Posted on December 21, 2018

The PTSA Christmas Fair at the weekend proved to be a fabulous, festive finale to a fantastic, if often frenetic, autumn term. The new format put together by the PTSA and our Head of Music, Marietta Kandilaki, was a great hit – the mixture of fun outside activities, Xmas stalls, a variety of food and drink fayre, not forgetting Santa’s Grotto, were all delightfully combined with an amazing concert to produce a most memorable St. Catherine’s occasion. Congratulations and thank you to all involved in its creation and delivery – a big thank you too to all our PTSA Raffle Prize donors.

I am sure that you have been keeping abreast of the action-packed autumn St. Catherine’s calendar by way of the Lower School and Upper School letters. Without wishing to repeat too many of the details, I would like to pick out a few highlights:

The Partnership with Parents programme in the Lower School included a number of Greek Language workshops as well as Key Stage 1 and 2 Mathematics sessions which all proved really popular and successful. The Junk Art theme co-ordinated by Nancy Salaounis and implemented by Michelle Reader from the UK went down really well with everyone involved. The Dance for Kindness week once again demonstrated the school ethos wonderfully whilst the ongoing support for the Hope Café in Kipseli also encapsulates our philanthropic mission.

The Upper School too have undertaken a number of charitable activities – the ‘’Holding Hands with Refugee Children’’ at the Lavrio Handicraft and Industrial Educational Museum on the weekend of 24 th and 25 th November was a particular highlight amongst many. Our IB students met refugee children aged 4 to 14 years old and shared a range of artistic activities with them. Furthermore only today (the day after term ended!) the IB CAS students delivered 524 gifts to the refugee children at Malakassa – bravo to everyone involved. International experiences were also enjoyed with the World Scholar’s Cup Tournament of Champions in New Haven, Connecticut and the Verona Football Tournament in rain-soaked Italy. The theme of ‘’An Entangled World’’ stretched the minds and imaginations of our WSC team as they competed against teams from 58 countries from around the globe. In Verona our Under 16 Football team performed really well – the girls finished in a highly credible 6 th place whilst the boys ‘’A’’ team came home with the Winners’ Trophy! Five of our Year 11 students are also engaged on a two year Erasmus Programme – the Archipelagos Art and Science Project is bringing together 25 students from five different schools from four different countries in order to investigate different aspects of science and express this knowledge through creative and visual art. The project began with a week in La Seyne-sur-Mer in France – we look forward to seeing the product of this exciting initiative in the new school.

If you missed the Upper School production of Willy Russell’s hilarious ‘’Our Day Out’’ then you missed a real treat. Superbly directed by Wendy Raikopoulos, the cast from across the Upper School had the audience in fits of laughter as they embarked on a school trip from Liverpool to north Wales – everyone was left guessing as to which of our staff was best mirrored by the humourless Mr Briggs! Well done to the whole cast – absolutely brilliant!

The weekend of 8 th and 9 th December witnessed the complete takeover of the school Hall by the second St. Catherine’s Hackathon. 150 competitors from schools and universities worked on robotics, flying drones, Minecraft coding and encryption programs – it was great to see 15 pupils from our Lower School involved too. A huge thank you to all the staff and IB student organisers – no doubt they picked up some ideas from their amazing IT-related trip to Japan in the first half of the term! It looks as the Hackathon is set to become an annual event on the St. Catherine’s calendar.

2018 saw the centenary commemoration of the end of the Great War and as always the St. Catherine’s community remembered in sombre, reflective style. The response of all the students to my assemblies was outstanding – the poetry of Wilfrid Owen, Hedd Wynn and Vera Brittain combined with memories of our Year 9 visit to Flanders in the summer helped to create a fitting mood of collective remembrance. On Sunday, 11 th November our Lower School Head Girls and Boys laid a wreath at the Remembrance Day service at the Phaleron Cemetery whilst our Brownies ably supported the smooth running of the service by assisting the various ambassadors in laying their wreaths.

I would also like to thank all those parents and students who have enquired about my well-being due to the use of crutches over the past six weeks. Nothing too much to worry about I’m pleased to report – I had a left hip replacement operation during half-term holiday. My recuperation has gone really well and I am now walking without crutches – although I do occasionally hold on to one amongst the throngs of pupils on the avenue. I have recently been joining the Year 7 Science classes to talk about knee and hip replacement operations (I have had a few!) and their questions have been most insightful.

I am sure you have all been keeping an eye on the activity over the road on our new building development. I updated all our students on the progress in my recent assemblies – however they were also equally fascinated by the archaeological discoveries. You will know from the Information Evenings in September that the archaeologists had uncovered Roman-era remains, not a surprise given that Kifissia had provided a home for the famous playwright, Menander, as well as the wealthy philanthropist Herodes Atticus. However, the discovery of Neolithic/New Stone Age settlement has proved very exciting for the archaeologists – this is a first for this part of northern Athens! I am delighted to report that we should be able to incorporate some conservation of both Roman–era and Neolithic remains within the new building – this should prove a real feature for our whole school community. Meanwhile, Redex have continued apace with their foundation and structural reinforcement work and at this point we are still on course for a September 2019 opening – assuming no new archaeological discoveries are made! As you can imagine the wide-ranging activities of our development programme – from façade to roof design, from classroom to laboratory design, from technology to creative spaces, from storage solutions to outside space consideration, from pedestrian movement to traffic flow plans, from security to environment considerations amongst others – have not only taken up a lot of my time but also that of my leadership and staff colleagues. A big thank you as well to all of you have already supported one of our fund-raising initiatives for the new development. 2019 promises to be even more busy but nevertheless extremely exciting! If you have not yet seen the fly-through providing a view of what our new building will look like do click on the link below: Our New Building

Finally I would like to thank you for your continued support and wish everyone in the St. Catherine’s community a very merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous 2019.

Stuart Smith