School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 26/01/2018
Reading - Head's BlogIt was wonderful to see so many parents attending our reading information sessions across the school this week. Parental support is key for children’s learning outcomes and your attendance this week speaks volumes. I am sure that Mr. McLaughlin, Head of English, and Mrs. Hunt, Head of Lower School, have inspired everyone and given you all food for thought.
The conversations I had with parents after the meetings were very honest and I am sure reflect the home lives of many modern families. Sadly, the good intentions that many parents have at the start of the academic year can slip as life becomes busy. It is all too easy to end up hearing your child read in the back of the car or in the kitchen while you are multi-tasking, making dinner, checking emails and so on. However, time does need to be allocated to that wonderful experience of sharing your child’s reading book. This is the most important homework that we give the children. The foundation for successful reading and comprehension lies in the early years when children are unlocking that door to the kingdom of learning. 'Learning to Read’ will progress into ‘Reading to Learn’, and the development of secure comprehension skills, in particular, underpins how a child can access the curriculum in all subjects as he or she moves through their educational journey.
‘Book talk’ is enormously important, so please do spend time with your child asking them questions about the book they are reading; this will deepen their understanding and appreciation of the text. I know that Mr. McLaughlin shared some sample question prompts for parents and many of our reading scheme books have superb information for parents on the inside and back covers - please do take a look.
Just as importantly, we can be the best role models to our children. Let your children see you reading! Seeing adults using reading as a purposeful activity to further learning or for joy and relaxation will underline to children how worthwhile an activity reading really is. This needs to be continued through your children's teenage years, when too often they feel bombarded with course reading for GCSE and A levels! Do remind them of the joy of reading or even pull out their favourite baby book from years gone by. My 18 year old daughter still enjoys snuggling in bed with me as we share her furry bound book we shared when she was a toddler - reciting the book from cover to cover - it still brings a tear to my eye as we chuckle at the simple story line and repetitive pattern of the book. The joy and emotional bond that reading together creates between children and adults lives forever.
When you are out and about, why not have your children read the signs in the supermarket or the road signs? Or you might plan a day out by reading together from the visitor guide at the attraction you are visiting. Many museums, castles and National Trust attractions have their own children’s guides…so do encourage your children to read and plan the day. Not only will they be applying their reading skills but they will be using and developing many other skills such as mapping skills, telling the time or learning about history - there is a whole world of learning to embrace in your family time outside of school. Many of us have been visiting our local parks for years but have never noticed some of the information boards that have been put in place to inform us about our local surroundings. The National Heritage, RSPB and Wildlife Trust have all invested in wonderful notice boards which children can read and learn from.
Our pupils at St. Helen’s College are fortunate in that there is such a buzz around visiting the libraries both in Lower School and Upper School. The pupils know that libraries are special places and are always excited to visit and seek out new reads and recommendations from their peers. Why not visit other libraries or bookshops with your children outside of school too, so that pupils can share with you the excitement of finding a new and interesting book.
Thank you for your support in your children’s learning journey. I hope that our reading evenings have perhaps rekindled your own passion for reading and given you some useful tips on how to support your children in what is the most wonderful (and important) skill to learn and then use!
Posted on: 26/01/2018
Weekly News - Friday 26th January 2018Thank you to all of the parents who attended our reading meetings this week and showed such energy and enthusiasm. Reading is such a vital area of the children's development and we our delighted to have such strong parental support with home reading. Here are three links to the materials used for the meetings.
Lower School presentation (phonics and alphabetic code)
Reading at Home presentation
Book Talk question slips
If you have any queries about reading at home or school, please contact your child's form teacher in the first instance. You may also contact Mr. McLaughlin, our Head of English, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Assemblies This Week
1S reminded us all of the importance of looking after our world in their class assembly this week, with a delightful re-enactment of the the Old Testament story of 'Noah's Ark'. Each pupil played their part with such enthusiasm and passion. Thank you to the children for a heartwarming performance.
Another superb assembly came today from 4A, who highlighted the character trait of 'self-control'. Mrs. Drummond was honoured to attend a preview performance on Thursday, when pupils also reflected on how they were aware that they are becoming more self aware and recognised how they have matured in Year 4 and developed more 'self-control'. Well done everyone!
Do visit the Galleries page to see photographs of the assemblies.
Our annual Heartstart training for pupils from Reception to Year 6 was completed last week in a series of workshops. Each year pupils are taught a progressive range of skills so that they know what to do in a medical emergency. Basic first aid skills are taught including how to call 999 and what to do if someone is unconscious, choking, has a serious bleed, stroke, heart attack or cardiac arrest. We hope your children have shared some of the skills they have learnt with you and we encourage parents to ask your children to demonstrate what they would do by acting it out. This is a good way for them to embed their skills and train others at home too.
Thank you to Soula and her staff for embracing 'Burns Night' with the Middle and Upper School pupils who were all able to sample some Scottish fayre. Well done to those children and adults who stepped out of their comfort zone to taste haggis for the very first time (both meat and vegetarian were on offer). Many children asked if they could purchase this outside of school they enjoyed it so much! We shall not promote any individual supermarket but yes....most supermarkets will stock it in the sausage/bacon isle! Happy haggis hunting!
We welcome Miss Davies back to Lower School on Monday after her maternity leave. Miss Davies will be in school for three days each week and we are delighted that Mrs. Meeran will remain with us for the other two days to job share with Miss Davies.
We would like to remind parents of the role of the class representatives. Their role is twofold: to disseminate information from the School or the PA committee to the class parents, and to pass on any collective feedback from parents to the School or to the PA committee. The School has an ‘open door’ policy and all parents are asked to direct queries, in the first instance, to their class teacher. This will usually be the fastest and most direct way for queries to be answered or concerns addressed. If the class teacher is unable to help, he or she will refer parents to the appropriate member of the SLT or to Mrs. Drummond. The Parents’ Forum convened only once each term, and so did not allow for immediate discussion of any issues; we are finding that the new system has been embraced by parents throughout the school and is working well.
The uniform list for 2018-19 has now been finalised and published. You can access a copy here. Please note that all children should return to school in September wearing full winter uniform from now on.
There are two changes to items on the uniform list.
Firstly, the girls' winter skirt has been updated. The new green skirt is a one-piece skirt with a flat front and drop-pleated back; it should be easier to wash and dry for parents, as well as holding its shape better and providing a more comfortable fit for all girls. The green skirt will be extended to Nursery children so that parents may continue to use their Nursery skirt into Reception if appropriate. We are sure you will agree that the new style skirt represents an improvement on the old style, fully pleated skirt. The old style skirt is being discontinued and the tunic, which is harder for the girls to get on and off, is also being discontinued. This will streamline the girls’ uniform list and ensure that all girls will have a uniform appearance, as the boys do. Although we are sure that most parents will want to adopt the new skirt as soon as possible, there will be a year’s grace period so that parents may make use of uniform already purchased.
The 3-in-1 green coat (which was already part of the uniform list) is being introduced as a compulsory item, in response to many requests over the years from parents, both via the Parents’ Forum and in informal discussions, for a uniform coat for all. The School has consulted with Pullen’s over the last two years and has looked at many different samples of coats. We know that parents felt strongly that a unisex coat would be the best solution, so that parents could pass the coat down to siblings of either gender. We are mindful of the cost of uniform and the selected 3-in-1 coat is almost half the price of the most economical duffle coat we could source. Its introduction will also allow us to discontinue the PE fleece as a separate item, which will help to minimise costs for parents. We anticipate that parents will separate the fleece from the outer shell of the coat and use the outer shell as a day-to-day school coat, keeping the fleece with the PE/Games kit. Children should be warm enough in full winter uniform (long-sleeved shirt, jumper/cardigan, blazer, coat, hat, scarf and gloves), but of course they may also use the fleece lining as part of the winter coat if needed in extremely inclement weather.
As ever, we thank you for your support as these changes are introduced.
Following the launch of our full time Kindergarten, Ducklings, there is now hardly any demand for part time places in the Nursery at 3+, with parents opting to send children for the full school day. We will therefore be discontinuing the part time option for Nursery attendance and will be requiring all children in future intakes to accept places on a full time (Monday to Friday, 8.30 a.m. to 3.00 p.m.) basis. Please contact Mrs. Smith if you have any queries about admissions.
Sports News: Platinum Award, Borough Gymnastics & Tickets to Women's FA Cup Final
At the Borough Gymnastics competition this week, Miss Walker was presented with the Platinum School Games Award. The award was achieved after five consecutive years of achieving the School Games Gold Award. We had made a video submission from our Sports Captains showcasing how sport, competition and leadership skills are developed at St. Helen's College. Of the 24,000 schools in the UK only 104 schools have been award the Platinum Award, with 24 schools in London receiving the award and only two in Hillingdon! We are delighted that is has been recognised that our curriculum and co-curriculum provision for sport is of the highest quality nationally.
This highly prestigious award has only been achieved because of the whole school community support of sport: parents transporting pupils and cheering teams on, pupils committing to trying their best in sport and staff delivering high quality PE/Games lessons, running clubs and taking teams to competitions. Well done everyone!
This week pupils from Years 3/4 and Years 5/6 took part in the School Games Borough Gymnastics Competition held at Botwell Green Leisure Centre. Over the past month the children have been working hard, learning floor and body management routines and vaults in order to compete. The children were judged by a panel of judges on each apparatus just like at the Olympics. In a very high standard competition it came down to a couple of marks here and there to decide the overall placing. Our teams gave a very good account of themselves, improving through rounds. Both our Year 3/4 and Year 5/6 teams finished in 7th place in the competition with a score of 96.2 and 103.8. Well done to team members Harry J, Daniel G-J, Catherine L, Lily A, Zara S-P, Ionie M, Lincoln B and Ethan V-B. Examples of their efforts can be seen on the Galleries page.
The FA are offering discounted tickets for the Women's FA Cup Final at Wembley on Saturday 5th May for school groups. Standard tickets are available at £15 for adults (with under-16s free) and if parents can organise a group of twelve or more then the adult tickets become just £7.50 each. If groups book before 31st January then you will also have the opportunity to win additional experiences such as free coach travel to the game, a visit from the Women's FA Cup trophy to the school and other experiences. Tickets can be booked at https://ticketing.thefa.com/. We do hope many of you will choose to attend.
The booking form for the February half term Holiday Club has been posted to the School Documents page of the website. Please note that the deadline for booking places is Friday 2nd February.
Most parents are no doubt already aware of the works being carried out along Harlington Road. Diversions are in place via Lees Road, Uxbridge Road and Harlington Road and the London Borough of Hillingdon have indicated that the road closure is likely to continue until at least 16th February. We know that this is affecting many of your journeys to school and will continue to do so.
When pupils arrive late at school, this can disrupt the registration session and the first lesson for all of their class. Please do allow extra time for your journey while the road closure is in place, and/or use alternative routes where possible. Of course we understand that lateness is occasionally unavoidable because of unforeseen heavy traffic, but we hope that, with forewarning and planning, lateness may be avoided during this inconvenient, although essential, road closure.
We thank you for your support.
Posted on: 19/01/2018
The Chartered College of Teaching - Head's Blog
In February 2017 I attended the inaugural conference of the ‘The Chartered College of Teaching’. It was an exciting launch for the College which has been set up as a teacher-led organisation to support professional development, promote and share evidence-informed practice, and recognise excellence. The key aims of the College were to develop a chartered teaching programme, to encourage teachers to engage with research-informed pedagog and to provide the best teaching for the best outcomes for pupils.
I have attended several Chartered College events throughout the year and was so proud recently to attend a regional hub event, on a Wednesday evening after school hours, along with ten members of staff from St. Helen’s College. The event organiser was overwhelmed by the numbers of St. Helen’s College staff in attendance!
So often in education teachers feel that the only way to progress their careers is to go into leadership thus we end up losing many excellent teachers from the classroom. This can be very unsettling for school communities if it means there is no continuity and consistency for the school. We are very fortunate at St. Helen’s College that we have a very dedicated and motivated team and a very low turnover of staff. Our staff are so committed to improving pedagogy and practice to be the best practitioners we can be for your children.
This month sees the launch of the pilot programme for teachers to achieve chartered teacher status. I am delighted that Ms Matthews, Head of EYFS, has been selected as one of the 150 participants to embark on this rigorous 14 month programme. She will join teachers from around the UK and two international schools as part of the first cohort. Becoming a chartered teacher will be hard to achieve and the planned programme is demanding, but we know that Ms Matthews will bring her expertise to the programme and as a school we will also gain from the work she will undertake.
I have also been invited to sit on the assessment board for this cohort of the Chartered Teacher programme and, in so doing, I am honoured to represent St. Helen’s College and the independent sector. Feel free to view the video on the link below - Justine Greening’s speech had clearly touched a nerve with me that day!
Posted on: 19/01/2018
Weekly News - Friday 19th January 2018It has been another incredibly busy week at school! Don't forget that photographs of school events are posted weekly to the Galleries page.
Owls Class Assembly
Owls class performed with outstanding confidence as they presented a very informative assembly on their topic of 'Hot and Cold'. We were taken on a worldwide tour from the arctic to Antarctica, discovering the habitats and animals of those regions. We also stopped off at the Equator and experienced the heat and volcanoes of the tropics. Congratulations Owls - we all learnt so much from you!
5G Class Assembly
5G also presented a super assembly today, all about space exploration. They looked at the natural curiosity of humans and how it prompts us to explore, showed us a timeline of all the space exploration which has happened so far and held a live debate! The assembly finished with a performance of 'Space Oddity'. All who watched 5G will certainly have come away with much more knowledge about why and how we explore space, and how we might continue to do so in the future.
Christian O'Connell Author Visit
On Wednesday we received a special visitor at Upper School: Absolute Radio DJ, stand up comedian and children's author Christian O'Connell. He was here to talk to the Year 4, 5 and 6 children about his second book in the Radio Boy series, subtitled The Revenge of Grandad. He spoke about his journey to becoming a writer with great charisma and humour, but there were a few things he said that really stood out amongst the improvised jokes and hilarious anecdotes.
Christian spoke about his journey to becoming a radio DJ being full of rejection and difficulty. He used these issues as a positive - a means to grow and develop as a person until he got to where he wanted to be. The children nodded, knowingly, because we speak about this all the time. What we learn is that 'FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning', and what Christian was referring to was growth mindset - the resilience and perseverance needed to succeed.
After sharing tales from Coldplay's private jet and a cautionary word about allowing your pets and children on a trampoline (at the same time), Christian shared his favourite subject at school: English. He went on to explain that reading was a transformative force in his childhood, transporting him to other worlds, elevating his ambitions and developing his sense of empathy.
Our children made such a positive impression on Christian with their questioning, manners and sense of fun. Judging by the look on their faces during the talk, we think the feeling was mutual!
Travelling Natural History Museum Visit
At Lower School this week, the Nursery, Reception and Year 1 children enjoyed a visit from the Travelling Natural History Museum. The children learnt all about dinosaurs, including their names, what they ate and how they digested their food, how big (or small) they were and much more! They also carried out a meteorite experiment to help understand how dinosaurs became extinct, and were able to touch the amazing dinosaur models. The Year 1 children took part in a fossil dig and all children were given a dinosaur gift to help them to remember all that they had learnt.
Year 4 Trip to Amersham Field Study Centre
Our Year 4 children had a fantastic trip this week to the Amersham Field Study Centre, where they learnt about electricity and energy. Every minute of the day was used as an opportunity for learning which educated, inspired and allowed the children to have fun.
The day started by meeting ‘Michael Faraday’ and the pupils learned about electricity, its uses, dangers and how the substation in the vicinity works to provide power to our homes. We took a walk around the perimeter of the substation, understanding why we can touch pylons and not get thousands of volts of electricity through us or why a bird can sit happily on a high voltage wire! We then continued in the classroom and made solar powered circuits.
The afternoon was spent learning about the way animals conserve energy by creating well-insulated homes, such as a nest for a dormouse, and how squirrels try to survive winters by hiding their food. We completed the day with a short walk looking at lichens, fir trees and leaf skeletons along the wide expanse of the wooded areas. Every child made progress in their knowledge of one of our curriculum topics as well as having the chance to enjoy learning in the outdoors.
General Knowledge Quiz Club
Well done to our quiz teams, who took part in the Prep School Challenge Heat this week. They gave a very good account of themselves, displaying some really excellent general knowledge and competing with great interest and enthusiasm. Daniel G-J, Georgia M, Nirmit N and Ben L finished in 3rd place overall, and Anisa W, Zayd K, Amrit R and Catherine L finished in 7th place.
Year 5 Transfer Meetings With Mrs. Drummond
Thank you to all of the Year 5 parents who have already attended individual transfer meetings with Mrs. Drummond to discuss future schools. More meetings will take place tomorrow and please remember that Mrs. Drummond's door is always open if you would like to discuss secondary transfer. Next term there will be a Year 4 transfer meeting and another meeting for all Year 5 parents together.
Please note that an updated Lunch Menu for this term has been posted to the School Documents page. Some allergen information has been updated, and Accent are now marking (with a leaf symbol) dishes which are particularly recommended as healthy, balanced choices. Please do refer to this updated menu from now on when making lunch choices with your children.
Print Cartridge Collections
We will be collecting used print cartridges from now on at all sites as part of a PA initiative to recycle these and raise funds. Please send any used print cartridges, toner cartridges etc. into school with your child and, since the used cartridges can be converted into PA funds, please do feel free to collect used cartridges from your places of work to send in too! Many thanks, in advance, for your help.
Reminder - Snacks/Birthday Treats
Parents are reminded that all children should bring a small, named snack to school each morning for morning break. Suitable snacks are fruits, vegetables, plain biscuits or a small sandwich. Chocolate, crisps, sweets and other high sugar snacks are not permitted.
If your child would like to bring in treats for friends on their birthday, these should be individually wrapped and given out at the end of the day.
We are a nut-free school; please do not send any items into school which contain nuts. Please take care with sandwich fillings and do not use peanut butter, Nutella or other spreads containing nuts.
Posted on: 12/01/2018
Ready, Respectful, Safe - Head's BlogWe are at the end of our first week back and I hope that your children may have already enlightened you as to our new mantra. Perhaps you have heard your child using the phrase ‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’ or repeating part of the phrase.
Last Friday, all members of our St. Helen’s College staff community participated in a superb morning of training which was delivered by a company called Pivotal Education. The company is run by a husband and wife team, Paul and Ellie, and they are supported by their team of trainers who all hold the same values and vision to inspire and motivate school staff and to create measurable change in behaviour, relationships and learning.
I have heard both Paul and Ellie speak at various conferences and Teachmeet events and am delighted that every adult who comes into contact with your children at school has now benefited from the Pivotal principles. We are now embracing some basic routines to continue to help our pupils to benefit from all that we offer at St. Helen’s College and to help them develop as responsible individuals.
Over the course of the year we will be further reviewing our behaviour policy and the structures and routines that we currently have at school, but our starting point is to develop the pupils understanding of what it is to be:
Ready for learning, ready to listen, ready to go to lunch etc.
Showing respect to their peers, to adults, to their environment, to themselves.
Safe in their learning environment, safe with the people around them and safe in the activities in which they are taking part.
I am sure that the phrase may also be helpful at home and you might already be considering the occasions when it may be very useful to use!
When there are so many people interacting with children, it is important that we all have the same expectations and that we are consistent in our approach. I know that we all like routine, from the number of conversations that I have had this week with parents and staff about how we all enjoy holidays, but how that lack of structure and routine during the holiday period can be quite taxing and detrimental for children and adults alike!
So, as we embark on our 2018 journey with Joyous January I hope that you will also embrace our mantra of Ready, Respectful, Safe.
For those of you who like reading, Paul Dix has just published his superb book which is not only entertaining by incredibly useful for not only teachers but also parents!
‘When the Adults Change, Everything Changes’
Posted on: 12/01/2018
Weekly News - Friday 12th January 2018We were reminded today of the hardships of life during the Second World War as 6D presented an excellent assembly about family, sacrifice, evacuation and the Blitz spirit. With a focus on the fictional Jones family, 6D used poetry, wartime songs and an emotional script to tell us all about the pressures facing families during wartime, and about how the Great British spirit was maintained and developed through hard times. Parents, pupils and staff were all inspired not only to remember those who fought for freedom, but to ensure that their fighting spirit and family values live on in our world today. Well done, 6D, for a well-written and well-presented show. You can see photographs of the performance on the Galleries page.
This year's Summer School will take place from 20th - 24th August. Please add the date to your diaries now. Further details and booking forms will be published in due course.
Lower School Parents' Evening
The next Parents' Evenings for Nursery, Reception and Year 1 will take place on Thursday 1st February (5.00 - 8.00 p.m.) and Tuesday 6th February (4.00 - 7.00 p.m.).
As usual, we are operating an online booking system and appointments will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. You can access the online system here. Do bookmark the link for future use. Bookings for these two evenings will close on Friday 26th January.
Author Visit - Christian O'Connell
The Upper School will be visited next Wednesday by Christian O'Connell, well-known radio DJ and children's author. Christian has written the Radio Boy books and he will be speaking to children about his career and his life. We are sure he will be very inspiring!
School Garden Produce
It is wonderful that produce grown by our Gardening Club is now being used in the school kitchen. Ms Gilham and her gardeners have produced a good crop of beans, which we have enjoyed this week in a lovely bean salad on the salad bar at Upper School.
As ever, we have a busy term ahead. Please don't forget to check the school calendar regularly and to take note of significant dates. We would like to remind parents now that there will be no Funtasia on the afternoon of Friday 16th March and that our annual Exhibition Day will take place on Saturday 17th March from 10.00 a.m. All parents and pupils are expected to attend Exhibition Day, which gives a wonderful chance for pupils to share their school and their work with family.
Posted on: 5/01/2018
Weekly News - Friday 5th January 2018Welcome back and a Happy New Year to you all! I trust you have all had a lovely holiday and are ready to embark upon Joyous January! To start the new year off on good footing, please can you continue to support your children in the following areas.
Pupils should return to school in full winter uniform and well equipped for all lessons and activities (a bag check might be helpful!).
Please arrive promptly at the beginning of the day. Ducklings should be dropped off at 8.30 a.m. ready for registration followed by their first morning activity. All Upper and Lower School children should be ready to line up in their playground at 8.30 a.m. As you know, traffic is often heavy, so please allow plenty of time for your journey to school and to find a suitable, safe parking space. Please do follow the school's drop and go/parking regulations and, in particular, do not block neighbours' driveways.
With the big government drive on healthy eating for children and reducing plastic packaging, please remember that the school asks you to provide a healthy snack for your child each morning in a named, reusable container. The snack should be fruit, vegetables, plain biscuits/crackers or a small sandwich. Please do not send your child into school with crisps, chocolate or high-sugar snacks. Please beware - many snacks claiming to be fruit based are actually very high in sugar and are not recommended.
We are thrilled to announce some wonderful baby news. Miss Shepherd, one of our Lower School Lunchtime Supervisors/Teaching and Learning Assistants, gave birth to a healthy baby girl just before Christmas. Mum and baby are enjoying their first few weeks together.
Miss Wallis, one of our Year 5 teachers, is expecting her first baby in the summer. We are sure you would all like to join us in congratulating her and we wish her well as her pregnancy and wedding plans progress. 2018 will be a busy year for her! We will announce staffing arrangements for all year groups for the next academic year in due course.
We would like to extend a warm welcome to Helen Collier, who will be joining us on Monday as our new peripatetic violin teacher.
We are looking forward to a very musical term ahead, with some exciting choral events including the performance at St. John's Smith Square on Sunday 4th February. We are also delighted to announce that the Chamber Choir have once again got through to the finals of the Barnado's Choir Competition on Monday 12th March! More information to follow on both of these events. We will also enjoy the music at our first Easter service at All Saints Church at the end of term.
If your child has individual instrumental or vocal tuition, please remember that fees are now due. We would also like to remind parents that, as per the terms and conditions, a half term's notice or payment in lieu is required when terminating individual tuition.
Music timetables will be published to the website shortly; please do check these.