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Academic Round-Up – January and February 2023

This half term has seen all our Fifth Form and Upper Sixth pupils turn their sights and focus towards the summer as they look ahead to the Public Examinations. 

As such, the Upper Sixth started their year with their mock examinations. This was, unusually, a new experience for all pupils as GCSE examinations had been cancelled back in 2021. The pupils approached the examinations with diligence and determination and have been using the weeks since the mocks to discuss exam technique and to plan revision strategies for the remaining weeks of class. 

Alongside finetuning preparations for the summer, Upper Sixth have been looking further ahead to their destinations post-Mill Hill. Since September, Mr Barron, Mrs Sharples and the Sixth Form Team have been supporting pupils with crafting applications to universities in the UK and further afield, and to various exciting career opportunities. This year is as wide-ranging as ever, with applications heading to such places as the USA, Canada, Spain and Israel. Although universities do not have to reply to applications until the middle of May, we are delighted to celebrate a broad range of outstanding offers already, including three Oxbridge offers for Maths, PPE and Ancient and Modern History. This process is a huge undertaking as each pupil receives bespoke one to one support both in the creation of the application and in preparation for interviews and assessments where necessary, all to ensure they present their knowledge and passions as effectively and persuasively as possible. In total, an incredible 171 individual applications have been facilitated. 

The Fifth Form have been no less busy in their preparations for the examinations and their future plans on completion of this year. Since January, pupils have been meeting with either their Form Tutor, Housemaster/mistress or a member of the Senior Leadership Team to discuss the outcomes of their first mocks and to consider how the revision techniques used for the first exams can be adapted and enhanced to make the most of the time available. These meetings have been supplemented last week by a further session with Elevate, the Exams Skills Organisation, that has worked with both pupils and parents since September to support the development of revision strategies and resilience. 

As the Upper Sixth look to pastures new, the Fifth Form enjoyed a taster day in early January to explore potential options for post-16 study here at school. They have since chosen their options for next year and are using their time on revision to secure the entry requirements they need. 

Elevate have been extremely busy working with our pupils. The Remove Year have also received a session and another is lined up in the next half term for the Fourth Form ahead of their Progress Examinations. 

For the Lower Sixth it has been time to begin thinking ahead to higher education through our careers programme and we look forward to helping them plan their first steps towards life post Mill Hill. 

This term’s academic focus in the classroom is based on Feedback and Knowledge Retrieval. Teachers in lessons have been using a variety of verbal, written, peer-assessed and self-assessed feedback strategies to help pupils develop their metacognitive skills and to be able to understand how to improve their knowledge and understanding. The School has been particularly keen to promote the concept of dual coding.  This is the idea of using different types of stimuli to help learners encode information in their brains more effectively. We hope the skills gained will help all our pupils to accelerate their progress. In this regard, this week we will be sending a Revision Guide home to our Upper Sixth and Fifth Form pupils containing subject-specific revision material and general revision and retrieval techniques to support their studies. 

In school the focus has not just been on examinations and future pathways, this half term has seen the Art Department complete some wonderful work with the Fourth Form studying self-portraiture. As pupils near the end of their project, we have chosen to celebrate their efforts by displaying their ceramic sculptures in the Octagon as well as well as their oil pastel drawings, ink paintings and wire sculptures in Chapel. Fourth Form artists Cyrus B, Cecily G, Allison O, Martina B, Lena P and Yuliya P bravely spoke in Chapel this week about their art projects.

Well done to all the Fourth Form whose work is, by nature, truly unique and who have studied themselves with genuine creativity and splendour! 

This half term the Fourth Form have also been working on an Interhouse wearable technology competition. Each Fourth Form tutor group were split into teams, where they were tasked with developing a wearable technology product. The aim was to give pupils the opportunity to develop their creative and entrepreneurial skills whilst also targeting effective communication and teamwork. 

The task required pupils to not only create a new product but also develop the associated branding, identify target audience, consider materials used, predict costs to make and retail price and finally clearly communicate the Unique selling points of the product. This was all to be conveyed in a two minute product pitch; a steep challenge for even an experienced adult entrepreneur! 

The final was comprised of 12 groups with a wide variety of ideas from hair bands that prevent drink spiking to babygrows which detect an infant’s temperature and heart rate…etc. The range and quality of the products and presentations was inspirational, and a huge credit should go to all our finalists. We were delighted to be joined by Ms Sanchez who commented how this event had been the highlight of her day and was so impressed by the quality of submissions. 

Mr Dweck was delighted to be joined on the judging panel by two members of the Business Department, Ms Joplin and Mr Malik, who were able to help him decide on the runners up and eventual winners. 

The joint runners up were Luc I and Ethan L, with their product Lingu; the concept was an in-ear language translator. Luc and Ethan received particular praise for the quality of their branding and presentation skills. The second joint runners up were Melody V, Ruby S and Zoe R whose concept was a bespoke hair band containing a concealed compartment with an adjustable drinks cover and straw to prevent the risk of drinks being spiked. Their idea was well communicated and hit on a real issue that young people face, whilst remaining practical, discrete and could be manufactured easily and at scale.     

The overall winners were Isabelle D, Francisco P and Johnny W with their product Audiofy, a smart hearing aid which not only amplified speech but also reduced background noise and used voice recognition software to alert the user who they were speaking too. The quality of brand name, PowerPoint and, communication of concept by each pupil as well as extraordinary attention to detail stood the group out as the outstanding product. 

Earlier this half term, Carolina, Jihyun, Carina and Angelina, all Lower Sixth Mathematicians, attended the Maths Conference, ‘It All Adds Up’, at Oxford University after completing successful applications. This was a full-day workshop designed for Lower Sixth female and non-binary pupils, aspiring to study Maths related subjects at University. The day began with a lecture about the statistical concepts which helped predict the dynamics of COVID-19. After a short break, the pupils partook in different group activities, developing their understanding about functions and graphs. Later they attempted some challenging Oxford University Maths Aptitude Test examination questions, getting a sense of what the Oxford admissions process looks like. To conclude the day, they explored the lovely city of Oxford. Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience for all involved! 

Selected pupils in the Lower School sat the Intermediate Maths Challenge last week. This is a one hour paper consisting of 25 multiple choice questions. They now await their results where the top 50% in the country achieve a Bronze, Silver and Gold certificate and the top 9,500 participants will also be invited to even more challenging follow-on rounds. We wait with baited breath! 

Scholars have been busy engaging in department scholarship activities this half term. Here is just a small snippet of some of the exciting things our inspired minds have been exploring in recent weeks: 

Joseph W writes: “In English Scholarship sessions this term, we looked at two Shakespeare plays from twenty first century perspectives. The first play we studied was ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and its connections to ideas about mental health. It was fascinating to look at this old tale through a modern lens and think about how the vendetta must have left these children traumatised and incapable of dealing with topics of the adult world. The other play we looked at was ‘As You Like It’ and its ideas about gender. While the play perpetuates many gender stereotypes, it also breaks some ideas of the time by having such a witty and intelligent heroine. Shakespeare is a timeless playwright because his plays include themes that are important even in today’s social landscape.” 

Miss Emirali has engaged Sixth Form Maths Scholars to lead the Maths Scholars’ Society on Wednesday lunchtimes. Older pupils are academically mentoring those in the years below and scholars have started working on a project on averages called “Averaging it Out”. This investigation encourages pupils to spot patterns and ask questions they then explore the answer to. After half term, pupils will be presenting their findings and displaying their work in the Maths Department for everyone to enjoy and engage with. 

This is traditionally a relatively quiet half term for academic events, but as we enter March and the days become longer, we are looking forward to celebrations and activities for two key events in the calendar – World Book Day and Science Week. We look forward to sharing our experiences of them in the next Newsletter.