FRIDAY FLYER-Issue 102
Dear Parents and Guardians,
I hope that everyone is well.
Despite the inherent challenges of most classes moving online, I am pleased to hear from colleagues that remote learning continues to go well. We appear to have settled, once again, into a commendable routine and the students are responding very positively. Since the last Friday Flyer, it is also heartening to report that the Ministry of Education (MOE) have visited the school and were very content with our implementation of relevant SOPs on health & safety matters. We found this very reassuring and, indeed, it was also excellent to learn from the MOE visitors that we are permitted to introduce a few more co-curricular activities for our onsite boarders. Nevertheless, we all await news on the status of the MCO in Negeri Sembilan, and elsewhere, and hope that we receive a positive outcome with the next Malaysian government announcement scheduled for next week. On my part, I continue to be very grateful to all parents, and colleagues, for your support and to the whole Epsom community for working so hard to engage all the students (both online and onsite).
The past fortnight has also been about academic progression and choices. Despite the disruption and background of Covid-19, we must not lose sight of the broader academic picture and forthcoming weeks will involve Year 9 students selecting their choices for IGCSEs next year and the current Year 11 starting to whittle down their options for A-level study from August 2021. For both year groups, it is an exciting point in their education and we must not allow the pandemic to completely overshadow this critical juncture. Indeed, our Year 11 students are currently involved in Trial Examinations and, in tandem with the Year 13 Public & Trial examinations, it has been excellent to see the Exam Hall in use and functioning in harmony with the pupils taking assessments online. We await further news from the UK, and internationally, on the format of this summer’s assessment process for Year 11 and Year 13. However, like in 2020, it is clear that Trial Examinations will provide one source of instrumental data and evidence of attainment; it is thus fantastic to see the students engage with all these challenging assessments in such a positive and enthusiastic manner. Well done to them all!
I look forward to writing to all parents next week, with my half-term letter. I wish you all a very safe and happy week ahead.
With best wishes,
Dr Murray Tod
With February fast approaching, it is a time of year for which I am always excited. A return flight to the UK over a weekend is not everyone’s cup of tea, but for the last few years, I have always been delighted to host the OE Dinner at Epsom College in the UK, even if it has meant falling asleep at odd times of the day afterwards (or even during!).
Last year, for the first time since the inaugural event, the start of the pandemic meant that we were unable to host the event on the school campus. Therefore, it was moved into central London. It didn’t quite feel the same, but it still went ahead. At that point, I had no idea that twelve months later, a dinner in February 2021 would be absolutely impossible. As time went on, I accepted that someone from Epsom College in Malaysia would not be able to fly out to the UK to host the event, but considered the different options for getting people together from afar with departed staff that were now based in the UK. While almost everyone in Malaysia is currently in MCO, those in the UK are also in lockdown, so I’m glad that ultimately I decided that it could not be done.
For the last few years, I have been hoping to set up an event within Malaysia for those who have graduated from university and are working in Malaysia. Since many of our 2016 and 2017 cohorts have now graduated, this year seemed to be the best opportunity to start. Hosting it in KL is significantly easier than in the UK, but as the date gets ever closer and the MCO continues, this may well have to be postponed as well.
It is so important that our Old Epsomians have the opportunity to reconnect with the College and each other. Every year, when they graduate after A-levels, we remind them that they will always be a part of the Epsom community. The buzz in the room when we host an event is fantastic to see and it is wonderful to provide opportunities for alumni to reminisce about their time at Epsom College in Malaysia, as well as talk about what they have been up to since. As the years go on, one of the best opportunities that we can give to our OEs is the opportunity to network and to learn from one another.
With this in mind, the OE LinkedIn page was recently set-up to allow easy and ongoing connections between OEs. While it is certainly in its infancy, the aim is that this will be the perfect place to celebrate OEs’ successes, along with sharing their projects and opportunities for others.
Last term, three OEs who left last summer, joined a virtual Q&A session for our current students. They shared their experiences of university so far, with two (Afiq G’20 and Jennah C’20) dealing with the difficulties of online lectures and tutorials from Malaysia, and the third (Chanel C’ 20) talking of her experiences in quarantine and lockdown, reflecting upon university work, living in the UK at this time, and dealing with how British people are treating the pandemic differently to those in Malaysia. As always, we were extremely grateful to all three of them for their input and honesty about the challenges that they have faced.
My fingers are crossed that we might be able to host an event within KL in June for all OEs who return to Malaysia at the end of the academic year, as well as all of those who are already here. It would be absolutely brilliant to get everyone together once again but, for now, we must wait with bated breath and so send well wishes to all the Epsom community whether near or far.
Assistant Head (Sixth Form)
Carr House Update
It’s been a stop start beginning for us at Epsom so far and the boys’ resilience is helping them cope with what is turning out to be a tricky 12 months. With various new SOPs to deal with, going from CMCO to MCO recently, CCA choices have had to be revised but we now have a plan going forward until things resume as normal. Imaginative activities chosen by the boys include gardening, litter picking, charity fundraising, K Pop dance, and stretching and yoga. To keep the boarders active they have also chosen to take part in table tennis, squash, running and badminton. In the house the boarders have set up workstations downstairs for their online learning and they are doing well with engaging with their teachers remotely. Boys at home are also carrying on with their learning and as I walk around the house during lesson time it’s good to see the Carr boys being attentive and interacting well with their peers and teachers.
On the weekends we are still unable to offer trips for the boarders and we are limited with what can be offered in terms of sport but the teachers are also being imaginative with what they can offer too. The usual badminton and running activities are there but also coding, board games, science experiments to name just a few. Saturday evenings continue to be fun with movies and snacks and quiz nights. Pool and table tennis tournaments and kite flying are proving popular also.
I was reading recently about the pandemic and how it’s important to us all to reboot our brains after such a long time coping with it. Months of anxiety, grief and loneliness can easily create a spiral of negativity that is hard to break out of. That’s because chronic stress changes the brain. And sometimes when we’re low we have no interest in doing the things that could actually make us feel better.
Here are six evidenced-based ways to change our brains for the better.
1. Be kind and helpful
Kindness, altruism and empathy can affect the brain. In Carr House I’ll be promoting this and encouraging the boys to volunteer to do things around the house and school. We will start to look at ways to distribute to the needy the hotel soaps, tooth brushes and other toiletries we have collected.
Exercise has been linked with both better physical and mental health, including improved cardiovascular health and reduced depression. In childhood, exercise is associated with better school performance. The Carr boys at school continue to get exercise via their PE and Games lessons and after school and weekend activities. The boys at home should be encouraged to exercise too. Joe Wicks gives daily exercise workouts in his ‘PE with Joe’ to children around the world.
3. Eat well
Nutrition can substantially influence the development and health of brain structure and function. It provides the proper building blocks for the brain to create and maintain connections, which is critical for improved cognition and academic performance.
Therefore the boys should remember to eat a well-balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables and cereal.
4. Keep socially connected
Loneliness and social isolation is prevalent across all ages, genders and cultures – further elevated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Robust scientific evidence has indicated that social isolation is detrimental to physical, cognitive and mental health. This is not such a problem for the boys in the House as they have their friends around them 24/7.
In 2021, the Carr boys should be sure to keep up with family and friends and I’ll be encouraging this more but also to expand their horizons and make some new connections. For the boys at home especially, even keeping in contact with their friends who are in the House at school is important.
5. Learn something new
The brain changes during critical periods of development, but is also a lifelong process. Novel experiences, such as learning new skills, can modify both brain function and the underlying brain structure. I’m gladdened to see some of the boys taking up new activities like sewing, embroidery, new languages and sports.
6. Sleep properly
Sleep is an essential component of human life. During sleep, the brain reorganizes and recharges itself and removes toxic waste byproducts, which helps to maintain normal brain functioning.
Sleep is very important for transforming experiences into our long-term memory, maintaining cognitive and emotional function and reducing mental fatigue. If the Carr boys have the optimal quantity and quality of sleep, they will find that they have more energy, better well-being and are able to develop their creativity and thinking. Handing in their devices each evening before sleep time is critical in developing good sleeping habits. The boys at home should be encouraged to do this too.
So have a Happy New Year! And let’s make the most of ourselves in 2021 and help others to do the same.
Resilience and New Experiences
In schools we often talk about resilience as a vital life skill that we aim to help students develop. This year, more than any other, we have been called upon to demonstrate resilient attitudes: to copy with change, uncertainty and disappointment and not let it make us any less positive or determined. This half term is proving no different and we have again had to make the adjustment from the joy of a House full of the sounds of students to only 11 girls in school and the rest of the House online. Despite these challenges, the girls have grabbed this opportunity to demonstrate resilience, remaining actively involved in College life, even if from a distance, through family group competitions, committee meetings and mutual support. All our girls who are currently online are demonstrating an ability to work with their tutor to design well balanced remote CCA options built around the Round Square IDEALS (Internationalism, Democracy, Environmentalism, Adventure, Leadership and Service) and they continue to impress me with their ingenuity to conjure up worthwhile activities under challenging circumstances.
For the remaining boarders, we have focused on developing healthy sleep, rest and study habits around the Trial examinations. Each week day, the girls update a board with their chosen ‘de-stress’ activity to ensure they take a break from their studies and their screens and at the weekends we offer them the opportunity to try out new hobbies and experiences to help break up their studies into purposeful chunks. This is especially important during the Trial examinations period and an approach that has helped girls thrive in their exam years ever since we opened in 2014. Some of the activities the boarders have had the opportunity to try this half term include batik painting, jewelry making, and most recently a ‘cultural weekend’ which included a streaming of a live theatre performance, a literary picnic and a virtual visit to the British museum.
Ms Sophie Hill
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people
2021 started very well in Granville and at Epsom with a return to physical lessons and a positivity to match. The boys enjoyed catching up with each other after the break but there were a few nerves for the upcoming modular or mock exams.
There were then the horrendous events in the US capitol building, implying a shaky start to 2021. This, along with an increasing awareness that Covid cases weren’t dropping in Malaysia, led to the return of the MCO and online lessons for all but the Year 11 and 13s.
It has made me think about an old Maori proverb that I had heard frequently whilst teaching in New Zealand – ‘What is the most important thing in the World? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.
All students in the College continue to have a tough time with the constant change from blended learning, some physical lessons, CCAs reduced or removed and now a return to online learning. We have mentioned character and resilience before which everyone has demonstrated in spades, but more importantly than ever there is a need to look out for each other (the people) and support our friends and families, to help their well-being and health, both physically and mentally.
In Granville, the boys have been doing just that and it has been great to see them coming together (socially distanced and well sanitised of course) to keep active, support each other with shared revision, play games, enjoy food and have some good old fashioned laughs with your mates.
Last weekend saw the house buzzing with activity. Scott kicked this off and led the way for the Year 12 rotation of Saturday assemblies. He gave a great presentation on the importance of whales and phytoplankton as part of the global carbon cycle and explained how they are so vital in combating our excessive carbon emissions, but expressed how their influence is hugely overlooked. These assemblies help the boys develop confidence in giving presentations, but also allows them exposure to a wider range of interesting topics.
The afternoon saw lots of revision which continued on into the evening for some.
Many took up the opportunity to keep active with the carefully organised activities available in the school. Then the evening saw some winding down with the odd take away, the new favorite card game ‘Monopoly Deal’ and some interactive fun with ‘Among Us’ on their phones.
Sunday saw a lot of individual revision but also some socially distanced group revision where the boys made good use of having their peers available to check and challenge each other’s knowledge and understanding. There were also a range of activities on offer in the school to add in some well deserved revision breaks.
The boys in Granville have truly demonstrated the proverb and taken care of the most important thing in the World – It is the people, it is the people, it is the people…..!
Mr John Foden
Propert House Update
It is January 2021 and the House motto, which loosely translates to perseverance, continues to be relevant. COVID is very much the ‘(un)welcome gift that keeps giving’.
As such, we have tried to battle on and have as normal a life as we can. There have been changes and we have had to adapt, but as one would expect we are making the most of the ‘hand we have been dealt’.
Firstly we have nearly completed our outdoor social space. We have renovated some old furniture, planted another garden and created a water feature which may, or may not, be a large Propert blue gecko / dragon. Mr Daly has checked out the quality of the work, in his position as Head of Design and Technology, and has confirmed it would get a Grade A* at A level! We can thank Mr Pye for his effort on this and we look forward to the official opening later this term.
We have also continued with our Saturday morning presentations. This term Year 12 have been delivering talks on topics of their choice, to Propert, but also to Carr House. We can confirm that the Carr boys are the most interested and ask lots of questions; well done to them. During these talks Manfred has shared his thoughts on lockdown; it was agreed that the boys work harder in the House and that they all missed their friends. However, quite a few liked having lessons in bed if they could get away with it at home! Tyler talked through the American elections; Donald Trump always perks the interest of the boys and in that respect he has pulled the students’ gaze towards a topic they might not always be so interested in. Finally, Tristan talked about Video Games. This was certainly an area that sparked interest. It seems games can make you more intelligent, physically better and help you to socialize; though it was agreed moderation is the key!
We have also had time to keep the House in order and a part of this is to add to our Bright Sparks wall which has boys from the first year we opened. These are the boys who have gained the highest grades at A-level and very much are aspirational figures for the existing cohort.It was great to add Faisal, Jean and Alif to the wall.
Mr Ian Squires
Propert House Master
Vision is everything…
As the first half of term 2 draws to a close, we find ourselves yet again persevering with the limitations that COVID-19 has put upon us all. The Rosebery girls, as always, rise to the challenge and ensure they make the most of online learning and every opportunity that comes their way. Year 11 and 13 have now completed their Trial examinations and have come out the other side much wiser and, hopefully, more prepared for their final examinations if they do proceed as scheduled in the summer. I have been impressed by the positive attitude and excellent organisation that the girls have demonstrated towards their examinations, whether it be online or physically here at the College. To celebrate this milestone we allowed the girls to have a takeaway of their choice followed by a movie night in our exclusive Den right here in Rosebery on the 2nd Floor. All the girls had a great time and enjoyed their well earned treats.
Following the SOPs has become a regular part of our daily routine here in Rosebery. Wearing our face masks, sanitizing our hands when entering and leaving the house and keeping our distance from one another is now what the girls do best. The girls are reminded that we do this to keep each other safe, which is always our main priority here at Epsom.
Even though we are apart, House assemblies bring us together each week. Topics this term have included New Year’s Resolutions and why we make them, Living in the moment – how can we relax our mind to allow us to live for now and Vision boards – setting ourselves aspirational goals that helps us remember why we are working hard right now to be able to reach the end goal. These topics are applicable to all years, however, and should ring home quite loudly to the Year 9 and 11 students who are now looking towards planning their next steps when choosing their IGCSE and A-level options. Mr Brewer, Mrs Carden Brown, Mr Barker, tutors and myself have all been helping the girls to talk through their options and help them to look towards planning for their future. The girls really appreciate the time staff give them to help make the best and most informed decisions that will enable them to reach those end goals.
As always, Rosebery girls love a cooking weekend and so we have not failed this time round, some girls experienced their very first homemade mexican meal. They learnt how to make chicken fajitas and nachos all by themselves and devoured the lot in record time. Mrs Masako also taught the girls how to make traditional Japanese snacks called Mochi which was greatly received by all members of the house. I am hoping at some point your daughters will surprise you by cooking some of the things they have learnt here in the boarding House. Do feel free to let me know if this happens and what you thought.
To celebrate Chinese New Year, Rosebery has decorated the House with beautiful lanterns and Naomi put her amazing calligraphy skills to use by making some beautiful posters to hang on the walls. Linda and Lynn will be leading an activity which will teach the boarding girls (and any who wish to join in online), how to make dumplings which is part of their tradition in celebrating the New Year with their families. We can’t wait for this experience.
As you can see, culture and tradition is incredibly important to Rosebery House and it is something we all celebrate and learn about together. I believe it is important to appreciate all cultures and beliefs as it really does make us educationally richer and aware in doing so.
I would like to wish you all a wonderful restful half term break and look forward to seeing you all either online or in person when we return on the 15th February.
Exploring Online Materials
The current situation we are all facing has reinforced the importance of online content at a time when accessing physical resources can be more difficult. Using an E-book is one of the options for online students to spend their time with reading (although we do understand that they need to reduce their screen time). This is an option to read in a different way especially during lockdown where we can’t go anywhere. This is one of the library initiatives to continue providing reading resources to our students and staff.
Last week Year 6 and Year 5 had an online session with me so that I could explain in more detail what an e-book is and how it works. Each child has been registered with their username and password through their email. The children are so excited to explore this medium as there are so many interesting books available. They can also suggest any titles to buy by filling in the box provided on the e-book websites.
Apart from that, The Economist, JStor and History Today online resources are available, especially for Sixth Form students, to support their coursework or to broaden their knowledge of any given topic. I am always happy to help and guide students if they need specific articles or areas to research.
The library is open as usual for anyone in school (whilst observing our SOPs) for all staff, Year 11 and Year 13 for self study or to do some reading in a safe, comfortable and friendly environment.
Mrs Atiqah Abd Rahman
Mr Andrew Parris-Boyle, “Make a child feel positive about anything”
Mr Parris-Boyle started his teaching journey in Milan in Italy, where he worked as a teaching assistant and, not long after, as the teacher of a Year 4 class. He made contributions such as developing a house system and was greatly liked by the other staff; something I have no doubt will develop here at Epsom too. After 3 years, Mr Parris-Boyle decided to officially get qualified back in England at the University of Reading and soon began teaching in small rural schools, private schools and even went abroad to Mexico where he taught his “children” (as he likes to call them) in Spanish!
Mr Parris-Boyle has always wanted to be a teacher. After struggling in school at a young age due to being a late academic developer, he enjoys being able to use his own experience to inspire others; something I admire very much. Other than inspiring the students, another reason why Mr Parris-Boyle wanted to be a teacher was his sister. Growing up with a younger sibling of a large age gap of 6 years, meant that he always had this little student. After working at a bank and then shifting to a Year 4 classroom, Mr Parris-Boyle says that it was “the best step [he] could have taken”.
My favourite thing that Mr Parris-Boyle talked to me about, was his experience working with a young girl who was deaf in one ear and hard of hearing in the other. She was shy and worked with him on reading every morning, and at the end of the year, spoke loudly for everyone to hear during a class assembly. It was a great accomplishment for her and I’m sure he will continue to take this inspiring attitude to his current and future students here at Epsom.
For this upcoming year, Mr Parris-Boyle would like to maintain the motivation for online students, especially so that the students get as much from him as possible, even through the screen. During these harder than usual circumstances, I wish him all the best and have no doubt that he will continue to excel and inspire his Year 4 children.
Head of College