School News and Head's Blog

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Posted on: 15/11/2019

Growing Initiative - Head's Blog

This week I have to admit that I jumped for joy, literally, when I heard the news that we have been shortlisted for the prestigious TES Independent School Awards in two categories: Student Initiative and Sport. We are incredibly modest about our achievements at St. Helen’s College and every week I pick up an educational journal only to read about what ‘initiatives’ other schools are discussing when often we have been doing many of these things for several years - e.g. P4C, Flipped Learning or Mindfulness. But this week I want to focus on the impact of what we do here at school with our pupils which enables them to show ‘initiative’.   Initiative is a self-management skill, and self-management is one of five key life and work skills for young people entering the workforce. Your children are nowhere near the age of entering the workforce but they are certainly proving that they are going to be an incredible workforce for the future! ‘Initiative’ is defined as 'the ability to assess and initiate things independently'. There has been a plethora of activities recently in which we have seen our pupils stepping up to the mark, conceiving of and leading on some wonderful projects. The confidence, self belief and leadership qualities which the children possess are admirable and most definitely worthy celebrating. Our JRSO team and our Sports Leaders have been recognised by being shortlisted for the TES Awards, but it is true to say that pupils across the school are incredibly resourceful and enthusiastic in their self-led endeavours.  Examples of some of these activities are: A Year 6 pupil designing an 'inside out sound box'. This is a very intricate project, which is worth a future blog in itself. The design and planning process is now complete and the build is in hand,  so watch this space! Year 6 boys setting up a ‘Times Tables Rockstars’ club. Inspired to improve their mental maths skills, this group of boys are eager to encourage other pupils form Year 4-6 to challenge and improve their mental agility too. Year 5 girls running ‘Nature Club’, which has involved organising and sourcing resources and activities to bring joy to their peers through the exploration of nature. Year 6 pupils holding maths clinics in the library at lunch and break times for younger pupils to have some peer tutoring in maths topics Numerous charity fundraisers throughout the school; every class becomes involved in charity fundraising and all ideas are led by the pupils. Another definition of ‘initiative’ is the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do. Yet again we witness this on a daily basis at St. Helen’s College. Only yesterday at lunch, a Year 3 pupil told me that he would be applying for the position of Head Boy when he was in Year 6 as he has so many good ideas for me for the school and children! I shall not reveal his innovative ideas but I am sure this proactive young man will go places in the future. Even our youngest Ducklings were innovative in their thinking today as we discussed what to do with the toy cars in the garage which had missing wheels! So, how can you support your young children at home to develop skills such as innovative thinking, problem solving and  entrepreneurship? Below is a list of some tips recommended for toddlers and preschool children. If we can encourage our youngest pupils in this way, this will provide a great start to developing their confidence, self-belief and leadership qualities. Praise your child’s efforts, not the result. “I know you worked hard to put the napkins on the table. Thank you.” “It took a lot of time to put all your toys away.” When your child asks a question, if appropriate, respond with a question. “What do you think?”  When your child says, “I can’t do it,” instead of immediately helping, suggest other options depending upon the task. “Can you try doing it a different way?” “Tell me what you need to make it work.” Allow your child to make decisions so he/she becomes comfortable doing so. Even a toddler can choose which clothes to wear when given options or between a cheese or ham sandwich. (This helps decrease frustration, too.) Allow a little extra time so that your child can do things themselves, like putting on their shoes or coat, packing their bag or picking out a book to read in the car before you leave the house. Provide opportunities for your child to have creative play – playing outdoors, playing with groups of other children in structured time, drawing, painting, making things or baking. Avoid screen time! Time spent watching movies and playing video games decreases the need to be creative and take initiative. And for us adults in the workplace! We all need to inspire the younger generation so here are a few tips for our further future success:  Never stand still. Do more than is required of you.  Think as a team member, not an employee. Speak up and share your ideas.  Consider every opportunity.  Always be prepared.  Regardless of the outcome at the TES Awards Ceremony in February next year, it is a huge testament to our school that we have been shortlisted for our achievements in the two categories. We need to remember that it is our staff and parents coming together to support the children in a safe and nurturing environment which enables our pupils to develop these most crucial skills which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 8/11/2019

Artificial Intelligence In The Classroom - Head's Blog

I am writing my blog today (Sunday) in advance of returning to school after a wonderful half term break.  Hopefully everyone is feeling as energised and as rested as I feel as we enter another busy and fruitful half term. I am on a school inspection this week, thus not in school Tuesday - Thursday, so taking the opportunity now to write the Friday blog! I would be most interested to hear parental views on this week’s topic. I am sure that everyone is very aware of the momentum that AI is having in our society as systems become more automated in our daily lives. AI is something which we cannot ignore; we must embrace it and move with it as appropriate for our lifestyles. I am not convinced yet about the prospect of cashierless supermarkets (Tesco’s have already trialled this in one of their 'Express' stores), but I will watch with interest as Amazon Go plans and opens its first store in Oxford Circus.   So, how should we move with Artificial Intelligence in education? Could the teaching profession be threatened by AI - might we find robots in the classroom 30 years from now? Personally I do not think that this is a reality, but the benefit of using AI in education is that the technology can be used to personalise children’s learning as the work set is adapted according to data collected as the child moves through a task. This is known as adaptive learning.  The official definition of this is as follows: 'Adaptive learning is a technology-based or online educational system that analyses a student's performance in real time and modifies teaching methods based on that data. Think AI meets dedicated math tutor meets personalised engagement.' Adaptive learning, also known as adaptive teaching, is an educational method which uses computer algorithms to orchestrate interaction with the learner and deliver customised resources and learning activities to address the unique needs of each learner. There are many adaptive software learning apps available not only for children but also for adults. Mr. Crehan is already an avid user of a language app to assist him in his acquisition of Mandarin. This also inspired my use of Bussu to help me with my Spanish and there are numerous others on the market such as Duolingo or Babbel which are widely used by children and adults alike. The UK unfortunately does seem to be quite behind in embedding AI as an integral part of a pupil’s learning in school. The US, India and China are way ahead of where we are and it will be very interesting to monitor the growth of AI in these countries and its impact. Whilst attending the IAPS Heads' Conference in September, I heard from the founder of CenturyTech - Priya Lakhani OBE. Priya’s company has established a successful adaptive learning platform for pupils in Key Stage 2 upwards in English, Maths and Science. Her presentation was inspiring and many UK based schools are now looking at how we may embrace AI further to enhance teaching and learning.  At St. Helen’s College, our pupils use technology exceptionally well. They have excellent digital literacy and technology is used across the school in many curriculum areas. However, what more could we be doing? Mr. Lewis and I are meeting with a CenturyTech representative for a demonstration of their learning platform tomorrow (Monday) and I am looking forward to hearing from their representative as to how this product may enhance the experiences and opportunities we offer your children.   If any parents have further insight or experience of AI in education - please do share! It is a very exciting and fast moving industry but should be approached with caution and with an awareness of who is developing the products and why. We do not wish to remove teachers from the classroom - adults still need to work with children to develop their soft skills and assist them in becoming creative independent  individuals. We need to prepare our children for the future but be well informed and confident that what we do offer them is right for them and us as a school.  You may enjoy reading this for further depth: https://www.independent.co.uk/independentpremium/long-reads/ai-schools-slow-learning-century-tech-stem-artificial-intelligence-a9108411.html Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 18/10/2019

Powerful Learning - Head's Blog

This week we have had the privilege of showcasing our pupils' learning to numerous prospective parents during our weekly individual tours but also at our Open Morning on Wednesday when the visitors were guided around the school by our current Year 6 pupils. The feedback we had from our visitors this year was quite overwhelming and the sense of pride which we have in your children is immeasurable. The last port of call on the tours was to the Upper School Hall as the guides introduced their visitors to myself, Mr and Mrs Crehan and Mrs Smith.  Every visitor paid our students the highest of compliments remarking on their confidence, communication skills, passion for their school and their learning and how they managed to answer all the questions but also enticed questions from their visitors.  What we do at St Helen’s is truly unique and it is through the dedication of the staff working so closely together to lay strong foundations for your children that they go on to be very successful young adults. Our teaching and classroom environment empowers the children to be adventurous in their learning journey; strengthening their determination and imagination to become critical thinkers with the ability to reflect and collaborate to deal with difficulty and uncertainty to enable them to become more independent and resourceful learners. One such example of powerful learning this week was in the Year 6  science lessons . The children have been studying microorganisms; they designed and planned an investigation to find out the various factors that affect respiration in yeast.  A preliminary experiment was suggested by one of the children and from there, the whole year group was challenged to think of a ‘bigger’ experiment.   The result of the independent planning was that 5 main factors were to be investigated: temperature of water, acidity of substances, natural vs artificial sugar, amount of sugar, and various sources of sugar including vodka! (This was under lock and key but the children were definitely resourceful in their planning!)  The children worked collaboratively and had to figure out and allocate certain jobs and responsibilities within each group. All resources were provided for the children which they had to organise and use effectively. They all worked out timings and the recording and collection of data. The children relied on the efficiency and cooperation of each group member to complete their experiment; some giving up their playtime to continue with the work.  The children achieved success in many ways. They all learned an important scientific concept in yeast respiration and  mastered investigative skills by performing a full scientific enquiry in a fun and enjoyable way. It is also equally important to note that through hands-on experiences and activities in science such as this, collaborative learning took place and continues to be encouraged. During lunchtime on Wednesday the Science monitors were discussing their learning with me in the Science lab and Shaina has kindly written up this wonderful report to share with you. I will leave you with Shaina’s words - it sums up the power of learning at St Helen’s! Mrs. Drummond   In science this week, Year 6 did an experiment to see how yeast respires with liquids of different pH values.  Firstly, we had to plan what we wanted to include in the experiment. In our plan we had to include our prediction, our fair test (what we keep the same, what we change and what we are measuring), all the equipment we would need from the ingredients to the labels and bags and also our method in a way that we could then follow the steps in class making the experiment easier. After this was completed, we gathered into groups and labelled the bags (lemon juice A and B, milk A and B…), got the sugar and yeast and beakers in case they leaked. We were all ready for the next day when we would conduct the experiment. Everyone was allocated a job. In my group we had some pairs and some people working alone as they chose to do so. Conducting the experiment along with me were Laura, Esha, Malaika and Ridhima were one pair and Catherine and Lily were another pair. Each person/pair was allocated two liquids to test; there were five liquids to test and ten beakers as we had A and B of every liquid to increase accuracy in our results. The following day, we gathered our materials with speed because of our thorough planning. To each bag we added five millilitres of the given substance to ninety-five millilitres of water. When everyone was ready we added in our teaspoons of yeast and sugar at the same time and sealed the bag immediately afterwards. Every five minutes over a forty minute period, we took measuring tapes and measured the width of the bag. We did this because just as we breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide so does yeast. This life process is called respiring. When the yeast breathes out carbon dioxide the bag inflates and therefore causes the width to expand. Having already created a rough table to record data findings, we simply wrote down the width of the bag every five minutes for each person’s/pair's findings. In conclusion, we found out that substances with a pH of 7/8 (neutral or slightly on the alkaline side) worked best. Extremely surprisingly, we found that lemon juice, which is pH 3 and very acidic, also helped yeast respire, whereas vinegar of the same pH value did not help yeast respire at all. I don’t think this was a fair test because our bags kept opening, allowing carbon dioxide to escape and some yeast bubbled up into a froth, leaving the bag to have not expanded at all. I thoroughly enjoyed this experiment because of the new things I have discovered. I did not know that yeast respires in the same way we do or that it grows but not in the same way we do - instead it multiplies many times. I also did not know that different temperatures or pH values can affect the way that yeast respires.  I think this experiment can be improved by not putting the liquids in the bags but instead in the tubes because they have lids and are leak proof, whereas in our experiment some of the bags leaked and/or opened. In the tubes we can measure the amount of froth as that is also carbon dioxide building up.  By Shaina A
Posted on: 11/10/2019

Golf: A Game Of Life - Head's Blog

    Last weekend I had hoped to attend a conference in Sheffield - the 4th annual WomenEd Unconference (it is called unconference for a reason - but this is not relevant to my blog!) However, I made a decision to put my own wellbeing first - take the foot off the gas so to speak and spend time with my husband - on the golf course! (I hear the chuckles already!)  Some of your children whom I have taught mindfulness to will already know that I am a keen golfer - but sadly do not get to play half as much as I would like to.  As a youngster growing up on the west coast of Scotland I would spend every hour possible on the local golf course from about the age of 6 to 15. I attended golf summer school every year and was coached by the local professional, my parents were both avid players and my dad who once played off a handicap of 2 was a great teacher; I am so grateful for his patience as I tagged along weekend after weekend with my tiny clubs - the round of golf which should have taken 3 hours was often a day’s excursion as we waved players through! Juniors in Scotland were very much tolerated! (I am very proud to state at this point that there were only a handful of girls who played golf in the late 70’s early 80’s in my hometown -  it was very much boys who were in the junior clubhouse - the lack of girls did not bother me - I loved the sport!) Thankfully the presence of girls and women in sport has somewhat escalated and last weekend there were numerous girls on the driving range practising as we finished our round.  So back to last weekend - as I watched my husband prepare for his first tee shot I could not resist but smile as I could see the tension on his face, his shoulders tighten and the look of determination for him to execute the best shot ever! He hooked his first shot…...(He plays much more than I do these days and I had not swung a club since the summer of 2018!!) I stepped up - took my stance - looked ahead - relaxed my body, inhaled - exhaled - kept my head down - and enjoyed the sound of the ball being driven down the first fairway! ‘You’ve still got it!’ was his comment - now that is praise of the highest! Now for a bit of background ...my husband had never played golf until our honeymoon back in 1998 where we stayed on a beautiful golf resort in Malaysia (of course I chose the resort for a reason!!) Over the duration of two weeks he went from a spinning cartoon character attempting to tee off to someone who showed potential as a golfer… Fast forward 21 years and he usually beats me now!  However, last weekend I have to admit to laughing out loud as he allowed his frustrations to show at some of his poor shots! (I had many too) As I walked around the course my mind kept making analogies of how we can compare the game of golf to life and I knew that there was a blog to be written! To those of you who are non-golfers I shall try to explain how controlling a little white ball can be so relevant! Swing Hard and Pray: I will give my husband a break for now but for many people who start golf this is the thought process - alas there really is no correlation between how hard you swing and how far the ball will go.  With experience one learns that there is so much more to the game. By slowing down, having more focus, making good contact, the ball may travel further. Sheer force does create action, but it’s often negated by a lack of strategy. Embrace Failure: FAIL -First Attempt in Learning.  Golfers can be temperamental! Two bad shots and they give up on that hole or even worse walk off the course.  We need to learn to embrace failure, analyse, learn, and move on - reflect on the shot, and use the positive mindset that the next shot or hole will be better.  Practice -the primary driver of consistent success is practice. You must try, fail, adjust, and try again.  Last weekend I still played relatively (I use the term loosely) successfully and I am confident that this is due to the solid foundations of good habits, hours of coaching, more hours of practice over the course of many years of my youth which has secured my knowledge and skill level.  Many of you may have heard about the 10,000 hour rule; the principle that 10,000 hours of "deliberate practice" are needed to become world-class in any field. I am certainly not world class in how I play golf but the fact that I was taught complex skills and technical aspects of the game at such a young age may be an important factor in my ability to engage with golf as infrequently as I now do and enjoy it as much as I do. Of course there are specific shots that still need refining and much more practice to be had - but could how I was nurtured also be part of the success - I was encouraged to play golf - the language of golf floated around our household (much to the horror of my older sister who to this day has managed to never play a round of golf - but has married into a golfing family!! Oh the irony!) Mentorship Matters;  Having a good mentor/teacher/coach is crucial.  I have already spoken about how fortunate I was in my early golfing years. Even the top pros are coached on a daily basis.  It is important to remember that asking for advice isn’t a sign of weakness, but instead a sign of maturity. You’ll never know what you don’t know unless you ask.    Lifelong Learning:  One day, in my retirement (in a couple of decades!)  I will aim to improve my game of golf and will seek out more lessons, a good teacher to help me refine my game - in the meanwhile I will allow my husband to do this!!  But lifelong learning is exciting - we all have so many opportunities to learn and I for one have have a thirst for learning. I enjoy challenges, meeting people who will challenge me in my thinking and who will teach me new skills.  Fear:  One cannot even consider playing golf if we fear how the next shot may unfold! Allowing fear to overcome us can only cause bad results. Fear can drive poor decisions, can cause paralysis, and debilitates us.  When teeing off, yes bad things may happen, but one must focus on executing the best shot possible, it is likely it will go well if one focuses on the positive! Self-Awareness:   It is with experience and maturity that I have come to realise how important that self-awareness is.  The art of self-reflection allows us to analyse our own motivations, our emotions and helps us to understand how others see us.  Practising mindfulness has helped me to become more self aware and as I played golf last weekend I used my mindful practices not only execute the game but I allowed myself to enjoy the great outdoors, appreciate what surrounded me and was so aware of how fortunate I am to have the family, friends, job...the life that I have.  Like golf, life is a humbling game that can only be played well if we understand our own weaknesses and tendencies. Like golf, life is an intricate game. Play it well! Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 4/10/2019

Bringing Out The Best In Your Child - A Parent's Perspective by Mrs Dillon

 Reflections on "Bringing out the best in your child" On a wet Tuesday 24th September parents of students from nursery through to year 2 were invited to attend a talk led by Elaine Halligan of the Parent Practice, and author of “My Child’s Different”.   As a mother of two boys (Arjan in year 5 and Sarab in year 2) I was intrigued by the title of this talk – “Bringing out the best in your child”. My expectations were that this talk was going to share how to encourage your child to be the best “academic” and I was also secretly hoping to learn how I could get them to want to do their homework!    Instead what we were gifted with was something far more relevant and thought provoking. Elaine is a very engaging presenter who started by discussing her neuro-diverse son who had struggled at school as a young child but is now a very successful adult. She attributes this success down to changes she made in interacting with him, specifically by encouraging a greater self-belief and confidence in himself.   Elaine reinforces the importance of how we talk to our children and the respect that we give them. She conveyed this message very well by role playing a provocative scene whereby we (as the audience) were the child and she was the parent. The way that she talked to us, as the child was patronising and demeaning and I’m sure many of us as parents could relate. She went on to explain that by conversing with our children in this manner we are actually having a detrimental impact on their self-esteem and confidence. These crucial interactions over time are then likely to lead our children to experience an awkwardness in their own skin, which is something none of us wants to do!    Elaine touched on the fact that by only focussing on the “negative” (ie. 1 spelling mistake out of 14 etc.) we minimise the positive. I have to say that she demonstrated this particularly well. She showed us a “Reticular Activating System” which illustrated that if we only focus and notice negative behaviour then that is all we will see and we will miss all the good and positive behaviours that our children are demonstrating (see this video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=101&v=IGQmdoK_ZfY). She goes on to explain that for every negative feedback a child is given, they need at least 5 positives to balance this out.    Arguably, what most of us as parents are good at is evaluative praise which is along the lines of “I am so proud of you”, “good girl/boy” etc. This is too nondescript and over time will become meaningless to your children. As such she emphasised the impact that descriptive praise can have (ie. “you should be proud of yourself” etc). This praise needs to focus on effort, attitude and strategies that the child is using and by doing this we can get our children to focus on the journey and not overly focus on end results or achievements. This will help them develop a positive growth mindset and promote good mental health.   Elaine shared several practical ways to encourage this and a few of the ones that resonated with me are highlighted below-  “Book of Gold” or “Golden Book” – this is an A5 book per child that has been decorated by the child. The parent has to write 3 descriptive phrases every day about each child. These phrases can take the form of acknowledging their effort, praising an absence of a particular negative behaviour or simply pointing out a quality that they demonstrated that day.  Elaine suggested reading these to them every night but having put this into practise now, I have found that I need time to write these in the evening and they actually enjoy reading them after breakfast (and I’ve noticed that it really puts a pep in their step in the morning). My experience (having done it for 5 days now!) is that it is tough to get started but it has made me refocus my attention to recognise more positive behaviours that I realise I hadn’t been acknowledging as much before. I did ask the boys how they feel about their “books of gold” and they absolutely adore them and it makes them so happy. What more could I ask for! Choose a quality (or use the value from school) and put this up on the wall and discuss it regularly. This discussion could be in the form of the children giving examples of how they lived that quality that day. “Pasta Jar” – Using a small pasta jar, for each positive action fill up the jar with large pasta pieces (Note – pasta can’t be too small and the jar can’t be too big as the aim should be to fill the jar within 3 or 4 days). When the jar is full the child is rewarded with something extra special. This reward should be non-material and non-time consuming. (eg. playing a game or lego, lighting a candle etc – basically anything that they love to do). There are two important rules here: do not take pasta out of the jar for misbehaviour and only one pasta jar per household (otherwise it becomes very competitive!).   The key take home message for me was to be respectful to your child, engage with them and catch them doing “good” things. It sounds simple but we all need a reminder of this and ways to implement this in our schedule with our children.  Ultimately our children do their best and we want them to feel good about themselves. I would truly recommend attending any of Elaine’s future talks as it’s all extremely relatable and encourages you to be the best parent you can be for your child.  
Posted on: 27/09/2019

STEAM Day by Mr Tovell

It has been a week since our 4th Annual St. Helen’s College STEAM day last Friday and the last week has afforded me time to reflect upon a day to be truly proud of. In her first assembly of the year, Mrs. Drummond challenged the children to ‘be their very best selves’ and this could not have been more evident during the activities that staff, many parent helpers and  Susan O’Connor - author of the wonderful book Creative Genius Journal, which I highly recommend to parents of children of all ages - put on. Indeed, it is only due to the hard work, creativity and highly supportive and collaborative nature of the St Helen’s community that the children are given opportunities to excel and be their very best selves in days such as these. Activities in both the Lower and Upper school were engaging as well as challenging and included a Year 2 and 3 Nile crossing challenge and a Systems Thinking Workshop in Upper School; Kaleidoscopes and the spectacular Rocket Mice in Lower School.  Furthermore, it is the creative nature of our day to day curriculum that provides your children with the tools to excel when such challenges are posed to them.  The children’s behaviour was exemplary, demonstrating wonderful collaboration skills, creativity, resilience and resourcefulness to overcome learning challenges. They were able to reflect upon their successes and targets to help them to tackle similar learning challenges in the future - and most importantly, they had FUN. I cannot stress enough how brilliant they were; they really are a credit to you all. As Josh Valman, author of last week’s blog, stated ‘it is people working together who solve problems’ and based on what the staff witnessed, we may have some future changers of the world amongst us. With outstanding learning taking place all over the school and the sun shining, it was wonderful to welcome our Prime Minister to our school as he got to see the very best of St. Helen’s College. He is a man of great importance and the children were thrilled that he took a genuine interest in their learning that day. In the morning, I began my speech to the Upper School children with ‘I love this school’, and after a day of such spectacular success in both Lower and Upper School where the children really were their very best selves, those words ring all the more true today.  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Creative-Genius-Journal-resilient-differently/dp/1916497918  
Posted on: 20/09/2019

The Future By Josh Valman

Last week I had the pleasure of returning to St. Helen’s College, to speak at the annual Prizegiving, 13 years after I left my class of Year 6. I’ve returned to the school several times during the new Year 7s’ time at St. Helen’s, introducing conversation around robotics, engineering and entrepreneurship. I felt it was timely to talk about the potential they all have to shape lives and careers that have true impact on the world. When I left St. Helen’s College, not that long ago, technology was still new. Touch typing was an exclusive skill, and a mobile phone was yet to become the constant interface for life. In the last 10-15 years we have seen technology dominate our lives, as it makes everything easier and quicker. However, this incredible development has had vast impact to both us and our planet. Our decisions are driven by ease, and the impact of those decisions are largely overlooked. We have created a society and a way of life that has enormous consequence on the world’s resources, our environment and even our own health. We are at a point where change is necessary, but we are limited by the fact that humans are creatures of habit. We are unlikely to see massive change in developed generations – purely from new awareness of our impact. Previously our behaviours were influenced by those around us, our parents, schools, peers and government. But in this new world of technology, it’s the machines that define us. Our phones (even as a Year 7!) are the things we wake up to, and go to sleep next to. Our behaviours are shaped by the products that enable our lives. It’s for this reason that the future of the world is very much in the hands of the engineer: the problem solver, the creative thinker. It is our responsibility, as the younger generation, to create the future of our world, and how we all behave around it. It will be the engineers who create the products and experiences that change human behaviour to become more sustainable. I began my engineering career aged 10, whilst at St. Helen’s College. Fascinated by the BBC TV show, Robot Wars, I set out to design and build something competitive, beginning with Lego and Sellotape, until I learnt the Maths and the CAD design skills to create something more advanced. It’s essential that parents and schools support young people with the ability to match education with reality. The intensity of exam schedules and the sheer volume of curriculum that needs to be consumed can make additional work feel oppressive and unnecessary. However, bringing practical application of subjects into the classroom has a huge impact on engagement and the ability to understand and visualise theory. We can provide examples of how the current curriculum applies to the real world through embracing extra-curricular clubs and competitions. In the time I have spent working in industry, it’s perhaps surprising to note that a technical problem is incredibly rare. The majority of work problems and restrictions in the real world have been focussed on people, process and communication. Promoting stronger presentation, negotiation and communication skills through practical teaching at schools has a massive impact on students’ ability to succeed in the real world – with or without that A* in maths or extensive knowledge of the Battle of Hastings! It’s been important also to note the importance of enjoying the work you do. Nobody really knows what they’re doing, but those who are most successful are those who are passionate about their life and have made it a career. The pressure to select a career and pursue it is intense, but helping children to explore interesting subjects with a link to potential careers is possible and exciting! The standout trends of our most successful young team members and graduates is always their exposure to varied work experience, cultures, challenges – and not the nth percentile academic results. In 2012 we founded RPD International, with the purpose of making the development and manufacturing of new products accessible. We now power R&D departments around the world for many new, big brand products in the market. We craft everything from sustainability developments in shampoo and deodorant packaging, to medical devices that improve the accessibility and power of modern medicine, and every strange new invention between these. It’s our role in the world to empower people to create the next generation of products which will change the way we work, behave and live our lives. I need the help of you as parents and influencers to encourage play and practical learning as part of schooling, creating exposure to the real world and making it known that we’re all still working it out! It was my mission, in the conversation with the graduating pupils of 2019, to urge them to consider this the first step on an engineering career. To see through the maths lessons, and see that we all need their help to invent, develop and produce a positive future for our world. Josh Valman is CEO of RPD International. He attended St. Helen’s College from 1999 to 2006.
Posted on: 13/09/2019

An Education of Value - Head's Blog

I have been observing our children over the last 8 days since the beginning of term - I am overwhelmed with how they have embraced the new changes and experiences. The virtues  which children develop over time are underpinned by the values which are held by the families, the community  and school. This week in assembly the Upper School pupils discussed Aristotle, one of the great teachers and philosophers of Ancient Greece,  who was interested in thinking about how humans can live a good life. It is by thinking about this question, discussing the question and by the adults surrounding the children modelling virtuous behaviours that our pupils will grow into confident, articulate, creative, caring and resilient young adults. Last night we welcomed one of our alumni, Josh Valman, to our annual Prizegiving as our Guest of Honour.  Josh attended St. Helen’s from 1999 to 2006 and continued his education at Vyners School. Josh is now a world leader in rapid innovation and manufacturing. He is the founder and CEO of RPD International, a business powering corporate Research and Development  departments around the world.  Josh’s passion for engineering has driven his success  but he is very aware that it is often very difficult to find the right staff to develop his products - saying that often the most technically brilliant engineers are not the ideal employee for his creative business. Instead Josh looks for attributes such as resilience, good interpersonal skills, empathy, collaboration, co-operation - people who really care about what they are doing, want to make a difference, enjoy their work and feel fulfilled by what they are doing. As Josh spoke to the children last night I could see the Year 7 pupils who have just started at their new secondary school  sit up and take notice, nodding in agreement with him, who knows...perhaps in a few years time another one of our Old Helenians may be a member of RPD international!  (I hope to have Josh blog as a guest next week!) Our old Year 6 pupils have certainly made a good impact at their new senior schools - it was heartwarming to speak with several parents last night who were so grateful for the amazing foundations that have been put in place for their children’s future through the ethos, the staff, the curriculum and the community of St. Helen’s College. We will continue to promote our school values hand in hand with you as parents to enable your children to lead a good life.  CARING HELPFULNESS COOPERATION KINDNESS PERSEVERANCE COURAGE FAIRNESS FRIENDLINESS PATIENCE RESPECT COURTESY FORGIVENESS DETERMINATION SELF-DISCIPLINE GRATITUDE HONESTY Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 6/09/2019

Welcome Back! - Head's Blog

    Welcome back to all of our returning families and to our new families who have joined our wonderful community: welcome! I am sure that you have all had a super summer. I have had an incredible summer, relaxing, resting and socialising with family and friends but there is only so much of this ‘non-routine’ that I can take! I admit, I was so ready to come back to school to be energised by the buzz of enquiring minds and the energy of our pupils, staff and parents. I am sure that you will agree that the children have embraced the new school year across the school. From our fledgling Ducklings to our new Year 6 pupils, there is an almost tangible sense of joie de vivre.   As the children settle into their new routines, I have observed and overheard them discussing the ‘Golden Rules’ of working together as a community, writing and signing classroom pledges and agreeing how they can be their best selves.  Our informal school motto: ‘Strive for excellence Help others achieve Care for each other’ resonates around the school, along with our ‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’ behaviour mantra. Your children are amazing and I feel truly blessed to witness their awe and wonder each and every day. As your children embark upon their new academic year, I would like to share with you all extracts from an article I recently read in Attain magazine to help you all settle into the school year. I have slightly altered the order but strongly recommend that you read the full article to give greater context! 10 Golden Rules for Parents Do read a bedtime story to your child every night (or hear them read every night as they move up through the school). Do teach your child to be independent. Do play games with your child (as often as possible) and teach them how to lose gracefully; this will also spark their creativity and help their concentration. Do read everything the school sends to you. Do be proud of everything your child brings home and wow at it no matter how huge, hideous, or unrecognisable it may be.  Do not compete with other parents about who has the most accomplished child. Do not take your child out of school early at the end of term or return late at the beginning of term. Do respect and believe what the teachers say about your child, and communicate with your form teacher if you have any concerns (it is teamwork that will bring out the best in your children). Do set a good example in phone etiquette. Don't feel the need to invite everyone to your child's birthday party (this may be difficult in Lower School but gets increasingly easier as the children get older!) The full article may be read here https://digital.attain.education/.   We look forward to yet another successful and joyful academic year with your children at the centre of our focus!   Mrs. Drummond

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