Editorial 25th February 2021

Dear Parents,

 

The Gemara in Megilah (16a) tells us that when Haman looks for Mordechai to carry out King Achashverosh’s reward of riding on the king’s horse, dressed in royal clothes, he finds Mordechai in the Beis Hamedrash teaching hilchos kemitzah. Hilchos kemitzah are technical laws involving flour offerings.

 

Why hilchos kemitzah now?

 

A well-known public speaker once told me that he tries to throw in the word “relevant” in the first 60 seconds of any of his talks as a means of engaging his audience.

 

Hilchos kemitzah? The first Beis Hamikdash has been destroyed and the second has yet to come. There is no Beis Hamkidash, no flour offerings and no kemitzah? Hardly relevant or pressing!?

 

The answer is that Mordechai is teaching a powerful message. Klal Yisrael are in deep trouble. The noose is tightening around their neck. A date for state sanctioned genocide has been set. Mordechai does his hishtadlus, he makes every effort to guide Esther and together with the rest of the Jewish people, he fasts and prays. And then he teaches hilchos kemitzah.

 

In so doing, he is telling Klal Yisrael the message of last week’s haftorah that we read before Purim every year – נצח ישראל לא ישקר. Mordechai is saying we may be in a precarious state, but we will get through this, we will prevail. There will yet be a Beis Hamikdash and Kohanim will once again perform the avodah and take a kemitzah.

 

A timely and timeless message for Purim 2021. Our world has been turned upside down but we should take comfort in the message of Purim.

 

As I wrote to parents earlier this week, despite everything, there is a huge amount going on over Purim (all of course online and Covid friendly) and I thank all the Kodesh teachers and HIPE educators for ensuring the spirit of Purim reaches our students.

 

And there is a very direct way to thank HIPE and ensure their long-term future at Hasmonean. Students are collecting for 19 charities associated with Hasmonean in their HIPE UNITE campaign, but we are turning to parents and to the community to help HIPE via the Chomesh L’Chinuch campaign.

 

Please click on the link below, enjoy the fabulous song, donate generously and share the link as widely as possible.

https://www.charityextra.com/shpieltime/19700

 

Wishing you and your families an enjoyable, meaningful and safe Purim.

 

 

Rabbi J Golker

Menahel

Editorial 12/2/2021

Dear Parents,

It has been a tough few weeks for everyone and I hope that you will all get the chance to decompress and get away from screens during half term. It can be easy to get depressed at the news of virulent mutations and the ever-receding possibility of taking a foreign holiday. However, I have been taking solace from the signs that spring is nearly here, despite the current arctic weather. Daffodils are pushing up through the grass in the parks and camellias are already in bloom. They are a reminder that all things, even the darkest days, pass in the end.

The other thing, which gives me hope, is the resilience of our young people. No one would have chosen the events of the past year and we would all wish it had been different. However, to see the creativity that has emerged which the HIPE teams demonstrate so magnificently has been heartening and even inspiring. From challah and pizza bakes to the project of some older girls to translate the Yiddish memoirs of Parysow, our students are showing how they can adapt and make the best of a strange situation. The learning which is going on is not always of the conventional kind, but we are all developing more skills in the digital world and these will be long term benefits which will help us as we return to a more familiar model of teaching- hopefully not too far in the future.

Wishing you a good Shabbos and a restful half term.

Mrs K Brice

Headteacher

Hasmonean High School for Girls

Editorial 5/2/2021

Dear Parents,

This has been a week of highs and lows. The news about the vaccination programme is really positive and I am really hopeful that the first glimmers of hope to an end to the events of the past year are beginning to show themselves.

We also heard the very sad news about the passing away of Captain Sir Tom Moore. A national treasure, an inspiration, tough, gritty, and a powerhouse. Some of the many terms used to describe an incredible man who will be much missed. In a week where there were sad events in the community and the wider world, it is incumbent on all of us to look at the legacy of people who have passed away and to show gratitude for the amazing things that they did in their lives.

In this week’s parsha, Yisro advises his son in law, Moshe, to set up a hierarchical leadership system in order to lead the Jewish people. It is sometimes hard to delegate but it is shown to be of vital importance in the parsha. This then enables society to become even more connected, even more successful and even more collaborative. All essential to building a legacy for the next generations.

Wishing you a good Shabbos.

Mrs D Lebrett
Headteacher
Hasmonean High School for Boys

Editorial 28/1/2021

Dear Parents,

The most moving photograph I saw this week showed a Holocaust survivor, with a tattoo etched on his arm, being vaccinated in that same arm at a London clinic.  The juxtaposition of those two sides of humanity – hatred and hope – is a moving reminder of what we are capable of.  It is fitting, therefore, that we showed two videos this week to the boys: one commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day and one showcasing the amazing commitment shown by NHS workers during the pandemic.

The Parsha this week, Beshalach, is replete with ideas about hope and courage in the face of despair.  The Jewish people are being chased by Pharaoh and his army following their exodus from Egypt; they are hungry and need the miracles of Mon and clean water to survive; they are attacked by Amalek…the list goes on.  The overriding tone from the Parsha, though, is one of hope and salvation.  The idea is reinforced that we will overcome and will be stronger as a result of our trials.

In the week when we, as the British nation, have tragically recorded over 100,000 deaths due to Covid, it is important to think about every single life which has been lost and to also look to a brighter future PG.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos,

 

Mrs D Lebrett

Headteacher

Hasmonean High School for Boys

Editorial 21//01/2021

Dear Parents,

They say that silence is golden, except when you have children, in which case it becomes suspicious!

But silence is certainly powerful and that is borne out in this week’s parsha. Our parsha tells us that when the Bnei Yisroel left Mitzrayim, the dogs did not bark. The Mechilta writes that for all generations, dogs receive a reward for this. They are given the meat of an animal rendered treife, that the owner cannot eat and this teaches us that HKBH does not withhold reward for any creature.

But didn’t the frogs in last week’s parsha do so much more? They swarmed into every nook and cranny of every Egyptian home and even jumped into hot ovens, literally killing themselves in order to do the will of their Creator! And the dogs merely didn’t bark! Why reward dogs for all time and not frogs?

Rav Osher Arielli offers a wonderful answer. Sometimes, showing restraint and not speaking is even more impressive than jumping into a hot oven.

We all know how tempting it is to respond or have the last word. Overcoming that temptation needs enormous self-restraint.

Lockdown also needs much self-restraint and discipline. Home study is difficult, not just for youngsters who must organise themselves, in addition to trying to concentrate for many lessons a day, but also for other members of the family who are juggling more balls than normal. There seems to be added layers of complexity in everything we do.

We are now in the third week of term and it is hugely gratifying to see so many students trying hard and stepping up.

As parents there is much we can do to help our children. First of all, taking care of ourselves and remaining positive so that there is a happy and upbeat atmosphere at home. But also encouraging our children to take daily exercise, get some fresh air, eat healthily, and do acts of kindness.

I know of a young man, not even bar mitzva, who calls a family friend twice a week. She is an older lady who is on her own and he tells her a few jokes. It keeps him busy and positive on a crusade to find jokes that will make his new friend laugh and it certainly brightens her otherwise very lonely day.

These days may be challenging but, as ever, they are full of opportunities to teach our children resilience and self-discipline.

A lesson not just from this week’s parsha, but for life.

Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos.

 

Rabbi J Golker

Menahel

 

Editorial 14/1/2021

Dear Parents and Carers,

I wonder if, like me, when it was announced last week that schools would be closed until at least half term, you had a sense of ‘here we go again’ and the feeling of weary inevitability of life repeating itself which the film ‘Groundhog Day’ captured so beautifully. However, we are in a very different place from last year. Thanks to the investment in chrome books and all the training which has gone on since March, we could immediately transition to online learning, offering a full timetable. The teachers are to be congratulated on rising again to the challenge of remote classes, especially when some of them have to cope with family commitments.  The change in this respect from last year could hardly be greater.

What we have had to relearn, is that being online all day is physically and mentally exhausting and we therefore need to alter our provision a little. Thank you to those who filled out the survey about how things are going. As a result of the feedback we have received from parents, students and teachers, we are introducing the following changes with effect from Monday 18th:

  • Lessons will be shortened by 10 minutes to allow for a proper break
  • Y7 and Y8 will now have their break at 11.15 am so that P3 is no longer a split lesson
  • We will no longer have a daily form time to give longer for lunch
  • P7 will finish at 3.20 pm for everyone
  • Lessons on Fridays will now revert to the usual long Friday timings, with lessons ending after period 5a
  • The PE department will be providing suggestions on ways to increase physical activity in the extension classroom
  • The Assistant Heads for Pastoral Support will be setting out plans to improve pastoral, counselling and well-being support for students who require it. The plans will be communicated to you in due course
  • We will be issuing further training and guidance to teachers on the best kind of pedagogy and the setting and marking of homework to ensure students are well-provided for and not overwhelmed. We have just bought into a G Suite upgrade which means that teachers will soon be able to create breakout rooms to facilitate independent, paired and group learning online. More details about this will be provided in due course. Please note that there will be no live lessons period 7 this coming Monday (2.45 pm) to enable teachers to attend training on these areas. Work for students will be uploaded to Google Classroom instead. We are confident that the benefit of this staff training on your children’s education will be very worthwhile.

We await the outcome of the consultation on the proposals about the alternatives to examinations. Once we know what the plans are, we will of course communicate them to you.

The key principles set out by Ofqual are as follows:

What evidence will be used?

  • Awarding of grades will be based on teacher assessment
  • A breadth of evidence should inform teachers’ judgements
  • Assessment will be based on what students have learnt, not necessarily the full course – but there will need to be good enough coverage of the curriculum
  • Externally set tasks or short papers (seen by Ofqual to be fairer and more consistent) may be provided, in order that teachers can draw on this resource to support their assessments of students (note not externally marked)
  • Ofqual will consult on whether to ‘require or recommend’ the use of the externally set tasks or papers
  • Students should continue with any non-exam assessment where possible

Timelines:

  • Students should be taught for as long as possible (so they have every opportunity to catch up.)
  • A teacher’s final judgement on a student’s grade ought to be as late as possible in the academic year (to maximise remaining teaching time and ensure students are motivated and engaged)

Support, training and Quality Assurance

  • Training and guidance will support teachers to reach their assessment of a student’s deserved grade
  • Schools and colleges should undertake quality assurance of their teachers’ assessments
  • External checks / Exam boards quality assurance processes in place to support fairness and consistency
  • This quality assurance will be sampling only
  • Changes to grades as a result of the external quality assurance process should be the exception (as per review of marking)

Appeals:

  • There will be provision for students to request a review and appeal their grade

Private candidates:

  • There should be a clear and accessible route for private candidates to be assessed and receive a grade

Vocational qualifications

  • Apart from a few exceptions, all with written exams scheduled in February and March (including BTECs) will not go ahead
  • Similar principles to GCSE and A level in terms of assessment

Wishing you all a very good Shabbos.

 

Kind regards,

Mrs K Brice

Headteacher – Girls

Spring Term Return to School Arrangements

Dear Parents,

Spring Term Return to School Arrangements

As you will be aware, yesterday, the Government announced that for the first week of next term, January 4th– 8th 2021, secondary schools would open only for:

  • Students in Year 11
  • Students in Year 13

In addition, the school will be open for:

  • Students in all year groups whose parents are critical workers
  • Students in other year groups who have an Educational Health Care Plan (EHCP)
  • Students in all year groups who are vulnerable

Definitions of which students fall into the categories in italics above can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-maintaining-educational-provision/guidance-for-schools-colleges-and-local-authorities-on-maintaining-educational-provision

 

If your child is in Years 7-10/12 and falls into the italicized categories and may therefore attend school, please complete the Google form below by 23rd December so that we can make appropriate arrangements. Unless, you register your child using this form we regrettably will not be able to admit them as we will not be able to open safely.

https://forms.gle/fZruN3u8LAGesvwY8

 

Teaching for Year 11 and Year 13 and Other Students in School

 

  • As previously advised, teaching will begin at 10.30 am on January 4th, other than Beis at the Boys’ School
  • Year 11 will have regular lessons as normal.
  • Year 13 mocks will continue as planned.
  • BTEC exams will continue as planned.
  • Beis will run will as usual for Years 11 and 13 from 7.20 am on Monday 4th
  • All students in Year 7-10 should bring in their Chromebooks and Year 12 should bring in laptops where possible, fully charged and a set of headphones. Those students in Year 7-10 and Year 12 in school will be taught via Google Classroom by the teacher in the same way as those at home.
  • The kitchen will be providing meals for those in school for this week.

All students who are in school will be expected to follow the normal uniform guidelines.

 

Teaching for Year 7-10 and Year 12

The provision for Years 7-10 and Year 12 will be the same for those at home and those in school. Students will follow their normal timetables but please take note of the following points.

  • There will be a pastoral check-in at 10.20 am with Year Leaders on Monday 4th January for Year 7-10. Students should login to their pastoral check in classroom.
  • As previously advised, teaching will begin at 10.30 am on January 4th Years 7-10.
  • Beis for Year 12 will run as usual but online.
  • Sessions will be slightly shorter than usual to account for the fact that teachers will be having to leave traditional lessons in school to go to a different room to deliver online lessons. Students should logon onto the relevant Google classroom and wait for the teacher to let them into the Live Meet.
  • The majority of sessions will involve ‘live’ teaching and will also involve teachers setting independent work during these sessions, as they would in live lessons. Some sessions will involve pre-recorded or uploaded materials.
  • Free School Meal vouchers will be sent to those who are eligible to receive them in January.
  • Information regarding Sunday school at the boys’ school for Sunday 10th January (Years 7 to 10 and 12) will be sent out during the first week of term.
  • Important – Year 10 Science and Year 7 Modern Hebrew have timetable changes. Students need to go to SMHW/Satchel:1 for timetable information.

 

You will also be aware that there are plans for rapid testing of school students and staff. More information will follow at the beginning of January.

Students from all year groups will be expected back in school on January 11th unless we are directed otherwise by the Government.

If there is any further information in regard to these matters, we will update you in due course.

With kind regards,

Mr A McClusky                Mrs D Lebrett                   Mrs K Brice

CEO                                     Headteacher – Boys       Headteacher – Girls

 

Editorial – 10/12/2020

Dear Parents,

The number eight is central to Chanukah. The festival itself lasts for eight days and we light an additional candle each night, culminating with eight candles. Chanukah itself comes to a climax on the eighth and last day which is given the title “Zos Chanukah” – “this is Chanukah”, suggesting the number eight is wrapped up in the essence of the festival.

What is special about the number eight and what is the link to Chanukah?

I once heard the following explanation from Rabbi Pinchos Roberts. The Greeks espoused a philosophy of rationality and denied the possibility of “l’maala min hatevah”, the concept of the supernatural.

This was the target of the three edicts the Greeks decreed against Klal Yisroel. Shabbos, Milah and Chodesh. Each represent an aspect of l’maala min hateva.

Tell a shopkeeper who shuts his store early that this act of mesiras nefesh will actually bring blessing. As the Maharal notes, the very number eight represents “beyond nature”. The number six represents the physical, seven is injecting spirituality into the physical and eight is the level beyond nature. That is what milah is – on the eight day. And “chodesh” represents a Supernatural Power governing the solar system.

The very purpose of Chanukah is to counter that philosophy. To proudly declare that HKBH runs the world and proclaim the message of number eight. “Zos Chanukah” – this is Chanuka, this is the very essence of what Chanukah is about. The eighth day epitomises the concept of “l’maala min hatevah”, the supernatural.

Chanukah is of course linked to the word “Chinuch” – “education” and is the festival of the original Hasmoneans. I often feel that what we achieve at Hasmonean is “l’maala min hatevah”.

In today’s world it is harder than ever to impart spirituality to young people and yet here at Hasmonean we continue to strive for excellence in both kodesh and chol, achieving excellent exam results when so much of the school days is dedicated to kodesh. And most importantly, to produce students who are rooted in Yiddishkeit and are learned and passionate Jews who can also make their way in this world and live productive and meaningful lives, contributing to the society in which they live.

But as much as we live and engage in this world, we recognise that there is a concept of “l’maala min hatevah”, and that is felt at Hasmonean, not just at Chanukah but all year round.

Wishing you all a happy Chanukah and a good Shabbos.

Rabbi J Golker
Menahel

Editorial 4/12/2020

Dear Parents,

I have been thinking about heroes lately following a conversation with Rabbi Golker about Maradona which became the focus for my last assembly.  Maradona was a sporting legend but the scenes of grief and the thousands queuing to pay their final respects suggested that this was a man who was more than just a footballer.

When I thought about Argentina during the period when Maradona was growing up, his status became more understandable. The country was ruled by a brutal dictatorship and thousands had disappeared. In 1982, Argentina lost the Falklands war and there was very little for Argentinians to feel proud of in their country. Then a poor boy from a shantytown helped, through his genius, to propel Argentina to World Cup victory in 1986, on the way beating England which came as some compensation for the Falklands defeat. This helped to restore Argentina’s national pride and faith in itself as a fledgling democracy.

We do not live under a dictatorship but the news has been unremittingly depressing for months and we also need some heroes to lift our spirits. Colonel Tom Moore with his aim of raising £10 000 for charity by doing 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday was one such. In the end he raised over £32 000 000.  In our daily lives, we can all act as a hero to someone else by an unexpected act of kindness, going above and beyond the call of duty or by quiet thoughtfulness. My hero this week is Mrs Langdon for all her efforts in getting nearly 800 chromebooks out to students, a process which was very far from simple.  I invite you to identify the heroes in your life and to acknowledge them.

Wishing you all a Good Shabbos.

 

Katherine Brice

Editorial 26/11/2020

Dear Parents,

I am delighted to announce that, after a long wait, our Chromebooks have started to arrive. A global shortage of these devices meant that we had to source new suppliers for many of the devices. Had we not done so, we would have had to wait until February for most of them to arrive from our original supplier. The additional costs incurred for the same devices with the same specification have been covered by the schools. Heartfelt thanks to those parents who paid for some of the children whose families could not afford to buy Chromebooks to receive them. If other families would like to sponsor further Chromebooks, please do contact the Headteachers to let us know.

We should have all of the Chromebooks that have been ordered in school by the end of this week and we will be spending next week registering them to their new owners and uploading software onto them. We hope to be able to hand them over to students very soon.

Once students have their devices, teachers will then be able to start using them in lessons to experiment with new pedagogical approaches and to introduce a variety of different apps to enhance students’ learning and augment more traditional approaches to classroom learning. It will also mean that students are well-equipped to access learning from home both outside of school time and during school time should they need to self-isolate.

We are also now about to advertise roles to take charge of and implement our digital learning strategy. The aim is to:

1. Harness the very best practice from other schools in this country and abroad
2. Cascade blended leaning through our learning areas
3. Curate a bank of digital resources within each learning area
4. Support all staff members with training and development

This will, with further staff training and development, enable us to build on our learning during lockdown and, over time, achieve our ambition of transforming our provision.

On a separate note, I would like to apologise for the frustration that some parents had at the online Year 12 and 13 Boys’ parents evening. The provider of the platform to enable parents and teachers to meet experienced a technical glitch which regrettably prevented some teachers from joining meetings for part of the evening. Alternative meetings are being arranged to ensure that those parents can be updated about their children’s progress. We are also reviewing the meetings to ensure parents and teachers have a sufficient time for discussion.

With kind regards,

Andrew McClusky
CEO, Hasmonean MAT