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2016-2023 Areanne Denzo

I was one of the Head Girls in 2022-23, but I started my Sacred Heart journey in Year 7.

Sacred Heart is not only a place for you to receive all your academic and spiritual needs, but it is also a family, a place where the amount of support you receive is unimaginable.

“Even though you have fallen a thousand times in one day, if in the evening you stand up again on your two feet, you may sing of victory.”

This quote said by St Madeleine Sophie Barat is a strong reminder of the importance of having strength and being able to not only stand by yourself but also to let others help and guide you. The Oxford Dictionary states that pastoral care is related to the work of a priest or teacher in giving help and advice on personal matters. I disagree with this statement because at Sacred Heart our pastoral care is not only given by our members of staff, but it is also given by the students, our friends who become our family. 

At Sacred Heart, we have a pastoral team within the school ranging from teachers you see in lessons, to trained professionals who deal with specific situations. There are different members of staff who look after certain year groups and there is always someone available to help.  Teachers here have dealt with anything and everything, so nothing really surprises them any more, however little or big certain issues are. 

I remember being in Year 7 thinking ‘these teachers are scary’ and that is completely understandable because we all know that it can be hard to open up to someone older. Therefore, in Sacred Heart our pastoral care is not purely teacher based it is student based too. We have a wellbeing team which works closely with ‘Mind’ the charity, and it is a safe space for students to open up to other students because this might be easier for them as they feel comfortable with those of their own age.

Not only does it provide a safe space, but we fundraise for the charity, and we have also started a well-being day when the whole school comes together as a community to focus on mental health and promoting good mental wellbeing. Last year’s wellbeing day was a success, not only because we got to miss half a day of school, but because we got to share the experience and lift each other up as a family.

Our school also prides itself on communication, because the number of emails my parents got from the school is enough to fill this entire room. But this is good news because it means that teachers are open with parents, they tell them situations that are going on within and out of school. They provide support to parents when they don’t understand things. I remember my parents having so many questions about the new GCSE grading system which I couldn’t answer, but my teachers were there for me after countless phone calls and parent teacher meetings. 

Our community is diverse, from age to ethnicity with sixth formers interacting with Year 7s through reading and maths classes to our diversity and inclusion team headed by our sixth formers showcasing how our community stands out and how far our outreach programmes really travel.  

Our sixth form not only focuses on the academic, but it also focuses on ensuring that your last two years of formal education are fulfilling. There are year group trips and whole sixth form trips where you get to know each other, learn from each other and have fun with one another. Some of the trips that we have gone on include many residential trips that are specific to our subjects. These trips not only allowed us to develop knowledge, but they also allowed us to bond with the people in our classes and year to work together in circumstances that we would not normally work in.  You never really get to know people until you have to live with them for at least a week, so I can tell you our sense of community really grew during these times. 

I promise I am not just saying these things to make Sacred Heart sound amazing, not that it isn’t but because I have experienced the support given first hand. In Year 7 I was so quiet, I would not speak in public, I would not put my hand up in lessons yet here I am now. I genuinely think that without the support given by the teachers, the students and my friends I would not be in the position I am in today, I would not be the person that I am today.  Growth is an inevitable part of life and can be challenging but having the right environment around you makes going through life a little bit easier. And that is at Sacred Heart. 

2016-2023 Soraya Shakibi

Soraya was one of our Head Girls in 2022-23, with responsibility for KS3.

‘For the sake of one child, I would have founded the Society’

Those are the words of our foundress, St. Madeleine Sophie Barat whose unstinting dedication to the education of young women across the world is visible across all continents, from Argentina to Uganda, and Ireland to Japan.  At Sacred Heart, we follow the five Sacred Heart Goals and honour Barat’s memory through our adherence to them. Our first goal is a personal and active faith in God, this goal is essential to becoming a SH student. Every morning we pray collectively as a form group and have collective year group prayer once a week.

Whilst praying and engaging with our faith is a fundamental facet of our time at Sacred Heart, there are also opportunities for scholarly growth, and this is reflected in our second SH goal which is a deep respect for intellectual values. Each student is challenged through the broad and rich curriculum which suits the talents of all students.

Barat’s own personal experience of educational inequality was the catalyst for her lifelong endeavour to provide girls and young women with the academic tools to succeed, be the agents of their own lives and feel nurtured and safe within a learning community. St Madeleine was educated at home by her older brother, Louis, who provided her with an education in Mathematics, Latin, Greek, History, Spanish and Italian – none of which would have been available to her had he not dedicated his time to her.

This social injustice is apt in today’s society where there are 130 million girls who are completely missing out on the right to an education. Our biannual fundraisers in the Michaelmas and Lent term exhibit our third goal, social awareness that impels action. These fundraisers are a much looked forward to event where every student participates in the raising of money for numerous charities across the world, be that immigrants in Almería for Proyecto Bantabá, the Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal, Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children for hope in war-torn countries. Of course, we aim to raise great amounts for our charities, however, it is the way in which we fundraise and come together as a community, which is vital. Be that a ‘bridge walk’ which includes crossing all bridges in London or our annual Sacred Heart Fair: these are all linked to our fourth goal, the goal of community.

In 2022-23, community has never been more important - our first year of normality. Where post-covid, we can come together without masks, negative lateral flow tests and extended periods off school. The recent Head Girl assembly on community emphasised the importance of seeing yourself as part of the bigger picture. The picture being your membership into 1 of the 161 Sacred Heart Schools across the globe where your journey doesn’t stop once you leave through the school gates for the last time.

Barat’s words, ‘more is gained by indulgence than by severity’ are at the very heart of what we do here at Sacred Heart: setting high expectations, inculcating a sense of scholarship, enquiry and passion in every subject. From my arrival in Year 7, I have been supported and inspired by all my teachers and encouraged to become the very best version of myself. This has not been limited to academic performance, but I have been taught that spirituality and a sense of community are essential to intellectual development. High grades are, of course, aspirational and very important, but so too are the soft skills of empathy, tolerance and kindness. Sacred Heart looks beyond league tables, GCSE and A-level results in order to forge lifelong attitudes which make us strong, female leaders of the next generation.

Now that I have left Sacred Heart, I know I will continue my SH journey. This links to our final goal which is personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom. When each student leaves SH, they embark on life’s journeys with a toolkit embellished with these five goals with a spoonful of courage and determination poured in for good measure. Each student is loved, each student is important, each student knows that they will be welcomed back from their life’s adventures with open arms and embraced. None of this would be possible without the work of our foundress and her dedication for the sake of one child.