School News and Head's Blog

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Posted on: 2/03/2018

World Book Day Challenge - Head's Blog

What with the ‘Beast from the East’ and ‘Storm Emma’ upon us, you find yourselves with the children at home due to the school closure.  However, I beg parents to read this famous poem by Roald Dahl which was shared with the children in our World Book Day assembly.   Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have every child engaged with activities over the next few days which are not ‘screen’ based but are focussed on ‘books’. Who will take up the gauntlet? Television - Poem by Roald Dahl The most important thing we've learned, So far as children are concerned, Is never, NEVER, NEVER let Them near your television set -- Or better still, just don't install The idiotic thing at all. In almost every house we've been, We've watched them gaping at the screen. They loll and slop and lounge about, And stare until their eyes pop out. (Last week in someone's place we saw A dozen eyeballs on the floor.) They sit and stare and stare and sit Until they're hypnotised by it, Until they're absolutely drunk With all that shocking ghastly junk. Oh yes, we know it keeps them still, They don't climb out the window sill, They never fight or kick or punch, They leave you free to cook the lunch And wash the dishes in the sink -- But did you ever stop to think, To wonder just exactly what This does to your beloved tot? IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD! IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD! IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND! IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND! HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE! HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE! HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES! 'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say, 'But if we take the set away, What shall we do to entertain Our darling children? Please explain!' We'll answer this by asking you, 'What used the darling ones to do? 'How used they keep themselves contented Before this monster was invented?' Have you forgotten? Don't you know? We'll say it very loud and slow: THEY ... USED ... TO ... READ! They'd READ and READ, AND READ and READ, and then proceed To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks! One half their lives was reading books! The nursery shelves held books galore! Books cluttered up the nursery floor! And in the bedroom, by the bed, More books were waiting to be read! Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales And treasure isles, and distant shores Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars, And pirates wearing purple pants, And sailing ships and elephants, And cannibals crouching 'round the pot, Stirring away at something hot. (It smells so good, what can it be? Good gracious, it's Penelope.) The younger ones had Beatrix Potter With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter, And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland, And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and- Just How The Camel Got His Hump, And How the Monkey Lost His Rump, And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul, There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole- Oh, books, what books they used to know, Those children living long ago! So please, oh please, we beg, we pray, Go throw your TV set away, And in its place you can install A lovely bookshelf on the wall. Then fill the shelves with lots of books, Ignoring all the dirty looks, The screams and yells, the bites and kicks, And children hitting you with sticks- Fear not, because we promise you That, in about a week or two Of having nothing else to do, They'll now begin to feel the need Of having something to read. And once they start -- oh boy, oh boy! You watch the slowly growing joy That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen They'll wonder what they'd ever seen In that ridiculous machine, That nauseating, foul, unclean, Repulsive television screen! And later, each and every kid Will love you more for what you did. MommyPoppins website has some other super ideas for you too! https://mommypoppins.com/kids/snow-day-boredom-busters-40-indoor-activities-when-the-kids-are-stuck-at-home We look forward to Monday when normal school routines will hopefully be resumed.  I am sure that the first few days of March 2018 will be memorable to us all. Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 23/02/2018

Desire to Aspire - Head's Blog

    Over the half term holidays I spent time with family and catching up with friends and enjoyed reminiscing about school days.   I have also been reading some delightful blogs from fellow educators who have written about who their Heros or Sheros are. What has struck me is the number of us who have been so influenced by the teachers who taught us, but have not quite realised this until much later on in our lives when we reflect on the influential people who helped shape who we are. Of course  families are big part of this too but for many of us the teachers who we have engaged with throughout our lives have been a massive influence. I am sure you will also have your Hero or Shero from your school days? At St. Helen’s College we have such inspirational teachers who will bring out the best in your children, ignite their awe and wonder in the world and challenge them to step out of their comfort zone to try new things. We encourage children to ask questions and give them an out of the box experience - the more hands on we can make our curriculum the more the children will remember, engage and enjoy.  As teachers we need to inspire our children for them to have the desire to aspire! On Saturday I attended the Chartered College of Teachers annual conference in London and met and listened to some inspirational educators.  One of the women who has left an impression on me was Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE.  Maggie attended 13 different schools growing up and she was diagnosed with dyslexia. Her family were not affluent but they were engaged with their daughter’s education and allowed her to follow her dreams.   Sadly when Maggie told a teacher that her dream was to be an astronaut she was told to consider nursing as that was scientific too! Thankfully that would not happen here! Dr. Maggie is currently a Space Optical Instrumentation Manager, who designs many space instruments, and she has been involved in developing the Gemini telescope and the James Webb telescope. She also presents ‘The Sky at Night’ and, as a young child, she was fixated with the Clangers (particularly the Soup Dragon!) Listening to Maggie and discussing with other teachers after the event, I felt so proud of the curriculum we offer our pupils and the expertise of the staff we have on board. We also have our very own ‘scientist’ at school, Ms Gilham, whose career as a scientist started at the Medical Research Council based at the University of Sussex where she graduated with a BSc in Biology. As a cellular biologist for MRC, she joined a group to study the effects of the oil spill disaster in the Shetlands in the 90s, and also got involved in the study of skin cells from patients who had a genetic predisposition to skin cancers and how radiation affected their ability to repair their DNA.   Although research is such a dynamic and exciting field, the teaching profession has many benefits as a career. Moreover, she thought that it was more rewarding to teach people on a daily basis than to be pippeting microlitre amounts of chemicals in a test tube or growing skin cells in a petri dish! Ms Gilham then trained as a secondary science teacher and gained her teaching status, but realised that the year groups were all wrong. At this point, research summoned yet again and she worked at Brunel University, joining a group to study how skin cells get transformed to immortalised cells. This work was part of a study to help understand how mutations occur that might lead to the formation of skin cancer cells. It was an exciting job as skills involved the use of cellular biology techniques as well as molecular biology where genes relating to the regulation of cell growth were studied. Not many primary science teachers can say that they could sequence a gene! Ms Gilham’s passion for science and the benefits of research were her drive in the ten years she was in research. It is the same passion and love of science, plus the idea of inspiring children to become future scientists, that now keeps Ms Gilham in the teaching profession where she finally has found her niche in the primary classroom. Ms Gilham chose teaching over the opportunity to do her PhD! She absolutely loves the way children respond to her whenever they do experiments every single day in their science lessons. It is not only in Science but across the curriculum and throughout the school day, from Ducklings Kindergarten through the EYFS and up to Upper School, that all of our staff inspire your children with a three-pronged attack: they are great role models, they keep learning relevant and they continue to challenge and questions the children to heighten that sense of wonder about the world. Teaching is the most important profession in the world and it is a privilege to be part of this unique vocational profession.   This was recognised just this week by Sir Ridley Scott  when he gave an emotional speech on the night he received his Bafta Fellowship. The legendary filmmaker received a standing ovation from an audience full of stars of the silver screen. During his eight-minute speech, the 80-year-old also said he believed teaching was “the most important of all professions”. He said: “Sort that out and social problems will get sorted out. It sounds simple but we’ve been talking about it for years and it’s absolutely vital. My teachers inspired me.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV_c6fjf4Ec&feature=youtu.be  (Sir Ridley Scott) https://www.theguardian.com/membership/video/2014/oct/15/space-scientist-maggie-aderin-pocock-power-dreams-video  (Maggie Aderin Pocock) Mrs. Drummond    
Posted on: 9/02/2018

Pride - Head's Blog

    I can hardly believe that we are at half term already and it is with a great sense of pride that I reflect on the beginning of 2018: Joyous January and Forte February! I always feel that it is important to enter the New Year feeling joyous about the year ahead and looking forward to what it will bring. Despite the joy of Christmas being over and in spite of the darkness surrounding us early in the morning and early in the evening we must remain joyful! February is upon us already -  Forte February - forte meaning ‘strength’ or ‘talent’ and a measure of mindset and attitude over ego and a lack of awareness. (I revisit this from last year!) It is in ‘Forte February’ that we should recognise the talents and strengths of everyone we spend time with, children and adults, celebrate abilities and gifts, take time for self-care and promote well-being.   In your children we have had so much to celebrate this half term; it has been an action packed half term with the children giving so much of themselves to their studies but also to the enriched co-curriculum programme of activities we offer here at St. Helen’s College. I am not about to list all the wonderful achievements of our pupils - the weekly newsletter, class blogs and photo galleries are testament to what an amazing community we have! We encourage the children to promote their own talents and to be able to do this without ‘showing off’ can sometimes be a challenge. They all have that inner strength to celebrate and we are developing this ability in every single pupil. Self-esteem, resilience, strength of character and a positive sense of self is something to promote and be proud of.   So this half term do take time with your family to be PROUD of your children but also to be proud of what every member of your family has achieved.  Below are a few synonyms to start the conversations! I am pleased with….I am glad that...I am happy with...I am delighted with... synonyms: pleased (with), glad (about/at), happy (about/at/with), delighted (about/at/with), joyful (at), overjoyed (at/over), thrilled (at/about/by/with), well pleased (with), satisfied (with), gratified (at), content (at), appreciative (of)   Have a wonderful half term holiday and thank you to everyone - pupils, parents and staff - for such a great first half term of 2018! Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 2/02/2018

Reporting To Parents - Head's Blog

Having worked in a range of schools prior to taking up the Headship of St. Helen’s College, I have been privy to a wide range of reporting methods. As a parent myself I always looked forward to my daughter’s Parents’ Evenings and to the report card coming home from school. She herself attended three different schools and they all reported to parents in different ways.  As parents, we all want to know that our precious ones are happy at school, developing their interpersonal skills and making good friendships and of course making progress in their subjects. Parents also want to know how we can support our children’s learning and personal development at home. Parents’ Evenings are one of the ways in which we report to our parents and we are aware that time restriction is a factor at these evenings. Teachers and parents alike could spend hours discussing a child’s learning thus this is why we have an open door policy and our staff are happy to meet with parents if they have a query regarding their child’s progress at any time - not just in the designated Parents’ Evening slot! Report cards are another way in which we are able to communicate with parents regarding your children’s learning.  I am sure that you all expect the report to be informative about how your child is progressing, not only academically but as an individual person in their own right and how you may be able to support your child at home. At St. Helen’s College, we pride ourselves on our school aims: Love of Learning To nurture a love of learning, and to develop fully every child’s academic potential. Through challenging, stimulating and creative teaching we aim to nurture the ability to think critically, creatively and flexibly, to work both independently and collaboratively, to be self-motivated and to persevere, and thereby to achieve high levels of scholarship while developing a lifelong love of learning. Outward Development To encourage all children to discover and develop their own excellence by participating in the widest range of challenging activities. We aim to encourage exploration, discover talent, nurture interest, and inspire achievement across the full range of creative, aesthetic, sporting and academic domains. We place great emphasis on activities which bring out the best in children. Inward Development To instil traditional Christian values and to nurture strength of character, so that the children will be ready to face, with integrity and confidence, the many challenges of adult life. We aim to instil core Christian values, to teach mindful self-awareness, to inspire virtue, confidence, imagination and versatility, and thereby to nurture confident, compassionate, creative, communicative, self-aware, adaptable citizens and leaders of the future. It is with this in mind that it is important that your children understand the ‘Habits of Learning’ which they need to develop in order to be a successful learner and flourish as an individual, ready for their journey through life. We encourage our pupils to develop the following habits in all that they do at school: To be organised and prepared for the day, for each lesson and for each activity they do To be able to work independently in their tasks without always seeking adult support or reassurance (including homework) To be able to collaborate with both their peers and adults in class and out of lessons To take initiative in their learning, think for themselves without waiting to be prompted, seize opportunities and be resourceful by having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties To have self-discipline - that ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses This term, alongside reporting on academic achievement, we will be reporting to parents on your child's 'Habits of Learning'. We hope this will be very insightful and helpful to you and to your children. All teachers who work with your children will be able to comment on these habits and how they are developing in their subject area and the form tutor will then look at the child’s general ‘Habits of Learning’ across all subjects.    I know that if I had been given this type of information about my daughter when she was younger I may have done some things differently with her!  Do remember that your children are often very different at school than at home and the profile that the school has of a child can be quite different from what you see at home. This is why it is so important to establish good communication between home and school! Parent conferences and report cards are such a small part of how we communicate about your children’s journey at St. Helen’s College - so do keep the channels of communication open so that we may all bring out the best for each pupil in our care.
Posted on: 26/01/2018

Reading - Head's Blog

It was wonderful to see so many parents attending our reading information sessions across the school this week. Parental support is key for children’s learning outcomes and your attendance this week speaks volumes. I am sure that  Mr. McLaughlin, Head of English, and Mrs. Hunt, Head of Lower School, have inspired everyone and given you all food for thought. The conversations I had with parents after the meetings were very honest and I am sure reflect the home lives of many modern families. Sadly, the good intentions that many parents have at the start of the academic year can slip as life becomes busy. It is all too easy to end up hearing your child read in the back of the car or in the kitchen while you are multi-tasking, making dinner, checking emails and so on. However, time does need to be allocated to that wonderful experience of sharing your child’s reading book. This is the most important homework that we give the children. The foundation for successful reading and comprehension lies in the early years when children are unlocking that door to the kingdom of learning. 'Learning to Read’ will progress into ‘Reading to Learn’, and the development of secure comprehension skills, in particular, underpins how a child can access the curriculum in all subjects as he or she moves through their educational journey. ‘Book talk’ is enormously important, so please do spend time with your child asking them questions about the book they are reading; this will deepen their understanding and appreciation of the text. I know that Mr. McLaughlin shared some sample question prompts for parents and many of our reading scheme books have superb information for parents on the inside and back covers - please do take a look. Just as importantly, we can be the best role models to our children. Let your children see you reading! Seeing adults using reading as a purposeful activity to further learning or for joy and relaxation will underline to children how worthwhile an activity reading really is. This needs to be continued through your children's teenage years, when too often they feel bombarded with course reading for GCSE and A levels! Do remind them of the joy of reading or even pull out their favourite baby book from years gone by. My 18 year old daughter still enjoys snuggling in bed with me as we share her furry bound book we shared when she was a toddler - reciting the book from cover to cover - it still brings a tear to my eye as we chuckle at the simple story line and repetitive pattern of the book. The joy and emotional bond that reading together creates between children and adults lives forever. When you are out and about, why not have your children read the signs in the supermarket or the road signs? Or you might plan a day out by reading together from the visitor guide at the attraction you are visiting. Many museums, castles and National Trust attractions have their own children’s guides…so do encourage your children to read and plan the day. Not only will they be applying their reading skills but they will be using and developing many other skills such as  mapping skills, telling the time or learning about history - there is a whole world of learning to embrace in your family time outside of school. Many of us have been visiting our local parks for years but have never noticed some of the information boards that have been put in place to inform us about our local surroundings. The National Heritage, RSPB and Wildlife Trust have all invested in wonderful notice boards which children can read and learn from.   Our pupils at St. Helen’s College are fortunate in that there is such a buzz around visiting the libraries both in Lower School and Upper School. The pupils know that libraries are special places and are always excited to visit and seek out new reads and recommendations from their peers. Why not visit other libraries or bookshops with your children outside of school too, so that pupils can share with you the excitement of finding a new and interesting book. Thank you for your support in your children’s learning journey. I hope that our reading evenings have perhaps rekindled your own passion for reading and given you some useful tips on how to support your children in what is the most wonderful (and important) skill to learn and then use! HAPPY READING! Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 19/01/2018

The Chartered College of Teaching - Head's Blog

    In February 2017 I attended the inaugural conference of the ‘The Chartered College of Teaching’. It was an exciting launch for the College which has been set up as a teacher-led organisation to support professional development, promote and share evidence-informed practice, and recognise excellence. The key aims of the College were to develop a chartered teaching programme, to encourage teachers to engage with research-informed pedagog and to provide the best teaching for the best outcomes for pupils.   I have attended several Chartered College events throughout the year and was so proud recently to attend a regional hub event, on a Wednesday evening after school hours, along with ten members of staff from St. Helen’s College. The event organiser was overwhelmed by the numbers of St. Helen’s College staff in attendance! So often in education teachers feel that the only way to progress their careers is to go into leadership thus we end up losing many excellent teachers from the classroom. This can be very unsettling for school communities if it means there is no continuity and consistency for the school.  We are very fortunate at St. Helen’s College that we have a very dedicated and motivated team and a very low turnover of staff. Our staff are so committed to improving pedagogy and practice to be the best practitioners we can be for your children. This month sees the launch of the pilot programme for teachers to achieve chartered teacher status. I am delighted that Ms Matthews, Head of EYFS, has been selected as one of the 150 participants to embark on this rigorous 14 month programme.  She will join teachers from around the UK and two international schools as part of the first cohort. Becoming a chartered teacher will be hard to achieve and the planned programme is demanding, but we know that Ms Matthews will bring her expertise to the programme and as a school we will also gain from the work she will undertake. I have also been invited to sit on the assessment board for this cohort of the Chartered Teacher programme and, in so doing,  I am honoured to represent St. Helen’s College and the independent sector.  Feel free to view the video on the link below - Justine Greening’s speech had clearly touched a nerve with me that day! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn6e2jmfVwk
Posted on: 12/01/2018

Ready, Respectful, Safe - Head's Blog

We are at the end of our first week back and I hope that your children may have already enlightened you as to our new mantra. Perhaps you have heard your child using the phrase ‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’ or repeating part of the phrase. Last Friday, all members of our St. Helen’s College staff community participated in a superb morning of training which was delivered by a company called Pivotal Education. The company is run by a husband and wife team, Paul and Ellie, and they are supported by their team of trainers who all hold the same values and vision to inspire and motivate school staff and to create measurable change in behaviour, relationships and learning.   I have heard both Paul and Ellie speak at various conferences and Teachmeet events and am delighted that every adult who comes into contact with your children at school has now benefited from the Pivotal principles. We are now embracing some basic routines to continue to help our pupils to benefit from all that we offer at St. Helen’s College and to help them develop as responsible individuals. Over the course of the year we will be further reviewing our behaviour policy and the structures and routines that we currently have at school, but our starting point is to develop the pupils understanding of what it is to be: ‘Ready’ Ready for learning, ready to listen, ready to go to lunch etc. ‘Respectful’ Showing respect to their peers, to adults, to their environment, to themselves. ‘Safe’ Safe in their learning environment, safe with the people around them and safe in the activities in which they are taking part. I am sure that the phrase may also be helpful at home and you might already be considering the occasions when it may be very useful to use! When there are so many people interacting with children, it is important that we all have the same expectations and that we are consistent in our approach. I know that we all like routine, from the number of conversations that I have had this week with parents and staff about how we all enjoy holidays, but how that lack of structure and routine during the holiday period can be quite taxing and detrimental for children and adults alike! So, as we embark on our 2018 journey with Joyous January I hope that you will also embrace our mantra of Ready, Respectful, Safe.   For those of you who like reading, Paul Dix has just published his superb book which is not only entertaining by incredibly useful for not only teachers but also parents! ‘When the Adults Change, Everything Changes’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Adults-Change-Everything-Changes/dp/1781352739 Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 8/12/2017

When I Grow Up by Mr. Crehan

Children at school are often keen to share their ambitions and to tell us what they want to be when they grow up. Over the years, astronauts, footballers and hairdressers have been regular favourites, but children’s interests ebb and flow as they broaden their experience and new vistas open for them. It is quite rare, I suspect, for a child to make a career decision at the age of 8, pursue it single-mindedly, and realise that ambition at the age of 14. As a young child, Rhys Concessao had sat in on his mother’s piano lessons and then started to take lessons himself. He quickly picked up proficiency and started to work through the grades. Rhys joined St. Helen’s College at the age of 8 when he was Grade 3 on the piano. One morning at school, Rhys listened as Brendan, a fellow pupil who was two years older, played brilliantly in assembly. Brendan was a Grade 8 pianist who played with great sensitivity and panache, and his performance inspired Rhys who, shortly after this experience, told me that he had decided to become an international concert pianist. And he was serious about it. Rhys began to practice every day for several hours and was hungry for more rehearsal time. Rhys’ parents, Nisha and Roshan, supported his ambition wholeheartedly, and, following discussions with them, we arranged for Rhys to attend school part-time so that he could have extra lesson and practice hours, while working to a modified school curriculum. Unsurprisingly given Rhys’ exceptional motivation, he made dramatic progress, started to win music competitions and performed wonderfully at the St. Helen’s College Musicians’ Concert. He went on to win a Scholarship to The Purcell Music School and a Sir Elton John Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. Since then Rhys has won many awards and has performed at venues and events around the world, as documented on his website http://www.rhysconcessao.com/index.html. He has received particular support from the great pianist Láng Lǎng, with whom he has studied. An international performer, Rhys was closer to home last month and I heard him play Chopin’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E Minor with the Reading Symphony Orchestra. Given his tender age of just 14 and the challenge presented by this particular concerto (Chopin was a virtuosic pianist and the final movement is particularly challenging) I was not expecting more than a competent performance, but I could not have been more wrong. Rhys’ playing was technically faultless and full of nuance and emotion. To cap this, he played the famously difficult, hand-blurring La Campanella by Liszt as an encore – brilliantly. For this piece, Láng Lǎng’s advice to Rhys was to use his fingers on the piano keys like a duck flapping in the water to get the best sound! There is a short clip of Rhys paying part of the concerto (but sadly not the encore) on his website. We have invited Rhys to attend St. Helen’s Day next year. He was inspired by a fellow pupil and it would be wonderful for our current pupils to hear of - and perhaps be inspired in turn by – the intense passion and patient practice on which Rhys is building his success. A last word from Rhys: ‘As Láng Lǎng puts it simply, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”  

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