School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 12/07/2019
Head's Blog - End of Year WishesIt is always a very poignant day when we end the academic year. It is a time to celebrate all the wonderful achievements of the children and to give thanks to all the parents and staff who support the children each and every day.
I wish you all a happy, healthy and relaxing summer and leave you with these words:
An Ode to Our Leavers – Shall I Compare Thee?
Shall I compare thee, Year 6, to the mighty oak tree?
You have grown through resilience, respect, determination.
You have absorbed - not water - but knowledge and values;
Rooted in love and harmony, the deepest foundation.
Your growth has been unique in so very many ways,
You branch out with qualities so rich to admire,
St. Helen’s College has hosted your formative days,
Too soon cometh, alas, the hour you must retire.
Please continue to grow tall and stretch your branches to the sky –
Spreading values and virtues outwards, reaching far, reaching high.
Posted on: 5/07/2019
Head's Blog - Celebrating SuccessCelebrating success is something which I do think we can be quite modest about here at St. Helen’s College. I often pick up educational publications and read about what is happening in other Prep Schools and think to myself - well we have been doing that for years...it’s just part of what we are known for! Perhaps the reason that we are not ‘blowing our trumpets’ in publications is that our teachers are just so busy with the most important thing of all and that is working with your children to support them in their learning.
I would like to offer you this list below to take your pick from - what interests you?
History of Cricket
Showcasing My Art
Fermat's Last Theorem
Website, quiz, timeline and video
Website,model, quiz and playscript
5 mass extinctions
Website, papier mache
Website,quiz and photo album
Architecture around the World
Website, photos, Lego
The Cold War
Model, quiz and website
The History and Techniques of Basketball
Website and video
The History Of Walt Disney
Short edit and Powerpoint
Women in Science
Models, information and books
Art Tutorials (human faces and features)
Powerpoint, quiz, books
Powerpoint and model
The History/Present day of the BAPS London Mandir
Book, video a quiz
Dreams and Phobias
The Evolution of technology
Website, model and video (stop motion), also pictures
A lot of writing and a few videos
The History of Video Games
the history of popular video games through the past and present
History of Code
History of code, code now and I will make a game using Fuze
Website with Lego movie, quiz and model
On-screen recording software and website
The History of Consoles
Website, video, quiz
History of Fifa
Website and art
The Universe and Discoveries Inside It
Website with video
The Life of Alexander Hamilton
Website and model
Papier mache model
Website containing video
Website and model
The History of Disney
The History of Mcdonalds
History of clothing
The History of Animation
Website, video (an animation)
PCs and how they are made
The History of Marvel
The Gulf War:1990-1991
Website, poster with pictures and quiz
Website, model of human in running clothes
You may well be wondering why I have shared this list with you! Well now I AM blowing our trumpet...this is the vast array of projects which our current Year 6 pupils have been working on this half term and how they will present them. They are topics chosen entirely by the pupils themselves because they have a passion for or interest in the subject. They will be presenting their projects to their parents and the pupils and staff next week as the culmination of their learning at St. Helen’s College, after they have delivered their Year 6 production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the Compass Theatre.
I cannot express how proud I am as the Head Teacher to be able to learn from our pupils about subjects I may not be familiar with. I am so enthused by the dedication and commitment of our pupils as they utilise all the skills which they have learnt over the years to present to an audience on a subject they have a genuine interest in.
As we enter our last week of this academic year I truly am in awe of all of your children - their achievements and success in so many areas of learning are outstanding. Parents from Year 1 to 6 will receive your children’s reports next week; our EYFS parents have already received theirs. Enjoy reading them - use them to celebrate your children’s successes but also to empower them to keep striving to be their very best - to keep developing their ‘Habits of Learning’. These ‘habits’ when truly established and secure will give them such a great platform to achieve their dreams!
Posted on: 21/06/2019
Head's Blog - The Pupil Voice: RoadwatchFollowing the recent success of our Junior Roadwatch scheme, I am delighted to share a guest blog from one of our Year 5 Junior Road Safety Officers, Catherine.
In this article I would like to share the new idea of Junior Roadwatch that St. Helen’s College is taking part in.
In April, the Junior Road Safety Officers (JRSOs) went to Guildhall to present to the London Road Safety Council about St. Helen’s College’s phenomenal Road Safety Journey. At the meeting, an ambassador from Transport For London (TFL) introduced a new incentive which was Junior Roadwatch. The JRSOs were enthusiastic about the idea and keen on getting involved. Shortly after this, Miss Walker contacted the TFL ambassador to ask if he would be interested in letting us try this four week scheme out. I would like to tell you all about it now.
What is Junior Roadwatch?
Junior Roadwatch is aimed at children (around my age) to encourage them to venture more into the road safety aspect of speeding. The scheme wants to promote the importance of being aware of speeding and how to prevent it. The JRSOs will work in partnership with the Metropolitan Police and the Hillingdon STARS Team. A police officer will be holding a speed gun to check that drivers are not going over the limit. If a driver does get pulled over for speeding at a speed of 35-40 mph they will have the opportunity to speak to us or receive three points off their driving licence and a £100 fine. Drivers going wildly over the limit will not have the choice to talk to us and will receive serious consequences. If the driver chose to talk to us we would ask them questions to help them understand that speeding can be dangerous and make them aware of the risk of crashes/accidents that could happen to them or our community. Alongside the speed activity there would be Sound Pollution tests and Traffic Surveys to give us an insight into how we can make our community a greener place.
What happened on the day?
The scheme is carried over a four week period, which started from the 4th June. On the first week we met with the staff from the Hillingdon STARS team. Mr. Rogers from the STARS team explained the difference between a limit and a target as this normally confused drivers. A target is a goal you strive for and occasionally go over the top of but a limit is a barrier you should not be going over. We want to make sure that people should know that speed signs are a limit not a target. Then, all six JRSOs brainstormed questions for the drivers who go over the limit.
Here are some of them:
Why do you think there are zebra crossings on this road?
Can you tell me what speed you were driving at?
Can you tell me why you were speeding?
Do you know how many schools there are on this road?
Can you name some of the schools?
What does this sign mean?
On Tuesday, it was the actual Junior Roadwatch! Coming along with us were Mr. Rogers and Cat from the STARS team, Miss Walker, two Met Police officers, Mrs. Drummond and Mrs. Stark. First up on the speed limit activity were Esha and I. One of the police officers pointed his speed gun at the road and believe me, it actually looked petrifying! As the police officer pointed the speed gun he detected a car going over the limit. The police directed him to the kerb where the man decided to talk to us. We asked questions so we could gather a picture of why he was speeding. In the end it was because he was running late for a dentist appointment. We found that talking to the driver helped us to understand the story from another point of view.
As our time came to an end towards the end of Junior Roadwatch we were happy we made an impact as we were the first school in Hillingdon to try this new scheme out! It turned out to be a great success and in two weeks we will explain our findings in assembly and we have invited the local councillors along to hear about our work with the STARS team. I hope that our contribution will help to get other schools involved too and that we will be rewarded with a STARS Gold Award!
By Catherine L
Posted on: 14/06/2019
Head's Blog - Are Outdoor Lessons Just A Distraction?
A recent article in the Times Educational Supplement, which I highly recommend that parents read, reaffirms the belief which we have here at St. Helen’s College about the benefits of learning in the great outdoors.
A couple of years ago, Miss Walker as part of her professional studies further engaged our staff with ‘outdoor learning’ across the curriculum and it has been so wonderful to hear the feedback both from children and staff of the benefits of taking their subjects outside.
On a daily basis we have pupils across the school using our outdoor spaces for learning and I am always delighted when the pupils are able to articulate what they have learnt with not a textbook or school desk in site!
Traditionally many schools felt that the best learning was conducted in a classroom environment with a very structured curriculum directed by the teacher. Thankfully, due to all the valuable evidence research which has been carried out, educationalists are now so aware of the benefits, not only academic but social and emotional, which outdoor lessons provide.
Our EYFS pupils in Ducklings through to Reception spend a great deal of time in the outdoors and the best practice can often be found amongst Early Years practitioners. Last week I spent 3 days as a member of the Independent Schools Inspectorate inspecting the educational quality of a school. The inspection team had to gather evidence on the pupil outcomes in relation to academic achievement and progress as well as their personal development. Much of the evidence was sourced by the team in the great outdoors!
Below I have extracted an example from the independent schools regulatory standards of some of the areas which schools must be seen to be fulfilling. As you read the list below I hope that you will be able to visualise your son or daughter (from Ducklings to Year 6) actively learning in the outdoors - as this is where much of this wonderful rich learning is taking place!
Pupils’ academic and other achievements
Knowledge, skills and understanding (KSU); the development of their knowledge, understanding and skills across the areas of learning (linguistic, mathematical, scientific, technological, human and social, physical and aesthetic and creative education.
Communication; the development of their competence in communication (speaking, listening, reading and writing) and its application to other areas of learning.
Numeracy; the development of their competence in numeracy and the application of their knowledge and skills in mathematics to other areas of learning.
Study skills; the development of their study skills, including the ability to draw upon a suitably wide range of sources and to develop higher-order skills, including the ability to analyse, hypothesise and synthesise.
Attitudes; their attitudes towards learning, including their ability to demonstrate initiative and independence, their willingness to work collaboratively and the extent to which they take leadership in their learning.
Pupils’ personal development
Self-understanding; develop their self-knowledge, self-esteem, self-confidence, self-discipline and resilience, including an understanding of how to improve their own learning and performance, so that they are well prepared for the next stage of their lives.
Decision-making; understand that the decisions they make are important determinants of their own success and well-being.
Spiritual understanding; develop spiritual understanding and an appreciation of non-material aspects of life, whether religious, philosophical or other.
Moral understanding and responsibility for own behaviour; distinguish right from wrong, understand and respect systems of rules and laws, and accept responsibility for their own behaviour, including towards others.
Social development and collaboration; are socially aware and so are able to work effectively with others, including to solve problems and achieve common goals.
Staying safe and keeping healthy; know how to stay safe and understand how to be physically and mentally healthy, particularly in terms of diet, exercise and a balanced lifestyle.
Our day trips and residential trips, which are such an important part of our educational provision, allow your children to achieve so much academically and personally and it has been wonderful to receive such positive feedback form the parent body recently as our Year 3 to Year 6 pupils have all returned from this year’s trips. The recognition of the pupils' personal development is quite remarkable with comments such as:
‘he really seems to have grown up in such a short time!’
‘She is so much more independent and took risks we never imagined she would take’
‘I cannot believe my daughter was rolling about in mud and loved it so much!’
‘He genuinely seems more organised and considerate since he came back’
‘ He hasn’t stopped talking about the trip - every day we seem to hear something else!’
As a school when we receive such positive feedback from parents after the residential trips it is so rewarding and makes our jobs even more enjoyable, knowing the difference that we make to a child’s development.
Education should be rich in experiences and prepare young people for the future. All the experiences that your children are having in the outdoors are contributed to by the lessons the teachers are planning, the trips and activities they have the opportunity to take part in and of course the superb outdoor space we have at school.
Experiences bring us happiness not just when we’re having the experience, but also when we simply think about them. I am sure that you have seen your child’s face light up when they talk about some of the things they have done outside of the normal classroom environment.
Many of you are possibly starting to plan some of the things that you may be able to do with your children over the summer holidays. So please do continue the ‘outdoor’ learning for the children, giving them the opportunity to explore the great outdoors - it is called the ‘great’ outdoors for a reason!
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.”â—âMark Twain
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
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
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!
Posted on: 26/04/2019
Head's Blog - SHC
As we enter our final term of this academic year I would like to share with our community the key messages and the focus of our staff training on Tuesday and Wednesday.
It seems most apt that we have just celebrated a very special Christian festival, the sadness of Jesus being crucified on the cross but the joy of his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Like many religious leaders, Jesus was one of the greatest teachers and the character traits and values which he embodied are replicated across many faiths.
It is important that we remind ourselves of our school motto:
Excellentiam e concordia
Our Latin motto means excellence through working together in harmony/unity of purpose. When it was recreated by our students, using the acronym SHC for St. Helen’s College, the pupils’ interpretation was:
Strive for excellence
Help others achieve
Care for each other
In my welcome back to all of our staff in their different roles, I reminded everyone of what our motto means to us all: colleagues to colleagues, staff to pupils and staff to parents. So, as parents, what does our school motto mean to you all: parents to parents, parents to children, parents to staff?
If we can all strive for excellence each and every day, help others achieve and care for each other, what great models we will all be for the children in our care. The first assemblies of the term for the children also focussed on our motto and we outlined the school values which will be a focus this term:
Staff training is always focussed on how to get the best out of your children, keeping your children safe, ensuring that all staff are up to speed on all aspects of Health and Safety and termly safeguarding updates.
Mrs. Cargill led us all in a most informative but entertaining session, which put Sue Barker to shame, as the two team captains Mrs. Haar and Mr. McLaughlin led the staff in ‘A Question of Health and Safety’. The key areas covered in the numerous rounds of questioning and scenarios were Fire Safety, Electrical Safety and Asbestos Awareness. Who knew that Health and Safety, a very serious but vital part of any organisation’s legislative duty, could be so interesting and fun (although I have heard the Mr. Crehan’s ladder training was also up there in the entertainment stakes)! Our school fire wardens were also put through their paces in a six hour intensive training session - but we are hoping that they will never have to utilise these skills either in the workplace or at home. Ms Gilham made a very pertinent point that it is not until you go through such training that you reflect on the practices and procedures we have in place on our own homes. Do you know your fire escape routes to exit your homes and do you have a plan? Do you keep a set of keys in a convenient place if you need to evacuate your house?
Mrs. Hunt led the staff through another session on Safeguarding - the welfare of every child is paramount and, through working closely with Children’s Services, we ensure that we are supporting you in your roles as parents to allow your children to flourish in every aspect.
This term we have a very exciting programme of residential visits and Miss Walker’s update in her role as Educational Visits Coordinator was very well received. You can be assured that, whether your children are embarking upon a residential trip or a day trip, the staff are all highly skilled and incredibly competent in their roles looking after the needs of your children and keeping them safe throughout the trips.
Our school behaviour management and supervision systems were also revisited and we discussed the importance of consistency of approach from all and the high expectations we have from all children. I would ask of you all as parents to remind your children, as I will be doing in assemblies, that regardless of what adult is supervising in school whether this is in the playground, classroom, refectory, etc. that their responses and the level of respect to all adults is appropriate. To settle the children around the school we use a ‘hands up’ approach instead of using voices and this works well. However, children being children, they often need frequent reminders of the expectations and to understand the meaning of being calm and quiet to enable them to continue with their school day.
We are all very much looking forward to this busy and exciting term ahead and we will all work together, home and school, to give the children a memorable summer term.