Usuline Schools visited by five Polish Headteachers.




By Sister Alice Montgomery OSU

On Monday the 25th September, five Polish sisters arrived at Stansted Airport, en route for the Desenzano House in Ilford where they stayed for one week with me.

The purpose of the visit was for them to see first-hand how the Ursuline schools pass on the spirituality and ethos of St Angela to the staff and students. They also wanted to have some idea of how the schools educate young people to use social media responsibly.

On the Monday in Desenzano, Sr Alice gave a power point presentation on passing on the spirituality of St Angela and another one explaining the structure of Catholic education in England at present.  This was to help them understand the different types of schools they would see during the week.  Just before this we all had lunch in Ilford with Sr Kathleen, giving the sisters a chance to meet her.

On Tuesday morning we visited Wimbledon High School and the Ursuline Prep. School in the afternoon. Both schools made the sisters very welcome. In the morning, Headteacher Julia Waters presented a very informative power point on the school and its ethos and the sisters were very happy to meet with several students who spoke Polish fluently. It was also clearly explained to the sisters how important Serviam is in the school. The sisters all received a badge. There was also an input on the policy for the responsible use of Social media. In the afternoon at the Prep. School, Sr Dorothy kindly showed us around as the Head was engaged in meeting with Inspectors. We did all our journeys by public transport and the sisters became adept at using their Oyster cards.


On the Wednesday we travelled by high-speed train from Stratford International to Margate, where Sr Colette and Theresa met us with two cars. We were taken straight to meet the Head, Mr Stevenson and a group of students who also all spoke Polish. The sisters were able to easily ask the young people about their school. Following this we all joined the Westgate Community for lunch allowing the sisters to meet all the residents. This was followed by a school mass. After this the sisters had a session about social media and then ended with a meeting with the whole management team to talk about the school ethos. Again the use of Serviam was highly significant in the life of the school. We returned again by high-speed train.

Thursday was a day with less travel as we stayed in Ilford to visit the Prep. School in the morning and the Ursuline Academy in the afternoon.  The sisters had a full tour of the prep. school and again met a young boy who was Polish. Once again the role of the Serviam motto stood out even in a school where there is a mixed faith intake. In the afternoon the sisters firstly enjoyed an experience in the school dining hall having fish and chips! This was followed by a tour of the school by students who also spoke Polish and then a meeting with the Head to talk about the transmission of the ethos. The sisters all received a Serviam badge. Another very successful day. The day ended with joining the Forest Gate community for supper.

The final day of visits began with a school mass at St Angela’s Forest Gate in the school chapel. This was followed by a presentation to the sisters by the Head Mark Johnson, on the ethos of the school and how it is passed on. The teacher responsible for safeguarding, then gave a talk about their policy on the use of social media and how they warn their students about making sure their electronic footprint is a good one and not one that will give them problems in the future. We were reminded that everything we do online is recorded. We then left St Angela’s by taxi in order to get to St Ursula’s in Greenwich by 12.00. This was the last school to visit and here again the sisters enjoyed a lunch of British fish and chips!

There were again students who showed them the school who also spoke Polish. After this we attended the special commissioning mass for the new Year Seven students who received their special welcome cards organised by Sr Kathleen. At the offertory, one of the Polish sisters took up the icon of St Angela. Some parents were also present. The mass was celebrated by Bishop Patrick and he later joined the sisters for a cup of tea while further conversations went on about ethos and the sisters received another Serviam badge. There was an interesting demonstration by the Deputy Head at this point on how everything the girls do online, can be tracked and monitored in the school. It was another way of encouraging the students to behave responsibly with social media.

We travelled back to Ilford on the DLR giving the sisters an experience of a train without a driver!

It was a very busy week, but very worthwhile and the schools were so generous in giving up a great deal of precious time. On the Saturday, the sisters became tourists! We began the day with mass at the Cathedral and then a visit to the St Paul’s Bookshop. This was very popular with them. We also met Sr Antonia at this point. After a walk to Buckingham Palace, there was another spate of shopping at some tourist shops! British tea was high on the agenda. After lunch we walked to Westminster and saw the Abbey, Big Ben and the houses of Parliament. We eventually reached Ilford at about 5pm, giving the sisters time to do some packing before a very early start the next day.


The taxi arrived at Desenzano at 5.30am to take them to the airport. There were fond farewells and the promise of keeping in touch. The sisters felt they had leant so much. Our thanks go to Sr Kathleen who allowed the use of Desenzano for the week. It was an ideal location.  We had lived the week as a little community and when the taxi left, the house felt a little empty. However, it was a wonderful example of how we can help each other internationally.