School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 13/10/2017
News - Friday 13th OctoberThe half term has ended with some super, enriching experiences outside of school for the children.
Year 2 had a fantastic trip to Chiltern Open Air Museum this week. The children were transported back in time to experience what it was like to live in a Mesolithic Stone Age camp, learning to make fire (safely!), re-enacting hunting and gathering, and building shelters to name just a few activities. They also became archaeologists in another workshop, learning how to look for clues about the past. The staff at the museum were impressed by their knowledge and enthusiasm. It was a great day!
Our Year 3 pupils had a day out in St. Alban's Cathedral on Monday, where they had the chance to enhance their classroom learning by utilising their knowledge and skills in an abstract environment. The children had the opportunity to make their own mosaics, dress up as the Romans did and take part in role play. The children learnt about St. Alban and the important role he played during the Roman era. Year 3 were even lucky enough to meet with a real archaeologist and listen to some of the things he had found just outside St. Alban's Cathedral.
The Year 5 children enjoyed their visit to Hampton Court Palace on Thursday. They were blessed with super, sunny weather and they thoroughly enjoyed exploring the Tudor kitchens and re-enacting Henry VIII’s life story.
You can see some photos of the trips on the Galleries page.
Assemblies This Week
This week saw three outstanding performances from Nursery, Reception and Year 1 as we celebrated Harvest at the Lower School. The children's learning from the classroom was evident in all the assemblies, which conveyed heartfelt messages and sincere gratitude for the food we have. The children highlighted how we need to care for our world and think of others not as fortunate as us. There were wonderful singing and recitals throughout all assemblies - congratulations to all of the children and many thanks to parents for their support and generous donations, which the Salvation Army will thoroughly appreciate.
2B then performed their class assembly today, in which they reminded us all of the meaning of Diwali and the celebrations that occur during this lovely festival. The children were dressed in bright, beautiful colours and, without exception, they showed marvellous stage presence and confidence to deliver their lines clearly, with passion and with humour in places. Well done, Mrs. Belvoir, Mrs. Schlachter and the children of 2B.
Eurotalk Junior Language Challenge
Congratulations to Anisa W, who today attended the national finals of the Eurotalk Language Competition, having qualified earlier this term. Anisa has been learning Zulu and did extremely well in the finals today, reaching the last round where she finished with a score just a few points below the eventual winner of the whole competition! Anisa has done incredibly well to reach the very last stage of this prestigious national competition, which sees a vast number of children from all over the UK learn three different languages and compete at each stage. Well done, Anisa!
Borough Cross Country Results
Our girls' cross country team and Y6 pupil Timi O attended the Borough cross country competition this week, following their qualification in last week's District event. Running alongside over 200 pupils from schools across the Borough, our pupils performed very well. The girls' team finished in 7th place out of 12 schools, with Zoe K finishing in 4th and Abigail Y in 9th place. Timi O finished in 16th place in the boys' event. Well done to all our runners. â
The children from Middle and Upper School have had a bountiful harvest from the vegetable plot in the Zen Garden. Guided by Ms Gilham and our school groundsman, Mr. Rizzo, the children grew potatoes, carrots, borlotti beans and a number of herbs and ornamental plants. The children love growing and propagating plants, as well as eating what they grow. They will all be taking home some carrots and potatoes, and they will share the borlotti beans with the whole school as we are sure that our school chef will make a delicious bean salad.
Year 4 Dental Talk
On Thursday morning, we had the privilege to have Dr Bhanji visit the school to deliver a talk to our Year 4 children. The talk was about the evolution of teeth and Dr. Bhanji explained the significance of the changes in the skull, teeth and jaw and how we humans have evolved. There were also many fascinating animal facts, such as the snail having the most teeth in the animal kingdom, 14000 - 25000 teeth!
Being a dentist, Dr. Bhanji's most important take home message was for us all to brush our teeth twice a day and to remember that we are only allowed 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. A can of coke has 8 and a Muller Corner yoghurt has 6!
We are truly grateful to Dr. Bhanji for such a great opportunity, and would be delighted to hear from other parents who feel they have expertise they could share with the children to enrich their learning.
NSPCC Online Safety
Following their excellent, informative presentation to parents earlier this term, the NSPCC have now kindly provided copies of their booklet 'Your Child's Online World', which we have sent home to parents in book bags. Do take a look - the booklet provides useful tips about how to keep your child safe online and how to talk with them about their online activity. It is, of course, crucial that home and school work together to educate our children about how to stay safe and happy online.
Huge congratulations to Mr. Tovell, who has just received the news that he has passed his Master's Degree in Teaching and Learning.
We are delighted to be welcoming some new staff members to the St. Helen's College team after half term.
Mrs. Sharon Cargill will be joining us as our new School Business Manager. Mrs. Cargill has a long association with the school as a parent, shares the school's values and has a remarkable wealth of relevant experience and expertise.
Mrs. Catherine Copland will join the Lower School team as a Lunchtime Assistant, as we bid farewell to Mrs. Kaye. Mrs. Kaye has been with the school for many years and we wish her well for the future. Mrs. Asia Canas will also be joining the Lower School team as a Lunchtime Assistant, to provide maternity cover while Miss Shepherd is away.
Please do join us in congratulating Mr. Tovell and in welcoming our new staff!
New School Website
Following the publication of our new prospectus in September, the school website has been re-designed and re-developed and the new website will be launching over half term. Subscriptions to the School News Blog and Head's Blog will automatically be carried across to the new website, so parents do not need to do anything in order to continue to receive these. Parents should note that class blogs, including the Ducklings Kindergarten blog, are being discontinued. But please do not worry! Weekly guides and information will continue to be sent to all classes from Ducklings to Year 2 as they are now; they will come to you directly by email rather than via a blog subscription. Curriculum Notes for Years 3-6 will also continue to be sent out half-termly, by email rather than via blog subscription.
The new website has a 'Galleries' page which will carry photographs of school events, trips etc. and to which we will provide links from the news page. For residential trips, we will still post lots and lots of photographs for parents; these will be published to password-protected pages which we will direct you to at the time of the trip.
We hope that you will agree that the new website is fresher in design and that you will find it very user-friendly.
Posted on: 13/10/2017
Head's Blog - Self-Discipline: What Is It All About?I have used this phrase several times this half term with the students as we reflect on some of the standard etiquettes and behaviour expectations that we have at school. These include many simple things: lining up without talking, walking between classes calmly and with a sense of purpose, coming down the stairs in Upper School sensibly and quietly, entering the assembly hall without chatting and with a sense of occasion, crossing the road between Lower and Upper School with a sense of awareness, controlling the impulse to shout out in class, avoiding interrupting others’ conversations and taking turns in the playground when playing games. These are basic expectations, which I am sure you also hope that your children can fulfil consistently, but it is these simple requirements which, on occasion, can pose some children the greatest challenge.
So perhaps we should all ask ourselves: what is self-discipline? How can we help our pupils and how can parents help their children to develop self-discipline? To me, self-discipline is not a character trait, but more of a learned practice. I believe it is crucial that we all help young children to keep learning and that we give them ample opportunity to develop their self-discipline. We should model self-discipline, provide scaffolding and support and give children ample opportunities for practice, just as we do in any other area of learning.
Many recent studies by psychologists have shown that there is a correlation between self-discipline and academic success. In a study carried out by Duckwork and Seligman it was found that self-discipline was more important than IQ in predicting every outcome.
As parents and teachers, there are a few basics that can help us to help the children:
provide structure (have good routines)
be clear about what it is you want the children to achieve
if they are not displaying the behaviours you desire, describe the changes which may be required
implement appropriate consequences
praise good behaviour
be a good role model and model your own self-discipline!
We understand that it may take some children longer than others to learn how to be more self-disciplined and at St. Helen’s College we pride ourselves on focussing on the soft skills such as resilience, perseverance and self-discipline. Our pupils, in general, show wonderful self-awareness and a willingness to develop themselves personally for the benefit of themselves and their whole community. For any of our pupils to be successful in this, of course, it is crucial that home and school are working together to the same end. I also ask those pupils who do display super self-discipline to help those who are finding it more difficult to support the process for their peers to develop their behaviour.
Over the half term break I encourage you to observe your child. Are they demonstrating that they are developing their ‘self-discipline? Do they understand what it means? Are they becoming self-aware? Please do take time to talk about ‘self-discipline’ with your children. It is very different from having ‘discipline’ at home or at school – we want our children to develop appropriate behaviour because they understand why, because it makes sense to them and because they can see the advantages of having good self-discipline.
I wish you all a lovely half term and I will endeavour to practise my self-discipline as I will be reminding all the staff to be self-disciplined too; to make sure that we all do switch off from work, rest, have family time to enable us to recharge for the next very busy half term, leading up to one of my favourite times of the year!
Posted on: 6/10/2017
News - Friday 6th October 2017It has been another very busy week at St. Helen's College, with Prizegiving, Harvest Festival celebrations, special assemblies and school trips.
It was a pleasure to welcome back our Year 6 leavers for our annual Prizegiving Ceremony at the Winston Churchill Hall in Ruislip last night, and to celebrate their many and varied achievements during their time at St. Helen's College. We would like to extend our thanks to our Guest of Honour, Kevin Carson, who gave a most inspirational speech (see this week's Head's Blog), and to the Chamber Choir, who performed so beautifully. Huge congratulations to all of our prize winners, not only the Year 6 leavers but also the form prize winners from Years 3 to 5.
Harvest Festival Celebrations
Thank you to our Year 5 pupils, who presented two entertaining and thought-provoking performances at the Upper School Harvest Festival celebrations at All Saints Church this week. The celebrations were attended by all pupils and staff in Upper School and many parents. We were all reminded of the importance of working together and sharing our bounty with those less fortunate. We were grateful for so many generous donations of food, which are being sent to Slough Homeless Our Concern and The Salvation Army.
Our Lower School Harvest Festival Celebrations take place next week. The Nursery will have their Harvest Assembly on Monday 9th October at 8.45 a.m. Coffee will be served in the Methodist Church Hall from 8.15 a.m. on this day.
Reception and Year 1 will perform their Harvest Assemblies on Tuesday 10th October at 8.45 a.m. (Reception), and 9.15 a.m. (Y1). The Infant Choir will perform on this occasion between the Reception and Year 1 assemblies, at approximately 9.10 a.m. Coffee will be served in the Methodist Church Hall from 8.30 on this day.
All Lower School children are asked to bring a donation of food on the day of their Harvest celebration. The most suitable food items are non-perishable items such as canned and packet goods with a long shelf life. Please do not send in fresh fruits or vegetables.
We were delighted to be visited again this week by Kartig from the organisation SEWA. In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, Sewa means Service – and a unique concept of service: Selfless Efforts for the Welfare of All. SEWA UK is a Hindu faith-based humanitarian non-profit service organisation. Kartik reminded us of the importance of everyone taking some time to be selfless in this busy world. SEWA is a universal concept, which involves performing an act of kindness without expectation of reward. It is performed selflessly and without ulterior motive. As a concept, SEWA in embedded in Indian traditions, and is actively promoted by different cultures and faiths – as the core belief is the same – to sacrifice your time and resources for the benefit of others without expectation of anything in return.
Many, many congratulations to Mr. McLaughlin and Miss Vig, who recently became engaged to be married! Mr. McLaughlin and Miss Vig plan to hold their wedding during 2018.
PA Bollywood Night - Tomorrow!
The PA Bollywood Night will take place from 7 p.m. at Baylis House tomorrow night (Saturday 7th October) and there are still a few tickets left. If you are interested in coming along, you can turn up at the venue and pay on the door. Tickets cost £26 for an adult, £12 for a child and children aged 2 and under go free. Food will be served at 7.30 p.m. (with adult starters and the children’s food coming out first) so make sure you arrive in good time. This promises to be a fantastic night of fun and we look forward to seeing you there!
Our Y4-6 cross country team took part in the School Games District cross country competition this week, held on the Vyners School playing fields. The boys raced first over the 2km course, with over 100 boys from across the Uxbridge district taking part. Timi O finished first in 10th place followed by Daniel C in 17th place and Ethan V-B in 41st place. Our Y4 and Y5 boys Adi S, Rishi S-P, Patrick E, Eli V-B and Michael K gave a very good account of themselves in their first cross country event, coming in 51st, 56th, 66th, 65th and 76th places. Overall the boys came 7th in the team competition.
The girls' race followed and our girls showed great strength in running over the 2km distance. Zoe K finished 2nd and gained a silver medal and Abigail Y finish in 4th place, narrowly missing out on a bronze medal. Chloe W, Maddy H and Grace R finished a very credible 40th, 41st and 42nd place respectively. In the team competition the girls finished in 4th place.
Well done to everyone who took part and trained hard in Court Park over the first few weeks of term. We are delighted to report that the girls team and Timi have qualified for the Borough cross country finals which will take place on Monday. Good luck to our runners!
Posted on: 6/10/2017
Head's Blog - Follow Your DreamsFor those who were not able to attend last night's Prizegiving ceremony, I would like to share the inspirational speech from our Guest of Honour, Mr Kevin Carson, Head of The Royal Masonic School for Girls. His own journey of following his dreams led him to become the successful, well rounded person he is now. Enjoy!
"It is a genuine pleasure to be invited to St. Helen's College this evening to join you for your Prizegiving, and to join in the celebration of the achievements and progress of so many fabulous students.
St. Helen's College is a school that shares so much with my own school, RMS for Girls. Some of our similarities occur through the distinctive curriculum that we each offer, such as a focus on .b and mindfulness, or our commitment to learning beyond the classroom, both of which we too view as important aspects of educating the whole child. Other links are in respect of staff, because Mrs. Drummond, as I am sure many of you here tonight are aware, was a key teacher for many years in the Prep School at RMS before she joined St. Helen's College. Most importantly, our schools are similar in respect of a strong ethos that we live by, and also through a commitment to a holistic education for our pupils, which is very much central to my own sense of what is important in the development of each individual child. And at RMS we too believe in responding to the talents and the contexts of each pupil before us, of allowing the children to develop and to pursue each of their talents and dreams. And it is that theme of encouraging the pupils here tonight to pursue and to follow what is distinctive, special and important to each of you that I will return to throughout my speech.
The boys and girls who will come on stage this evening to receive prizes have of course all now moved on to secondary school, have made that move from the family atmosphere of their prep school here at St.Helen's College to big school, to senior school. I know both from my own experiences when I was your age and through my years as a teacher that the move to senior school is not always straightforward to make at first, but to all of the Year 7 pupils here tonight I ask you to trust us that it gets easier with every week in your new school. If you have not done so already, you will very soon settle in and feel secure and happy in your new school.
And yet even when you have fully settled in and feel truly at home, in the larger environment of a senior school it is not always easy for you to be yourself, and to remain true to yourself, as I remember from my own school days as I tried to pursue my own dreams in secondary school.
I have, as you may have noticed, a slight accent. I grew up in a city called Liverpool. It is a city that to this day many people associate with two things other than having a funny accent: those two things most commonly are the pop music of The Beatles and football. More specifically, at least in my family, Liverpool Football Club. I was taken to my first football match on my 3rd birthday, to Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC. I was only a toddler, dressed in full kit yet barely aware of what football was, and so young that despite the noise and shouts of 40,000 fanatical supporters I fell asleep during that first match watching Liverpool. But from that game onwards I was taken regularly to watch Liverpool by my father, grandfather, uncles and aunties. And soon enough I also played football regularly as a boy, every day in fact, with my two brothers and our friends, with anybody at all who wished to join in and play. So by the time that I was your age, I knew in my heart that all I wanted to do, the one dream that I knew I had to try to follow, was to be a professional footballer and to play for Liverpool Football Club.
And because I played so much, because I practised all of the time, and was lucky to have some great coaches and the support of my family, I got better at playing football. In everything in life we improve through practice, through learning from our mistakes. So by the time I was your age I had got good enough at football to play in a boys’ team that played at Wembley, a team that had won national football tournaments, and even better than all of that, a team that had played at Anfield, Liverpool’s stadium. Working together we became good enough as a team to get the chance to meet the England manager at the time, Bobby Robson, and one day a scout came to watch us from a professional football team, a team called Bolton Wanderers, and asked some of us if we would like to have a trial at their professional football club. I was one of those boys asked to go along, and they liked me enough at Bolton to invite me to train with them every week. So from the age of 11 I travelled every Wednesday night with my father to Bolton and trained with their coaches. I practised really hard, got better at passing and tackling, heading and shooting. All I wished was to be offered what was called a schoolboy contract, because I was still convinced that if I could be offered a schoolboy football contract at Bolton then one day I might become a professional footballer for Liverpool. That was my first dream, hope, passion.
But even though I practised every day, and played in three or four matches every weekend, I was not offered a schoolboy contract by Bolton. Some of my team mates were offered a contract, and one even became a professional footballer, but Bolton decided after two years with them that I would no longer be invited to train there each week. So, at age 13, I began to realise that my dream of becoming a professional footballer for Liverpool was becoming less likely because no matter how hard I tried there were some extremely talented players who were simply better at football than I was. I can still remember quite strongly how very disappointed I was at the time. Team mates and friends of mine were still at Bolton, some had even moved on from Bolton to train with Liverpool, and it felt at the time like the end of the world that I was not going to be able to pursue my first childhood dream.
But now, looking back on my years playing football as a boy, I do not view them with the sharp sadness that I felt then. In fact, I am very happy that I pursued that dream. I have realised since then that the skills I learnt following my passion have served me really well in my life. Not the passing and tackling, or the heading and shooting - there is not so much use for those skills as a Headteacher. But the other skills that I learnt such as teamwork and of communicating really well with the other members of your team, or of working hard and of all working together with one shared aim. Developing each of those key skills, which I developed first and foremost from my years playing sport, make me thankful and appreciative that my family supported me in pursuing what was special and most important to me when I was 11 years old. It matters not that my dream did not come true.
In truth I soon enough got over my disappointment aged 13. One of the reasons I got over it and moved on was because by the age of 13 I had developed a new interest, a new passion: acting and performing. I had performed parts in school plays in my primary school, small parts when I was younger, larger parts by Year 6, and I had loved being involved in school productions, being part of a team again, all working together with one aim of putting on a great show. And then in Senior School, in Year 7, I was taught by the most wonderful Drama teacher, Mr. Robinson, who asked me to play a lead role in a play that he was entering for a Play Festival at a theatre in Liverpool. We rehearsed for weeks and performed our play at the festival, but we didn’t win first prize – you can’t always win in life. However afterwards an agent for actors approached me and my family and asked if he could send me along to an audition for a television commercial for Heinz Tomato Ketchup.
So I travelled down to London with my mother, auditioning against talented children who attended drama school and who had already acted on stage and screen. And on this occasion I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the part. Heinz decided that they wanted a squeaky voiced boy with a Liverpudlian accent to sell Heinz sauce in a new squeezy bottle. I had to say lines such as “This new Heinz squeezy ketchup is really neat because now I can put it right where I want”. So that was fun, an enjoyable and different experience. And in acting, as a child, once you have shown that you can perform one part reliably and behave yourself on set, it becomes easier to be cast in other roles. So, soon after the sauce advertisement, I was involved in a BBC drama, working with some fabulous actors. And then, at age 13, not too long after my disappointment as a budding footballer, I was cast in a role as a family member on a soap opera on television at the time that was called Brookside. Your parents will remember it even though you will not know it as Brookside is no longer shown on television today.
I played the part of a character called Geoff Rogers, who was also known by the unflattering nickname of Growler, for over four years. Working on a weekly television show was a wonderful experience for me as a child. I didn’t always have to go to school, which at the time felt very nice and special. Once again I was working with wonderful actors, and also getting to know wonderful directors and writers such as Jimmy McGovern and Frank Cottrell Boyce, who you might have read as the author of novels such as Millions or The Astounding Broccoli Boy. Through acting on Brookside, I enjoyed lots of other opportunities such as travelling around the country, meeting Ronald Dahl because my character suffered dyslexia, and appearing on other television and radio shows such as Children in Need and BBC Radio 1. All lots of fun, but importantly following this new passion of mine allowed me to develop more skills that have served me well to this day: the importance of rehearsal and preparation, improving my presentation and communication skills, and once again, learning to work well as part of a team alongside lots of very different types of people.
In many ways, it is true to say that working as an actor on Brookside changed my life. But not in ways that you might expect. I certainly didn’t enjoy being recognised wherever I went around Liverpool, and I realised over time that unlike all the other actors on the show I didn’t burn with a passion inside me to wish to be an actor and to do whatever was required to be an actor for the rest of my life. I enjoyed every day there, but over time I learnt through pursuing this passion that it wasn’t a new childhood dream. Instead of any of this, working on Brookside changed my life because it opened my eyes to a world beyond that which I had known growing up in Liverpool. I realised just how many exciting and interesting jobs there were out there, creative and inspirational jobs that I might want to do, now that I had learned I did not wish to be an actor. So, once again, I do not regret being allowed to pursue my interest in acting from the age of 11 to 17; in fact I am really appreciative of everything I learnt from those years and that I make use of in my life each day.
One other benefit that came from being on Brookside that I was paid, which was certainly a novelty as a small teenage boy. My parents allowed me to spend a small allowance each month and the best thing about having a little financial independence was that it allowed me to pursue other interests, new passions that were developing throughout my time in secondary school. My love of music developed and I learnt to play the guitar, playing in bands with friends at school and university, which I enjoyed very much. As I got older, I was able to travel more, learn more about the world beyond Liverpool and England, which I still to this day value greatly. And I was allowed throughout my time at Senior School to develop my love of reading, of reading and studying English Literature. This only happened seriously from the age of 14 onwards, due to another inspirational teacher, Mrs. Woodhouse, but soon I was buying as many books as I could read each week, devouring the ideas and stories of the best writers throughout history.
By the age of 16 I knew without any doubt that studying literature was very much the thing I wished to do; I wasn’t at all sure where it would lead yet, but I knew it was the passion burning inside me that I had to pursue. And so I asked to leave Brookside because I wanted to study A Levels and go to university. And I should thank my parents at this point – it is always good and right to thank your parents - because my parents were hugely supportive of a decision that to others did not make the best sense or at least not the best financial sense. Their response to such questions was that you should always celebrate and love the child before you, which is no bad message for parents and teachers alike.
And as with my earlier dreams, my passion for reading and thinking about literature was both fun in itself and also developed skills that I try to apply each day of my life. With reading literature these lessons were mostly about trying to gain a better understanding people who had led very different lives to my own, and also about trying to be a good, kind and caring human being.
So I did go on to study English Literature at university, and I was fortunate enough to study at Cambridge University, where in time I finally realised that the one constant throughout my whole life, the one thing that I had benefitted most from when pursuing each of my different passions, was great teachers. Truly great teachers. And so I set out on a path to try to be one of them too. This particular passion is one I have not stopped pursuing yet. And, over many years it is this passion which has brought me here to you all this evening, celebrating a school full of great students with a wonderful attitude to learning, and also their fabulous, dedicated teachers.
So I said at the start of this speech that my main theme would be encouraging the pupils here tonight to pursue and to follow what is distinctive, special and important to each of you. That is not a bad message, but it is a common message, one I am sure you have heard before. And so, as with many great books, there is a slight twist at the end of my talk this evening. That is because I believe that passion can be a double-edged sword in learning. When we’re told to develop our passion and to follow our dream, often that means to develop what we’re already good at. And the truth is that some things take longer to get really good at than others.
So the most important message that I would wish to make to you as you each go through the next stage of your education is: don’t just follow your passions, but also broaden your passions. Broaden your passions because then you can be certain that you will be doing a lot of really great learning - and lots of really great learning means you will go on to lead really great lives."