Geog-RAP-hers

It has been a pleasure to welcome a new colleagues into the Geography Department this school year.  They introduced a new and exciting geography curriculum across all years in the Secondary School, with students (and teachers – like me) having the opportunity to investigate and discuss topical issues in much more meaningful and creative ways. 

When I trained as a geography teacher, way back in the last century, I thought I was ahead of the game challenging students to produce story boards about natural disasters, and using drama and role play to explore the destruction of our rainforests, etc.  Fast forward to this academic year and by Christmas I have been assessing the student´s knowledge and understanding of our oceans by producing their own podcasts, and this week I have been amazed by their musical ability and confidence to write and perform rap songs about the urban decline of Detroit city in the US. 

I am a big fan of cross-curricular learning, and fully believe that enabling the involvement of skills and passions from other academic subjects, and a student´s personal interests, in your own lessons maximising the learning potential for all students in a classroom learning environment. 

I would love to claim the idea of reinforcing the concepts of urban decline and deprivation with the use of a rap based on a soundtrack from Detroit´s very own Eminem, but I can´t, and must thank my colleague and the rest of the geography team for their approach and willingness to collaborate in such creative ways.  It is refreshing to be able to improve my own teaching styles and ideas by learning from and observing others. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to my students perform their raps in class this week and have included an example of some lyrics on this page. 

I hope you enjoy yo!

Student Leaders

This is always one of my (many) favourite times of the school year, when senior students apply for leadership positions.  It is a great opportunity to learn even more about our young people and what makes them tick, and what drives them towards success, both academically and personally.  Involving our current senior leaders in the recruitment process is always rewarding.  It gives them a chance to reflect on their experience during the interviews that they went through on application, and also how successful they have been whilst active in their current leadership roles. 

It is always important to make these processes as educational as possible, and what better way than students working with students to discover and develop the best.  It has been a real pleasure working with both our current Head Students.  They have been an impressive team and awesome role models for our many students.  They will leave behind big boots to fill!  It was a pleasure to stand at the back of the auditorium at the end of last term and listen to them graciously speak to our prize-winning students before they received their prizes. 

I asked them both if I could include an extract from their speech for this website, as I think it is important that voices and views like theirs are shared with as many people as possible who live and work across a school learning community. They are the role models and uphold the values that we should all aspire to.

December 2020:

Good evening pupils, parents, and teachers. It is with very great pleasure that we share with you this delightful evening to celebrate all of your accomplishments…

…Education is about far more than what happens inside the four walls of a classroom, and we are very fortunate and proud to have students and staff members who recognize this. In my opinion, one of the characteristics that best describes an outstanding student is their attitudes to learning, and how they overcome the hurdles they encounter along the way. We celebrate excellent attitudes in all facets of school life, whether that be in the classroom, in extracurricular activities, or competitions and events, and we hope that all of you prize winners who have demonstrated excellent attitudes to learning, keep up the work during your remaining time at school, serving as role models to all other students in the school. 


All of you present today have additionally done an outstanding job in being great ambassadors for the school, and in remarkably representing the school values in such unusual times. The open-mindedness with which you all affronted not only the first months of the pandemic which came hand in hand with an intense lockdown, followed by an unconventional summer and finally, an atypical start to the school year, has been admirable. We live in a world of constant changes, and as humans, we are extremely privileged to be able to adapt to these transitions. We are incredibly proud of how well you’ve adapted to the circumstances, and of how hard you’ve worked despite it all. You made those revision notes, hustled the learning, dealt with online school and somehow made it through. By staying open and hopeful, even through tough times, you have demonstrated to us all how much you are capable of. Thank you for your determination, your perseverance for showing us all that hard work pays off. 


Despite the inability to be physically present in school, this did not stop students, parents and teachers from seeking to make their contribution. Student participation in the wider school community is what really drives school spirit and motivates us all to keep going no matter what. Pupils who earn this prize have been role models in this area, as they have remained active during the online schooling period, seeking to give back and take part in school community activities as much as possible. Thanks to these students we managed to see huge participation rates in events such as The Around The World Challenge during the first few months of lockdown, the cake baking house competition, teacher and student Kahoots, and ‘dressing up as your favourite movie character’ competition. These events and many others, as well as the participation in them is what has managed to help keep our strong school community together during the isolated quarantine months, and have reminded us all that we must stand together. These three categories – excellent attitudes, school values and community participation – have proved what amazing things you the students can achieve, no matter the situation we find ourselves in.


So once again, congratulations for having come this far. It is our honour to celebrate all you’ve accomplished despite the unusual times we are living in. This isn’t the end, but just the beginning! And we look forward to seeing how you all use the tools and skills you’ve been given to create a world fuelled by fresh perspective, innovation and action. The future is yours. Keep up the good work and enjoy your very well deserved Christmas holidays.

Head Students

San Pedro

´The best views come after the hardest climbs´ (Unknown)

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I can see San Pedro from our front window.  He stands upright, out of place, in the forefront of the vast Sierra de Gaudarrama to the north of Madrid.  He is like a small-ish afterthought of vast tectonic movement from millions of years ago, beckoning you towards the much mightier snow-capped peaks of the Sierra.  Alas, San Pedro stands alone between Madrid and his superior peers, at a scalable height of 1450m, and easily accessible on a sky blue sunny afternoon (or not).  It was during lockdown that I first become drawn to San Pedro.

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As we entered phase one, we jumped into the car together for the first time for almost 3 months and headed towards the mountains, liberated.  We soon realised that all the car parks were closed and the national parks were still not accessible to the public, so we decided to head home and contemplate a family movie.  My daughter urged us not to though, and reminded us of the King´s Around the World Challenge and that we must do some physical exercise that would extend us beyond our normal routines.  At that very moment, whilst cruising down the M-607, San Pedro appeared within our left hand side windows, teasing us to take him on.  Two of us were well up for it, one was pretty neutral, and the other two not so keen at all.  So I offered the incentive of 5 Euros each on completion of the climb for the school challenge and to support the four school charities.  The challenge was on!  We parked the car at the foot of the mountain and started our ascent together and in high spirits, relishing the new found freedom of phase one.  The positive unity lasted barely five minutes as dissent and abandonment started to be expressed by certain members of the group.  Regular false promises of nearly being at the top became the only strategy to get everyone to the summit, very much at the expense of good moods and humour.  We made it though and soon realised how worthwhile the long wait, and difficult climb had been, to absorb the amazing 360 degree views together was a reward in itself and a satisfying family accomplishment. 

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We have now climbed San Pedro a number of times, and revert to him when seeking a closer to home challenge that doesn´t require a full day out and multiple ruck sacks full of sandwiches, snacks and drinks.  My daughter has suggested that we climb him every month, seeing as our last ascent was in early January, con snow!  A bold idea and challenge – accepted.

Let´s see how we go…

A Walking and Chess Christmas

I didn’t think I could fall in love with Spain any more than I did exploring the south of the country during the summer holidays.  Having to stay put for Christmas wasn’t what I had asked Santa for… but stay put we were resigned to do.  It, in fact, turned out to be a brilliant Christmas, a staycation to remember, with very little staying put actually taking place.  I gambled and bought myself my first Spanish book, detailing walks in north Madrid and the Sierra.  It gave me the confidence to really drag the family out and to explore what is on our doorstep, discovering the many hiking trails and unbelievable vistas within minutes of where we live.  We walked almost every other day, soon abandoning the guide book and following new paths to hidden gems.  Many that we will return to again and again.  We found snow (before it officially arrived in January) and took our sleds up high, dragging them along trails and through the pine trees, where nobody else could be seen. 

It might be a good idea to start a King´s Soto family walking group – possibly meeting up once a month and sharing our favourite walks?  If you are interested then please do let me know.

Back home in the warmth, and during rest days, we re-discovered chess (mainly due to a popular Netflix series!).  We spent hours with the board and pieces, honing our concentration and making sure that each of us made less mistakes than the other to win.  It has got quite serious in our household, chess, my eldest has beaten me for the first time ever (in fact three times now), and my youngest is getting quite competitive when he concentrates.  We are talking moves, defence and strategy… I even see them playing by themselves at times.  It is good to see and to share with them.  I am sure we will now take a chess board with us on our next adventure away from home. 

I think Chess Club will continue to be popular in school, it is every Friday lunchtime in room B2F.  It would be great to have some inter-school competitions and a Soto chess tournament on a Saturday morning in school in the near future.  If you would like to be involved then please do let me know.  

Happy New Year to you all.