School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 17/05/2019
Weekly News - Friday 17th May 2019Outstanding Musicians' Concert
Last night the audience at All Saints Church was treated to a fantastic array of performances given by our extremely talented children, ranging from the impressionistic piano music of Debussy to the more traditional tunes of Amazing Grace. The concert opened with the orchestra playing and this was followed by our many soloists and instrumental groups, all ranging from Grade 1 to Grade 8. There was also an opportunity to hear staff perform as Mrs. Stubbs (flute), Mrs. Nash (violin) and Mrs. Maclean (cello), accompanied by Mr. Stubbs (piano), performed 'Allegro from Trio Sonata in G Minor by JC Pepusch. This really was a spectacular event and all the instrumentalists played with admirable confidence and panache! Well done to all involved.
National Numeracy Day
National Numeracy Day on Tuesday provided an exciting impetus for teachers to enrich and extend the pupils' learning and it was wonderful to see so many children engaged in activities in and outside of the classroom.
Robins Class Assembly
Wow! Our Robins Nursery children showed how far they have come during their Nursery year as they performed a fantastic assembly all about the seasons of the year on Thursday. It is clear that their programme of rehearsals and performances during the Nursery year (including Harvest Festival, their Nativity Play and class assemblies, as well as the Speech Competition last term) has helped them to find their feet when standing up and speaking in front of an audience. Their confidence, their memories, their relaxed and engaging style and their superb voice projection really were astonishing. We all learnt much about the seasons too. Well done, Robins!
Noah's Ark Hospice Charity Walk
Well done to all of the pupils, parents and staff who came together last Sunday to take part in a charity walk to raise funds for the Noah's Ark Children's Hospice. The walk alone raised £725 for the hospice, which is a wonderful achievement. The sense of community on the day was inspiring and we would like to pass on sincere thanks to all who gave up their time and energy to raise funds for this very worthwhile cause.
Borough Sports Success
Our Year 3 and Year 4 teams were in the spotlight this week and showed their competitive spirit, taking part in Borough Tri Golf and Mini Tennis competitions.
Tri Golf Success
Well done to our Year 3/4 Tri Golf team, who on Tuesday afternoon took part in the annual Hillingdon Tri Golf Festival at Hewens Academy. The team had a wonderful time competing against a time limit, improving their chipping and putting to score points. With ten teams in the festival, St. Helen's College Year 3/4 team came an impressive 3rd place. Congratulations to all of the team on such a great perfomance!
Team members were: Anjika G, Maisie H, Maya T, Jena J, Krishav P, Joban K, Sahib N, Reece G.
Mini Tennis Excitement
On Wednesday, three St. Helen's College teams took part in the annual schools tournament held at Tripletts Community Tennis Centre. The competition attracted 20 teams from across the Borough and each team consisted of two boys and two girls, who played singles matches against players from other schools. The event was played in a very supportive atmosphere, with parents spectating applauding the great play. Our pupils in particular showed a high degree of technical skill and tactical awareness when playing their matches - so much so that all three of our teams made it through to the quarter finals, where our C team faced Glebe and our B team faced our A team! The matches could not have been closer and semi finalists had to be decided on points countback as matches were drawn, but in the end it was only our A team that progressed. Incredibly, the semi final against Whiteheath had to be decided on countback too and unfortunately the St. Helen's College A team missed out by just a few points to Whiteheath, who went on to be the tournament's eventual winners. Well done to all of our team members who were a credit to their school with their sportsmanship and resilience.
A Team: Amar C, Anaiya L, Samir H, Hamdan U
B Team: Fredericka T, Jena J, Zail T, Luka K
C Team: Anaya K, Amber P, Reece G, Eshan N
Co-Curricular Club Reminders
We would like to remind parents that the following clubs will not be taking place next week, since Miss Walker will be in France with the Year 6 residential trip:
Tuesday Y2/3 Athletics - lunchtime
Thursday Y5/6 Rounders - after school
May Half Term Tennis Camp
Miss Walker will be running a May half term tennis camp at Tripletts Community Centre in Hayes. If your child would like to attend, you can find full details including booking details here.
We wish our Year 4 and Year 6 children enjoyable and enriching times as they embark on their exciting residential trips to Flatford Mill (Year 4) and France (Year 6) in the coming week.
Posted on: 17/05/2019
Head's Blog - Would You Like To Tidy Up Now? by Ms Matthews
This week we have a guest blog from Ms Matthews, our Head of Early Years Foundation Stage.
“Would you like to tidy up now?”
Regardless of their age, I would wager that if you asked your child that particular question, the answer would be a resounding “No”. However, perhaps if you instead asked “Shall we race each other to see who can get the most toys in their box?”, the answer might be slightly more favourable!
The effect of questioning style when engaging young children cannot, and should not, be overstated. Adults’ questions can encourage children to engage in extended conversations, can facilitate comprehension and research also shows us that effective questioning style is proven to stimulate higher-order thinking. There is great potential to increase children's capacity to learn from an activity through careful adult-child talk and questioning is one of many strategies that can either support and encourage children's learning - or stop it in its tracks. But how often do we really stop to think about our questioning style and how it affects children's ability to learn, think and reflect?
As teachers and as parents, we all want to be sure that we are facilitating our children’s learning rather than interfering with it - but how can we achieve this? At one end, too little adult support can limit learning. While play without adults can be rich and purposeful, at times it can become a chaotic or repetitive activity which is decidedly ‘hands-on, brains-off’. At the other end of the scale, too much tightly directed activity deprives children of the opportunity to engage actively with learning. Questioning is one of the most common methods of prompting interactions with children and, if done well, it can have a staggering impact upon learning.
Over the past 14 months, I have been undertaking a range of studies as part of the Chartered College of Teaching’s ‘Chartered Teacher Status’ programme. This opportunity has allowed me to further explore the pedagogy of teaching, but it has also afforded me the valuable opportunity to research, analyse and evaluate the teaching and learning currently going on in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) here at St. Helen’s College. The EYFS curriculum tells us that we “...must respond to each child’s emerging needs and interests, guiding their development through warm, positive interaction” and it is precisely this style of interaction for which St. Helen’s College is renowned. Knowing that we are blessed with a wealth of adult expertise in our Kindergarten, Nursery and Reception, I was particularly interested to ascertain exactly how your child benefits from that in our early years classrooms. Thus, my studies culminated in a research project focusing on the direct effect of adult questioning on children’s attainment and progress, with the aim of proving that the teaching and learning at St. Helen’s College is some of the best there is!
As part of the research intervention itself, I carried out specific mathematics activities (number and shape, space and measure) whilst utilising a set of pre-determined questioning techniques – closed questioning for a control group of 24 Reception pupils, versus open-ended questioning for an intervention group of 24 Reception pupils across a 3-week period. The pre-set closed questions used were questions such as “What colour is that square? Is it blue or green?” “Is the answer 3 or 4?” whereas the open-ended questions were designed based on questions I had previously observed being widely used across the St. Helen’s College EYFS classrooms, questions such as: “How could you find out?”; “What do you think?”; “Do you think everyone else would think the same?”; “What do you think is happening?”; “I don't know, what do you think?”; ”Can you tell me more about that?”
Control group results
The control group were presented with only closed questioning that required a recall of fact, experience or expected behaviour, decision between a limited selection of choices or no response at all. When they were then exposed to mathematical activities outside of the control group intervention project, almost all remained very dependent on a nearby adult to start and complete a task, there was very little independent problem-solving (only 4 out of 24 children displayed this) and independence in both number and shape, space and measure activities was low – 6 out of 24 children and 5 out of 24 children. Interestingly, though, independent use of appropriate mathematical vocabulary was significantly higher (13 out of 24 children), but this could perhaps be attributed to additional factors such as continued whole-class teaching time away from the intervention itself, peer-interactions and learned facts taught before the intervention took place.
Intervention group results
The intervention group were presented with a broad range of open-ended questions which provided for increased encouragement, to foster speculation and trial and error and talk that fostered the potential for sustained, shared thinking, exploration and talking. When the intervention group were then exposed to mathematical activities outside of the intervention project, very few (only 3 out of 24 children) looked for support from an adult to start and complete a task, there was a huge rise in independent problem-solving (19 out of 24 children displayed this) and much-increased independence in both number and shape, space and measure activities – 19 out of 24 children and 20 out of 24 children respectively. Again, use of mathematical language remained high (22 out of 24 children) but the difference when observed this time was more sophisticated use of said language to explain and guide peers during their activities – the children in the intervention group were observed to be directly applying their knowledge of mathematical language to other tasks and in more creative and critical ways.
Rest assured then, that your children are in very safe and capable hands in our St. Helen’s College classrooms. Continuing our open-ended style of questioning actively encourages them to be successfully motivated by the pursuit of learning and discovery for their own sake; their resulting excitement has been captured through my purposeful observations and research of their language and independence. Each day, they are supported in finding out answers for themselves and ringing out in each classroom are the “ers” and “ums” of not knowing, followed by the wonderful “oohs” and “ahs” of learning - the sounds of awe and wonder in action, of learning itself, of meaning being made. The skill, knowledge and understanding of our wonderful staff team has been research-proven to allow your children to reflect en route to becoming lifelong learners, ensuring that they are offered a less fixed view of the world - one where curiosity and investigation, rather than correct solutions and consensus-building, fuel their investigations.
So, what will you ask your child to elicit thinking, learning and wondering about the world this weekend? Now that’s a good question.
Posted on: 10/05/2019
Weekly News - Friday 10th May 2019Staffing News
Congratulations to Ms Matthews, our Head of EYFS, who has successfully completed and passed the Chartered College of Teaching CTeach programme. Ms Matthews is now recognised nationally as one of 180 teachers to be accredited with Chartered Teacher status. The programme of study and research which she engaged in was rigorous and demanding and will continue to benefit the outcomes for our children. It is wonderful to have this level of expertise on our staff.
Year 3 Residential Trip To Shortenills
Our Year 3 pupils have had the most wonderful residential trip and taken part in a super programme of activities including orienteering, journey sticks and camp fire singing, to name but a few. They also carried out numerous chores as they developed their maturity and independence, including making beds, clearing tables, setting up for breakfast! Great teamwork and camaraderie from all. You can see some photos of their trip here.
SATIPS Art Exhibition - Bromsgrove School
We are delighted that some of our pupils' work has been exhibited at the national SATIPS Art Exhibition at Bromsgrove School near Birmingham. Well done to Aleyna (1J), Aaryan (1HC), Avneet (2H), Chloe (5A), Jack (5G), Georgia (6W) and Zoe (6W). You can see their artwork here.
Next year the exhibition will move closer to home (to the Royal Masonic School, Rickmansworth) and we hope that many of you will be able to visit.
We look forward to seeing many of you at our annual Musicians' Concert next Thursday at 7 p.m. in All Saints Church. This event is always the most wonderful evening of musicality with a wide range of repertoires from the children and staff.
Well done to all our Year 6 pupils who have been attending the Saturday morning sessions which finish next week on Saturday 18th May. It is good to know that our children are safe on their bikes and confident bike users.
Holiday Club - May Half Term
Holiday Club bookings for May half term are now open. Please log in to your SchoolsBuddy account to make your bookings.
PA Summer Fete
It’s that time of year when the PA are busy with “all hands on deck” preparations for our flagship event, the PA Summer Fete. We would like to ask you to save the date:
Date: Saturday 29th June 2019
Time: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Upper School playground
One of the aims of the PA is to encourage community, friendship and fun for our children, parents and guardians and the wider St. Helen's family. Over the years, the school fete has been a great event where the school community has come together by bringing their ideas, giving their time and providing much enthusiasm.
The fete is organised by the PA committee which, at present, comprises eight full-time working mums, with amazing support from the PA Class Reps. If you are interested in joining the Committee, we always welcome new interest!
We rely on your help for the fete and we will be putting out requests for help out via the newsletter in the next few weeks. However, there’s no time like the present so we are looking for immediate responses for the following:
We Need You!
At least 10 helpers from each year group to commit to helping on the day of the fete - we will start at 8 a.m. and finish clearing up at about 6 p.m. but you don’t need to do the whole stretch. If you can pledge help for all or part of the day, please do let us know. We need help on many levels such as running stalls, serving food, making tea and coffee, face painting, henna art, glitter tattoos, moving chairs and tables, putting marquees up, clearing litter, PA audio technicians and barbecuing. If you feel worried about taking on tasks yourself, why not get a team from your class together? Each class has a class rep, who will also be communicating with you.
We would be really grateful for donations of the following (NO BOOKS PLEASE):
Nearly new, good condition soft toys - for the toy tombola
Good condition used/new school uniform – for the uniform stall
Brand new toys - for the raffle and toy tombola stalls
New items or unwanted gifts - for the raffle
If you work for a company who might like to donate anything to the fete please let us know.
Fete collection bins will be put out at the entrances and exits on all three school premises after half term (Ducklings, Lower School and Upper School) for you to bring your donations, so please have a good sort out over half term. We will empty the collection bins on a daily basis.
We run a tuck shop where we sell drinks, sweets, ice creams and crisps. If you own a shop or can get reduced/discounted rates, we’d love to hear from you!
As in previous years, we will be having a range of stalls at the fete to cater for a variety of tastes. To help us make this happen, we are looking for volunteers to provide the cuisine - this could be anything from African to Mexican, Italian to Thai. We will also be looking for volunteers to man these stalls. If you are able to provide food for a stall or would like to volunteer to serve on a food stall (even if it’s only for an hour), please do get in touch.
If you have any ideas or suggestion for the fete, we’d love to hear from you and embrace these. We can only put this event on with your help so please do get in touch. It's an event that’s really enjoyed by the children and the whole St. Helen's College community.
Contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you in advance for all of your help and support to make this year's fete a really special event for everyone!
Posted on: 10/05/2019
Head's Blog - Key To Successhttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-48190126
It was with a sense of pride that I read this BBC article, entitled 'Well trained nursery staff key to good care'. As all of our parents who have had children go through our Kindergarten and Early Years (Nursery and Reception) know, we have superb adult to child ratios to ensure that your children are exceptionally well cared for, but the high ratios also give our staff the opportunity to have those 1-1 conversations with your children to enrich their spoken word and develop their thinking and learning skills.
"A better staff-to-child ratio leads to improvements in quality but staff qualifications and training is the most important factor.”
Our staff ratios are excellent throughout the school and our staffing levels are exceptional form Ducklings to Year 6. It goes without saying that our staff are very well qualified but it is the dedication and commitment of the staff to ongoing professional development which is one of the most important factors at St. Helen’s College.
This week, for example, while Year 1 - Year 6 teachers were meeting with parents for our parent conferences, the EYFS team were taking part in their own learning workshop, using the 10 squares to develop maths activities for the children.
There is a saying that every day is learning opportunity, but that is pertinent not only to the children but also the staff; it is always refreshing as I visit the many classrooms to overhear and see teachers sharing ideas and good practice with each other. Throughout the academic year our staff are highly invested in and supported to enable them to keep learning to improve the outcomes for our pupils.
Not only do we invest in our staff, but it is the partnership we have with you as our parent body which is so important in ensuring that you are all able to support your children’s learning at home. Last year we ran very successful reading workshops and e-safety sessions and this term we have already had a superb evening for parents of our younger pupils on supporting phonics and early maths skills. Later in the summer we will be meeting with many of you for Information Evenings as we lead up to the transition of the children through the school, which I trust you will find interesting and informative, and for September we have arranged for an external speaker to hold a workshop for parents and staff, ‘Enabling parents to bring out the best in their children’, which we are very much looking forward to. Details on how to book tickets for this event will be published next half term.
This week I have toured many potential candidates for the current positions which we have available at St. Helen’s College and I have to admit they everyone has been in awe of our school, the children, the staff and the sense of collaboration which we have with our parent body. We truly are remarkable and I am confident that our new staff who we hope to appoint very soon will only add to the quality of what we offer here!
Have a wonderful weekend!
Posted on: 3/05/2019
Weekly News - Friday 3rd May 2019Year 5 Residential Trip - Isle of Wight
Our Year 5 children return tired but happy today after an exhiliarating week spent on the Isle of Wight. They have taken part in all sorts of exciting and adventurous outdoor activities and carried out investigations to help them understand coastal erosion and other geographical concepts. You can see a few photographs of their week on our Galleries page here.
Year 6 Trip to Battle of Britain Bunker
Our Year 6 pupils had an outstanding day today as they visited the Battle of Britain Bunker, where they took part in interactive, hands-on workshops. Many members of the public, and the Bunker staff, commented on what a credit the pupils were to the school as they showed such excellent behaviour and courtesy.
We were delighted to have the IDEAS Bus visiting us at Upper School this week for our Project Day, during which Year 4 and Year 6 children took part in a wide range of creative activities, including coding, virtual reality art, robot racing, dance, music technology and photography. To read more about the importance and impact of the day, do read Mr. Tovell's blog about Creativity in Education which you can access here.
Thank you to all of the parents from Ducklings to Reception who attended last night's presentation on supporting reading and mathematics in the early years. The session was very well attended and the discussion and questions were a testament to the supportive environment we have here from both staff and parents to ensure that your children achieve their very best.
We celebrated our Year 6 pupil Chiara L's further gymnastics success in assembly this week at Upper School. In Spain over the Easter holidays she received a gold medal with her partner as they were crowned DIAC 11-16 WP champions! We wish Chiara well as she competes in the English Championships this weekend in Durham.
Our very exciting Singing Competition for Years 2-6 will take place on Friday 7th June this year. Children should decide which category they would like to enter and choose a song. Next, fill in a slip and put into the box - these can both be found at the front of the hall and entries must be submitted no later than Thursday 9th May.
Once again, there is no set theme this year as we would like to hear songs from all different genres and perhaps a range of songs throughout musical history. Singing in other languages is permitted, but please provide a translation of lyrics for the judge. The only restrictions are that we would like you to avoid singing pop songs and we would like to see only simple gestures and appropriate movements relevant to the performance. No dance moves please.
The categories are:
Best solo singer from each year group.
Best group - trios (3) or quartets (4) only.
There should be just one solo entry per child but they may also participate in either a duet or a group. No choir songs please!
A backing track is required (without words) for performance on the day; CD or ipod only. No piano accompaniments will be used this year, unless a child is playing the piano as part of their performance.
All winners will be invited to sing at the Singers’ Concert on 11th June.
Should the number of entrants be high, preliminary rounds will take place before half term.
It is with sadness that we will be bidding Mrs. Haar and her family a farewell at the end of the summer term as they make the move to Devon. Mrs. Haar has had a long association with St. Helen's College and was instrumental in setting up our Kindergarten two years ago. We wish her well, and know that the new manager, when appointed, will be taking over a very happy and thriving setting.
Miss Fleming and Mrs. Meeran will be leaving us this term to spend time travelling and with grandchildren respectively. Both have made such a difference to the children they have cared for at St. Helen's College and will be very much missed by us all.
Miss Malik will be leaving us at the end of the summer term after four years of service to work in a new environment. We are sure you will join us in wishing her well and in thanking her for all that she has done for your children and the school.
Mrs. Duberley will also be leaving us at the end of this term after a very long career with the school. We wish her well in her retirement and thank her sincerely for her service over so many years!
Staffing for September
We will let parents know the staffing for classes in September in due course.
We would like to remind you that children must not bring nuts, or any items containing nuts, to school. Suitable snacks for break time are fruit, raw vegetables or plain biscuits.
Please note that the safety of your children is paramount to us, thus we request that when collecting children from the Upper School site, you keep younger siblings under close supervision and do not allow them to play on the grass opposite the school entrance on Parkway.
Posted on: 3/05/2019
Head's Blog - Creativity: The Key To Unlock Limitless Potential (by Mr. Tovell)
This week we have a Guest Blog from Mr. Tovell, Year 4 Class Teacher.
In the most watched TED talk of all time, educationalist Sir Ken Robinson FRSA claimed that “schools kill creativity”, arguing that “we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather we get educated out of it”. Whilst this may be the case in many schools, it is my fervent belief that this is not something which is occurring at St. Helen’s College. In fact, creativity is one of our St. Helen’s College learning strategies which means that, not only do St. Helen’s College students understand what it is to be creative, they are also given opportunities to be creative across the curriculum. It is my position that creativity (meaning original thought and ideas) is one of the greatest effectors of change in terms of how we perceive the world or live our lives. Indeed, with a truly creative mind, does potential not become limitless?
As the title of this blog suggests, it is my belief that imagination and creativity are skills which must be developed in all learners and across the curriculum. Obvious examples are in fiction writing and art; however, creativity is also a key component for problem solving in mathematics when considering how to ‘break in’ to the problem or when solving disputes with peers.
With this in mind, I was thrilled when I was asked to organise Wednesday’s Project Day for Years 4 and 6 in collaboration with the IDEAS Bus team. Following a short assembly, the children completed a carousel of activities in small groups, before volunteers showcased their learning in a closing assembly. Activities included a visit to the IDEAS Bus, which had advanced technology on board including a 3D printer, becoming young entrepreneurs who had to pitch for finance for their original idea and a Virtual Reality Workshop. The overarching theme was for pupils to be as creative as possible - something I am pleased to report they did with great success.
One of the challenges facing young learners when asked to be creative is the fear of judgement from their peers. As a result, children can be reluctant to ‘have a go’ and just say whatever comes to mind, which is why I was so pleased to see students supporting one another, helping them to build upon initial ideas and recognising that many great ideas are born out of less great ones and that you cannot build upon an idea you have not had. The whole day was a celebration of the wonderful, creative children we have at St. Helen’s College and reminded me of how lucky I am to be part of such a special community.
I will leave you with the thoughts of one of the most creative people ever to grace our earth:
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere - Albert Einstein
I could not have put it better myself!