90th Anniversary Mass of Thanksgiving
On the 27th September, the community at Finchley Catholic High school came together to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving to mark the 90th Anniversary of the founding of the school. There were over 270 in the congregation, including members of the staff, students, past students and members of staff and local dignitaries.
We were honoured to welcome His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols to celebrate the Mass along with priests from our local parishes. In his Homily, Cardinal Nichols drew on the changes the school had seen in the last 90 years and encouraged students to continue their own building projects, developing their own identities within their spiritual life, in their education and in their social lives. He also spoke about the big decisions facing them in their futures, referring to Arsene Wenger’s theory on the stages of development in football; the idea that by their early teens, players will have developed their technique, by 17 they will have worked hard to improve their resilience, by 18 they are looking at the game in an analytical way and by their early twenties will be showing leadership skills. He spoke about how the teachings of the Bible can help us along this path and encourage us to continue through difficult times.
The choir sang beautifully under the guidance of Ms Retelsdorf, leading the congregation in a lively rendition of various hymns, accompanied on the piano by Mr McMillan. Students also volunteered to help as altar servers, readers and musicians. The Offertory Procession was led by representatives from each of the six Houses carrying their House ties to the Altar. Following Communion, Ms Reindel and Ms Parsons sang a captivating piece giving the congregation time to reflect and pray for the school and our community.
Following the Mass, guests were invited to the Canon Parson’s Sixth Form Centre to see the Cardinal bless our new Lectern, which was carved in wood by the school Technology Technician Mr D Doyle and for refreshments, including a delicious commemorative cake made by Ms F McManamon.
We would like to thank all those involved in the preparation of this Mass.
90th Anniversary Concert in the Park
On the 9th July we held our 90th Anniversary Concert. Though the sun did not make an appearance, the afternoon was a huge success and saw many old boys reuinited to perform various musical numbers, including some they had performed together during their time at the school. Performances ranged from rock bands, to jazz and classical pieces.
Over 100 guests gathered on the lawn with picnics to enjoy the display of musical talent at Finchley across the years.
90th Anniversary Assemblies
Students have been taking part in special assemblies to mark the 90th anniversary of the school. They have been preparing questions to ask a panel of teachers who studied at Finchley about their time at the school.
Teachers on the panel have included Mr McKenna, Mr Crosby, Mr Smith, Mr Janata, Mr Hamilton and Mr Nagle.
Students asked them about what they liked about the school, why they returned as teachers, how strict their teachers had been and what the sports teams were like.
90th Anniversary Pilgrimage to St Albans
On the 26th May a group of 70 students, staff and alumni from Finchley Catholic High School took part in a 15 mile pilgrimage to St Albans to mark the 90th Anniversary of the founding of the school.
St Alban has been the patron saint of the school since it was opened by Canon Parsons in 1926 and his colours of blue and gold remain as the school colours to this day. The shield of St Alban also features on the school logo and on the uniforms worn by students and staff.
We left the school at 8.30am, after a filling breakfast together in the canteen. The atmosphere was one of excitement mixed with apprehension. The walk took us through parks, farms and along footpaths and rivers which gave us the chance to reflect on the beauty of nature and appreciate the small things we take for granted. The rain held out and the sun made an appearance from behind the clouds around midday which resulted in a few sun burnt noses. All those who set out from school managed to reach the cathedral, with open hearts, as though we were exhausted (there were many aching legs and feet though only one blister!) we all had a huge sense of accomplishment.
We were joined on the pilgrimage by Father Oliver from the parish of Mary Immaculate and St Peter in New Barnet. During the walk, Father Oliver lead discussions with the boys on various moral questions and challenged them to think about some of their perceptions of the world and society. On reaching the cathedral, along with the school Chaplain Miss Moggan, he led a reflection on our achievement and the sacrifice made by St Alban, drawing on the lessons we can learn from his actions.
A student in year 8 shared his experience of the pilgrimage; “For me, the pilgrimage to St Alban’s Cathedral allowed me to relax and let go of stress and anxiety. Furthermore, it connected me to the roots of Finchley Catholic High School, letting me understand and appreciate the beginning and growth of the school. In addition, it enabled me to realise how important St Alban was and to understand the school’s roots better. As well as this I had a very enjoyable time and bonded with others I don’t really talk to from other year groups and even strengthen friendships I had from primary school. The pilgrimage was great and cleansed my soul.”
Students and staff have been working hard to raise sponsorship for the pilgrimage in support of a CAFOD field clinic. This is a project year 11 students have been fund raising for throughout the year. Participants of the pilgrimage raised over £1,000 towards this goal.
90th Anniversary Tea for Past and Current Members of Staff.
On the 19th May, over 100 current and past members of staff gathered in the Canon Parson's Courtyard for an afternoon tea. Guests spent the afternoon reminiscing about their time at the school and catching up with old colleagues over a glass of champagne.
90th Anniversary Archery Tournament
On Thursday 14th April, two boys from each House in years 7 -10 took part in an archery lesson and tournament.
Two fantastic coaches from Experience Archery guided the students through the basics of positioning, holding the bow and arrow and the fixed sight technique. They then let the students demonstrate what they had learnt in a house competition!
The history of the archery at the school goes back to the creation of the archery club by Mr “Sammy” Hewson in 1957. We were delighted to be able to welcome Mr Hewson back to the school for the occasion, along with Mr J James, one of the first students to be involved in the archery club, which went on to win many tournaments. Both gentlemen were delighted to see how much the school had changed and how the sport itself was evolving.
There are some photos of the day below, along with an image of the archery club in the 1970s taken by Mr Hewson and an account from Mr James of how the club came into existence.
“The school archery club was started in 1957 but it can be said that is origins lay with William Shakespeare and the then current films of Richard III and Henry V!
I was a 6th former studying the Tudor period for A Level history and became absorbed in the historical importance of the English long bow. Having made several futile attempts to make my own bow from off bits of wood, I was enthralled to witness an archery shoot by a club in Barnet Lane, Totteridge. This made me determined to have a go for real.
After the Second World War modern archery in this country was still in its infancy. There was a monthly magazine called “The British Archer”, in which I read avidly about metal and composite bows then becoming available, jigs for making arrows, quivers and accessories – all financially way beyond my means. Through the advertisements I got an idea of what was being sold and where.
I had previously initiated a tour of an aircraft factory and learned that to succeed it was essential to have the backing of a master. Enter an old boy of the school Mr Hewson (aka “Sammy”), a popular master who taught General Science. It was Mr Hewson who somehow managed to get the powers to be to fund the club from a limited sports budget – this was a major achievement that must be a story in itself, bearing in mind the undoubted health and safety risks involved.
It was this that I found myself accompanying Mr Hewson to Woodside Park Underground Station on the way to Piccadilly Circus and Lillywhites – a major sports retailer of everything, including archery equipment.
There followed a blissful immersion in all things archery for which I was the guinea pig. I was tested for draw weights and arrow lengths. I was given one bow and asked to pull it fully back. To my horror the bow shattered! I was petrified that I would have to pay for it, Mr Hewson was concerned that I may have been hurt and the sales assistant was afraid I might sue the shop!
I had little input on what was ordered or knowledge of the extent of the budge. However, targets, easels, practice bows and arrows appeared and the first shoot took place on the field adjacent to the playground. Mindful that we were all novices, this was a courageous decision!
90th Anniversary Art Competition
To commemorate the 90th annviersary of the school, the art department ran a competition to design a special commemorative logo for the school.
The wining entry was designed by Kacper Opalka in 8R and will be used on various publications and programmes for events during the 90th anniversary year.
90th Anniversary Clue Quest and Treasure Hunt
On the 22nd March, two representatives from each form in year 7 took on the 90th anniversary clue quest!
Their mission was:
- To solve the seven clues which led to the secret locations
- To collect a piece of the puzzle at each of the secret locations
- To crack the final code and answer the question correctly to win!!
All the students did a fantastic job working out the clues which were based around the history of the school and ran as fast as they could to collect their puzzle pieces. At first, it seemed that Bampfield would win but they were beaten at the very last moment by Feckenham, closely followed by Fisher.
Once the students had got their breath back, they took part in the final challenge, which was an Easter egg hunt on the school playground. With 60 eggs to find in ten minutes competition was fierce but More came out the winners and won an Easter egg for each member of their form.
Below there are some photos of the event and the student's reflections on the competition.
“On the 22nd of March, I did the treasure hunt. It was fun because I got to run around and find things. Also the clues were good because they made us think. The winners won 1,000 points, 2nd got 750, 3rd got 500, 4th got 250, 5th got 150 and 6th got 50. White tie came 3rd.”
“I found it really fun yet tiring but it was really interesting though to see places in the school that I wouldn’t really realise but overall it was amazing.”
“Yesterday, I took part in a treasure hunt. We had to solve each clue and then run to each building. After that, we had to open up each answer and put together the puzzle, then run to our final destination and tell the answer to Miss Stefanicki…it was really challenging but I had loads of fun. My tie came second, we lost by 1 second. Then we took part in another activity to do with Easter. I had to find Easter eggs on cards. Altogether there were 60 cards.”
“On the 22nd of March there was a treasure hunt for year 7 and 2 people from each form were picked. Each form got six different clues and the answer told us where the next clue was. Each question was either about the school or the 90th anniversary and some questions were hard. In one of the clues there were different pieces of paper making a big image of St Alban. We had to work out where the statue was in the school which was in the hall. We went to the hall to collect the next clue. It was really fun and I really enjoyed it.”
“The treasure hunt was very fun and the clues were very hard. The Easter eggs were easy to find though.”
“During the clue quest we were told little pieces of information about the school and it’s buildings and we were required to run to places in the school and collect clues. In the end, you had to run to the hall to pick up the last clue and get to a teacher and say a secret word. My favourite clue was the anagram of the teacher’s name. This was fun because I used my brain to the full extent and was the first to figure it out. Very fun event and would do it again. After that we were sent on an Easter egg hunt to try and pick up as many Easter eggs as possible. All in all, I think this was a brilliant event and I enjoyed it very much.”
“In the treasure hunt we were give a series of clues to find envelopes around the school. It was so fun! Me and my partner Enrico came third but it was so close! However, it’s not as easy as it looked. In order to win we had to be the first to return with all 6 envelopes. We had to run as fast as we could! Even though it was hard and we kept running out of breath, we still did it! Anyway, we had a great time and I would definitely do it again!”
“I enjoyed the treasure hunt because the questions made us think a lot. My favourite bit about it was the final egg hunt because I think we won. On the first part, on the last question, I guessed the question and I got it right.”
“I think the clue quest was fun but tiring. I found the treasure hunt was complicated but fun. The best part was the clue quest because of the running up and down. Without doubt this is the funest thing this year, I never found anything boring. I had the best team ever with Miss Moggan and Hamdeh. Even though we didn’t win, it was really fun.”
“Alfie and I had to find 6 clues which was the same as every other form. We had to find one clue at a time and bring each one back to room 7 after we found it. Once we found all 6 clues we had to put the clues together to find the last clue. This clue had a question and we had to find Miss Stefanicki and tell her the answer to the question. After leading the whole way through the hunt, we came 2nd and yellow tie came first. Everyone was sweating afterwards. After that, we had another hunt but this time for pieces of paper with eggs on them. We had to find the eggs and whichever tie has the most eggs will win a prize. I am so excited! It was very fun and I loved it!”
“The treasure hunt was extremely exhausting but it was also extremely fun. Although we came 5th it was still very fun but we are very confident we did well in the second activity.”
Modern Foreign Languages 90th Anniversary Themed Lesson
In February, year 12 Spanish students sat a test on Spanish education in the late 1920s to mid 1930s, under the Primo de Rivera dictatorship and the Second Spanish Republic.They were tested on their knowledge of the imperfect tense and to start a discussion on education. A copy of the text can be found below.
Maths Classroom Activities
Throughout February students from all year groups took part in maths lessons themed around the 90th anniversary of the school. Here are some examples of their work.
Students in Key Stage 3 created posters with facts about the number 90.
Poster attached below.
Students in Key Stage 4 researched mathematicians from the last 90 years.
Key Stage 5 students attempted A Level exam questions from the last 90 years.
St Alban - Soldier to Saint
As part of the school's 90th anniversary celebrations, years 9-13 took part in an interactive and thought provoking play performed by RISE Theatre. The theme of the play was mercy and students were asked to think about their own actions and how they show mercy to others.
The play was set in the gritty world of London 2020, where religious expression has been made illegal and told the story of a priest, forced into hiding who strikes an unlikely friendship with John, a soldier who ultimately sacrifices his life.
The play was very well received by both students and staff, Mr Smith said:
"This portrayal of the story of St Alban was ideal in capturing the students imagination, and enabled them to access and understand the events of 1700 years ago, by making it current and exciting.
The stage was minimalistic, and the acting team just three, but this did not hinder or restrict the power of the message that they successfully demonstrated to the boys.
If it were a TV drama it would be extremely popular - testament to the RISE theatre company!
If the students weren't clear on the story of St Alban, they sure are now.
They were engaged, and this was especially evident when they were given the opportunity to reflect and discuss the subject of Mercy, before and after the performance.
All round, the perfect activity to celebrate the school's 90th Anniversary and our Patron Saint."
“I think that the play was a prefect reflection of St Alban and how he converted to Christianity and also about how he saved the priest. I was intrigued to see how much Christians were hated. It made me understand the life of St Alban by acting it out in a modern society. This links perfectly with the year of mercy as it shows anyone can change and how one person can change many people’s lives”.
“I thought that the play by RISE Company was a very interesting and thought provoking production. I really enjoyed the play and I thought that it was not professional of the government to kill all of the Christians. It made me realise that one person can change people’s lives just by using a random act of kindness and mercy. It was a perfect reflection of St Alban’s story with a modern day twist.”
“Yesterday’s play was very realistic and was easy to get into. It evoked several emotions in me such as anger and respect towards characters. It was also very good as it tied in with our beliefs as a catholic school and especially as our school’s saint is St Alban and it being our school’s 90th anniversary. I would definitely like to see more plays like this in the future.”
“The play gave me a different perspective of the story of Saint Alban and made it relevant to us.”
“Recently several year groups were given a performance of the play “soldier to Saint” by a local Christian theatre company. The play told the story of the martyrdom of St Alban – the patron saint of the school – but in the context of a dystopian future society set in the year 2020. The newly elected government has banned all religion across the country and enforces this with the death penalty upon all who are found to be practising their faith. The play follows the story of a priest running from the law who meets a retired soldier through a random act of kindness in a coffee shop. The two become unlikely companions with Alban (the soldier) protecting the priest from the law through a series of tight crackdowns across the country. Over time, Alban becomes entranced by the priest’s faith which is so strong that he is willing to risk everything rather than renounce his religion. He asks the priest to baptise him and becomes a Christian, moving against society’s expectations of him. Eventually the priest is found, but Alban sacrifices himself, pretending to be the priest in order to allow his friend to escape. Despite interrogation, Alban refuses to deny his faith and instead chooses to be executed over giving up on God.
This modern twist on the classic story of the first martyr in Britain gives a new perspective to the story and shows that a simple act of kindness can make a large difference to the lives of those around us. We can also take inspiration and strength from the courage of St Alban who defeated a far stronger foe in the name of his faith.”
“The play was based on the story of Saint Alban, but in a more modern representation, making it easier to relate to. The play was about a soldier, named John Alban, who housed a fugitive priest from the authorities for a while. Whilst housing the priest, Alban began to reminisce about his past sins as a soldier, as well as growing close with the priest. Eventually, he accepted the Christian faith as a reality and was baptised by the priest to be atoned for his sins and become part of the Christian faith. However, the police found out the priest’s location but did not know what he looked like. Therefore, Alban stood in the priest’s place while the priest himself escaped. Taken into custody, Alban was offered many opportunities to deny his faith but never did. Eventually, he was executed by firing squad and became a martyr for his faith.
The main theme of the story was mercy and this was displayed throughout the play, such as when Alban hid the priest in his home, despite the risks. This teaches us that mercy is one of the most important aspects of life and as Catholics, we must show mercy just as God does to any and all people. It also teaches that anyone can be forgiven in the eyes of God, no matter who they are or what they have done; there’s no limit to God’s forgiveness and as Catholics we should follow the example of God and the priest in the play to forgive people for their sins.”
“This performance took the parable of St Alban and effectively applied it to a dystopian future in which Christianity is punishable by death. In the play, we saw how St Alban was inspired by Father Immanuel to sacrifice his own life for what he deemed to be a just cause. Whilst Christians today may not be forced into such a drastic situation, the message that I took from the performance is that we shouldn’t punish people excessively and that sometimes we should try to forgive one another before we put them to the sword.
Despite the parable being more than 1700 years old and we no longer use the death penalty, there are some basic principles which apply today. For example, the idea that people can change for the better and that you cannot solve a political problem by killing off everyone you disagree with. The struggle against oppression is still very real in some parts of the world and in the same way that Alban persevered for freedom, we have a duty to humanity to fight injustice.
Another idea that I found provoking was the concept of truth. In the plat, what people believed in became more powerful; than the reality of their situation. A few characters became so convinces that their belief was more valid than anyone else’s that they refused to listen to reason.
From my position in the audience, I would say that everyone was engrossed in the drama and was an effective analogy for many points of debate. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.”
“What was good is how they modernised the story of St Alban and how he saved the priest’s life from persecution whilst still showing the theme of mercy. Also, it helps us reflect on what society was like the time of St Alban and makes us grateful that we are free to believe in our faith. But we also have to reflect that there are still regions around the world where there are people still being persecuted because of their faith. The key scenes where the theme of mercy was prominent include when John helped the priest escape the police and let himself be arrested, letting the priest stay at his house, when the priest gave John the money for a hot drink and when the prosecutor gave John the chance to escape execution.”
“I found the play exciting, engaging and also thought provoking because it made me question my life and in what ways I could influence and try to change the world through my words and actions. Before the play, when asked this, I didn’t believe that I could change the world but after watching it, I think that it is possible in a small way. I found the play relatable because it had been purposefully set in the future, in 2020. By doing this, I could relate to the characters’ thought processes and what they were all doing. I found the character of John Alban especially inspiring because he was not judgemental of Father Immanuel because he was a Christian. Instead, he helped him and ended up being converted to Christianity. He died as a result of his beliefs because he refused to give up his devotion to God. I can use this by acting in his footsteps in my daily life. I can aim to help people around school and try to be kind to people despite what I may have previously felt about them. If all of us follow this mind-set, then the world can be a much more prosperous and charitable place filled with love rather than hate.”
“As part of Finchley Catholic High School’s 90th anniversary celebrations, the school invited RISE Theatre to show their production ‘Soldier to Saint’ in order for us to understand the story of our patron saint, Britain’s first Christian martyr, St Alban. The story was successfully illustrated using a modern take which was effective and relatable. Before the play was shown to the year group, we were asked to question ourselves whether the idea of mercy can bring about positive outcomes and whether we feel that we can change the world in any dimension.
The play opened with a figure wearing a coat and clutching a briefcase, seeking refuge and not knowing what to do because of the tension and rioting of the time; it is a terrifying time of upheaval, when Christians are being persecuted and forced into hiding. He is reluctantly taken in by a solider, John Alban, who is haunted by his experiences in war which have remained in his conscience ever since. The two strike an unlikely friendship where the man is a fugitive priest, Fr Thomas Emmanuel. It is apparent that John is significantly impressed by the strength of Fr Emmanuel’s faith even during a time of oppression. As a result, he starts to read the bible and its scriptures. During subsequent conversations, John is convinced in the truth of the story of Jesus and is baptised by Fr Emmanuel which in turn, removed the barrier of sin between him and God and he has been forgiven and started anew.
When the police identify and are convinced that Fr Emmanuel is being hidden in an apartment, John persuades Fr Emmanuel to let him take his place, showing his humility, compassion and commitment to be able to sacrifice himself. During questioning by the judge, it is discovered that he is not the real Fr Emmanuel and is faced with the choice of renouncing his beliefs or certain death. John refuses to walk away from the truth and was inevitably executed yet he remained defiant and had little fear as his faith was enough to empower him.
Whilst British society may not be as extreme as the one depicted in the plat, it is becoming increasingly secular and challenging for Christians. This thought provoking play challenged us to ask ourselves what we would do in such circumstances. Would we be prepared to make sacrifices for our family, friends and even strangers? Would we stand up for our beliefs?
Towards the end of the session, the song that was sung and the prayer that was read out highlighted and reinforced the key idea how God has love for us and recognises that we are human and make mistakes. From that, we are able to recognise that forgiveness is key and we are urged to make sacrifices where necessary where the idea of mercy allows us to become a more outward reaching and benevolent person. Moreover, we also recognised how it is our faith that provides stability and guides us towards what is morally right – this is fundamentally key in terms of the school’s ethos.
Overall, it was a resounding success and it enabled year 11 to think more deeply and profoundly about the changes that they can make to become a better person and ultimately perform an act of mercy, in whatever way.”
“The production was done in a very interesting and engaging manner and I think they did manage to get the students' attention.”
90th Anniversary Library Display
Mrs Gallagher has created an interesting and informative display titled "90 Years of Great Books" featuring one book for every year since the school was founded. The list is diverse and offers our students a great glimpse at how the literary world has changed in the last 90 years.
You can see the full list of books in the document below.
FCHS Board Game Design Challenge
As part of their Activity Day workshops on the 18th and 19th January, year 7 students have spent the day designing and making board games around the theme of the 90th anniversary of the school.
Some examples of their fantastic work can be viewed below.