School News and Head's Blog

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Posted on: 13/10/2023

IAPS Conference 2023

As we approach our half term I have been reflecting on what has been an incredible start to our academic year. A couple of weeks ago I joined four hundred other Headteachers at our annual IAPS Head’s conference in Liverpool to return to the classroom to hear about developments and current trends in education across the world and nationally. The theme of the conference was ‘Venture Out’ and, as I attended keynote speakers and seminars, I felt so much pride in what we already do here at St. Helen’s College.   There were a host of speakers who shared their wealth of knowledge on topics, which included: Ben Edmonds who has just stepped down as one of the principal designers at Dyson to launch his own company. He reminded us of the skills and creativity which our children will need to be innovative in their future lives. Sarah Horrocks who shared her expertise on developing a digital strategy and tranforming the curriculum and the impact of blended learning. Needless to say, St. Helen’s College is already quite a front runner with our digital learning and our successful online platform throughout the pandemic was testament to this.   The Scary Guy (yes, that is his name) - please do look at his website. He gave us all food for thought and challenged us all to take part in the seven day challenge, during which everything that comes out of our mouths should be positive and not be derogative and negatively judgemental. If you do find yourself saying something ‘mean’ your challenge starts again. As adults we can find this difficult so how hard is this for children! Paul Main discussed his work developing his passion and research into the science of learning and we shared the tools and strategies that he has developed to enable children to ‘think for themselves’. These speakers are only four of many with whom I engaged over the duration of the conference. Although I found them all interesting, I did come away after my few days incredibly proud of what we already have embedded and other aspects we continue to develop at St. Helen’s College. It highlighted for me how innovative and committed the staff at SHC are in always keeping informed about research, pedagogy and being the best they can be to inspire your children. It is the drive and commitment of the team around your children who enable them to make such great progress and of course the parental support which helps the children to thrive and strive for excellence every day. The pupils and staff all now need to recharge over the half term break in order to return for the next half term to continue following their passion for learning. Happy half term to all! Ms Drummond
Posted on: 22/09/2023

Why Art?

Many of you may not be aware that Mrs. Pruce, our subject co-ordinator for art across the school, is also the national lead for art for the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), an association of which we are members.  IAPS has 663 schools in membership (of which 47 can be found outside of the UK). The schools must reach a very high standard to be eligible for membership of IAPS, with strict criteria on teaching a broad curriculum, maintaining excellent standards of pastoral care and keeping staff members’ professional development training up to date. Mrs. Pruce supports art teachers in IAPS schools as part of her role and has run several professional development days for other teachers at St. Helen’s College, when she has invited inspiring artists into school to run workshops for the staff. These include Darrell Wakelam and Emma Collins. Mrs. Pruce’s ‘Why Art?’ blog appears on the IAPS website and I would like to share it with you (below). We pride ourselves on nurturing all of the arts and our enriched curriculum is a testament to the expertise of our staff at St. Helen’s College. If you do not already follow the St. Helen's College instagram page for art then please do - it may inspire you to be a budding artist with your children! Why Art? by Mrs. Nadine Pruce “Every child is an artist,” said Pablo Picasso, and he’s right. This September begins my fourth year at St. Helens College, Hillingdon, and what a few years it has been! Yet throughout, and since, the turmoil of Covid, our art has held classes together, united us in our joy for the subject and had us chuckling during online lessons, especially when dressed as royalty in crowns and tiaras with Year 2. Art is all around us, not just in galleries but on TV, packaging, book covers, graphic design, the restaurant industry and stage and film to name a few. The career options are numerous, and it is a subject to be taken seriously. The subject of art dates back thousands of years from all around the world. It adds to what we now know about history, from cave paintings to Henry Moore’s chalk work on the shelters during the war and Banksy’s political graffiti. Without these we can only guess at what really happened. In itself, art can be a way of communication to express ourselves, heal our souls when troubled, tell a story or be an experience to share our thoughts and feelings or just to while away time. For me personally, art has been something that I have only had the courage to embrace in the last 17 years or so. I say courage as I was the child at school who was too tall, stuck out like a sore thumb, and went easily red-faced when the art teacher told me that it wasn’t my best subject. That crushed all creativity I had for many, many years. I promised myself that no child I teach would be made to feel this way about their own talents. The introduction of new skills at St. Helens College has proven that Picasso was definitely right. The child who can draw superbly may not be the best painter; the painter may not be the best sculptor, who in turn may not be the best print maker. But they are all good at something and seeing that realisation dawn on pupils' faces is what drives me on. As teachers we have a role to play in encouraging our students, focussing on the good and inspiring the confidence to try. FAIL is the 'First Attempt In Learning' and even as adults we are still always learning. We adults have a lot to learn from our children, in school and at home. The artistic response to the pandemic blew my mind. The explanations given as to why pupils drew what they drew were clear, simplistic and openly honest. Arya in Year 2 with her “Rainbow Tree” and Riya, in Year 6, with “Breakout” were stunning examples that gave me goosebumps and tears in my eyes.  Arya won her age group for the IAPS Online Art Competition in my first year here. Have you ever been reduced to tears by art in any form? Poetry, music or a piece of writing? My first glimpse of the Taj Mahal, from far away, actually made me cry, not an emotion I expected over the sight of a building. The use of sketch pads at St. Helen's College has been changing and is changing further this school year. The desire to scribble out something not liked is natural but also pointless; we need to see our failures to perfect our abilities. In the book "The Dot" Peter H Reynolds shows us the power of one single adult's actions to change a child's life. “The book shows the importance of teacher-student relationships, and our connections as human beings. It shows how creative thinking on the part of a teacher can unlock a child's own creativity, confidence, and growth.” So, however old you are, I encourage you all to go and enjoy whatever art form you would love to explore the most, and remember… in art you are never wrong.     
Posted on: 15/09/2023

Head's Blog - Words From Pupils Present And Past

Rather than write a blog this week, I would like to share two things with you. The first is the speech given by our new Head Boy and Head Girl, Aiden and Samara, at our St. Helen's Day assembly this afternoon. They wrote the speech themselves and delivered it beautifully, with enormous confidence. The second is a poem, written by two of our Old Helenians and performed last night at our alumni centenary party and again today at our St. Helen's Day assembly. I hope that you will enjoy these as much as we all did, and I hope you will agree that they show that the St. Helen' s College school values remain as strong as ever! Head Boy And Head Girl Speech Ladies and gentlemen, teachers, students and esteemed guests. Today, as the Head Boy and Head Girl of St. Helen's College, we stand before you with great pride and gratitude as we celebrate a momentous occasion – the centenary of our beloved school. Over the past century, St. Helen's has been a beacon of light, shaping countless lives and instilling values that continue to guide us today.  First, let's say thank you to our wonderful guests for sharing their amazing stories with us all. Let's start with a fun fact about the school. St. Helen’s College was founded in 1924, even before TV’s made their first appearance! Imagine a class with no smart board! At the heart of St. Helen's College lie three core values that have remained unwavering throughout our journey: to strive for excellence, help others achieve, and care for one another. Firstly, we are a school that strives for excellence. We set high standards for ourselves and constantly push the boundaries of our abilities. Whether it's in academics, sports, the arts, or any endeavour we pursue, excellence is not an option; it's our way of life. Let us continue to embrace the spirit of excellence, always aiming higher and achieving more than we thought possible. The second fact of the day is this. During the Second World War, the school's first building got bombed. But guess what? Mrs. Hempstead, who was in charge at that time, didn't give up. She moved the school to a new place at 223 Long Lane, and they kept having classes even during the war. That's some serious dedication! Secondly, St. Helen's is a community that believes in helping others achieve. We understand that our individual success is linked to the success of those around us. Whether it's lending a helping hand to a struggling classmate or volunteering in our local community, our commitment to lifting others up is what makes our school truly special. Lastly, caring for others is a value that defines us. We are a family that looks out for one another, offering support and compassion when it's needed most. Let us carry this spirit of care beyond these walls and into the world, making a positive impact on the lives of those we encounter. And for the third and final fact. In January 2017 Ducklings opened, just for little children who are 2-3 years old. That's where the youngest St. Helenians go to have fun and learn. That was before I joined the school! As we celebrate this centenary milestone, let us reflect on the incredible legacy of St. Helen's College. Let us honour the generations of students, teachers, and staff who have contributed to its growth and success. And let us, the current attendants of this legacy, pledge to carry these core values forward into the next century, ensuring that St. Helen's continues to be a place of excellence, help, and care for all who pass through its gates. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this remarkable journey. Here's to the next hundred years of excellence, achievement, and compassion at St. Helen's College. Thank you. School Poem Mrs. Green and Mrs. Ruffle are sisters, who attended St. Helen’s College as children. More recently, they have been parents of pupils at the school, with Mrs. Green's daughter Charlee completing Year 6 in our centenary year. They wrote the following poem. When we were asked to speak today, We thought long and hard about what to say; We discussed our memories for such a long time;  In the end we put them in a rhyme. In the seventies the school was so much smaller.  For one thing the building is now so much taller. A one storey building was all that we had, But back then it didn’t seem all that bad. In the morning we would start promptly at nine, Mrs. Stockwell in charge of the bell that would chime. We’d line up in height order and make our way  To get ready for morning assembly each day. Classes 1, 2, 3 and 4 Lined up patiently at their class door. It was only when we heard the head call  That we’d make our way into the hall. Assembly took the same format each day: Three hymns we would sing, a verse from Psalms we would say.  It was the one time of day the whole school was there  And we would always finish with the Lord’s prayer. If you had something exciting to share, The head would invite you to stand on a chair  To tell everyone your piece of ‘news’; We were always encouraged to share our views.  Lessons were taught all morning long, Reciting our tables or singing a song, Reading our work that was written in chalk, Full of concentration – no one dared talk. Every year each class did a play. In the lead up to performance we would rehearse every day, Learning our lines off by heart, To make sure we did justice to our given part. The costumes were a sight to behold: Goblins, fairies, baubles made of gold; Proud parents forced to watch one and all, As we performed our shows at the Winston Churchill Hall. We didn’t do much in the way of sport. Now there so much extra curricular taught. However, Sports Day was still a big deal And the excitement we felt was definitely real. The events were …. creative, let’s say! The ‘slow bicycle’ race a highlight of the day. The aim of the game was to cross the line LAST. It was never about who could ride fast. Honestly, the memories are too many to share; Things you cannot explain, you just had to be there. But one thing is certain, at the heart of all … Was Mrs. Evans, the Headmistress of the school.  She was the one who ran the show, Ensuring every pupil had the chance to grow, She ran the school with a firm and fair hand: Every lesson, show and Open Day meticulously planned. Open Day was always an exciting event, With hours and hours often spent Painting our ‘Big Pictures’ to grace the walls, All the way round the main school hall. We would work all term long with enthusiasm and glee, Mrs. Evans’ frustration not always easy to see, But the pictures we left before the weekend Were often doctored by her black felt tip pen! ‘My daughter, the teacher’ was a regular comment; Her pride in her family was always apparent; An inspirational woman who shaped many young minds, Imparting her wisdom and dishing out lines. So much is so different now, so much is the same, But at the heart of the school core values remain. Mr. & Mrs. Crehan then took on the challenge To grow and expand the whole of St. Helen’s. All we can say is they must have done okay, As both of our daughters have thrived here in their own way. All pupils leave confident and articulate children, Blessed with a strong foundation of knowledge to build on. So let's raise our glasses and give a loud cheer, Talk to the back of the room – so everyone can hear. To St. Helen’s the school and the memories it holds, As we celebrate her being 100 years old!
Posted on: 8/09/2023

Exploring The Essence Of School Culture

Every term, our staff meet prior to the children returning to school for preparation and training days. Earlier this week, as well as rigorous Safeguarding, Cyber Security and Health And Safety training, we had a superb session on ‘Culture And Behaviour’ led by Mr. McLaughlin. The session was very thought provoking and inspiring. It also led me to ponder how much you, as our parent body, had deeply thought about our school culture and the behaviours and expectations we set for not only the children but also the adults supporting them (both staff and parents). This short blog below may give you food for thought. I would love to hear your reflections on our school culture and, as always, any feedback from our parent body is appreciated.  Schools are more than just bricks and mortar; they are dynamic ecosystems that foster the growth and development of our future generations. At the heart of any educational institution lies its "school culture." But what exactly is school culture, and why is it so essential?  In this blog, I will delve into the concept of school culture, exploring its components, significance, and the impact it has on the pupils, teachers, and the entire learning community.  School culture can be likened to the personality or character of a school. It encompasses the shared beliefs, values, traditions, and practices that shape the daily life and interactions within an educational institution. It's the intangible essence that defines what a school stands for and what it aspires to achieve.  Key Components Of School Culture  Shared Values and Beliefs: A strong school culture is built on a foundation of shared values and beliefs. These could include a commitment to academic excellence, respect for diversity, a focus on character development, or a dedication to community service. Our aims at St. Helen’s College are: Love of Learning - We aim to inspire a lifelong thirst for creative, stimulating and rewarding learning, leading to the full development of every child’s academic potential. Personal Growth - We aim to instil core moral values, inspiring virtue, responsibility, resilience, independence, mindful self-awareness and a desire for continuing self-development. Involvement and Challenge - We aim to inspire an ongoing desire to develop talents, nurture the widest possible range of interests, and contribute to society as confident, compassionate and responsible citizens and leaders of the future. St. Helen’s College inspires academic excellence, mindful self-awareness and creative self-development in pupils and staff alike. It is an inclusive, happy, vibrant community of pupils, staff and families, where love, respect, teamwork and teaching by example prevail. At its heart are our core values: love, harmony, spirituality and growth.  Norms and Expectations: Every school has its own set of norms and expectations, which guide behavior and interactions. These could involve rules for conduct, academic standard or even dress codes.  We pride ourselves on our high expectations for how the children conduct themselves and it is important that, at the beginning of term, we remind them of our expectations. Children love routine and structure and over the course of this week we have introduced them and reminded them of our norms and expectations, including how they line up and move around school, playground etiquette, dining room etiquette and classroom routines. Ensuring that there is consistency in what we are all expecting from the children is key.  Traditions and Rituals: Schools often have traditions and rituals that help to build a sense of belonging and identity. These might include assemblies, house events, plays, or annual events that bring the school community together such as our STEAM Day, Sports Days, Speech Competitions etc. This year we are very excited to be celebrating our centenary and over the course of this academic year there will be many events arranged for us all to celebrate ‘St. Helen’s College’.  Leadership and Role Models: The leadership within a school plays a significant role in shaping its culture. Principals, Head, teachers and staff members serve as role models, influencing the attitudes and behaviours of children. I also include all parents as key to influencing the attitudes and behaviours of the pupils; this is why it is so important that you understand our expectations and fully support the school in its endeavours and all adults act as a team around the child, singing from the same hymn sheet so to speak. Pupil Engagement:  The level of pupil engagement in school activities, clubs, and sports can also contribute to the overall culture. A vibrant extracurricular scene can foster a sense of enthusiasm and school spirit. We pride ourselves on our co-curricular provision at St. Helen’s College and your children are exposed to such a wide range of activities to enrich their opportunity and experiences.  So what is the significance of ‘School Culture’? Academic Success: A positive school culture can enhance academic achievement. When pupils feel connected to their school and believe in its values, they are more likely to be motivated to excel academically. This goes without saying here at St Helen’s College and our pupils achieve significant academic excellence during their time with us - all pupils make excellent progress and our Year 6 leavers’ destinations are testament to this.   Social and Emotional Well-Being: School culture has a direct impact on the emotional well-being of students. A supportive and inclusive culture can help students feel safe, accepted, and valued. I am sure that one of the main reasons for you choosing St. Helen’s College is the strength of our pastoral care and strong well-being emphasis, which is a golden thread throughout the school. Teacher Morale:  Teachers who work in schools with a positive culture tend to be more satisfied and motivated in their roles. This, in turn, can lead to better teaching practices and improved student outcomes. We have such an excellent staff team here at St. Helen’s College - there is superb collegiality and a recent staff well-being questionnaire affirmed this. Staff retention is very strong.  Community Engagement:  A strong school culture often extends beyond the school gates, involving parents and the wider community. This collaboration can lead to enhanced support and resources for the school. We have many links forged between parents and the wider community and it is an aspect of the school which we need to continue embracing and growing.  Preparation for Life:   School culture plays a vital role in preparing pupils for life beyond the classroom. It instils values, ethics and skills that are crucial for success in the real world. We are developing our ‘Life Skills’ programme over the course of the next couple of years but the children’s independence and acquisiton of life skills is dependent on school and home working together to enable their life skills to develop. Creating and nurturing a positive school culture is an ongoing process that involves the entire school community. Some key strategies include:  Effective Leadership: School leaders should lead by example, promoting the values and beliefs of the institution - we hope that you agree that our leadership at St. Helen’s College is as such. Open Communication: Encourage open and transparent communication between all stakeholders - pupils, teachers, parents, and all other staff members. We are a large community and do our utmost to ensure good communication channels. Our recent ‘Meet the Teacher’ evenings are one aspect of this. We also hope that each year group will embrace the new communication app being set up for parental communication, ‘Class List’, and continue to maintain open and transparent communication in the parent body.  Inclusivity: Promote an inclusive environment that celebrates diversity and respects individual differences. We have undertaken so much work over the past few years on Diversity/Equality/Inclusion and this continues but we also appreciate parental involvement to keep improving this aspect of school culture. Celebrating Achievements: Recognise and celebrate the achievements and contributions of students and staff. This is one aspect of our school culture which I feel is embedded at St. Helen’s College and we appreciate that parents also inform us of the children’s achievements from outside of school and even when they have left us and moved on to senior schools and beyond. Continuous Improvement: Regularly assess the school culture and make adjustments as needed to align with the school's mission and vision.  We are constantly reflecting and evaluating what we do, why and how. It is through this approach and gaining feedback that we can continue to make improvements to what already is an incredible school! In conclusion, school culture is the heartbeat of any educational institution. It sets the tone for learning, shapes character and prepares pupils for the challenges of the future. By understanding and actively nurturing a positive school culture, we can create an environment where students thrive academically, socially, and emotionally, ensuring that they are well-prepared to become tomorrow's leaders and responsible citizens. Thank you all for being part of this unique community. At the staff training day I spoke to the staff about how, after 34 years in education, I still feel the ‘wiggles’ the night before we return to school each term and especially at the beginning of a new academic year. Those wiggles are excitement, adrenaline, the anticipation of what lies ahead! I hope I never stop ‘wiggling!’. Wishing us all a superb new academic year. Ms Drummond  
Posted on: 14/07/2023

Honk!

At the end of this hugely successful year for the children of St. Helen’s College I would like to leave you with the short speech which I gave this morning at our final assembly at Upper School. The Year 6 pupils have been building up to their production of ‘Honk’ the musical based upon the story of the The Ugly Duckling and they performed this three times this week to a packed auditorium at The Compass Theatre.   The underpinning message which I have attempted to convey in this speech to Year 6 applies to us all….children and adults!  Have a wonderful summer everyone and thank you all for your unfaltering support this year.   Ladies and gentlemen, parents, teachers, and most importantly, our remarkable Year 6 leavers, today, we come together for our final assembly at St. Helen’s College of this academic year and to bid farewell to our Year 6 pupils as you prepare to embark on a new journey. And what better way to commemorate this moment than by drawing inspiration from the incredible musical 'Honk.' 'Honk' tells the heartwarming story of a little duckling named Ugly who finds himself on a journey of self-discovery, acceptance and embracing one's unique qualities. Just like Ugly, each one of you possesses extraordinary talents and capabilities that make you shine in your own way. Throughout your time here, we have witnessed your growth, individually and as a group. You have showcased your talents on the stage, in the classroom, on the sports field, and in countless other endeavours. 'Honk' teaches us that our differences should be celebrated, for it is our unique qualities that make us truly special. In the musical, Ugly encounters a myriad of characters who try to bring him down, questioning his worth and making him feel like an outsider. But Ugly never loses hope. He discovers a resilience within himself, a belief that he is destined for greatness. And our wonderful Year 6 leavers, that same resilience beats within your hearts as well. As you prepare to take the next step in your educational journey, remember the lessons from 'Honk.' Embrace the challenges that come your way, for they will only make you stronger. Embrace your individuality, for it is what sets you apart from the rest. And most importantly, embrace the power of kindness and empathy, for those qualities have the ability to change the world. Just as Ugly finds acceptance and love from unexpected sources, be open to the friendships and connections you will forge in the years ahead. Cherish the bonds you have formed here and treasure the memories that will forever remain etched in your hearts. As you step into the unknown, know that we believe in you. Believe in your abilities, your dreams, and your potential to make a difference. Each one of you possesses a unique voice and it is through that voice that you can create a lasting impact on the world around you. In conclusion, Year 6 leavers, as you spread your wings and venture forth, remember the tale of Ugly from 'Honk.' Be proud of who you are, embrace your talents, and have the courage to stand tall in the face of adversity. With resilience, compassion and a dash of humour, you will conquer any obstacle that comes your way. Congratulations, Class of 2023, and may the echoes of 'Honk' guide you to a future filled with joy, success, and the fulfilment of all your dreams.
Posted on: 9/06/2023

Embedding A Mindful Culture

  Tomorrow I am presenting at a conference speaking to other educators and leaders about ‘Embedding a mindful culture in your school’.  I am passionate about aspects of wellbeing for pupils and staff and it is incredibly heartwarming when we have feedback from parents who notice the impact of how our pastoral care and ‘mindful’ culture impacts upon them as a family. I am grateful to one of our families who has contributed to my presentation tomorrow by participating in a short video. You can see their contribution in my presentation which is linked here. You will also be taken through a mindful practice by their daughter Arshia (our Head Girl)  who has written this meditation practice as our ‘Mindfulness Amabassador’.  Arshia is currently working with another pupil in Year 3, Gurdaya, who is also eager to spread her mindful awareness with her peers. My talk/workshop tomorrow is not only about mindfulness but also about how we embed a culture of wellbeing and I hope that some of you may enjoy the slides and it gives you all food for thought as to how your employer looks after you as an employee.   Mr. and Mrs. Crehan are committed to ensuring that all the staff and pupils at St. Helen’s College are looked after well to ensure that the school continues to flourish. I for one certainly feel that, as a community, we are unique and we look out for each other and all strive to do our best.   Have you found your ‘ikigai’? Happy weekend everyone! Ms Drummond
Posted on: 26/05/2023

Residential Trips

  Over many years at St. Helen’s College, I and the other staff have seen so many cohorts of children benefit from the opportunities offered here. We have, for example, seen the quietest, least confident Lower School children gradually develop their performance and public speaking skills until they have turned into stars of the Year 6 summer musical. We have seen children struggle with concepts or particular subjects in the classroom, only to have that lightbulb moment of understanding when something is explained to them in a new way. We have seen children practise and develop their musical skills from - and forgive my honesty, here, which is no criticism - somewhat tuneless scraping of violins to the playing of incredibly beautiful movements from concertos. It never ceases to amaze me how much the pupils’ knowledge, skills and talents grow during their time with us. What has always impressed me the most about St. Helen’s College and its pupils, though, is the journey of personal development that each child goes on during their time with us. The school’s programme of education and enrichment activities is constantly evolving to ensure that it absolutely reflects the St. Helen's College core belief that happiness and personal growth are key to a child’s success. Our residential trips, two of which have taken place this week, are a perfect example of this. The Year 6 children have spent this week at the Chateau De La Baudonniere in Normandy, France, while our Year 4 pupils have been at the stunningly beautiful Flatford Mill in Suffolk. Earlier this term, Year 3 enjoyed a residential trip to PACCAR Scout Camp and Year 5 spent a week at Little Canada on the Isle of Wight.  The educational aspects of these trips are carefully planned to enrich the children’s learning at school in many subject areas including geography, history, art, creative writing, science and languages. There is no doubt that the children gain new academic knowledge and skills during their stays away. But perhaps the most important gains they make from the residential trips are personal ones. Friendships are cemented and new life skills are developed such as making one’s own bed, developing the resilience to cope in a new environment, understanding that others may be finding things hard, being brave enough to try new things and learning to look at the world differently. The confidence and self-esteem that arise from being pushed out of one’s comfort zone and experiencing the success of overcoming personal challenges should not be underrated. The child who is afraid but survives that fear learns how to manage uncertainty and to trust in his or her ability to cope. The child who is supported by friends or teachers during a difficult night or through an illness away from home learns that it is alright to express needs and depend on other relationships outside of the home. The child who tries something new - whether that is eating a snail in France, taking the ‘leap of faith’ on the activity equipment in the Isle of Wight or anything else - develops the courage to have a go at things without, or despite, fear of the unknown or thoughts of failure. It sounds like an overstatement to say that we physically see the difference in classes of children back at school after residential trips, but it is not. Sometimes the children actually stand taller; sometimes they display more courage; sometimes they are better at articulating their thoughts or their needs. We often notice that they are more tolerant, more self-aware and more outward-looking. Always their friendships are strengthened and often their circle of friends is expanded. We hope that they also return home with a new appreciation for their parents and wider families and all that you do to support them on a daily - and nightly - basis. Mr. Lewis and I have been in school this week but we have been in touch with the staff who are away on the residential trips with the children. Their commitment to the children’s care and development has, as always, been outstanding. Like the children, they will return today extremely tired but very happy and they too will have gained new skills and new knowledge, tried new things and developed their friendships. They will also have gained a deeper understanding of the children’s characters which will enhance the relationships between staff and children back at school.  Meanwhile, staff at school have also worked extremely hard as a team to cover those staff away on residential trips and to ensure that the school has remained a lively, energised, interesting and productive environment for those children who have been here. It has been wonderful to see staff pulling together as always and I know that Ms Drummond is delighted that it has been such a super week at ‘home’ as well as ‘away’! The benefit of the St. Helen’s College programme of residential trips is enormous and long-lasting. We know that the trips can be exhausting for those involved and that Year 4 and Year 6 will spend the first days of half term recovering but it will have been worth it. Like Year 3 and Year 5 earlier this term, the Year 4 and 6 children will be - whether it is obvious immediately or not - more independent, more resilient, more responsible, more self-disciplined and more confident. Each of these qualities will underpin and enhance their self-worth and happiness. In short, they will have grown. Personal development like that is priceless. On behalf of Ms Drummond (who has been in France) and all of the staff, we wish you a happy, restful half term. Mrs. Smith
Posted on: 19/05/2023

Perilous Perfectionism

Many of you are aware that we are incredibly fortunate to have Mrs. Brooker on our staff at St. Helen’s College who is a trained counsellor. She is based at the Upper School but is available to all pupils and staff as another element of our pupil wellbeing support. Pupils can self refer or parents and staff can request a ‘Time to Talk’ session for a pupil in addition to the pastoral support we already provide.  Mrs. Brooker supports the staff with wellbeing ideas too and she often shares superb blogs, podcasts and activities for us all to keep upskilling staff and supporting us in our roles with the children. I have frequently asked Mrs. Brooker to write a guest blog for us and thus far she has declined - believe it or not - with her own fear around failing and something being ‘published’ and it not being good enough - oh, the irony! However, it is so important that adults are self-aware and recognise our fears - such as fear of failure - so that we know how they may affect how we work with the children and prepare them for the next steps in their learning journey.  I am delighted that Mrs. Brooker has taken on the challenge of writing for us and has overcome that fear of failure or her blog not being good enough! I am sure that her blog will resonate with us all and give some helpful tips. Thank you Mrs. Brooker.  Ms Drummond   I heard this week how a child had become so distraught after getting one of their spelling words wrong in a test that they became angry and refused to engage in play at break. This intense distress continued all day and by home time, they insisted that their parent write to the class teacher to assure them that they had definitely learned their spelling words that week and that it was just a slight mistake in their handwriting, not that they hadn’t learnt their spellings properly. Imagine how the child had felt as the correct spellings were read aloud that day. Can you picture the enormity of their fear of that one mistake? Perhaps the child immediately felt sick or their heart started to pound in their chest. Their legs may have felt tingly and they may have started to sweat. Rage and fear may have started to rumble in their stomach and this could have triggered angry, self-critical thoughts about themselves like, ‘You’re such a failure!’ ‘You’re always getting things wrong!’ ‘Everyone will laugh at you now!’. Automatic negative thoughts like these would have sent off messages back to the body that it is in danger and the child’s fight or flight response may have been triggered. Perfectionism can become a problem when it fuels our anxiety and depression about who we are or who we are not. It can lead someone to feel like they are never good enough or they can’t enjoy any present accomplishments because they are worried about a future mistake or failure. Some symptoms of perfectionism are: Difficulty completing work because it is ‘never good enough’ High anxiety surrounding failure or mistakes High sensitivity to criticism or constructive feedback Low frustration tolerance to mistakes Procrastinating around difficult tasks Self-critical, self-conscious and easily embarrassed Very critical of other people Here are some tips to manage symptoms of perfectionism: Self-esteem: Encourage your child to engage in activities that support them feeling good about themselves. Control: Explore with your child what they can control and what is outside of their control. Self-talk: Encourage your child to offer themselves some kindness and compassion for the effort that went into a task rather than self-criticism. Expectations: Check in occasionally to see whose expectations your child is looking to meet. Effort: Remember to praise the effort your child has made and remind them it is not about the grade, it is about how much they tried. Goals: Keep goals realistic and challenging, but most of all fun! Share: Share stories of how you have failed, how you coped and what you may have learned from the experience. Coping skills: Understand that failure can feel uncomfortable, but help your children to manage their disappointment, rejection and mistakes in a healthy way. Suggest offering themselves some compassion or they could do a couple of star jumps, splash some cold water on their face, talk to a friend, write a journal or draw a picture to support themselves through their difficult emotions. Mrs. Brooker
Posted on: 5/05/2023

Music Education

This week I attended a ‘Breakfast Chat’ which I attend monthly with fellow educators to discuss topical educational issues surrounding partnerships with other schools and external providers. This ‘Breakfast Chat’ network has been invaluable in hearing about what other schools around the UK are doing to enhance educational opportunities for children in both independent and maintained schools. On this occasion we had over fifty participants online all from a musical background to discuss ‘Music education and how partnerships are essential to develop music.’ The first question which was raised was how we define music education. I am delighted that we have such a strong focus on music education here at St. Helen’s College, both in the curriculum and in our co-curricular provision, and that we recognise that music education is part of pupil wellbeing. It was quite pertinent that we used music as the key driver behind our ‘One World Day’ last term.   Your children are exposed to music on a daily basis whether that is in their curriculum lessons, in peripatetic lessons, or through our various choirs, musical groups, assemblies and performances in school. We are lucky to have an incredibly talented group of music teachers. However, it is every teacher’s responsibility to ensure that we are appreciating music as part of pupil wellbeing throughout the day and this is also most definitely the case at St. Helen’s College.   Partnerships with other schools and external agencies are also important and we would love to continue building these relationships. This month our orchestra is joining together with several other schools for a day of musicality at John Lyon School. Our pupils visit local care homes to entertain them with their musicality and this is mutually beneficial for wellbeing.  Our peripatetic teachers share information about what else they are involved in and many of us have booked our tickets to see Cinderella at the Royal Albert Hall where Mrs. Nash (one of our peripatetic teachers and a parent of three Old Helenians) is playing as a violinist in the orchestra. I was presenting ABRSM certificates to our students earlier this week and many of them had just passed their ‘cello exams.  I introduced the children to the music of Sheku Kanneh-Mason. We listened to him play and I read the children an extract from this book ‘Rise Up - Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories.’ I was delighted that many of our pupils knew of him already. Through his hard work and dedication as a young school boy from Northampton he is now a world class musician.  One of my ex students from Japan, Eva Kestner, has just shared the news with me that Harper Collins UK is publishing a book about her and her music and they are developing an online platform where children and parents can download her music and educational videos. Eva is a professional taiko drummer and she was delighted when I showed her photographs of our pupils at Upper School taking part in the taiko drumming workshops during One World Day. I hope that we can welcome Eva to St. Helen’s College if she has the opportunity to visit London in the near future.  Our own pupils are incredibly inspiring and I am very much looking forward to our Singing Competition later this month which will be closely followed by the Singers’ Concert in All Saints and our Musicians’ Concert, which are always two of my school calendar highlights.   Keep enjoying music at home too - we are so fortunate to have such a diverse community and that our pupils are exposed to so many genres and styles of music and song.  I will leave you with these words from Plato:  “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” Ms Drummond

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