School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 25/02/2022
Weekly News - Friday 25th February 20221R Assembly
Class 1R presented their class assembly on Thursday morning to staff and parents at the Lower School. They focussed on the St. Helen's College values, particularly friendship, patience, perseverance and kindness. They spoke with clarity and projection, sang with great gusto and even treated us to some wonderful dance moves! Their message was clear: if we are kind to one another, if we are good friends, if we work hard and keep going when things are difficult, then we will find joy in being our best selves. Well done, 1R, this was a thoroughly enjoyable performance.
Friday Music Recital
We enjoyed another super Friday Music Recital today in the Evans Hall at Upper School, with several children playing instruments in a friendly and informal setting. Thank you to all of the families who attended to support the children, and well done to all of our performers!
Konnie Huq Author Visit
On Thursday afternoon, children in Years 3 to 5 were treated to a visit from ex-Blue Peter presenter, and popular children's author, Konnie Huq.
Konnie gave an excellent interactive presentation, bringing to life her funny and informative book series 'Cookie'. The books have been inspired by her childhood, her family and her Bangladeshi heritage. The activities included: illustrating characters, a secret code, a live science experiment, learning about the environment and looking at some big words (troglodyte, defenestration and tautology to name a few!). We finished with a Q&A session, with the children asking a range of excellent questions about Konnie's writing process and other avenues of her career in TV and radio, including her time as a presenter on Blue Peter, and a book signing in the Upper School library.
It was fantastic to have an author visit in person after more than two years of online visits, and the children were certainly left inspired to read more and maybe even write their own stories.
It is not too late to order signed copies (while stocks last) of the following books, as Konnie kindly signed a few extra while she was here. Just click on the link below and follow the instructions under 'How to Order'. The deadline for ordering these is 5 p.m. on Sunday, 27th February.
HOW TO ORDER:
Click the link above
Click the book or bundle required
Select the name of your child’s school from the drop-down menu
Add to basket
Click collect free from the Chorleywood Bookshop OR Gerrards Cross Bookshop (this will ensure FREE delivery to the school)
Proceed to Checkout
PLEASE SPECIFY YOUR CHILD’S NAME AND CLASS/FORM IN THE BOX MARKED ‘DETAILS REQUIRED FOR SCHOOL EVENTS’
Orders will be delivered free to St. Helen's College next week and given out to the children.
Year 2 Trip to Heath Robinson Museum
Also on Thursday, our Year 2 classes went on an outing to the Heath Robinson Museum in Pinner, where they took part in an art activity called ‘wet felting’. Year 2 have been studying the topic materials in science. They looked at the colour wheel and used coloured wool to make felt. They produced some beautiful and imaginative pieces of work.
Thames Cavaliers v Reading Rockets - Free Entry and Pizza for St. Helen's College children
On Sunday at 3 p.m., the Thames Cavaliers will be taking on the Reading Rockets and, once again, they are offering free tickets and a slice of pizza to children in Years 3-6 at St. Helen's College. Details are here and free entry/pizza vouchers can be downloaded here.
World Book Day Reminder
Next Thursday, 3rd March, is World Book Day. Throughout the school, children should come to school dressed as a favourite book character and they will be taking part in a range of fun activities centred around reading. This year's themes are:
Ducklings - free choice of book character or author.
Nursery and Reception - A Julia Donaldson character.
Years 1 to 6 - A Roald Dahl character.
PA Forum Meeting - Wednesday 2nd March
The next PA Forum meeting will take place on Wednesday 2nd March. If any parents would like to put forward points for discussion, please send these to your PA class rep over the weekend. Class representatives should collate points and send them to Mrs. Smith by Tuesday 1st March at the latest please.
Catering Next Week
We will be celebrating Pancake Day at school on Tuesday 1st March and there will be a slight change to the menu so that the children can have pancakes for dessert that day. The new menu is here.
We also have a special Roald-Dahl themed menu for World Book Day on Thursday 3rd March. The World Book Day menu is here.
St. Helen's College will be supporting the charity Comic Relief on Friday 18th March.
The children should come to school on that day dressed in red and/or comic relief t-shirts. They are also welcome to wear a red nose on this day if they have purchased one from one of the many retailers.
We will be doing several different events on the day including:
Upper School - a raffle, sporting quiz and a sporting event.
Lower School - a raffle, danceathon and an obstacle course to different landmarks.
Ducklings - a raffle, danceathon and stick the 'red nose' on the face.
To participate in these events and the tog day we would like to suggest a donation of £5 which your child can either bring with them on the day or you can donate via our JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/st-helen-s-college3
In addition we will be selling Comic Relief wristbands for £1 from Monday 14th March on all three sites. Please note the wristbands will be sold on a first come first serve basis until we have sold out.
We are sure that you are aware of Tom Daley's 'Hell of Homecoming' Comic Relief challenge that he did recently. With this in mind we would like to set the children a fun sporting challenge which they could get sponsorship for. We would like the children to run, walk, scoot or cycle to a variety of different landmarks and be sponsored to reach them. Please take photos of the different landmarks you visit and upload them for us here before Friday 18th March. Simply click on your child's year group to upload their photographs.
You can download a sponsorship form here for the children to print at home and use for this challenge.
Some of the children may be asking you questions at home about the situation in Ukraine, as many of them may have been hearing snippets of the news. If you are looking for a child-friendly video to share with your children then please do take a look at the BBC Newsround video below which gives a factual account including some history which you may find useful. It is key that the children are able to share any worries that they may have with adults and that we listen to and support them as appropriate.
The British Red Cross, a humanitarian charity, have launched an emergency appeal to support those affected by the action in the Ukraine. If you would like to make a donation to support the Red Cross in providing food, medicines, shelter and water for refugees and casualties of the war, you can do so via the Red Cross website link here.
Our thoughts go out to all families who may know of people who are being affected by what is going on in the Ukraine.
Posted on: 25/02/2022
Ukraine - PerspectiveI am sure that all of us have been affected by the outbreak of the war against Ukraine in some way. The images which we have seen in the media over the past couple of days are distressing and shocking as we see the lives of the Ukrainian people being turned upside down. Their lives bear no resemblance to how they were just a few days ago.
I have been heartened but also moved and inspired to read an Edu colleague’s Twitter feed over the past couple of days. I have met Dr. Emma Kell on many occasions at various educational conferences and events. Emma’s Twitter name is @thosethatcan and she describes herself on Twitter with these words:
‘My mission is to help people be as brilliant as I know they can be, in teaching and beyond. Coach, wellbeing trainer, governor, writer, teacher’.
Emma is a wife and a mum to two wonderful daughters. Her husband is currently working alongside a team of journalists in Kiev.
This is from Emma's Twitter feed yesterday, 24th February (I have her permission to share this with you all).
Ukraine, my husband and perspective: a thread.
Firstly, thank you to all who have reached out. *** is in Kiev and it's a big worry, but they're safe at the moment (see previous tweet). I'm trying to be philosophical and gracious about it (it's his job, it's important, and 1/
he wants to be there). I'm not always successful! The worry and the domestic load are making me grumpy, not helped because I've been hooked to the news for most of the night. BUT... 2/
it probably won't be more than a few days before they're home, in safe warm houses, worrying about petrol prices with the rest of us. Families in Ukraine are not so fortunate. 3/
Before we are in danger of letting compassion fatigue set in, let's save our emotional energies to think of those who live there, with no escape, who are worried for their lives and their futures and take a moment or three 4/
To count all of the things we have to be so very, very grateful for. Let's take a moment to think of those who are likely to be literally putting their own lives on the line and do what we can to challenge misinformation and enact our values. 5/
Today, the kids are very upset because Daddy won't be home tomorrow, as they'd hoped, and airspace is closed so we don't know when he will, but he and the other brave journalists doing essential work will be home and safe soon. Let's focus our energies on those who 6/
aren't so lucky. I will rant and rail at times, and I've had to be flaky and cancel some meetings today, but there's so much to be optimistic about and grateful for. As @AdrianBethune and I often say, perspective is SO important. 7/7
Emma also posted this poem:
Chatting to Emma online this morning she wanted to emphasise to me that her daughter’s school has been UTTERLY brilliant. She had a response from her children’s form tutors within 12 minutes of emailing them and they have been sensitive and proactive in supporting her children. This moved Emma. It is so important that any family dealing with difficulty is supported by their school and I hope and trust that here at St. Helen’s College, we are there for families in times of need.
In today’s news blog we share a BBC Newsround link which might help if you would like to talk to your children about the events in Ukraine. We also share a link to the Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal which will enable them to assist in providing food, medicines, shelter and water for refugees and casualties of the war. Please follow the link if you would like to make a personal donation.
Writing this today and watching the news feeds has certainly put many things into perspective for me.
I wish you all a peaceful weekend and special thoughts go to those who are dealing with difficult times, particularly those affected by the events in Ukraine.
P.S. Since writing this blog this morning I have heard that the team of journalists and Emma's husband are leaving Kiev, heading south to start their journey back to the UK. They have been there for several weeks but have decided that it is now too unstable for them to remain. Wishing them a safe return.
Posted on: 11/02/2022
BehaviourThis week we have a guest blog from our Deputy Head, Mr. McLaughlin.
Back in January 2017, we did a whole-school review of our behaviour policies, rewards and sanctions. It is always healthy for schools to review and tweak their practice to get the very best out of their pupils, so we set out with an open mind to any suggestions or feedback from the school community. The general consensus was that behaviour across the school was excellent, but we also wanted a really clear set of simple guidelines for all of our children to follow and an even stronger set of reward systems in place so that we always give our first attention to positive behaviour.
We were visited by Pivotal Education, a company specialising in school behaviour systems and founded by Paul Dix, author of ‘When the Adults Change, Everything Changes.’ We chose Pivotal as we shared the same philosophy that consistent, calm adult behaviour is a pillar on which we can build a nurturing environment for children to flourish. This was already very well established within our school, so we cherry-picked the best parts of their approach and made some small changes to our procedures:
‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’ became a memorable and all-encompassing behaviour motto in our school. All examples of disruptive or negative behaviour seemed to fall into one of the three categories. Are you ready to learn? Are you being respectful to others? Is what you are doing safe?
At the Upper School, we switched from yellow and red cards to the reflective breaks system. In this system, children attend a reflective break with an adult when their behaviour has not met our expectations to have a restorative conversation and reflective time. It is an opportunity for the child to reconnect with the adult, discuss why the behaviour was unacceptable, think about who it has affected and consider how it can be avoided or improved in future. At Lower School, we continued with Jenny Mosely's sun and cloud behaviour model. This gives the children instant feedback and opens up discussions about the impact of their behaviour on their learning.
We initiated value spotters cards to run alongside our already existing reward systems such as house points, stickers and certificates. The value spotter cards and yellow notes from the golden pillar box are there to bring attention to all the fantastic examples of when the children are living out our school values such as friendliness, self-discipline, forgiveness and gratitude to name just a few.
We take many opportunities to celebrate the achievements of the children through regular assemblies, being ‘on star’, class or table of the week and discussing special achievements in assemblies. One of the most powerful messages we can give the children is simply by noticing and reinforcing positive behaviour first and foremost in the classroom and around the school. It takes the whole staff, working together, to achieve the consistency necessary for effective systems. We are so lucky to have such a caring and committed team here, dedicated to this positive approach to behaviour management.
Thinking back to my school days, the idea of detention seems rather odd now. Sitting in silence for a set amount of time might be viewed as a serious deterrent, an inconvenience, or a welcome break, depending on the individual, but there is essentially no teaching taking place. The same goes for a current trend in some British secondary schools of having isolation rooms for those exhibiting poor behaviour. The idea is that children may fear the consequences, their parents, their teachers (or all of the above) sufficiently that this will mould them into upstanding members of society… eventually! This stance is of course outdated and we understand so much more now about behaviour, motivation and the key role of relationships in supporting happy, positive young people. We have learned so much in the last twenty or thirty years about how childrens’ brains work. We know how the amygdala operates, how much it regulates our emotions and influences our reactions. We know about the effects of cortisol and adrenaline on emotional responses and we know how adverse childhood experiences can damage childrens’ limbic systems. We know how neural pathways are hardwired in the early stages of childhood, and how we have to work hard to overwrite the harm done by particular types of experiences at that age.
‘Don’t smile until Christmas,’ was an old adage in the world of teaching. The idea was that the class does not have to like you, they just need to do what you say! I have never found this saying to be anything other than complete nonsense. A smile can be so powerful, and anyone who has worked in schools or who has children can see that they absolutely thrive off connection. Pupil-centred approaches are not about being popular or ‘soft.’ We can be strict without being cruel; we can insist on high standards without being aggressive; we can set boundaries without being punitive. It demands professionalism and perseverance, but it is very achievable and our school is a testament to that.
We need to remember as educators and parents that all behaviour is a form of communication. If a child’s negative behaviour makes you feel frustrated or upset, it is likely just a mirror of how they are feeling. Restorative conversations, coupled with our general pastoral care, help us to try to get to the bottom of any root causes of poor behaviour and find long-term solutions. These may be emotional or developmental but they will require some intervention and attention. As teachers, we would not allow a child who is struggling with a mathematical concept to flounder in silence or force them to sit staring at the textbook by themselves until they suddenly grasp it. We would sit with them, tackle the problem together and use all of our professional knowledge to find the best way forward. It doesn’t always stick, but the message is clear: we are here to help and to listen and we value your success. The same principle applies to behaviour. By having these conversations, we are telling the child that we care and that we are committed to making things better.
Five years on and the children at St. Helen’s College continue to excel. Feedback from the pupils is that their peers are very friendly, the adults in the school are fair and supportive and that behaviour in the school is still excellent. Moving forward, we will continue to evaluate and review our processes on a regular basis to ensure that all children at St. Helen’s College get the environment and opportunities that they deserve.
I have recently welcomed feedback from our staff and pupils on our school behaviour systems and we have a constant dialogue with our parents. Should you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them with me: email@example.com.
We must be reflective of what we do to achieve and maintain the highest standards.
Finally, it is important to remember that we are caring for and working with young children who, by and large, have not perfected the ways of behaviour and social etiquette just yet! We all make mistakes from time to time and that is how we learn - be kind to yourself and be kind to them!
Posted on: 4/02/2022
Weekly News - Friday 4th February 2022Chinese New Year Celebrations
Well done to all of the pupils who contributed this week to our Chinese New Year celebrations! In Monday's assembly, Ruby L presented a wonderful video she had made which explained the traditions behind Chinese New Year celebrations. Aman B shared a lovely video of himself and his neighbour performing a piece of Chinese guitar music and 3MB performed a 'Song of the Dragon' for us all too.
4T Class Assembly
4T presented a very meaningful class assembly today all about friendship and friendliness. They told a story about friendliness and did sign language along with a beautiful performance of the song 'You've Got A Friend In Me'. The children all spoke their lines confidently and it was clear to see that they were invested in the meaning of what they were presenting. Very well done, 4T.
Travelling Natural History Museum Visits Nursery
The Nursery children had the most wonderful dinosaur experience last Friday when they enjoyed a visit from the Travelling Natural History Museum!
Dinoman told them all about the different dinosaurs. He shared information about their size and what they ate, explaining the difference between herbivores, carnivores and omnivores. The children were able to touch a real dinosaur claw and a T-Rex tooth as well as touching the dinosaur models and the baby dinosaur.
The boys and girls all enjoyed taking part in a dinosaur dig to find fossils and using dinosaur feet to stomp around! They also learnt about how the dinosaurs became extinct with a meteorite explosion but the crocodiles survived.
This was a truly memorable experience which they will be talking about with joy for a very long time. You can see lots more photographs of their day on our Galleries page.
Science Quiz Club
Luka K, Aryan B, Advik S and Jacob N took part in the semi final of the Science Quiz Club competition today. They were up against strong competition and it was super to see them work so well as a team and enjoy the experience so much.
Year 5 and Year 6 Basketball
The children in Year 5 and Year 6 were very fortunate today to take part in basketball training sessions with Coach Pete and Coach Juan from the Thames Valley Cavaliers.
Thames Cavaliers Basketball
It was super that so many families attended the basketball match last Saturday to support the Thames Cavaliers. The team have offered free tickets and pizza again this weekend for St. Helen's College pupils in Years 3 - 6. The match is on Sunday afternoon this week, with doors opening at 3 p.m. You can find details and pizza vouchers here and here. St. Helen's College children from Year 5 and 6 who are attending the match on Sunday will be taking part in a half time shoot out against another school.
It was a good week for the St. Helen's College football team this week as they won their mid-week game against Laurel Lane 6-0. Well done to all those who played.
The Year 4 children in Cookery Club have had a stupendous time cooking and baking this half term. Their enthusiasm, appreciation and appetite for delicious food were evident! They have made sausage rolls and pizzas, and baked apple crumble cake and brownies. Ms Gilham has enjoyed sharing their love of food.
National Online Safety have shared these two excellent guides about Respect on the Internet, one for parents and one for children. We will be discussing these in school with the children after half term, and would like to encourage parents to read them and discuss them at home too.
Respect Online - Guide for Parents
Respect Online - Guide for Children
Mother/Baby Mindfulness Classes
Our next set of Mother/Baby Mindfulness classes will begin on Wednesday 23rd February, the week after half term.
These are completely free to parents. They take place on Wednesday mornings at 9.00 a.m. in the Evans Hall at our Upper School site on Long Lane, opposite Lower School. Classes run in half termly blocks. Each class lasts for 45 minutes and is followed by optional tea/coffee/chat.
The classes are led by Mrs. McLaughlin, one of our Year 3 teachers, who qualified as a PAUSE Baby Mindfulness practitioner after having her first baby a couple of years ago. They provide a safe space for mums and babies to bond and relax, taking part in Mindfulness exercises and some very gentle yoga, and have proved very popular so far.
If you would like to join the set of six classes starting in February, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your baby's name and date of birth and your telephone number. Please do also feel free to share the information about the classes with any other friends or family who might have a baby (birth to crawling - no crawlers allowed!). They don't have to have children at St. Helen's College (or intend to send children here) to come along - the classes are free to anyone.
IAPS iArt Competition
After the success of iArt 2021, in which Arya A at St. Helen's College was a winner, IAPS will be running the competition again in 2022 and hopes to receive more submissions than ever. Shortlisted entrants will receive prizes of vouchers for local independent bookshops.
This year, the competition will have a theme and all submissions must in some way relate to this theme. The theme is my role model.
This theme has been chosen because IAPS is interested to see who inspires pupils, who motivates them, who they admire and who they would like to be like when they grow up. The role models can be anyone:
someone personal e.g. a family member, friend, teacher, coach, librarian, a member of the local community;
someone “in general” e.g. nurses, doctors, train drivers, farmers;
someone public e.g. a famous person, such as a sportsperson, environmentalist, singer
While IAPS encourages pupils to attempt a portrait of their role model, pupils – and particularly, younger pupils – should feel free to just paint / draw / create something which reminds them of their role model instead. For example, if a pupil’s role model is David Attenborough, they might choose to paint trees and animals, or if their role model is a parent, they might choose to draw a picture of their house.
Each pupil must write a maximum of 100 words in a sentence or two to accompany their piece of work, saying 'My role model is...because...'.
Entries will be judged on a) interpretation of the theme; b) creativity around the theme; c) overall design; d) and that ‘certain something’ that just draws you to the artwork! There is no set format for entries and artwork can be submitted in any medium. Submissions can be paintings, drawings, or models, any size, and use any art supplies.
There are five categories for the iArt competition: Years 1 & 2, Years 3 & 4, Years 5 & 6, Years 7 & 8 and Years 9 & 10. Each school may enter one piece of art for each category. For example, one piece of artwork representing the Years 5 & 6 category, not one artwork from Year 5 and one from Year 6.
The competition opens for entries on Thursday, 6 January. The deadline for submission is noon on Wednesday, 4 May and the shortlist will be announced later that month. Winners will be invited to attend an awards ceremony which will take place towards the end of June.
Pupils who would like to enter this competition should submit their pieces of art and accompanying sentences directly to Mrs. Pruce or via their class teacher. Mrs. Drummond and Mrs. Pruce will judge which entries to put forward from St. Helen's College.
This might be a lovely half term activity for the children. Good luck everyone and happy creating!
Dining Room Etiquette
We are encouraging parents to support us in helping pupils with their dining room etiquette at lunch times. We have in the past run 'Cutlery Club' but are hoping that you may be able to share your 'eating etiquette' with your children and this video here may be helpful for you. We will be assisting the pupils in the dining room and will discuss knife and fork skills and table etiquette in assemblies over the next few weeks.
Posted on: 4/02/2022
Habits Of LearningChildren in Years 1-6 will soon be receiving their first interim report of this academic year. Reporting to parents in this manner is only one of the ways in which we communicate your child’s progress to you. Regular communication between teachers and parents is important thus there should be no surprises in your child’s February report.
Several years ago we made changes to our reporting process to capture what we felt as educators was important to report to parents to enable them to support the children’s progress. Ultimately all parents have joined St. Helen’s College to give their child/children the best start in life, investing in their futures, and during your child’s journey with us we aspire to fulfil our school aims, which are:
Love of Learning
We aim to inspire a lifelong thirst for creative, stimulating and rewarding learning, leading to the full development of every child’s academic potential.
We aim to instil core moral values, inspiring virtue, responsibility, resilience, independence, mindful self-awareness and a desire for continuing self-development.
Involvement and Challenge
We aim to inspire an ongoing desire to develop talents, nurture the widest possible range of interests, and contribute to society as confident, compassionate and responsible citizens and leaders of the future.
Fostering good habits of learning is essential to the children’s success. Cultivating these habits has a profound impact on their achievement and their ability to thrive both in and out of the classroom.
The Habits of Learning we focus on are:
Organisation and readiness
Initiative and resourcefulness
Self-discipline (Years 1, 2 and 3) / Focus on Learning (Years 4, 5 and 6)
Independent work (added from Year 2)
All children will develop these habits of learning at different rates. In the reports, we give parents an indicator of where we perceive their development of these habits on a continuum from ‘cause for concern’ to ‘excellent’.
What is important is that we understand how to support each child in developing good habits to become a good learner. Mrs. Hunt’s blog on ‘Sleep’ is critical to your child developing these habits and having good routines both at home and school will help to foster your child’s learning habits. There is a super article in Nursery World magazine which discusses the value of routines - you can read it here.
Over the past few years as a whole school we have been explicitly engaging the pupils in our ‘meta-learning strategies’ in order to assist in nurturing good habits of learning. We are confident that when our pupils leave us at the end of Year 6 they have a superb understanding of ‘how’ to be a good learner and it is always so rewarding when we have feedback from our senior schools on how well our pupils settle and what they achieve in their new schools.
We urge parents to discuss the habits of learning with your children and to help them to develop these habits even when they are at home. This could be as simple as packing their own bags (organisation), attempting their homework without adult support/input (but please do take an interest without doing it for them) or encouraging them to ask questions about their learning and the world around them. Learning is a lifelong activity and if the children can see that adults are lifelong learners too, then this will motivate them to become curious and independent and to aspire to greater things.
So maybe as adults too we should review our own habits of learning. Give yourself time to reflect on you as a learner, what habits do you still need to cultivate and improve upon? Do not worry though - we will not be asking you to give yourself an interim report!
We hope that you will find your child's report useful and informative and a springboard for conversations with your child about how they learn.