to their House total.
We rejoined the local Beagle Maths Challenge for the first time in three years. One of our Form 6 teams took fifth place in a field of 31 which is an excellent performance in this high-energy event. Next year, we look forward to hosting other schools in Quiz Club Maths Competitions once again.
Science and PSHE
Being properly back at school has meant a welcome return to enjoying the full range of practicals, across all topics and all year groups. Pupils have blown up, dissected, measured and observed all manner of things. At The Farm, pupils have been growing their own vegetables which we have all enjoyed with our lunch. Form 2 enjoyed tractor rides as part of further understanding how the food we enjoy is produced.
Form 3 investigated pond life at Horton Kirby making insightful comparisons with our own pond, whilst Form 5 took the short walk to the river for a spot of fishing and the classification of river life.
Form 6 went further afield, enjoying a visit to the Greenwich Observatory and, further afield still, with a cold, clear, evening of stargazing in the school grounds.
Form 7 were treated to a Science, Technology Engineering and Maths talk at Sevenoaks School, followed by a trip to London and the ever-reliable Science Museum.
Humanities (including Modern Foreign Languages)
The children have enjoyed a variety of activities. Form 7 were given the opportunity to visit the Houses of Parliament where they learnt about the history of our system of government and took a tour around both the House of Lords and the Commons. They even had time to meet with and talk to MP for Southend West, and former Russell House parent, Anna Firth.
Outdoor learning means a great deal to us and so after the success of the orienteering-themed Humanities Week last year, this time we had an archery-themed event. All the children had the opportunity to try their hand and compete in a House Competition.
It was also a delight to be able to resume our trips to France this year which included, against the odds, a Form 6 Christmas trip to Lille in December and the welcome return of Form 7 Camp to Picardy and Paris in May, as part of the Leavers Programme. Incidentally, the number of pupils who have chosen to join our language clubs has increased dramatically, reflecting the importance of learning languages such as Spanish, Mandarin and German as part of developing a global outlook.
This academic year has been a stellar one for the English and Drama Departments, with a return to live performance driving the children's enthusiasm in plays across the year, and the stunningly high quality of the Public Speaking Competition. The younger children enjoyed several drama workshops, an opportunity which allowed them to develop their speaking and listening skills, as well as their confidence.
Book Week gave the children the chance to find inspiration in two visiting authors, and also to develop their own reading skills by taking part in the sponsored Readathon to raise money towards books and storytellers for hospitalised children. The ever popular Pyjamarama Day raised money for the Book Trust, helping children across the country to have regular access to books.
Our drama department is well-supported by our Speech club and the LAMDA exam results are always a favourite of mine with this year being no exception.
There were 96 entries in various categories, some of which were new to Russell House. A whopping 71% gained a distinction with a further 25% achieving the merit class.
This is something of which to be very proud, and we congratulate the children and their teachers on all of these academic achievements.
After three years of enforced disruption our hope this year was to play fixtures in all of our sports and reestablish our Sports Days, the swimming gala, the Inter-House events and our Association tournaments.
Going all the way back to September last year, the U10 and U11 boys competed in two local football tournaments, both getting as far as the semi-finals of the plate competitions. The A-team also competed at the regional IAPS tournament at Charterhouse School and returned with silver medals as runners-up in the cup. This proved a turning point for the boys who continued to improve, winning a triangular tournament and finishing the season triumphant in four of their last five games. The U8 and U9 teams battled hard through the season and there were some notable performances ensuring that our future looks bright.
During the hockey season, the U10 and U11 girls made a promising start with strong performances in local fixtures and played exceptionally well at the ISA regional tournament held at the former Olympic stadium at Lee Valley. The U8 and U9 teams also fared well with exciting prospects coming up through the ranks.
Cross-country events have our boys and girls compete bravely in a variety of weather conditions. Harry Clare in Form 7 finished in the top 3 on two occasions, with the boys team finishing in the top 30 in one race. Given that these events are run on a county-wide basis, this is very impressive.
Into the Spring Term, and it’s the turn of rugby and netball. The senior netball teams won the majority of their matches, with superb performances at the ISA tournament where they finished in the top 6 from 20 schools and achieved a silver medal at a local tournament. The rugby teams all enjoyed winning seasons. The U11 boys rugby team entered into a local 7-a-side tournament and just missed out on a place in the final, despite some outstanding performances.
As the weather became fairer and indeed warmer, the children went back out on the athletics track and donned their cricket whites to lead the field in mixed cricket across the age ranges, as well as entertaining us with a very exciting Inter House event to round off the sporting calendar.
It has been a wonderful year in music ensuring opportunity for inclusive performances whilst still showcasing our most talented musicians. In the Autumn Term, we enjoyed the whole school Harvest Festival followed by the Pre-prep, Form 2 and Form 3 performing wonderfully in their Christmas plays, with the upper Main School giving some outstanding performances in our Winter Festival. The Chamber Choir also found time to raise money for charity by singing to Christmas shoppers in Sevenoaks.
The Spring Term brings us competitive House Music, with everyone involved either as a soloist or part of the House ensemble. Form 4 and Form 5 were back on the stage with their environmentally friendly productions and who can forget the delightful Spring Concert. Come the summer, and the Chamber Choir enjoyed a distinction class performance in the Three Arts Festival and we marvelled at the exploits of Form 6 and Form 7 as they delivered The Greatest Show, supported by the delightful Art exhibition.
ABRSM and Trinity exams are an important way to benchmark instrumental progress and give the children an added sense of purpose and achievement, rewarding their hours of practice. This year, two thirds of children entered achieved either a Merit or a Distinction.
We delight in finding time to support the work of charities and this year is no exception with money raised through all manner of fun activities for the following causes:
- The United World Schools Ishma project in Nepal
- Save The Children
- Read For Good
- The Form 7 Legacy Project in support of Porchlight
- The Form 7 Young Entrepreneurs Project
- The Book Trust
Form 7, you can be properly regarded as the Covid generation, preparing for the toughest of academic tests in the toughest of conditions imaginable over the period of the last two years. And yet you have excelled. You have all achieved passage to good secondary schools and netted a record number of scholarship offers along the way.
Like an assembly of Marvel superheroes, you are all very much individuals but you have all, by getting it wrong on occasion, learnt how to live and work with yourselves and with each other in a civilised manner and as a great team. You have learnt how to constructively direct your significant energy levels into whatever makes you tick; sport, art, academics, drama, languages or music, and you have tried all manner of clubs and activities. You are now ready to face the world beyond our gates.
So go out there and be different, be unique, don’t allow yourself to be dragged along by the crowd, stay true to what you know is right, lead by example, question everything and try, promise me you will try, to stay off social media. Don’t fall into the trap of believing you are drowning in that sea of anonymity crying out to be noticed. Be authentic versions of yourselves at all times.
Russell House will always be a part of what makes you who you are and who you ultimately become. Appreciate your time here, stay in touch with each other and with us, come back and visit for we would love to hear news about the rest of your journey.