School News and Head's Blog

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Posted on: 18/11/2022

Do We Ever Stop Learning?

This week we have a guest blog from our Head of Art, Nadine Pruce, who reflects on the importance of being a lifelong learner. During lockdown I stumbled upon the amazing work of Darrell Wakelam and have followed him on both Instagram and Twitter ever since.  Darrell spent the first thirteen years of his career as the Art Tutor at Ingestre Hall Residential Arts Centre in Staffordshire before moving down to Dorset to set up his business ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ in 2005. Since then, he has provided art workshops and training sessions for hundreds of different organisations including many primary and secondary schools.  As part of my subject leader role for IAPS, I invite an artist to host a workshop for art teachers who are part of the IAPS organisation. This gave me the perfect opportunity to meet him! I sent him an invitation and he responded straight away with a resounding yes; he would love to come and show us how to do what he does.  So on Thursday this week, he came to St. Helen's College along with a dozen art teachers from around the country and we were set to work. The delighted squeals and laughter emitting form the art room would have had you thinking it was a class of children, not grown adults!  Continuous learning is essential to our existence. Just like food nourishes our bodies, ongoing discovery nourishes our minds. Lifelong learning is crucial for every career and organisation. From a simple, fun day with an expert in his field, a dozen art teachers skipped off into the sunset bursting with new ideas and plans of how to include our learning in our student’s lessons. Watch out…next term I will be mainly using cardboard! 'Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.' Benjamin Franklin
Posted on: 11/11/2022

Partnerships

What is the true meaning of partnership? A partnership can be defined as a collaborative relationship between organisations. The purpose of this relationship is to work towards shared goals through a division of labour that all parties agree on. Partnerships are complex vehicles for delivering practical solutions to societal and community issues. Since taking on the Headship at St. Helen’s College in 2016, I have been astounded by the positive partnerships which we have with our parent body.  Of course we also work in partnership with your children but ultimately without you making the decision to invest in your children’s future and choose St. Helen’s College, we would not have the pleasure of working with them. As parents, you are partners in the whole business of educating your children and we all rally together to make the best decisions for the children and prepare them to be able to fulfil their potential.  What a challenging but exciting opportunity - to be part of the process of shaping a young person! I have now been in the teaching profession for 33 years and my passion for making a difference to children and working in partnership with the pupils, parents and other stakeholders has never waivered.  The staff at St. Helen’s College are really quite unique as I am sure you agree. Every one of them, regardless of their role within the school, is committed to supporting your child (or children) to enable them to fulfil their potential in so many different ways.  We recently asked our parents to complete the annual survey from the Independent Schools Council. We were delighted to read the results of this survey, which compared our school’s results with those of all the other independent schools who took part.  Those of you who know the work of Simon Sinek may be familiar with the phrase  ‘Start with Why’ and below I am proud to list some of the key reasons that parents gave as your answers to the question of why you chose Helen’s College: It prepares pupils to fulfil their potential  (double the number of St. Helen’s College parents in comparison with parents in other independent schools). The quality of the teachers (more than double the number of parents said this compared to parents in other independent schools). Good discipline. High academic quality. Personal conversations with the Head or other key staff at the school (double the number of our parents in comparison with parents in other independent schools). Good at developing soft skills and character. We are delighted with the feedback received from this survey and thank those parents who took the time to complete the survey.  Some of you may also be interested in reviewing the school for the Good Schools Guide which you can do by following this link  https://www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk/schools/st-helens-college-uxbridge. This week I took part in a symposium on ‘Partnerships’  with a group of other educators who are passionate about working together to improve the outcomes and opportunities for children across a range of schools and sectors. It was inspiring to hear about the work which is going on in other schools, to hear from charities who are supporting important causes and of course to continue networking with other professionals who have shared goals in education. I am aware that many of you may be unaware of some of the partnerships which we are already involved with either other schools or other organisations so I am listing just a few examples below and we look forward to further developing and extending our partnerships to have mutual benefit to the organisations, the pupils of St. Helen’s College and other schools. Hillingdon Borough Sports Leagues (both maintained and independent school pupils) IAPS sports fixtures (with other independent schools) Local care home visits  Sharing of expertise in modern foreign languages (local state schools and us) Working with the STARS team (School Travel and Road Safety Team - Hillingdon) Several local and national charities -  including the St. Helen’s College Trust Salvation Army Local churches (Methodist and All Saints) Chess clubs in several maintained schools Global ambassadors working with GEMS school in Dubai (a new partnership which we are developing) Partnerships with others are so important and we are proud of our whole school engagement and the relationships and trust which is built with successful partnerships. Thank you all for being in partnership with us on the inspiring journey of educating your children and preparing them for their future.  I will finish with a quote from one of Simon Sinek’s other books ‘Better Together’: Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion. -Simon Sinek Ms Drummond  
Posted on: 4/11/2022

Screen Time

This week we have a guest blog from Mrs. Hunt. November is upon us and the dark nights are here. Going to the park or playing in the garden becomes harder and you may find that your child is inclined to want to turn to various screens to keep them occupied. As one of the Designated Safeguarding Leads at St. Helen’s College, keeping children safe online is a high priority of mine. Despite the age of your children it is never too early to ensure that they are safe online. It is fair to say that we do not know what our children’s future will look like but there will definitely be technology in it. It is paramount to teach our children skills and understanding so that they are masters of technology and not slaves to it. As you may be aware, through St. Helen’s College, you are members of National Online Safety (NoS), so please do take a look at the NoS website as I am certain you will find it very informative. The link is below and gives you an opportunity to creates your NoS account if you have not already done so. This is a really valuable resource for all teachers and parents. In addition, I have included two age appropriate links from Internet Matters that you may find insightful. The links are directed to parents of 0-5 year olds and I would highly recommend that you take a few minutes to read the guides. They do give food for thought.  As with many aspects of parenting, creating the right balance around the use of technology is fundamental. Please think carefully about how frequently you use your own phone when your child is present and about the message it gives your child about how much you value the phone.  I am also reminded of a saying I heard throughout my childhood: there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing! So why not get outside and embrace November! https://www.internetmatters.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Internet-Matters-Guide-Balancing-Screen-Time-0-5.pdf https://www.internetmatters.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Age-Guide-0-5s.pdf https://nationalonlinesafety.com/enrol/st-helen-s-college Mrs. Hunt Head of Lower School Designated Safeguarding Lead
Posted on: 14/10/2022

Enlightened Education

Last week I returned to my homeland in Scotland, to attend the annual Heads’ Conference in Edinburgh, which this year brought together 1000 Headteachers from IAPS (Independent Association of Preparatory Schools) and HMC (Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference) Schools. Returning to Edinburgh, where I spent four years studying at University, always fills me with great pride and nostalgia for a city which ignited my love for education and teaching.   The theme of the conference was ‘Enlightened Education’ and there was no better city to host a conference with such a theme. Edinburgh was very much regarded as a centre of enlightenment during the 18th century, when the New Town sprung up to provide changes in law, philosophy, science, literature, the arts, engineering and architecture. Observatories were built, advancements in medicine and microbiology were shaped and Edinburgh became a pioneering beacon of excellence in education. Schools - grammar and independent - were founded by mechant companies to encourage liberal thinking and intellectual curiosity. Edinburgh’s New and Old Towns now sit alongside one another to remind us of fusion, heritage and modernity. The first keynote speaker of the conference, Marc Randolph, the founder of Netflix,  articulated the purpose of education in the spirit of enlightenment. He wants young people to be energised to deal with the uncertainties of the world. As we know from the last few years in particular, we cannot predict the future. So, with a willingness to make mistakes (and learn from them) and a desire to see all problems as having solutions, our pupils will need to be real world ready. Professor Gabriell Finn from the University of Manchester is leading a university-wide review of assessment and imparted the following key messages. Factual recall is no longer the focus, and shouldn’t be. There is no link between this and preparing pupils for the real world. There has been a 16000% increase in the number of students plagiarising their assignments. GCSEs and A-levels are very far removed from where universities are starting to focus assessment: students collaborating and submitting their own websites rather than tests. Technology, in particular AI, needs to be a dominant factor in any reform of assessment. As fellow Heads discussed some of the points raised by the speakers, I felt so proud of what we are doing here at St. Helen’s College. We have a very balanced curriculum, skills and knowledge based, but our pupils' learning skills are far more in line with what universities wish to move towards. This was noted recently by one of our ex-parents who is a university lecturer as she reflected on what her daughter was already achieving with our flipped classroom model of teaching. She was somewhat overwhelmed at how efficient her daughter was as a learner in Year 6 in comparison with some of the first year university pupils she had encountered!   Over the years we have heard the word ‘tolerance’ being used when we discuss diversity. This word should now be replaced with ‘celebration of’. I truly believe that it is one of our defining features at St. Helen’s College that we are such a diverse community - and this extends to neuro-diversity too (a point which was emphasised by Rory Bremner in his most humorous after dinner address). Baroness Tanni-Grey Thompson further emphasised this ‘celebration’, which 30 years ago would have been labelled as tolerance, as she recalled her experience of growing up as a wheelchair user (it was only because her Headteacher refused to adhere to the local authority guidelines that she was able to attend a mainstream school). She made the point that discrimination is taught and not a learned behaviour, and we must all focus on this - not just for the sake of our individual pupils but for humanity as a whole. Sarah Brown, Founder and Chair of ‘TheirWorld’ and the Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education (also once inhabitant of 10 Downing Street) shocked delegates by reminding us that by 2030, half of the world’s young people will not have the privilege of attending school. This seems unbelievable, not least against the backdrop of the UN’s Sustaninable Development Goals, created in 2017 with the goal of achieving them all by 2030.  Sarah emphasised that for pupils to be real world ready, there is a moral imperative for them to learn how to look after their world and each other. Throughout the conference, keynote speakers emphasised that the fundamental aim of education should not be focused around end-point assessment, but the development of a child’s relationship with others, and, through this, the creation of powerful, ethical communities, focused around a force for good. Nicola Benedetti, world renowned violinist, Artistic Director of the Edinburgh International Festival and founder of the Benedetti Foundation, used the impact of choirs and ensembles to illustrate this point. Within an orchestra or choir, there is no hierarchy and, in creating music together, people are sharing in one humanity.  Music played a role throughout the conference and reminded us of the transformational impact of music in everyone’s lives. There is a moral obligation for all young people to be exposed to this form of deep connection and communication.  I hope you can see how passionate I am feeling about many of the topics discussed at the conference. As I reflect on this first half term of St. Helen’s College life I am sure that you will agree that our pupils have demonstrated their own contribution to an enlightened education in so many ways, including: the wonderful Harvest assemblies and donations; the musical recital; the many sporting fixtures; the various school trips to interesting venues; ​The Children’s Trust Charity Concert where our Chamber Choir performed; the TCS Mini London Marathon; the visit to the Woodlands Care Home by a group of our musicians; STEAM Day and St. Helen’s Day. I could keep listing - there is more, much more! Thank you for all your support during this first half term. It has been a wonderful beginning to this academic year and I wish you all a restful and energising half term holiday! Ms Drummond 
Posted on: 30/09/2022

St. Helen's Day by Mrs. Crehan

Yesterday we celebrated St. Helen's Day - a time to remember our school history in our 98th year. The children in Years 2 - 6 congregated in the Windsor Garden for an assembly in the afternoon. We had an ex-pupil, Ishil Mehta, reminiscing on the time Mr. Crehan pursued a burglar down Parkway to retrieve a cassette player that was stolen through an open window during the school day. He didn't tell us much about his own life but he is a very successful businessman who is a trustee of the St. Helen's College Trust. The Year 5 pupils sang us a song which Mrs. Smith and I wrote specially for St. Helen's Day a few years ago about the life of St. Helen herself. The Head Girl/Boy team gave us the whole history of the school referring to a wonderful display, created by Mrs. Pruce, of photographs of St. Helen's College from 1924 to the present day. I then told the children a few anecdotes from when our family moved into Cambria when my mother, Mrs Evans, took over the school from the second Head, Mrs. Hempstead, when I was 11 years old. I was remembering that at that time there were no administrative staff and no office. If I or my brother or sister were off school through illness, we had to run down the stairs from our sickbeds, in view of the children who were in a class which is now the library, to answer the phone and take details of prospective pupils. It was very different in those days! The children then asked further questions about what it was like 50ish years ago. We then had a wonderful event for the alumni and past teachers in the evening. Our present pupils were performing as background music and then leading tours around the school to show the alumni the changes since their day, and also what hasn't changed. The alumni have all done so well! We had a female professional footballer, a female engineer working on HS2, Oxford and Cambridge university students and a graphic designer who told us that her sister who would have come but was still at work as a BBC climate-change journalist looking into some ecological disaster which has affected the health of people abroad and is being denied by the authorities. And there were many more amazing careers our alumni are now involved in. Hopefully St. Helen's College can claim their good starts which have led to where they are today. We were encouraging them to spread the word to other Old Helenians amongst their family and friends - and they still know many - that we will be having a big celebration for our centenary in two years. We had many ex-staff who attended including the very first Deputy Head, who used to call Mr. Crehan 'The Boy' when he first started as Head, because he was the youngest member of staff. Mr. McLaughlin said to her, 'I have your room' and she responded, 'I didn't have a room!' So a great day was had remembering our St. Helen's College family past and present, which is growing by the year and of whom we are so proud!  Mrs. Crehan
Posted on: 16/09/2022

Nurturing Our Youngsters

  This week I was quite shocked to learn that there are 260 million children around the world who are not in any form of education and 175 million who are not enrolled in any form of pre-primary education. An interview piece in the TES with Sarah Brown, the founder and chair of global education charity Theirworld, talks about the importance of teachers. Ms Brown says, "I don’t think there’s a person who has success in their lives that doesn’t credit some of that back to a teacher."  The first two weeks of this academic year have been such a pleasure in school as I have breathed in the joy that your children create on a daily basis with their thirst for learning and their willingness to embrace all the experiences each day.  However, I would like to add to what Ms Brown states and say that,  "I don’t think there’s a person who has success in their lives that doesn’t credit some of that back to a member of the school staff team."  As parents you have chosen St. Helen’s College as your child’s school, investing in your child’s future, and for this we are most grateful. However, the success of your children is also testament to the support you give them at home and to every adult who interacts with them as part of the St. Helen’s College family. Many of our pupils have been with us since they were aged 2 or 3, enjoying the best possible start in life with a wide range of experiences. The research from ‘Theirworld’ includes these observations: 90% of a child’s brain development takes place between birth and the age of five.  This is why the five elements of nurturing care – health, nutrition, play, learning and protection – are so important for early childhood education and development. Early years education and development can help identify a child’s learning needs early on, improve their socialisation and set them on the road to reaching their full potential.  Your children are fortunate to have incredibly supportive families and a team of staff who nurture them on a daily basis. The relationship between home and school is crucial.  This is why we enlighten parents about how you can support your children in their development in regular meetings throughout the year.  The EYFS (Early Years Foundation Stage) is called such for a reason - it lays the foundation of development for your children to enable them to thrive. The social and emotional aspect is the most important area of learning in very young children and creates the pathway for future learning and development. Some of you may also have viewed some of our ‘Teddy Talks’ on our ‘Pre-School Parenting’ tab on our school website. They are there to help families with common aspects of raising your children.  Our staff have a diverse range of expertise in many areas and sharing this is helpful to our current and prospective parents.  If you have never visited our Pre-Parenting area then please do so - you may find some of it very helpful. I am proud to be the Head of St. Helen’s College and to have such an incredibly skilled and committed staff who all have the best interests of your children at the heart of all that they do, whether that be the teaching or support staff.  The relationship between home and school is key and it is this unique partnership which creates the haven of harmony for your children to thrive each and every day.   Ms Drummond
Posted on: 9/09/2022

New Beginnings

  The first week of any school year is all about ‘new beginnings’ but up until yesterday, prior to the sad news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II, her Sovereign Majesty,  we had not imagined what we would all be experiencing as a nation today. This morning in school we commemorated the life of Her Majesty in special assemblies and I was proud to observe how our pupils from Year 2 to Year 6 engaged and reflected during the assemblies.  We discussed the St. Helen’s College motto: Strive for excellence Help others achieve Care for each other We reflected on how Queen Elizabeth II embodied these values, serving her country right up until three days ago when she invited Elizabeth Truss to be our new Prime Minister.  I am sure that we may all have special memories of occasions or events that stand out in our minds when Queen Elizabeth made an impact on the lives of others as she carried out her duties with such selfless service.  I have my own very special memory of when I met the Queen in 1986, when I volunteered at the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh as a VIP Hostess looking after dignitaries and guests. I was honoured to be selected to be on Royal Box duty for several days at the Meadowbank Athletics Stadium and greeted the Royal Family as a guard of honour on their entrance one day. We curtsied to the Queen and she congratulated us on the role we were playing for the Games and told us to keep up the good work! The fun side of the Queen came out that day as the audience cheered on the athletes and a Mexican wave started to make its way around the stadium. Despite the security announcements begging the people in the stands not to participate in the Mexican wave, the younger Royal (Prince Edward) wholeheartedly took to his feet and waved his arms in the air. Of course as VIP hostesses we followed instructions and remained calm and composed (or I thought I had - but this photo may tell a different story!). The photo shows the fun of the moment and the Queen had that twinkle in her eye as she saw her son being the young royal rebel!  I was then privileged to join the Royal Party for afternoon tea  - despite my shaking hands and my naive awkwardness as a 19 year old I still hold those memories fondly.   Your children will experience great changes in their lives and this is such a monumental historical time for us all as we transition to having a King on the throne.   Please speak with your children and share your memories, listen to their feelings and embrace this period of change. Queen Elizabeth II’s death on September 8th 2022 marks the beginning of a new era for the House of Windsor. I leave you with the prayer we shared today. God, Our Father, all through our country we are sad at this time, because our Queen is no longer with us.  She will be missed by so very many, but we know that you are looking after her. Bless those close to her.  May they know they are remembered by us.  And bless our country at this time of change.  May we all work together as one family, and be ready to serve others as our Queen served us.  In Jesus' name we ask it.  Amen. May Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II rest in peace. God Bless. Ms Drummond
Posted on: 8/07/2022

Slowing Down At The Campfire

  Yesterday I had one of my final Mindfulness sessions with the Year 6 pupils and we discussed the importance of having ‘campfire time' to deal with the stresses of modern day living. Back in the days when humans had to go out hunting for food, our bodies were programmed for survival and that fight, flight or freeze reaction was a lifesaver - it enabled us to ‘act smart' without having to 'think smart' (which takes longer). Campfire time gave the hunters time to rest, relax and recover from a stressful day of hunting.   Modern stressors trigger mental activity rather than physical activity. Because of this, we do not tend to spend and burn up our stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. Instead, these may end up getting stored in our bodies. They can accumulate over time and increase our baseline levels of stress, so that we may end up living our lives in a perpetual state of stress! This in turn may lead to more over-thinking and rumination. If this sounds familiar, you are definitely not alone. As I discussed these ideas with the Year 6 pupils, there was a lot of nodding and agreement and they shared their thoughts with each other. They articulated where they wear their ‘stress signatures’ or how they feel ‘stress’ in their bodies, minds and actions.  Our pupils are so astute and tuned into their minds and bodies that some of their responses in this session were incredibly moving.  Adults and children alike need that campfire time. As adults, we need to model healthy behaviours to our children, including being able to slow down and allow ourselves to rest, relax and recover. I have been following Carl Honore for some time now and he is such an advocate of ‘slow’. His latest book, Bolder, certainly hits a note for me. In this, he attempts to eradicate the negativity surrounding ageing and argues for recognition of the positive aspects of ageing. I am now happily embracing my mid-fifties!   The last few weeks in any school are incredibly busy but here at St. Helen’s College our last few weeks have really packed a punch. Tonight I felt quite overwhelmed at what I still have to achieve in such a short space of time. I recognised this in my body as I reached for paracetamol for the headache I had been ignoring! But instead of popping the paracetamol I picked up a magazine which has been sitting on my desk for several weeks, flicked through it and chuckled as I savoured the Kids National Geographic!  I slowed down and did something enjoyable, rested and read a short snippet about how music matters. Grooving along to funky music, singing, chilling and listening to music improves your mental wellbeing (we all know this but do we all do this enough?). I now admit to you all that the weekend before last I had a ‘Glastonbury’ weekend! No, I was not at Worthy Farm - but I danced around my living room on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and had the time of my life, so that by the time Monday came I felt rested, refreshed and ready for the week ahead!  So, what are you going to do for your campfire time - how will you slow down this weekend? Whatever you are doing, however you rest and recharge, value this time - it could be a lifesaver! Happy weekend! Ms Drummond
Posted on: 21/06/2022

Tradition by Mrs. Crehan

Mr Crehan and I attended a very successful Sports Day on Friday. At the final ceremony Mrs Drummond unexpectedly asked if I would like to say something to the gathering. Observant parents will have noticed the slight tussle between Mr Crehan and myself - he is always so good at the on-the-spot speeches whereas I would rather think it through beforehand and this is why I will frequently sing my speeches at weddings/ events and also at the end of term to the leaving teachers - I prefer to have time to think it all through and consider my words  (often rhyming!) I woke up in the early hours of the morning and realised that I did have something I'd like to say on the subject of this year's Prep Sports Day  but I wasn't ready to say it on the day, so here it is in a blog! ( Not a song on this occasion.) I go back a long way in St.Helen's history. I was 11 years old when we moved in to Cambria to live when my mother, Mrs Evans, took over the school from Mrs Hempstead, who was the 2nd head teacher in its history.  I have been associated with St. Helen's for 52 years of its 98 years. ( Any ideas for how to celebrate our centenary in 2 years time gratefully appreciated!) So 52 years ago St.Helen's Sports Day took place in the grounds of Oak Farm, exactly where our Lower School buildings stand today. We had 60 metre tracks painted out and the races were sprints, slow bicycle ( where you try to be last to cross the line by wobbling slowly on your bicycle), egg and spoon, sack race and dressing up race where you put on various items of clothing and then race to the finish. I don't think there were any field events. Going back as far as I do, I am aware of tradition and not losing some of the things from the past that we have valued at St. Helen's, perhaps for sentimental reasons, while obviously embracing things that are clearly beneficial to the children and the school.    This Sports Day was very different under the sports leadership of Mr. Harrington; it was a great improvement on the distant past and even on the more recent past. It was fantastic that every child got the opportunity to try every field event, as well as timing each child individually in their sprints so that the finals were fairly raced against the fastest children in the afternoon. The all day format and the huge help offered by the Year 9 ex-St.Helen's children meant that the day was reasonably relaxed for the staff, and hopefully the parents enjoyed the opportunity to follow their children around the stadium followed by a picnic lunch with their family. There were many other changes; the most memorable was the whole school relay with every child running in short bursts, governed by a flag being waved Grand Prix style by a staff member. So this was clearly a great improvement on the Sports Days of 50 years ago but there is something that hasn't changed underlying the day; mainly the strong values demonstrated, but also the attention to detail and the meticulous organization. There is something special about the essence of St.Helen's which has been handed down through the generations and is still very tangible today - the DNA that also brought so many ex- pupils back to our school fete. A unique factor from St. Helen's history is that there have been only 5 sets of heads ( sets in that two sisters founded the school and then Mr Crehan and I led the school together) in almost a century and each head has chosen their own successor according to their values and the direction they want for the school. This will have led to a strong unison of purpose over the years, which is still  imbued by every teacher and pupil. Just as the baton is passed on in a school relay each pupil needs to hold on to the core essence of St. Helen's and then pass it on to the next generation of pupils to preserve for hopefully our next few hundred years! Our unique DNA is our firm foundation on which we build the future, and St.Helen's is very forward- thinking in every area of the curriculum. Aren't you glad I didn't say or sing all this at the end of a baking hot Sports Day? 'It ain't what we do, it's the way that we do it!' Mrs Crehan   

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