School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 15/03/2019
Weekly News - Friday 15th March 2019Year 3's Amazing Drama Production - The Pirates of the Curry Bean
It is hard to describe the atmosphere of the Winston Churchill Hall on Tuesday evening as our Year 3 children performed their Spring show, The Pirates of the Curry Bean, to family, friends, staff and peers. We were all taken on a highly entertaining and poignant journey on the high seas to 'Lumbago' and there was really superb acting, dancing and singing. Congratulations to all of the crew involved - you thoroughly deserved the rapturous applause that greeted you at the end of such an outstanding production!
Uxbridge Chess Club open new branch at St. Helen's College!
The very popular and successful Uxbridge Chess Club are soon to launch a new Friday session at St. Helen's College. If you have a son or daughter who is interested in playing chess, or who already plays chess at school and would like to pursue this interest further, do encourage them to join.
The club is launching on Friday 22nd March and sessions will run from 6.00 - 7.30 p.m. on Fridays in The Evans Hall. There is the opportunity for participants to take part in all sorts of competitions and the club is open to all children aged from 6-15, not just St. Helen's College children, so there is the opportunity to bring along friends and family from other schools too.
Uxbridge Chess Club is run by two St. Helen's College parents who, like Mr. Foale and Mr. Crehan himself, are passionate about chess and about inspiring a new generation of chess players. As a game, chess helps to nurture memory skills, strategic thinking, gameplay, time management and more so it is not only extremely enjoyable for children, but extremely educational too!
We do hope that many of you will encourage your children to attend this club. Full details, costs and arrangements are available here.
Primary Maths Challenge Success
Many congratulations to Wenru and Arushi, who were awarded silver medals in the Primary Mathematics Challenge. This national event tests the children's logical thinking and application of mathematics skills to some very challenging problems. Nearly 1600 schools and around 67,000 pupils took part in the challenge and only 760 children were awarded a silver or gold medal. The girls' scores put them in the top 1% of those who entered.
uTalk Language Competition
Pupils in Years 1 - 6 are invited to participate in a pilot competition in preparation for the new national uTalk competition which is being relaunched in September 2019.
The uTalk Challenge Pilot is a competition giving primary school age children the chance to learn a new language or reinforce a known language using the uTalk app. The competition will run between March and June 3 and our pupils will compete against each other. There will only be one round of the competition this year and the language will be Spanish. Some small prizes will be awarded in each school.
The new software this year will permit us to have a school dashboard where we can monitor progress. This will be available on the Learning Portal, so that the children may enjoy the excitement of checking the leader board to see how they are getting on in a live competition with their peers.
If you would like your child/children to participate in this modified competition this year, please email Mrs. Stark at firstname.lastname@example.org. The cost is £5 per child, which will be payable on SchoolsBuddy after you have registered your interest.
Comic Relief Fundraising
St. Helen's College turned red today as the children and staff entered into the spirit of Comic Relief, raising money with cake sales and Red Nose Day activities. Well done to 4T and 4KT for organising the charity day, and thank you to all parents for supporting the cause with your kind donations.
Year 6 Spanish Trip to BFI
Year 6 enjoyed an outing to the British Film Institute on Tuesday to enrich their Spanish learning. They watched a Spanish film with language appropriate to their stage of learning, and were able to understand most of it! They also took part in Spanish workshops.
6M Assembly - William Shakespeare
Well done to the children of 6M who presented a most informative, interesting and entertaining assembly this morning all about William Shakespeare. Through speech and song, the pupils told us about Shakespeare's life and work. We learnt the history of The Globe Theatre and about how it was re-built in recent times to recreate the theatre experience of Elizabethan times. We also learnt that Year 6 will be performing 'Romeo and Juliet' next term as their end of school production, and that they are all currently hard at work discovering the meaning of the play and preparing for their auditions. Thank you, 6M, for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm with us.
Year 6 Citizenship Day
This week our Year 6 pupils visited Brunel University for the annual Junior Citizenship Day. This was a valuable opportunity to learn about many different aspects of keeping safe throughout life after primary school, including use of public transport, fire safety, animal cruelty, substance abuse and more. There were ten informative and fast paced sessions full of important knowledge, designed to help our children tackle some of the challenges of adolescence.
Well done to the children who attended last night's swimming gala. Competition was fierce and the St. Helen's College pupils performed well in their individual heats, with several reaching the finals. Particular congratulations go to Rhea A-V, who was awarded a bronze medal in the Freestyle final.
We welcomed Mrs. Brooks to the staff this week, who has joined our team of Upper School lunchtime supervisors. Mrs. Brooks has enjoyed getting to know the children throughout the week and embraced the St. Helen's College community.
Mrs. Speechley, who is stepping back from her lunchtime supervision role to spend more time with her family, joined the Middle School children for lunch today as our VIP guest and was presented with flowers and a gift by Year 3 School Council members. We would like to thank Mrs. Speechley for all the care she has given to the children over the past four years.
After 13 years of loyal service to the school, we will be bidding farewell to Miss Lang, our Welfare Officer, at the end of the Spring term. Miss Lang has looked after not only the pupils but staff welfare over the years and shown so much care and compassion in her role. She will be very much missed at St. Helen's College but we wish her well as she takes on a new and exciting role at another school. I am sure that many of you will see Miss Lang again as she hopes to be part of our Holiday Club team. Once a Helenian, always a Helenian!
We are delighted that we will be hosting our first set of ABRSM music examinations here at St. Helen's College on Saturday 30th March. Thank you to our peripatetic teachers for making this possible and I am sure that all our students who are preparing for their examinations will feel very at home on the day.
We would like to remind parents that our annual Exhibition Day will take place on Saturday 23rd March. This year, to celebrate our new look Lower School, we would like to invite all parents and staff for a Bucks Fizz reception at Lower School from 9.30 a.m. The official timings of Exhibition Day at Ducklings and Upper School will be 10.00 a.m. until 12.00 p.m. Refreshments will be served from 10.00 a.m. in the Evans Hall. We do hope that you will all take this opportunity to celebrate your children's hard work and achievements on this special day. All children should wear full school uniform to attend school on Exhibition Day please.
Parents are always very generous with donating flowers and vases for display on Exhibition Day. Please would you send your donations of flowers (and named vases, which will be returned to you) into school with your child on Friday morning. Many thanks, in advance, for your generosity.
The Upper School Library will be fully open for the first time. Please come and see where Upper School children spend many hours relaxing and curling up with a good book! We would love parents to rediscover and share favourite books from their own childhood and explore the full range of wonderful modern authors available to read today. Parents will be able to see the comprehensive information resources in the library to spark curious minds and learn about the various reading challenges on offer.
Parents are reminded that Friday 22nd March is a half day to allow the school to prepare for Exhibition Day and that there is no Funtasia After School Club on Friday 22nd March.
Speech Competition Finals
Mrs. Smith and I have had the most wonderful week listening to the semi-finalists for our forthcoming Speech Competition. Congratulations to all the pupils who have worked so hard learning the wonderful (and, in some cases, rather challenging) poems. You should all be very proud of your achievements.
The finals of both the Junior (Years 1-3) and Senior (Years 4-6) Speech Competitions will take place on Monday 25th March. Parents of finalists are invited to join us and will receive a letter with details early next week. We are very much looking forward to what promises to be an excellent day of poetry and performance!
Easter Holiday Club Bookings Now Open
Bookings for our popular Easter Holiday Club are now open. Please log in to your SchoolsBuddy account to book places for your children as soon as possible. Holiday Club will run from 29th March (half day) until Thursday 18th April. Places are allocated on a first come, first served basis.
We invite pupils to enter a national competition run by the writers of Minimus, the textbook we use in Year 5 Latin lessons. Pupils are invited to create an interpretation of the story of Midas - a copy of which will be provided by Mrs. Stark.
Pupils are invited to submit entries in the following categories:
A. Art e.g. painting, drawing, collage, poster, craftwork etc.
B. Creative Writing e.g. poem, play-script, 1st person account, diary or journal etc.
C. Drama – a version of the story, written and performed by pupils, and submitted as a private video link or DVD.
D. Animation – a version of the story, written and animated by an individual, and submitted as a private video link.
Mrs. Stark has talked to some of the classes about this and will talk to others next week. Entries need to be submitted by 22nd April at the latest, but can be submitted any time before then.
We really hope your children will be inspired to produce some creative and original work and we look forward to seeing the entries coming in. Just hand them to your form teacher, who will pass them on to Mrs. Stark, or give them to Mrs. Stark directly.
Posted on: 15/03/2019
Head's Blog - Lent
Lent is upon us once again – the time of year when we remember the sacrifices made by Jesus during his forty days in the wilderness, leading up to the great sacrifice of his life. Traditionally, Christians give up something for Lent and I’m sure many parents have already started a period of abstinence. Perhaps you are giving up chocolate, sweets or alcohol for this forty day period.
I would like to encourage a new tradition for the children of St. Helen’s College. Rather than encourage our children to deprive themselves of something, I would like to suggest that, for Lent this year, they take up something new, or expand on a talent or interest they already enjoy.
Last week we celebrated World Book Day at school and it was magical, as ever, to see the children immersed in stories. We had a visit from The Book Bus on Monday, authors visited the school to share their experiences as writers and their stories, many classes heard traditional and modern tales and poetry read by visiting readers; Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Crehan and I had the most wonderful time over at Lower School, and, throughout the school, there were lively discussions of favourite books. (My favourite is still Enid Blyton's ‘The Faraway Tree’).
Perhaps Lent is the perfect time to build upon this by taking up a new reading habit. If your child does not already read for a set period of time before bed, now would be the perfect time to add this to your daily routine. For our youngest children, this will mean sitting with parents, grandparents, older siblings or other adults to listen to stories and look at words and pictures together. Rhyming books are, of course, particularly good for children of this age and don’t worry if you don’t currently have many at home. Not only are the school and local libraries full of lovely children’s books for your children to borrow, but young children thrive on repetition and absolutely love to hear the same book several times over. There is comfort in familiarity, especially when a young child is tired, just before bed.
As your child grows older and moves through the Lower School, you should choose slightly longer stories/rhyming tales to read with them, introducing longer, traditional tales such as fairy tales, Aesop’s Fables, Winnie the Pooh stories and poems, Roald Dahl stories and poems and more.
Once the children are old enough for chapter books or longer stories which can be split up across several days, there are so many beautiful, classic tales to share with them: The Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Treasure Island… the list really is endless. If you are not sure which books are appropriate for your child, do ask your class teacher or contact Mr. McLaughlin, our Head of English.
If you already have a well-established reading routine at bedtime – and we know that many of you already do – then why not add in some reading at another time of day? Lent is the perfect time to make a promise to reduce screen time by 15 minutes a day, and increase reading time by 15 minutes. Perhaps, as you’re cooking dinner, your children could sit at the table 15 minutes early and read a book aloud to you, or you could listen to an audio book together and then discuss it during your meal.
Reading is at the heart of everything in education, as self-sacrifice is at the heart of everything in Christianity. So I do hope that you will take the opportunity of Lent to increase your child’s reading time. Perhaps, when Lent ends and Easter is here, you might consider buying them a new book instead of (or even as well as!) an Easter egg, to reward them for forty days of wonderful reading and to inspire them for the following forty days and beyond! Although we are almost halfway through Lent, there is no time like the present to foster a love of reading!
Posted on: 8/03/2019
Weekly News - Friday 8th March 2019It has been a week of books, books and more books for children across the school as we have celebrated World Book Day and all that reading brings to our lives!
On Monday, the children were treated to a visit from The Book Bus, which gave them an opportunity to choose new books for the school libraries at Lower School and Upper School.
Visiting authors at both Lower School and Upper School inspired pupils with their stories and were able to share information about how and why they decided to write books. Mrs. McLaughlin visited Lower School and talked to the children about her efforts to tackle climate change by becoming a children's author. Onjali Rauf, author of the Blue Peter Award winning book 'The Boy At The Back Of The Class', spoke to Upper School children about her involvement in the refugee crisis.
Across the school, children have enjoyed reading to themselves and to others and having stories read to them by their teachers and by visiting readers, including other teachers, librarians, parents and visitors.
Here you can see our youngest children, the Ducklings, enjoying a story read by Zoe's mummy. Zoe's mum read the story in Chinese to the children, who listened intently and were fascinated. Then she taught our Ducklings some Chinese words.
Chamber Choir Perform At The Royal Festival Hall
We were extremely proud of our Chamber Choir this week as they took to the stage at the Royal Festival Hall to compete against 17 other school in National Finals of the Barnardo's Schools Choir Competition. The choir sang two pieces: So Long, Farewell (from The Sound of Music) and For The Beauty Of The Earth by John Rutter. Schools had travelled from far and wide from across the UK, including from Wales, York and Glasgow. The pupils participated in the competition in the morning and, before preparing for the mass choir performance and evening concert, we took a cruise to Greenwich taking in the wonderful sights of London. Although we were not the winning choir on the day, it an incredible achievement to make it to the finals and to perform in such a prestigious venue.
1J Assembly - World Book Day
World Book Day was truly embraced by 1J in their reading assembly. It was evident that each and every one of them is an avid reader and they reminded all the grown ups of the importance of losing ourselves in a book. Congratulations 1J!
4T Assembly - Easter Gratitude
The story of Easter and gratitude were interwoven into 4T's most succinct and professional presentation in assembly. As their St. Helen's College pledges came together and the school crest appeared, we were reminded that, to be inspirational, one needs to be proactive. Well done 4T!
Year 6 Visit The Globe
Having studied Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet in English over the last few weeks, Year 6 pupils visited The Globe Theatre this week to watch a RSC production of Romeo and Juliet. They were inspired by the performance and are very much looking forward to the forthcoming auditions for their summer production of this wonderful play.
Our Year 5/6 netballers took part in the local district netball rally last Saturday held at Ryefield School. Our B team gained valuable match experience and improved their play throughout the morning, finishing in 3rd place in their group. Our A team's confidence developed as they won all their matches in the group stages to reach the knockout stages. In the quarter finals they beat St. Andrew's and in the semi finals they beat Cherry Lane to reach the final to play Hermitage. They played incredibly well against Heritage, who were formidable opponents, and the final score was 5-2 to Hermitage. Our A team were presented with runner up silver medals and it was announced that they had qualified for the Borough Netball Finals.
The Borough Netball Finals (for the top twelve qualifying schools) took place on Wednesday afternoon this week at Newnham School in Eastcote. In wet and windy conditions, our team battled on court in a tough competition. The team won three matches, drew one match and lost one match to finish in 9th place overall.
In the local netball league, St. Helen's finished in 4th place this season. The team support from parents over the course of the season has been superb, so thank you parents! It has also been great to see many girls taking up the opportunity to continue playing at local netball club Blaze.
Well done to all the girls involved:
A team - Ionie M, Hebe E, Aaria K, Zoe K, Georgia M, Rhea Sa, Wenru D, Rhea A-V, Jada P
B team - Tamara A, Eshar S, Laura B, Chloe W, Ruby D, Minna H, Grace B, Kyra S, Krisha S, Mya S
Our hockey team had a very enjoyable match on Monday afternoon against St. Benedict's. There was some outstanding effort and passing, with numerous chances at either end. Unfortunately, we lost the game but everybody on both sides really enjoyed the afternoon. Our goals were scored by Pavitar and Hebe. Well done to the team: Pavitar D, Hebe E, Ionie M, Jayan C, Luke J, Mya S, Agastya S.
Year 3 Spring Production - 'The Pirates of the Curry Bean'
On Tuesday 12th March, Year 3 will be performing their production at the Winston Churchill Hall and children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 will watch the dress rehearsal in the morning. Please drop children in Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 to at the Winston Churchill Hall in the morning from 8 a.m. onwards (to arrive by 8.30 a.m.). The children will return to school by coach after watching the performance.
Year 3 parents have been contacted separately with information about the arrangements for Year 3.
Parents' Parking Pledge
Well done to our Year 5 Junior Road Safety Officers (JRSOs) and Year 1 Mini Road Safety Officers (MRSOs) who have been promoting our Parent Parking Pledge initiative this week. So far, over 100 families have taken the pledge and top marks to the parents of Wrens class, with twenty parents who have already signed up to the pledge! Thank you to all those who have already registered; your special parent parking pledge car sticker will be sent home next week. Please display these as you would have done with tax discs. If you have not signed up please click here to register online or pop in to Upper School next Wednesday before school, when our JRSOs will be on hand with laptops available to help you register.
Red Nose Day - Friday 15th March
On Friday 15th March, Year 4 will be leading the fundraising events for Comic Relief. It is a wonderful cause and we thank you in advance for your children’s participation and generous contributions. At Upper School, we are asking the children to make a £2 donation to wear their own clothes (preferably including something red and no football kits please). In addition to this, Year 4 will be hosting a cake sale where there will a range of delicious cakes and biscuits on sale, costing either 50p or £1 and with a maximum spend of £2 per child. Please note all ingredients will be listed at the point of sale.
We are asking children at Ducklings and Lower School to make a £2 donation to wear their own clothes (preferably including something red and no football kits please). This donation will also enable them to decorate a biscuit at school during the day.
We would like to remind parents that our annual Exhibition Day will take place on Saturday 23rd March. This year, to celebrate our new look Lower School, we would like to invite all parents and staff for a Bucks Fizz reception at Lower School from 9.30 a.m. The official timings of Exhibition Day at Ducklings and Upper School will be 10.00 a.m. until 12.00 p.m. Refreshments will be served from 10.00 a.m. in the Evans Hall. We do hope that you will all take this opportunity to celebrate your children's hard work and achievements on this special day.
Parents are reminded that Friday 22nd March is a half day to allow the school to prepare for Exhibition Day and that there is no Funtasia After School Club on Friday 22nd March.
School At Work Open Morning - Tuesday 7th May 2019
Flyers and posters advertising our next School At Work Open Morning are being sent home with your children today. In the past, parents have been very helpful in displaying these in local businesses and passing them on to friends who might have babies or young children and who might be interested in visiting the school. The vast majority of our new families come to us through word of mouth recommendation and we are very grateful to our parents for being such wonderful ambassadors for St. Helen's College. We would be most grateful for your support in displaying or distributing flyers again this year. Do let us know if you can make use of any more!
Posted on: 8/03/2019
Motivation and MandarinReading the Head’s blog last week on the value of learning modern languages, and on the great work going on at St. Helen’s College in this area, reminded me how times have changed – for the better!
At secondary school I studied French and German to ‘O’ Level. It was a struggle! I wasn’t particularly motivated, the teachers (none were native speakers) were extraordinarily unimaginative in their methods, and the focus was too much on grammar and textbooks and too little on conversation. We did visit Germany and Austria for a week but were left to our own devices (don’t ask!) and, apart from an idyllic lakeside lunch, my memories are mostly of Pepsi and chips, being bored, and the music of Simon and Garfunkel (the only cassette tape owned by the coach driver). Nevertheless, I achieved good ‘O’ Level grades, have reasonable conversational French and (somewhat to my surprise) was recently complimented on my German when helping a confused couple to understand a ferry timetable. I felt very proud.
I didn’t enjoy studying these languages and struggled terribly with learning vocabulary, so it came as something of a surprise to my family (and, if I am honest, to me) when I decided eighteen months ago that I was going to learn Mandarin. This was not a random choice – my son is married to a Singaporean of Chinese ethnicity, and my grandson Teddy is going to be bilingual in English and Mandarin.
Not really knowing where to start, I downloaded the app Hello Chinese and set to work on lesson 1. It is a really terrific learning tool which takes the complete beginner to a reasonable conversational standard, with each topic introducing new vocabulary, grammatical structures and common phrases. It uses a wide variety of excellent methods, including recording and playback, games, video, letter formation and flash cards and I can access it easily on my smart phone.
Shortly after starting work on the app, I was introduced to a Chinese class by a St. Helen’s College parent. The class was well ahead of me, which provided a spur to encourage me to work hard and catch up, and I am now about to enrol on a more advanced class at the School of Oriental and African Studies. My aim is to try to keep pace with my grandson who, at just 2 years and 4 months, already has a high degree of fluency in Mandarin.
So why is my experience of learning Mandarin so much more positive today than that of my schoolboy French and German lessons? On reflection, I think that there are four reasons, all of which are interlinked.
Motivation In contrast to my schooldays, I am hugely motivated to learn Mandarin. I hear it spoken at home every day and want to understand and join in the conversations. I want it to be a shared experience with my grandson, and I want to get over my long-held belief that I am not good at language learning.
Knowing how to learn Over many years of learning, both informally and through academic courses, I have learned which learning strategies work best for me. I try to study a little each day, regularly consolidate my knowledge, ask myself and answer questions, keep a pack of flashcards in my pocket at all times and practise speaking as much as I can.
Quality of teaching The Hello Chinese app is an excellent, interactive and adaptive virtual teacher, but I also have a super class teacher at my Saturday Chinese class. Always warm and encouraging, she provides the right level of challenge for our (admittedly rather laid back) class, and, as a native speaker who has lived in China, immerses us not only in language but in the culture of the country.
Peer support My Chinese school co-students are remarkably friendly and supportive. The help which we give each other, and the fun which we have together, have created a sense of shared endeavour and mutual support.
Language learning is very popular at St. Helen’s College, and the children make excellent progress in their fluency in Spanish, French and Latin. This is not surprising, given that my four factors are all in place. They have a thirst for knowledge and are hugely motivated to succeed. Through discussions about metacognition, and reflecting on and discussing their progress with their teachers, they understand how best to learn. They have inspiring teachers who create wonderful lessons to challenge and support them in their learning and they support each other through the joy of learning and the shared enthusiasm which arises from it.
These four factors are interwoven, and the latter three all impact positively on the first, motivation. Motivation is critical to learning: without motivation learning is limited and dry, whereas the motivated learner is unstoppable.
Teaching is both a science and an art, and the artistry of the brilliant teacher, parent or grandparent has a lot to do with motivating children. I am very mindful of this with Teddy, and am so enjoying helping him to discover the wonderful world of knowledge.
Posted on: 1/03/2019
Head's Blog - Love of Language LearningThe BBC reported this week that foreign language learning is at its lowest level in UK secondary schools since the turn of the millennium, with their analysis showing frankly alarming drops of between 30% and 50% since 2013 in the numbers of children taking GCSE language courses in some areas of England. A separate survey of UK secondary schools suggests that a third have dropped at least one language from their GCSE options.
To those of us who believe passionately in the advantages of learning languages, this is concerning news indeed, especially as business organisations have expressed concern at the lack of language skills in the UK. Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director for business group the CBI, said: "Employer demand for French, German and Spanish skills has significantly increased over the last few years. The decline in language learning in schools must be reversed, or else the UK will be less competitive globally and young people less prepared for the modern world. As well as speaking a foreign language, increasing young people's cultural awareness and their ability to work with people from around the world is just as important."
Mr. Fell makes important points: in a global marketplace and with Brexit imminent, the ability of the UK’s future leaders in all sectors to communicate effectively with their counterparts across the world is likely to be crucial. For the next generation, being able to speak languages other than English can surely only assist with this.
Moreover, there is undeniable merit in learning languages for their own sake. As a school teaching three languages, we see daily that language learning helps to instil, even in the very young, discipline, perseverance, the development of ‘an ear’ for meaning and expression, the ability to choose the correct word, phrase or tone to convey meaning and emotion, listening skills, grammatical knowledge and skills, conversational/interview skills, an appreciation of the subtleties of communication, and tolerance and respect for other languages and cultures. So it is clear to us that the teaching of languages imparts the all important ‘soft skills’ often mentioned by employers as being of equal importance with examination results and acquired knowledge.
For its survey, the BBC attempted to contact every one of the almost 4,000 mainstream secondary schools in the UK, and more than half - 2,048 - responded. Of the schools which replied, most said the perception of languages as a difficult subject was the main reason behind a drop in the number of pupils studying for exams, with pupils believing it would be harder for them to achieve a top GCSE grade in a language than in other subjects.
This is deeply worrying, but hardly surprising when you consider that, nationwide, many pupils transfer at 11+ into their senior school with very little, if any, experience of learning languages at primary level. We are very proud that this is not the case for St. Helen’s College children, where language learning is given a high priority. Our pupils learn Spanish from the age of 2, French from the age of 8 and Latin from the age of 9. Every child aged between 6 and 10 also takes part, every year, in the U-Talk National Languages competition, through which they have the opportunity to learn (for fun) three further languages each year - one European, one Asian and one African - and to enjoy competing online against pupils from across the United Kingdom. St. Helen’s College pupils learn about French, Spanish and Roman culture, develop relationships with French pen pals and spend a full week immersed in French language and culture during their Year 6 languages trip to the Chateau de la Baudonniere in Normandy, where they also have the chance to visit a French school and meet with their pen pals.
Our languages curriculum therefore gives pupils the opportunity to gain a solid grounding in grammar and vocabulary. St. Helen’s College children reach a good level in two of the most widely spoken languages, French and Spanish, and relish their introduction to several other languages. During their time with us, children become able to identify similarities and differences in languages and cultures; they also develop a love of languages and a willingness to ‘have a go’ at learning pretty much any new language which comes along. This week, observing Spanish lessons in Reception, it has been impressive to see the children’s confidence at the age of 4 and 5, as they are immersed in the language, learning numbers and actions through song. This foundation, laid during the children's earliest years with us, is built upon over the years to develop into a strong linguistic interest, confidence and skill set by the time they reach Year 6. There is no doubt that St. Helen’s College children love their language learning and leave us with an excellent grounding in this area. They are well equipped to tackle - and hopefully to excel at - languages at GCSE and A level in their senior school of choice.
In England, Ministers say that they are taking steps to reverse the nationwide decline in language learning and this is, in our view, absolutely essential. The government reportedly has a £2.5m plan which aims to increase the take-up of modern foreign languages at GCSE and A-level through new centres of excellence. Let us hope that this plan is successful but, whether it is or not, at least we know that St. Helen’s College children will be ready, willing and able to take full advantage of language learning at senior school and throughout their lives, since they have been lucky enough to attend a linguistic centre of excellence in their youngest years!