School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 25/01/2019
Weekly News - Friday 25th January 2019Class Assemblies This Week
1HC Assembly - Roald Dahl
Pupils in 1HC brought the world of Roald Dahl to life with their wonderful assembly this week, recounting their recent visit to the Roald Dahl Children's Gallery. Their passion for reading and for Roald Dahl's books in particular shone through in their confident and enthusiastic performances. They also communicated clearly that Roald Dahl's books teach us all about character and the virtues we all aspire to lead our lives by.
One of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes is this one:
'So, please, oh please, we beg, we pray, go throw your TV set away, and in its place you can install a lovely bookcase on the wall.''
5G Assembly - Food Glorious Food!
5G's assembly this week certainly was a varied recipe of stupendous performing and sharing of information to raise our awareness of the importance of a balanced diet. How fortunate we are at St. Helen's College to have Soula and our wonderful catering team keeping our children healthy to enable them to benefit from all that they do at school. The behind the scenes documentary enlightened us all as to the thought and the processes involved in food preparation each and every day for our children. Thank you to all of the staff and pupils involved.
You can see the assembly powerpoint presentation here.
You can see 5G's documentary here: https://youtu.be/8lB3rAZ5J6o
Haggis, Neeps and Tatties
Well done to all of the children who stepped out of their comfort zone to taste something different today to celebrate Robert Burns Day. Thank you to the Accent team for preparing Scottish specialities including the cranachan dessert.
Sit Together for Children’s Mental Health Week
The Mindfulness in Schools Project community is coming together to mark Children’s Mental Health Week 2019 and to raise awareness of the need for young people to develop skills to support their own wellbeing, both inside and out.
On Monday 11th February, pupils and staff in Lower and Upper School will be invited by Mrs. Drummond to join with other teachers and students from primary and secondary schools all over the world who have introduced mindfulness into their schools in a shared mindful 'sit together'.
Parents may also wish to take the opportunity during this week to have some mindful moments at home with your children. All our pupils know how to take part in the finger breathing practice and I am sure they will share this with you.
It is with a heavy heart that we announce that, following 20 years of distinguished service at the school, Mrs. Stark has decided to embark upon her well-deserved retirement and will be leaving us later on this year, once we have appointed a new Deputy Head.
Mrs. Stark has been an integral member of the staff at St. Helen's College for many, many years and her contribution to the school has been immense. Mrs. Stark joined St. Helen's College as a part time French teacher and introduced the school to other languages. She should be very proud to leave the Languages department enriched with Spanish, French and Latin. Mrs. Stark went on from being a part time teacher to a full time Year 5 class teacher for many years before becoming Deputy Head ten years ago. She will be very greatly missed by colleagues, pupils and parents and I am sure that you will join us in wishing her all the very best for a long, happy and healthy retirement. Mrs. Stark is looking forward to spending time with her family and her four delightful granddaughters but we know she will always remain part of the St. Helen's College community.
This half term we will be supporting the charity Sign2Sing. Your child has been busy learning to sign the song 'Greatest Day': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNuVOO_-uHk
Sign2Sing is an annual event, organised by the Deaf Health Charity SignHealth, which provides health and wellbeing services in sign language for deaf people. They are committed to breaking down the barriers that deaf people continue to face, with poorer communication support and poorer access to health services than hearing people.
Sign2Sing is designed to promote sign language as a communication tool and make music more accessible to those who can’t hear it. It provides us with the opportunity to become deaf aware, while also raising essential funds for their projects which support the deaf community.
The children will be performing the song together on Monday 4th (for Lower School children) and Thursday 7th (Middle and Upper School children). We would ask that your child pays a £2 suggested donation to take part in this event, but all donations are greatly appreciated by this small charity.
The Upper School Library book sale on Wednesday raised an impressive £65 for Sign2Sing. This total will be added to the school's fundraising efforts this half term. Thank you to all those parents and children who bought books - enjoy your reading!
We still have a few places available in our Coding Club and we will now be opening this club up to Year 4 children too. If you have a child in Year 4, 5 or 6 who would like to attend Coding Club after school on a Friday, please email Miss Lang at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. The remaining places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Month End Music Recital
Well done to the children who performed in today's informal Month End Music Recital. As usual, there were some very impressive performances and it was lovely for the children to be able to begin their performing 'journey' in front of such an enthusiastic and supportive audience.
England Roses Inspire St. Helen's College Pupils
Last Sunday, over 50 St. Helen's College parents, pupils and staff travelled up to the Copperbox Arena to watch some international netball. The event was part of the Quad Series of matches being played between England Roses, Australia Diamonds, New Zealand Silver Ferns and the South African Proteas this winter in preparation for the Netball World Cup taking place in Liverpool in July. The first match, between South Africa and New Zealand, could not have been closer! With the score tied at the end of full time and still tied at the end of extra time, the teams had to play on until one of them won by two goals. Finally it was New Zealand who won 62 - 60.
Next up was England versus Australia, their first match against each other since England beat them in the epic Commonwealth Games final in 2018. There was a fantastic atmosphere in the Copperbox as it seemed the whole crowd got behind the Roses. Our pupils and parents were on the edge of their seats watching the game as it swung in England's and then Australia's favour but it was England who found the resilience to come through in the final quarter to win the match 52-49. Our pupils were truly buzzing after the match and one was even overheard saying, 'I want to play for England when I'm older'. Let's hope the visit to watch the England Roses has inspired them to strive for excellence and realise their dreams one day.
Netball League Results
St. Helen's College played Cowley St Laurence this week and won 9 - 3.
Many congratulations to our Y3/4 and Y5/6 gymnastics teams who took part in the Borough competition this week at Botwell Leisure Centre. Teams of four, two boys and two girls, from eleven schools across the Borough competed at the event. Each team member had to perform a floor routine, a body management routine and two vaults in front of judges at the event. Our team members had been practising their routines and vaults for the past few weeks and all their hard work really showed in the confident and polished performances they gave. Anaya K (Y4) achieved the highest score of all the Y3/4 competitors on the floor and second highest score on the vault, Mark R (Y4) achieved the highest score of all the Y3/4 competitors on the vault and second highest score on the floor and Ionie M (Y6) achieved the highest score of all the Y5/6 competitors on the vault and second highest on the floor. Overall in the team competitions our Y3/4 team came 6th and our Y5/6 team came 5th. The children thoroughly enjoyed the competition and are already planning how they will practise and improve for next year!
Travel To/Around School
If you currently drive your child to school, we would like to encourage you to consider sharing the journey with other parents who live near to you. Car sharing has many benefits, including:
Relieving parents of the need to drive to school every day.
Encouraging friendships among children, either within the same class/year group or across the years.
Reducing traffic congestion on local roads.
Easing the difficulties of finding parking spaces around school.
Reducing pollution in the local area.
Helping to educate children to be responsible citizens by reducing pollution and congestion.
Encouraging relationships between parents across the same/different year groups to enhance the SHC community.
Freeing up parents' time at the start/end of the day on some days of the week to enable more working hours/free time!
If you are interested in car sharing, please let your PA Class Rep know, as we will be discussing this further with Class Reps at the next Parents' Forum meeting.
We would be delighted to see more parents car sharing at morning drop-off and evening pick-up, and we will be actively promoting car sharing to the children in assemblies and via our Junior Road Safety Officers too. Thank you, in advance, for your efforts in arranging car sharing in order to improve the school run for everyone.
St. Helen's College Parent Parking Pledge
We are asking you to consider making the Parent Parking Pledge in an effort to manage congestion and improve safety near our school at busy times. The idea is simple: in return for agreeing to follow some basic principles, your car can carry a sticker that tells the world you are doing your bit to make a difference.
Parents at schools across Hillingdon are agreeing to:
• Help my child/children travel actively at least once a week
• Drive with consideration for others
• Park away from the school gates
• Never block a driveway
• Turn off my engine when parked
In addition we have three pledges that apply here and trust that you will agree to:
• Follow the St Helen's College parking regulations
• Use the 'Drop & Go' and 'Pick Up & Go' zones safely and efficiently
• Respect and adhere to the parking restrictions in operation around all our school sites
If you are happy to make the Pledge, it would be great if you could follow the link and complete the form. Once submitted, you will get your car sticker that will show others your commitment to pupil health and safety.
Uxbridge Chess Club will soon be hosting a UK Chess challenge tournament. Several St. Helen's College chess players already attend the club, but the tournament is open to any entrant, whether they are a member of the chess club or not. Any players scoring 3.5 from 7 games will qualify for the UK Chess Mega, then Giga finals.
The tournament will take place in a hall near to Uxbridge town centre. If you have a child who would like to enter, we would encourage you to do so.â Full details are available here.
Uxbridge Chess Club is run by a St. Helen's College parent, Mr. Knight, and we would encourage any keen chess players, or those who would like to give chess a try, to go along and try the club!
Posted on: 18/01/2019
Weekly News - Friday 18th January 2019It has been a week of sports festivals, with our Year 5 and 6 pupils taking part in a Hillingdon borough badminton festival and our Year 1 and 2 children taking part in a multi skills festival at St. Mary's School, Gerrards Cross.
Some children from our Badminton Club and from across Year 5 and 6 attended the inaugural badminton festival for Hillingdon schools this week, taking part in different skills activities related to badminton. This event promoted badminton to pupils and it was great to see some of the children from Badminton Club extend the skills they've been learning at school.
Thirty two pupils from our pre-prep department got their first taste of representative sport for St. Helen's College this week when they took part in a fun multi-skills festival, hosted by St. Mary's School. The event was led by their Year 10 and 11 young sports leaders, many of whom were old girls from St. Helen's College. Jumping, running and throwing challenges were set up at skills stations by the leaders and our pupils rotated around the sports hall trying all the activities. There was a huge amount of energy on display as our pupils demonstrated some great skills. Our Year 1 and 2 pupils were super ambassadors for St. Helen's College, upholding the school values and showing they were model students who were ready, respectful and safe. Congratulations to everyone who took part.
Netball Team Off To A Flying Start
The local netball league resumed this week after the winter break and our Year 5/6 team were off to a flying start in their first match back this week against Laurel Lane school, winning 15 - 0. Well done to the girls!
4KT Assembly - Perseverance
4KT gave a very polished assembly performance today, reminding us all of the importance of 'persevering' - superb drama performances, poetry recitals and singing - thank you 4KT for a most poignant assembly for pupils and adults alike. A great assembly as our first class assembly of the year.
Please see the link below if you are interested to watch Austin's Butterfly, which I referred to this morning:
Book Sale - Wednesday 23rd January
The Upper School Library will hold a book sale next Wednesday (23rd January), in the gazebo in Upper School playground. The sale will open at 8 a.m. and close before the bell rings at 8.30 a.m.
Pupil Librarians will be offering for sale a range of paperback books, suitable for all school years, which are no longer required in the library. Books will be priced at 50p or 25p and the money raised will contribute to our efforts this term for Sign2Sing. We thank you, in advance, for allowing your children to bring in some spare change to buy books!
We have been approached by a casting director who is looking for a non British accent 10 year old girl for an exciting role in a major studio feature film in London this spring. It would not be an extensive time commitment - just a couple of weeks. Please see this document for further information.
Parking Next Week
We have been informed by the council that the three lay-bys along Long Lane between the shops and Lower School will be resurfaced next week. They will be closed between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. while the work is carried out. Please do be mindful of this and leave plenty of time for your journey and to find alternative parking if necessary.
Posted on: 18/01/2019
Head's Blog - Looking ForwardTomorrow I will have the pleasure of meeting many new families with their children who would like to become members of our wonderful St. Helen’s College family at our annual 3+ entry day. I am also currently in the process of meeting with all of our current Year 5 parents to discuss future schools as our Upper School pupils begin to think about their future schools and the next step in their learning journey.
It is always an emotional time for parents at both end of the scale. When the children are preparing to join us at 2+ or 3+, suddenly their babes in arms are wearing school uniforms, carrying a book bag and running into the playground to greet their new friends! And at the other end, when the parents reflect on the many years they have spent under the watchful eye of the caring and compassionate staff at St. Helen’s College, emotions always run high.
Many parents this week at the transfer evening related their memories of sitting with Mr. and Mrs. Crehan all those years ago as they entered into their journey with us. I can hardly believe it myself that the children we have been discussing were only beginning Year 3 when I arrived at the school as the new Head; they seemed so little, so young as they embraced the changes of moving from the end of Key Stage 1. Many of our current parents have older children now sitting GCSEs and beyond whose siblings are still with us - there is such a sense of family and strong bonds with the school. It certainly is unique and special to keep building those relationships with families and for the alumni parents and children to keep in touch with us, celebrating the children’s achievements and successes.
Tomorrow I will be sharing with our new prospective parents the joys of being part of our community, what we stand for and the pride that we take in forming such strong bonds with families as we all work together to unlock their children’s talents and nurture each and every one of them to achieve their utmost best in all that they do. We are, as normal, incredibly over subscribed for entry to our Robins and Wrens Nursery classes, thus we already know that we will not be able to give a place to every child we meet on Saturday - for everyone that is so difficult - as everyone wants a piece of what we offer!
Thank you to all parents and staff who are reading my blog this week - I am proud to lead this school and am full of admiration of each and every one of our pupils every day as they embrace new challenges and opportunities in their learning. But without the staff and the full support of parents this would not be achievable. One day your children, when they are grown up, will reflect on their school days at St. Helen’s College - the best days of their lives!
Posted on: 11/01/2019
Weekly News - Friday 11th January 2019Our Year 6 pupils are currently very busy attending interviews and sitting independent school exams for senior school entry. We wish them well with their offers, which should come in over the next few weeks.
Mrs. Drummond is currently busy meeting with the Year 5 parents individually to discuss the senior school transition process. There will also be evening meetings for both Year 4 and Year 5 parents during the summer term regarding the senior school application process.
Many families will remember our very first STEAM Day, where Nick and his STEAMCo truck visited us and we launched rockets in the playground. STEAMCo are now involved in the ArtsConnect Festival, which celebrates the power of creativity, technology and people. This may be a super opportunity to further engage your children and families in workshops, performances, talks, films and more which will inspire their interest in science, technology and the arts. Do take a look at the link below.
If your child is interested in drama, you might like to take a look at the upcoming auditions for Rare Productions shows, which will be held in Watford, Rickmansworth and Chesham. Details can be found by following the link below.
First Class Music Achievements!
Chamber Choir Qualifies for Final of National Barnado's Competition
We are delighted that the Chamber Choir have, once again, qualified for the finals of the National Barnado's Choir Competition. This competition sees hundreds of choirs from all across the nation compete, via a submitted recording, for the chance to perform in the finals at the Royal Festival Hall in March. St. Helen's College is one of only 18 schools who have qualified for the final! This is an amazing testament to the strength of vocal and choral teaching and practice at the school. Many congratulations to our Chamber Choir, led by Mrs. Garnes and Mrs. Allery, and to all of the staff at the school who have, over the years, prepared the pupils so well musically through class/individual teaching and co-curricular activities.
ABRSM Music Examination Results - Autumn Term 2018
An enormous well done to these pupils, who received an excellent set of results in their ABRSM exams last term:
6W Xaviella F Grade 8 Distinction
6W Ionie M Grade 1 Distinction
6M Nidhi U Grade 2 Distinction
5G Dhiya K Grade 1 Distinction
3M Chrissy S Prep Pass
3B Natalia C Prep Pass
6M Thomas G Grade 1 Distinction
6W Luke J Grade 1 Merit
5A Rhea A-V Grade 1 Merit
6M Nicholas S Grade 4 Pass
5G Jasmine B Grade 3 Merit
6M Amar C Grade 2 Pass
6W Agastya S Grade 1 Pass
It has been wonderful to see our pupils from Year 1 upwards so actively engaged in their Heartstart programme this week, learning the critical and crucial skills of emergency first aid. During their time at the school, our pupils all learn how to react in an emergency situation, call for help, put patients into the recovery position and administer life saving first aid, including resuscitation. We are very proud of our PSHCE curriculum, which prepares children so well to be responsible citizens in the future.
Many thanks to those parents who attended our carol service at the end of last term and made donations. The collection raised a total of £130.46, which will be split evenly between Noah’s Ark and the Blood Fund. An additional £100+ was raised for Noah's Ark through the sale of Christmas cards and contributions to Mrs. Cheema's JustGiving page.
Posted on: 11/01/2019
Head's Blog - Digital WellbeingAt the end of November, Mr. Crehan, Mr. Lewis and I attended a conference at Radley College in Oxford arranged by the Independent Schools Council on Digital Strategy. This is an annual conference which brings together school leaders to discuss and share good practice from around the world on how we are preparing tomorrow’s leaders, your children, for this new era of digital transformation.
The day was a mix of key speakers, workshops and networking opportunities. We all attended a variety of workshops and one of the workshops I attended struck a chord with me: ‘Digital Wellbeing’. We all know that mental health and wellbeing is hugely topical at the moment, but are we all playing our part in looking after our ‘Digital Wellbeing’?
Technology is superb and we cannot deny that we are in a very exciting era where digital technology plays a big part in all our lives, but it is crucial that we employ strategies to ensure we do look after our digital wellbeing and that of our children.
Over the festive period I am sure that many of the children received digital items; games, tablets, smart phones….and perhaps parents did too.
I did chuckle when I read on Saturday 29th December an article in Schools Week, in which Damien Hinds our Education Secretary has recommended that ‘pupils should ditch gadgets and climb trees’ by schools introducing an activity passport for all school pupils - see link below.
I am somewhat saddened that yet again the government seem to be dictating to schools about the job we should be doing - surely many of the activities on these passports are part of normal family living and I am delighted that many of them also appear on our St. Helen’s College curriculum!
However, digital wellbeing is a very serious aspect of healthy living and I was delighted to have been discussing this with Mrs. Smith. One of her friends has recently developed a website for parents, which I think you will all be very interested in reading about and perhaps you will take action too.
I shall now hand over to Mrs Smith…..
A friend of mine has co-developed a website called ‘Sign4Year9’ for parents who want to resist the pressure to let their child have a smart phone before they are emotionally mature enough to handle social media and unrestricted internet access. The idea is based on research highlighting the dangers of children having access to smart phones too young, including lack of face-to-face conversation, declining amounts of time spent outdoors and/or with family and extended family, and the perils of social media and internet access for our children’s mental health. I am sharing it in the hope that St. Helen’s College parents and staff will want to sign (and share) the pledge, which is designed mainly to give parents support in resisting pressure from their children to get a smart phone too soon. It is important to note that the pledge only relates to smart phones. Allowing your child a ‘normal’, ‘unsmart’ phone, without internet/social media access, before their teenage years would still be ok!
The Sign4Year9 movement is in its infancy, so this is a chance to be there at the start of something which will hopefully go nationwide and which has already been shared internationally. If this is an idea which speaks to you, and you would like to sign up, please visit Sign4Year9 to add your name to the growing number making the pledge. Read on to find out why I believe it is so important that you do!
Earlier this year, a study carried out by MusicMagpie and published in the Independent found that a quarter of children under the age of 6 own a smart phone. It also found that 8 in 10 parents do not limit the amount of time children spend on their phones, and that 75% of parents do not disable the data function so that their children are able to use these smart phones to access the internet and social media apps freely over wifi networks and through mobile data. A staggering two thirds of parents admitted that they do not put a cap on their child’s monthly smart phone spend.1
As a parent of older teenagers, these statistics were shocking to me. However, as an aunt to children aged 10, 8, 4, 3 and 1, I suspect they probably sound about right to parents of very young children, who are used to seeing their children operate smart phones and who are often amazed and impressed at their children’s ability to operate technical devices at such a young age.
Smart phones, ipads and laptops weren’t widely used by children 15 years ago – the ‘baby phone’ phenomenon has been a growing area over the last 10 years in particular. Smart phone technology hit the mainstream for children just before my two sons started at their senior school and my husband and I bought them each a smart phone when they entered Year 7. We believed that having a phone was all but essential from the beginning of secondary school, as our sons would be travelling to/from school independently for the first time. Being able to communicate with them whenever I wanted was also a huge comfort to me, as a parent, as they began a new chapter in their lives. It is humbling now to hear my sons say that they wish we had delayed them getting smart phones for a year or two. It is also obvious to me, with hindsight, that they would have been perfectly safe and healthy - indeed, possibly safer and healthier – with ‘unsmart’ phones at age 11 and 12. Their school has never limited the use of smart phones at break or lunch times and my boys particularly bemoan the fact that, on any given day, many of their friends chose not to play football at break time because they were too busy on their phones. The school is now undertaking a consultation with parents, pupils and staff on the use of smart phones and is considering an ‘out of sight’ policy for phones in school, which has my wholehearted support, not least because, while not directly affected, my sons have been aware throughout their teenage years of various cases of children upset by social media activity both in and out of school. I believe that children should be unable to access social media during their ‘working’ day at school, to enable them to concentrate on developing face-to-face friendships, to indulge in healthy, active break times, and to help them to focus on study in their primary place of study - school!
There is a growing movement of parents who are concerned about the effects of children being given smart phones too young. Although these phones are incredible, useful pieces of technology with many advantages, research has shown that they can have some very detrimental effects on children. In particular, the following effects are now being recognised by parents and researchers:
Smart phones can alter the parent-child relationship as children become more dependent on their smart phone and the immediate (although not always correct) answers it provides to their questions.
According to more than one study2, smart phones, especially when permitted in the bedroom, can cause later bedtimes, lack of sleep and fatigue. These factors may contribute to lack of concentration, reduced physical co-ordination and lower attainment at school, as well as reduced ability to cope, emotionally, with the demands of life.
Ready access to smart phones can hinder a child’s creativity and imagination. Exciting, colourful games requiring short attention bursts may slow children’s sensory and motor development.
According to a leading child psychotherapist, published in the Daily Telegraph3, the ubiquity of smart phones, broadband and social media are contributing negatively to the power and pace of mental health issues in children and teenagers, including eating disorders and teen suicide rates.
The fast-paced nature of interactions on social media, in particular, do not allow children the time and space to reflect on the impact of their words and actions. Reflection, self-evaluation, self-limitation, listening skills, tolerance and empathy are qualities that should be embedded in our children as they grow; if opportunities for them to be embedded are lost, these qualities may not be there in the adults of tomorrow. What sort of a world will we be living in then?
Researchers have found that smart phones can be detrimental to a child’s socio-economic development4. According to these findings, the amount of time children spend on smart phones and similar devices could impair the development of the skills needed for learning maths and science.
Smart phone use can be addictive5. Children who become dependent upon, or addicted to, smart phones are likely to experience problems caused by this addiction during their teenage years and in later life, including the inability to form healthy, functioning relationships with family and friends. This phenomenon is becoming known as ‘technoference’, as technology use interferes with everyday living.
The unrestricted (or minimally restricted) use of smart phones can cause obesity6, and it is unlikely that there is no relation between the increasing rates of child obesity and the increasing amounts of time spent by children on screens.
Unrestricted internet access has many, many risks for children who may access inappropriate content. Obvious risks are that they may access, and become desensitised to, pornography and extreme violence. Risks less considered by parents are that children may access information about disease and death before they are emotionally ready to cope with this; they may access inappropriate ‘beauty’ and/or body images before or as their own bodies change in puberty, which may cause body dysmorphia, anorexia or other mental health issues; they may experience online bullying; they may connect with strangers who groom them sexually or radicalise them; they may discover inappropriate information about friends, relatives, neighbours or other people.
Technology has done a lot to make our lives easier and more efficient. But, as parents, it is our job to be concerned about the impact that devices like smart phones can have on our children, and our job to decide when our children are emotionally mature enough to handle the many threats of unrestricted internet and social media access. The growing body of research cannot and must not be ignored. Please, if you agree, sign the Sign4Year9 pledge to try to take back some ‘parent power’ and to help limit young children’s exposure to the potential negative effects of smart phones.
Finally, in addition to the studies cited below, you may also be interested in this piece, which found a direct correlation between smart phone use by parents and behavioural issues in children. We must all be mindful of our own smart phone use too.https://globalnews.ca/news/4315717/parents-smartphone-addiction-children-behavioural-issues/