Return to School

And we’re back!

To be certain of a crisp start to the return to the live classroom, Hasmonean’s Leadership Team, with the help of support staff, began the testing programme in the first week of March. As a parent and a teacher, when I went into school with my daughter for her testing, and to collect my kit, I was impressed with the ease and organisation of this session. Students signed in and were given their swabs, which were duly swirled and dripped onto the test sticks. While I was there, the data so far indicated that all the girls had tested negative. This also suggests that while in lockdown, the students have been adhering to the Government guidelines – so well done to every single student!

Andrew McClusky CEO said of the start of the ‘new’ term: ‘The feedback that we have had from parents both about the education and support Hasmonean has provided through the various lockdowns has been wonderful. However, it is fantastic to have all of the pupils and teachers back in the building. The pandemic has really highlighted the true value of schools and just how important they are in giving students the foundations they need for their future lives. Headteachers Mrs Lebrett and Mrs Brice, together with our Senior Leadership Team and in-house testing teams have worked exceptionally hard to commence testing the week before school opened on March 8th. The logistics have worked very well and there has been a high uptake for the lateral flow testing. We have a small number of pupils who are exempt from wearing masks for medical reasons but we are expecting all of the other students to wear them.

Parents have been really appreciative of the online lessons, and were delighted that students returned to the classroom. One mother emailed to say; ‘Most importantly of all, they all went off to school this morning in a positive frame of mind, slightly nervous after such a long gap, but happy to be back in familiar surroundings, in a classroom environment and to see their friends in person again.’ The return has gone smoothly, even though one Year 11 student simply said ‘it was better than I expected’.

Being in school, hearing tannoy announcements summoning students to tests, seeing smiling eyes above masks and using Chromebooks as well as exercise books- this return has been powerful and positive… as long as we all keep testing negative!

 

Boys’ School Zoom Concert

Every year, Mrs Algranati organises a range of music concerts, and this year was no different…except the Boys’ School concert was held online! Fifteen boys performed a range of pieces for the 95 people online who attended to support this concert.

Some of our Year 11 boys showcased their own excellent compositions which is part of their GCSE coursework.

We were treated to a fabulous range of performances and instruments: piano, drums, saxophone, guitar, clarinet, and voice which created an interesting and diverse programme. All the boys rose to the challenge of a virtual performance and excelled themselves.

Thank you to Mr Hattingh who teaches the vast majority of the piano students who performed last night. Thank you also to Mr Tutty who was in charge of all the technical aspects of the concert and ensured the smooth running of the event.

Finally, thank you so much to Mrs Algranati, who strove to ensure that it was business as usual for the Music Department.

Vaccinations

One of the unsung heroes of Hasmonean’s Covid operations is Debbie Lebrett, Headteacher at the Boys’ School. As the vaccination programme began to roll out, she began to research how to get as many teachers as possible vaccinated before the return to school on March 8th. Teachers began to receive emails asking them to send permission to share details, so that if any vaccines became available, they could ‘drop everything’ and get straight to a vaccination centre. Working with a small, dedicated crew of volunteer vaccinators, she was able to quickly learn of the availability of ‘spare’ vaccines and so protect the staff. Mrs. Lebrett was, and still is, in constant contact with surgeries and pharmacies to see if there are any leftover doses at the end of a session of vaccinations so that they can be offered to teachers.  So far, about 40 staff have been vaccinated thanks to her efforts and that number is rising.

As we move towards March 8th and the reopening of school in a physical sense, the confidence of staff to return has been enormously boosted knowing that they are all far less vulnerable to this awful illness.

HIPE UNITE

HIPE (Hasmonean Informal Programmes & Education) is a new and exciting aspect of life at Hasmonean. Run by outstanding and vibrant educators, HIPE adds to the amazing kodesh programme and has rejuvenated the informal education.

HIPE UNITE was a crowd funding campaign run by HIPE, the informal department of Hasmonean boys’ and girls’ schools. The campaign made this year’s unusual Purim have an incredible buzz for all the students and indeed the community. The aim of HIPE UNITE was to UNITE our community virtually through Hasmonean students raising money for 19 key charities to counter COVID 19.

HIPE UNITE was launched at 6pm on 24 February with an initial target of £50,000 but ultimately raised over £160,000. Between students and staff, 321 teams were created, some of which used HIPE’s own amazing Purim Shpiel, which has gone viral, whilst others created their own spiels to send out to friends, family and other potential donors. In total over 4000 donors contributed to the various good causes. Through this campaign, 19 communal charities, which have been invaluable in helping so many during this pandemic, will receive vital funds to support them throughout the year. These charities include GIFT, Kef, Hatzola, Chai, Chana and Kisharon etc.

A trustee of KEF expressed delight in ”seeing the younger generation bringing charities together raising vital funds for so many charitable originations, in a revolutionary way. Despite 19 recipients each charity is still receiving a substantial donation so we can all continue to offer much needed services to our Kehila”.

Rabbi Golker, Manahel of Hasmonean commented: “The HIPE team have shown again that they are an exciting and essential part of life at Hasmonean. If this is what they can do in lockdown, I can’t wait to see their impact when we return to normal school life”.

It will be a virtual Purim that neither the students nor the charities will forget!

Speaking of virtual connection, HIPE did not just stop with the HIPE UNITE campaign. Every student received a HIPE UNITE Purim gift to emblazon cars and pavements with individual messages. Both the Girls and Boys HIPE staff organized online Purim celebrations. All of the girls enjoyed a virtual Purim party on Thursday night which included Dancing with Louise for Purim and an ‘Escape the Zoom’ game, as well as spiels from the teachers based on the mishaps of the Google classroom! The boys enjoyed a mind reader, a late-night pizza bake and a very special ‘’Hasmo’s Got Talent’’!

The final sum raised was a phenomenal £163,740! This was an incredible achievement on the part of the students, HIPE team and staff of the school. Thank you so much to all who contributed.

UKMT Intermediate Maths Challenge

Once again, Mr Munteanu has shared the amazing results for the UKMT Intermediate Maths Challenge 2021: 160 students took part in this challenge, and a phenomenal 56 students received certificates.

Congratulations to all the students who found the motivation to participate under these stressful conditions.

Ariella G, in Year 11 deserves a special mention. Not only is she the best in school with score of 123 points, but she also completed this challenge from the US. The best at the Boys’ School was Nochi Z with a score of 116 points. The Year 11 boys did very well as they received 8 GOLD Certificates out of a total of 14 awarded this year.

In all, 16 of our students have qualified to the follow up round of the maths challenge Kangaroo and Olympiad.

Thank you to everybody who helped to organise the UKMT IMC 2021 on both sites.

 

Professor Chain of Imperial College

Professor Chain of Imperial College kindly agreed to speak to Dr Whyte’s Year 13 Chemistry classes.  Professor Chain has worked for many years in immunology and is now a investigating the use of computational immunology to understand the data from genomics into defining immunological responses.

He explained the science behind vaccines from initial concept proposed by Ehrlich in the mid-1800s until today, focusing on the development of the current COVID-19 vaccine.

The students thoroughly enjoyed listening to Professor Chain and asked some excellent questions. Professor Chain in turn was very impressed by the intellect behind their questions. For her part, Dr Whyte was super-proud of her Chemistry classes.

Oxford Practical Ethics

Three students from Hasmonean High School for Girls (Ariella G, Batsheva S and Rivka M) signed up to the Oxford University Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics and Responsibility competition in December, as it seemed like it would be an interesting thing to do during a lockdown!

For the competition, the girls had to send in a video about how responsibility plays a role in a practical ethics situation. After a lot of discussion, they decided to create a video about how and why responsibility plays a role in society being vaccinated against coronavirus. This subject was chosen as Ariella said: ‘Our Judaism commands us to consider our actions thoughtfully, rather than go through life on autopilot. Practical ethics strives to provide the philosophical tools needed to actualize this commandment and love our neighbours as ourselves.’ They sent the video in and were notified on the 4th February that they had made it to the semi-finals.

The girls are ecstatic about their achievement of reaching the semi-finals and these will take place virtually on March 23rd 2021. As part of the semi-final stage of the competition, they will be joining a day of presentations and activities organised by researchers and staff at Oxford University. The main focus of the day is on debates between the student finalists. There will be two rounds of debate: each team will take part in a semi-final debate, and the winners of those will face one another in the final.

The event will include an Exhibition debate on the topic of ‘Responsibility and Addiction’, and an activity for the students on: Slippery Slope arguments. Following this, the semi-finals will take place in breakout rooms, and the final will be after lunch.

Our girls have the following topic for their semi-final debate: People under thirty have a responsibility to get vaccinated against COVID-19. They will be standing against the motion. Should they make it to the final, the motion will be: Social media companies are responsible for the content their users post online. Again, they are standing against the motion.

This is a huge achievement for these three young women, who have been inspired by the ethical striving of the Hasmonean community. We wish them every success in the finals.

Please click on the links to see the girls in action:

https://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/event/responsibility-and-practical-ethics-schools-day-2021

(also known as bit.ly/3ugmGiY) or https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk2P1JGcQvli4Ny4hfecKVw

 

Years 10 and 11 Girls, Anxiety and Wellbeing Sessions

This week Melissa Abecassis, our Wellbeing Practitioner, ran two PSHE sessions for Years 10 and 11. She focused on anxiety and wellbeing, giving the students an understanding of what anxiety is and strategies which can help when they face it.

Melissa also reminded the students that she is available for individual sessions if they are feeling overwhelmed or need a place to chat. Thank you to Melissa and all the pastoral team who are offering help and support to all our students right now!

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021 Poems

As part of the Holocaust Remembrance Day, we gave our students the opportunity to participate in the HRD Poetry Contest 2021. Well done to our two Year 7 girls who were selected as winners and thank you to the English Department for judging the contest.

Jack Petchey Regional Finals

This year’s annual Jack Petchey regional finals of the Speak Out competition came with a difference. Rather than sitting in the hall of a local school, every competitor was at home, presenting their three-minute speech via Zoom. The Girls’ School candidate, Alegria, took her name as the inspiration for her presentation. After all, we all need some happiness in our lives.

She did herself and the school proud, winning the Regional Final to progress to the Semi-finals.

The link to watch the speeches, the link can be found here: https://speakoutchallenge.com/recent-speeches/

Thank you to Mrs Jacobson who ran the competition at the Girls’ School, setting up the initial training day, running the Speak Out Challenge in school before the end of last term, and coaching Alegria to a very high standard.