School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 19/01/2018
Weekly News - Friday 19th January 2018It has been another incredibly busy week at school! Don't forget that photographs of school events are posted weekly to the Galleries page.
Owls Class Assembly
Owls class performed with outstanding confidence as they presented a very informative assembly on their topic of 'Hot and Cold'. We were taken on a worldwide tour from the arctic to Antarctica, discovering the habitats and animals of those regions. We also stopped off at the Equator and experienced the heat and volcanoes of the tropics. Congratulations Owls - we all learnt so much from you!
5G Class Assembly
5G also presented a super assembly today, all about space exploration. They looked at the natural curiosity of humans and how it prompts us to explore, showed us a timeline of all the space exploration which has happened so far and held a live debate! The assembly finished with a performance of 'Space Oddity'. All who watched 5G will certainly have come away with much more knowledge about why and how we explore space, and how we might continue to do so in the future.
Christian O'Connell Author Visit
On Wednesday we received a special visitor at Upper School: Absolute Radio DJ, stand up comedian and children's author Christian O'Connell. He was here to talk to the Year 4, 5 and 6 children about his second book in the Radio Boy series, subtitled The Revenge of Grandad. He spoke about his journey to becoming a writer with great charisma and humour, but there were a few things he said that really stood out amongst the improvised jokes and hilarious anecdotes.
Christian spoke about his journey to becoming a radio DJ being full of rejection and difficulty. He used these issues as a positive - a means to grow and develop as a person until he got to where he wanted to be. The children nodded, knowingly, because we speak about this all the time. What we learn is that 'FAIL stands for First Attempt In Learning', and what Christian was referring to was growth mindset - the resilience and perseverance needed to succeed.
After sharing tales from Coldplay's private jet and a cautionary word about allowing your pets and children on a trampoline (at the same time), Christian shared his favourite subject at school: English. He went on to explain that reading was a transformative force in his childhood, transporting him to other worlds, elevating his ambitions and developing his sense of empathy.
Our children made such a positive impression on Christian with their questioning, manners and sense of fun. Judging by the look on their faces during the talk, we think the feeling was mutual!
Travelling Natural History Museum Visit
At Lower School this week, the Nursery, Reception and Year 1 children enjoyed a visit from the Travelling Natural History Museum. The children learnt all about dinosaurs, including their names, what they ate and how they digested their food, how big (or small) they were and much more! They also carried out a meteorite experiment to help understand how dinosaurs became extinct, and were able to touch the amazing dinosaur models. The Year 1 children took part in a fossil dig and all children were given a dinosaur gift to help them to remember all that they had learnt.
Year 4 Trip to Amersham Field Study Centre
Our Year 4 children had a fantastic trip this week to the Amersham Field Study Centre, where they learnt about electricity and energy. Every minute of the day was used as an opportunity for learning which educated, inspired and allowed the children to have fun.
The day started by meeting ‘Michael Faraday’ and the pupils learned about electricity, its uses, dangers and how the substation in the vicinity works to provide power to our homes. We took a walk around the perimeter of the substation, understanding why we can touch pylons and not get thousands of volts of electricity through us or why a bird can sit happily on a high voltage wire! We then continued in the classroom and made solar powered circuits.
The afternoon was spent learning about the way animals conserve energy by creating well-insulated homes, such as a nest for a dormouse, and how squirrels try to survive winters by hiding their food. We completed the day with a short walk looking at lichens, fir trees and leaf skeletons along the wide expanse of the wooded areas. Every child made progress in their knowledge of one of our curriculum topics as well as having the chance to enjoy learning in the outdoors.
General Knowledge Quiz Club
Well done to our quiz teams, who took part in the Prep School Challenge Heat this week. They gave a very good account of themselves, displaying some really excellent general knowledge and competing with great interest and enthusiasm. Daniel G-J, Georgia M, Nirmit N and Ben L finished in 3rd place overall, and Anisa W, Zayd K, Amrit R and Catherine L finished in 7th place.
Year 5 Transfer Meetings With Mrs. Drummond
Thank you to all of the Year 5 parents who have already attended individual transfer meetings with Mrs. Drummond to discuss future schools. More meetings will take place tomorrow and please remember that Mrs. Drummond's door is always open if you would like to discuss secondary transfer. Next term there will be a Year 4 transfer meeting and another meeting for all Year 5 parents together.
Please note that an updated Lunch Menu for this term has been posted to the School Documents page. Some allergen information has been updated, and Accent are now marking (with a leaf symbol) dishes which are particularly recommended as healthy, balanced choices. Please do refer to this updated menu from now on when making lunch choices with your children.
Print Cartridge Collections
We will be collecting used print cartridges from now on at all sites as part of a PA initiative to recycle these and raise funds. Please send any used print cartridges, toner cartridges etc. into school with your child and, since the used cartridges can be converted into PA funds, please do feel free to collect used cartridges from your places of work to send in too! Many thanks, in advance, for your help.
Reminder - Snacks/Birthday Treats
Parents are reminded that all children should bring a small, named snack to school each morning for morning break. Suitable snacks are fruits, vegetables, plain biscuits or a small sandwich. Chocolate, crisps, sweets and other high sugar snacks are not permitted.
If your child would like to bring in treats for friends on their birthday, these should be individually wrapped and given out at the end of the day.
We are a nut-free school; please do not send any items into school which contain nuts. Please take care with sandwich fillings and do not use peanut butter, Nutella or other spreads containing nuts.
Posted on: 12/01/2018
Ready, Respectful, Safe - Head's BlogWe 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 for learning, ready to listen, ready to go to lunch etc.
Showing respect to their peers, to adults, to their environment, to themselves.
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’
Posted on: 12/01/2018
Weekly News - Friday 12th January 2018We were reminded today of the hardships of life during the Second World War as 6D presented an excellent assembly about family, sacrifice, evacuation and the Blitz spirit. With a focus on the fictional Jones family, 6D used poetry, wartime songs and an emotional script to tell us all about the pressures facing families during wartime, and about how the Great British spirit was maintained and developed through hard times. Parents, pupils and staff were all inspired not only to remember those who fought for freedom, but to ensure that their fighting spirit and family values live on in our world today. Well done, 6D, for a well-written and well-presented show. You can see photographs of the performance on the Galleries page.
This year's Summer School will take place from 20th - 24th August. Please add the date to your diaries now. Further details and booking forms will be published in due course.
Lower School Parents' Evening
The next Parents' Evenings for Nursery, Reception and Year 1 will take place on Thursday 1st February (5.00 - 8.00 p.m.) and Tuesday 6th February (4.00 - 7.00 p.m.).
As usual, we are operating an online booking system and appointments will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. You can access the online system here. Do bookmark the link for future use. Bookings for these two evenings will close on Friday 26th January.
Author Visit - Christian O'Connell
The Upper School will be visited next Wednesday by Christian O'Connell, well-known radio DJ and children's author. Christian has written the Radio Boy books and he will be speaking to children about his career and his life. We are sure he will be very inspiring!
School Garden Produce
It is wonderful that produce grown by our Gardening Club is now being used in the school kitchen. Ms Gilham and her gardeners have produced a good crop of beans, which we have enjoyed this week in a lovely bean salad on the salad bar at Upper School.
As ever, we have a busy term ahead. Please don't forget to check the school calendar regularly and to take note of significant dates. We would like to remind parents now that there will be no Funtasia on the afternoon of Friday 16th March and that our annual Exhibition Day will take place on Saturday 17th March from 10.00 a.m. All parents and pupils are expected to attend Exhibition Day, which gives a wonderful chance for pupils to share their school and their work with family.
Posted on: 5/01/2018
Weekly News - Friday 5th January 2018Welcome back and a Happy New Year to you all! I trust you have all had a lovely holiday and are ready to embark upon Joyous January! To start the new year off on good footing, please can you continue to support your children in the following areas.
Pupils should return to school in full winter uniform and well equipped for all lessons and activities (a bag check might be helpful!).
Please arrive promptly at the beginning of the day. Ducklings should be dropped off at 8.30 a.m. ready for registration followed by their first morning activity. All Upper and Lower School children should be ready to line up in their playground at 8.30 a.m. As you know, traffic is often heavy, so please allow plenty of time for your journey to school and to find a suitable, safe parking space. Please do follow the school's drop and go/parking regulations and, in particular, do not block neighbours' driveways.
With the big government drive on healthy eating for children and reducing plastic packaging, please remember that the school asks you to provide a healthy snack for your child each morning in a named, reusable container. The snack should be fruit, vegetables, plain biscuits/crackers or a small sandwich. Please do not send your child into school with crisps, chocolate or high-sugar snacks. Please beware - many snacks claiming to be fruit based are actually very high in sugar and are not recommended.
We are thrilled to announce some wonderful baby news. Miss Shepherd, one of our Lower School Lunchtime Supervisors/Teaching and Learning Assistants, gave birth to a healthy baby girl just before Christmas. Mum and baby are enjoying their first few weeks together.
Miss Wallis, one of our Year 5 teachers, is expecting her first baby in the summer. We are sure you would all like to join us in congratulating her and we wish her well as her pregnancy and wedding plans progress. 2018 will be a busy year for her! We will announce staffing arrangements for all year groups for the next academic year in due course.
We would like to extend a warm welcome to Helen Collier, who will be joining us on Monday as our new peripatetic violin teacher.
We are looking forward to a very musical term ahead, with some exciting choral events including the performance at St. John's Smith Square on Sunday 4th February. We are also delighted to announce that the Chamber Choir have once again got through to the finals of the Barnado's Choir Competition on Monday 12th March! More information to follow on both of these events. We will also enjoy the music at our first Easter service at All Saints Church at the end of term.
If your child has individual instrumental or vocal tuition, please remember that fees are now due. We would also like to remind parents that, as per the terms and conditions, a half term's notice or payment in lieu is required when terminating individual tuition.
Music timetables will be published to the website shortly; please do check these.
Posted on: 15/12/2017
Weekly News - Friday 15th DecemberAs another term draws to a close, we wish you a very happy festive season and a well deserved rest.
Please note that, if your children will be attending Holiday Club over the holidays, you should use the Evans Hall entrance on Long Lane, rather than the Parkway entrance, for both dropping off and collecting your children. This is because some refurbishment works will be taking place in classrooms in the main Upper School block.
We look forward to seeing all pupils back at school, well-rested and ready to learn, on January 8th!
Lower School Nativity Plays and Christmas Assemblies
This week we have been privileged to watch the most wonderful performances from our Nursery, Reception and Year 1 classes. The beautiful nativity stories were retold in the children's individual and unique way and the acting was complemented by outstanding singing. I am sure that everyone in the audiences was truly moved by the magical joy that the children exuded during their time on the stage. It is a testament to the school staff and to the excellent parental support our pupils receive that the children reach such amazing heights at such a tender age. Thank you to everyone involved. You can see photographs of the Lower School performances on our Galleries page.
Soula and the Accent team provided a delectable Christmas lunch for the school yesterday. Ian and Amanda from Accent Catering's head office were in attendance and were overwhelmed by the children's manners and by the positive feedback which they gave to the catering staff. It was wonderful to see our pupils appreciating home cooked festive food! You can see some photos on our Galleries page.
School Games - Platinum Award
We are thrilled that St. Helen's College has become one of the first schools in England to win a new national award for making a commitment to develop its students to be the best they can be in competitive school sport.
We are one of only 104 schools in the country to receive the special School Games Platinum Award. The Award is part of the School Games Mark, a government-led awards scheme launched in 2012 and administered by national charity the Youth Sport Trust, which had close to 9,000 applicants this year. Its aim is to reward schools for a commitment to the development of competition across schools and into the community.
Participating in this process allows schools to evaluate their PE provision, grading them either bronze, silver or gold, and assists schools in developing an action plan for future progress. The Platinum Award is the new fourth level of the award scheme, introduced earlier this year to celebrate schools who had shown consistently high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to school sport. Applications were only open to those schools who had achieved five successive gold awards.
To achieve the gold award a school must meet a certain set of criteria, which includes engaging a high percentage of young people in both curricular and extracurricular activities, participating in a minimum number of competitions across different sports, and reaching out to target groups including young leaders, volunteers, and those previously identified as the school’s least-active pupils.
We are really delighted to have been recognised with this award. As an independent school, we have a creative and exciting PE/Games curriculum, as well as a quite unique co-curricular programme with over 70 clubs. Our pupils reach very high standards in core sports such as football, rugby, netball, hockey, tennis and athletics but, perhaps as importantly, they are also able to ‘have a go’ at sports as diverse as lacrosse, badminton, taekwondo, yoga, tri-golf, gymnastics, handball and many more. This exposure to the widest possible range of activities leads pupils to uncover real talents or interests in the sporting world, and to go on and compete at high levels in their chosen sport(s).
Competitive sport develops a healthy drive to succeed, pride and humility in victory, grace and resilience in the face of defeat, and the ability in pupils to pull together as a team for a common purpose. These traits can be seen in every St. Helen’s College pupil and we are enormously proud of the way in which our sporting and co-curricular programmes contribute to our pupils’ personal development.
Well done to the St. Helen's College chess team, who played a friendly tournament against St. Bernadette's last night. Although unsuccessful in an overall team win, the pupils demonstrated superb perseverance and resilience in their playing. Thank you to Mr Foale for arranging such great opportunities for our children. You can see photographs of the competition on the Galleries page.
Sports Personality of the Term
Congratulations to Eli V-B in Year 4, who has been awarded the Sports Personality Of The Term cup. Eli has made an excellent contribution to school sport this term, representing the school in the football team and the Sports Hall Athletics team. In PE lessons or school teams, he has been a real impact player who helps the team to be successful whenever he plays. He is a regular in the school senior football team, despite only being in Year 4, and is the joint leading goal scorer in the football team this term. He also scored with a fantastically memorable bicycle kick in the Packham Cup final! Eli's football excellence has been recognised outside of school as well; he has been selected to train and play for Chelsea football club. Well done to Eli!
The following pupils were also high commended for their sporting achievements this term:
Jasmine B - for showing excellence in trampolining when taking part in the British Gymnastic Trampolining London regional league and winning a gold medal.
Abigail Y - for a significant contribution to school sport this term in several teams and for representing Hillingdon in the London Youth Games cross country event.
Musician of the Term
The Musician of the Term trophy is awarded for outstanding effort, commitment, dedication and achievement within the music department. The winner this term is someone who has always worked conscientiously and demonstrated enormous enthusiasm over several years in all aspects of music at St. Helen’s College. She has excellent music skills; she applies and shares creative ideas successfully in class work; she is impeccably behaved and an excellent role model; she is a reliable music monitor; she enjoys and sings in the Senior Choir; she plays the recorder fluently in class and at Recorder Club; she has been learning the violin for several years and, having recently passed Grade 4, is working towards Grade 5. She is also the lead violinist in the school orchestra.
A tremendous well done to Amishi K!
We are thrilled to announce the following music exam results so far. More will follow in due course, as they are received. Very well done to all of the children who sat exams and have achieved such excellent results!
Shreya 6M - Grade 5 singing DISTINCTION
Anish 4A - Grade 2 violin DISTINCTION
Mia 5G - Grade 2 violin MERIT
Nidhi 5G - Grade 1 singing MERIT
Dhiya 4A - Prep Test flute
Tanishka 4T - Prep Test singing
Kimaya 3V - Prep Test singing
A vacancy has arisen for individual guitar tuition. If you have a son or daughter at Upper School who is interested in learning the guitar, please email Mrs. Allery at email@example.com. The place will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
The latest issue of St. Helen's College Voice, containing your children's written work and art work, has been sent home with your child. It is also available online here. Enjoy!
Co-Curricular Clubs - Spring Term
There are still a few spaces in the following clubs for next term. If your child would like to try any of these clubs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis:
Wed - Y6 Debate Club
Thurs - Y4/5 French Drama
Fri - Y5/6 Pastel Drawing
Pennies For Clean Water
The children in Year 5 have been searching down the backs of sofas and raiding the wells of their parents cars over the past few weeks on a penny drive to raise money for WaterAid. Inspired by what they had learnt in geography about the risks of drinking dirty water in some parts of the world, they each aimed to fill an old water bottle up with pennies. This money would then be used to buy a very special Christmas gift to help people have access to clean water for a healthy life.
5G raised £84.14 and decided to purchase a water tank and handwashing stations and 5W raised £165.84 and decided to purchase two hand pumps, two sets of taps and a water tank.
All money raised will be doubled by the UK government.
Pictures of the children doing the count and purchasing their gifts can be seen on our Galleries page.
Well done to Year 5 for raising so much and making such a difference to people in need. If your family would also like to buy a gift of water for life please use the link below. https://shop.wateraid.org/collections/charity-gift-cards
Posted on: 8/12/2017
When I Grow Up by Mr. CrehanChildren 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 LÇng, 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 LÇng’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 LÇng puts it simply, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”
Posted on: 8/12/2017
Weekly News - Friday 8th DecemberYear 3/4 Production
The Year 3 and Year 4 children truly declared our festive season officially open as we were taken on an incredible journey with Sasha and her orphan friends up onto the rooftops of London and to the North Pole, meeting the most extraordinary characters en route! I am sure that everyone who attended either of the productions would agree that the play was truly outstanding. The performance was executed exceptionally well, with the children's talents in singing and dancing on full display and their comedic timing wonderful! Congratulations to all involved. You can see photographs of the production on our Galleries page.
PA Christmas Fair
Last Sunday we had our very first PA Christmas Fair in the Winston Churchill Hall. There were such festivities as the children were entertained throughout the day, the highlight being their visit with Santa! Thank you to the PA committee and the amazing army of helpers who made the day possible - such community spirit and fun for all! The PA have sent this message:
We held a Christmas Fair for the first time this year and it was a mammoth event! Thank you to everyone who offered their time, helped with the poster design, came early to set up and stayed late to set down, wrapped presents, made donations, manned stalls, baked cakes, carried things in their cars, attended the event etc. The Christmas Fair would not have been possible without your support so we are truly grateful. Thank you also for the feedback that we have already received. We hope that those of you who attended enjoyed yourselves and that the event got you into the festive spirit. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year.
Carols Around The Tree
Thank you also to all parents, staff, pupils and friends who joined us for our Carols Around The Tree on Friday afternoon in the Upper School playground. It was a very festive occasion and we all enjoyed singing carols together so much! Well done to all of the lucky winners of the Christmas hampers, and thank you again to everyone who made a donation for their class hampers and/or bought raffle tickets. We're sure you agree that they looked amazing and made lovely raffle prizes.
Infant Choir Carols
Our amazing Infant Choir have been singing Christmas songs in the playground at Lower School this morning, and will be doing so again on Monday morning. Their grasp of lyrics and music is really exceptional for children so young and we hope that parents have enjoyed hearing them sing. Very well done to all involved! There are some photos of the choir singing on the Galleries page.
Reminder of Arrangements for Last Week of Term
Mon 11th Dec - Robins and Wrens Nativity Play at Lower School at 8.45 a.m. All Nursery parents welcome - no tickets needed.
Mon 11th Dec - Year 1 Christmas Assembly at Lower School at 9.15 a.m. All Year 1 parents welcome – no tickets needed.
Parents will be able to wait in the Methodist Hall for their child’s performance to start. Coffee and mince pies will be served from 8.30 a.m.
Tues 12th Dec - Kingfishers & Owls Nativity Play at Lower School at 8.45 a.m. All Reception parents welcome - no tickets needed.
Wed 13th Dec - Upper School Pantomime trip to 'Sleeping Beauty' at Theatre Royal, Windsor Children in Years 2 – 6 should come to school in their full school uniform, bringing a substantial drink/snack for the pantomime. Pupils will have a late lunch back at school after the show. Children should be collected at normal time and Funtasia will run as usual.
Thurs 14th Dec - Christmas Lunch (Nursery - Year 6)
PLEASE SEE THE CHRISTMAS LUNCH MENU ON THE SCHOOL DOCUMENTS PAGE.
Thurs 14th Dec - Lower School Children’s Party & Show Nursery, Reception and Year 1 children should come to school in their party clothes. It is hoped that all Nursery children will stay all day due to the show in the afternoon. All children should bring a morning snack as usual. No reading books or school bags. Normal school times.
Fri 15th Dec - Carol Service Children in Years 2 to 6 will take part in the Carol Service at All Saints Church at 11:00 a.m. All parents are warmly invited to attend the service.
Fri 15th Dec - End of term Term will end at 11:50 for Ducklings & Nursery; 12:00 for Reception; 12:10 for Years 1 & 2; 12:20 for Year 3 & 4; and 12:30 for Years 5 & 6. Older siblings may be collected at the same time as their younger brothers and sisters.
Mon 8th Jan - Spring Term commences.
We will be bidding Miss Bentley, our peripatetic violin teacher, a fond farewell at the end of this term as she embarks on a new life up north in Yorkshire. So many of our pupils have benefited from Miss Bentley's expert tuition over the years and we are all very grateful for her contribution to the musicality of St. Helen's College. In January we will welcome our new violin teacher, Mrs. Collier, to the music staff and some of the pupils may have already met her this week during her visit. Mrs. Collier is very established in the local area, having previously been Head of Music at another local school, and I am sure that her strong connections with the Hillingdon Music School Orchestra will be a great addition to the opportunities and experiences of our pupils.
Mrs. Dilworth has been with us at Lower School as a Teaching and Learning Assistant for the last year, but she will be leaving us at the end of this term as she pursues a new career. We are pleased that she will also remain as a member of our bank staff. Mrs. O' Mahoney will be returning to us as a Teaching and Learning Assistant in January and we are delighted that she will be rejoining the St. Helen's College family!
Next term, Miss Davies will also be returning to Lower School on a part-time basis after her maternity leave. Mrs. Meeran will remain with us on a part-time basis.
Mrs. Sue Blackstone, who has been the matriarch of our Holiday Club provision, will be retiring from her duties after this December's Holiday Club. We cannot thank Mrs. Blackstone enough for her many years of dedication and care to our pupils. We will not be saying goodbye to Mrs. Blackstone just yet, as she will still be running our Breakfast Club provision until the end of this academic year.
Miss Carmichael, our Wrens Nursery class teacher, will be stepping into the role as Holiday Club manager, ensuring that our well established and popular Holiday Club will continue in the same vein.
Thank you to all parents who have returned their co-curriculum booking forms for clubs next term. We carefully monitor the amount of extra curricular activity the children do, ensuring that they are involved but also maintaining a healthy balance so that they can cope with the rigour of the academic day. In rare cases it may be necessary to limit the number of activities a pupil is doing for their well being. Similarly, we look for opportunities to encourage those who are not involved to experience new things. Club confirmations will be sent home next week.
Clubs have now finished for the term, except for the following catch up sessions which will run next week:
Tuesday 12/12 Y3 tennis, Y4/5/6 tri-golf, Y2 football.
Thursday 14/12 Y2 tennis, Y4/5/6 tennis.
Spring Term Programme and Menu
The Term Programme for the Spring Term has now been published to the School Documents page of the website, and dates have been added to the School Calendar. As usual, it will be a busy term and there are several dates for parents to note! Please note, in particular, that Funtasia will be closed on the Friday before Exhibition Day.
The Lunch Menu for the Spring Term has also been published to the School Documents page. You might like to review this with your child before next term begins.
Posted on: 1/12/2017
Admissions Questions by Mrs. SmithI spend quite a lot of my working life meeting parents of very young children, who are anxious to secure the best possible educational future for their sons and daughters. They ask me many questions, but I have realised that two of the questions which come up the most often are, perhaps, the two which give us a chance to explain the educational philosophy at St. Helen’s College the most succinctly. I therefore thought it would be worth sharing these two questions and answers with you all.
Question One: What Is Your Ratio of Staff to Pupils?
I sometimes think this must be in the ‘What To Ask A Nursery/School’ visitors’ guide given to parents when they first have children! Almost every family visiting the school with really young children ask us this question and, to some extent, they are right to do so. In Early Years settings in particular, it is necessary to have a fairly high ratio of staff to pupils in order to ensure the children’s safety and in order to carry out all of the necessary observations and record-keeping. So it is good that we can reassure prospective parents that our ratios at St. Helen’s College are very good indeed and better than in many other settings (a minimum of 1:4 at Ducklings, 1:6 in Nursery and 1:8 in Reception).
However – and this is a crucial point – it is not the case that children who receive very close attention throughout their educational journey will be more successful than those who do not. Indeed, a measure of success in older children is how able they are to work well independently, to carry out individual research and to formulate their own ideas, structured answers or creative solutions without support from an adult. The challenge for parents and educators is to develop children from totally dependent babies, to fairly dependent toddlers to really quite independent pre-teens and then to fully independent teenagers/young adults! It’s not always an easy journey for a parent – I am currently close to despair over a 16 year old who seems incapable of turning off a bedroom light and opening his bedroom curtains each morning – but, with patience and perseverance, it can be done! Clever, creative teachers and parents will find ways, right from the earliest years, to make sure that children are well-supported at the same time as encouraging them to become independent, to take risks, to direct their own learning and to extend themselves.
It is also true to say that the quality of staff and of their interactions with pupils is more important than just the sheer number of staff in a room. It is one thing to have lots of bodies sitting around observing children; it is quite another to have loving, committed teachers and support staff planning and delivering lessons carefully and dynamically, anticipating extra opportunities for learning and working to move all children into their ‘stretch zone’ to create interest and independence. This is what we strive for at St. Helen’s College, in every session of every day, and should be a much more important factor in why parents choose to send children here than simply how many staff are in a room.
Question Two: How Can I Prepare My Child For Success At 3+ Entry/How Does St. Helen’s College Prepare My Child for Success at 11+?
Whether parents are hoping to secure a place in the St. Helen’s College Nursery or at a highly selective secondary school, the answer to this question is the same. It’s summed up by this quote from one of my favourite poets, W. B. Yeats:
‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’
In other words, the best preparation is not about trying to fill your child’s mind with facts, figures, the alphabet, the reign of Henry VIII or any other lists of things, events or mathematical processes. A mind is not an empty vessel, waiting to be filled with knowledge. It is a living thing, like a fire, needing to be lit and then stoked, needing (eventually) to take control of its own destiny and feed its own voracious appetite.
To light this fire, parents can (and should) start right from birth to engage their baby’s interest. In the earliest days, months and years, much of this might be done through repeated rhymes and songs, through playing very simple games like Peekaboo, and then through playing with age-appropriate toys and games. It will also be done by talking to your child about all that is around them – I know my oldest son learnt all about odd and even numbers, as well as his two times table, by looking at door numbers on one side of the street everywhere we went, when he was still being pushed around in a buggy. He also developed early maths skills watching the Snooker World Championship with his grandfather!
Eventually, school and home must work together lovingly, consistently, tirelessly and creatively to encourage curiosity and excitement in the world around us, so that your child’s mind and heart are opened constantly to new experiences and new learning. There are countless ways for families and school staff to do this through the years, but they all have the same principle at heart. It is simply spending quality time with a child, discovering the world and showing interest in what they are interested in. It is engaging in conversation constantly with your child.
It might be reading together and talking about the words or pictures**; walking through the world and talking about what you see, hear or feel; cuddling together in bed and talking about what you’ve done that day, or intend to do; playing games, whether traditional or electronic, and talking about the games you’re playing; listening to music or singing together; learning actions to rhymes or perhaps taking every opportunity to count, to tell the time, to play, to sing and to laugh.
Consider the parent and child who bake together. They can learn to plan an activity and sequence steps (‘Right, what do we need to do first?’). They can practise reading and counting (‘Can you read me number 3 on the recipe now?’). They can weigh and measure, developing fine motor skills and consolidating maths skills (‘So we have 200g of sugar. What will it weigh when we add the 200g of butter?’). They can carry out a scientific experiment, making predictions and documenting their results (‘What will happen to this cake mix when we bake it in the hot oven? Shall we take a photo of our amazing cake to show Mummy?’). They can experience the wonder of ingredients transforming into a delicious, sweet treat. They can indulge their artistic creativity in decorating a cake, perhaps making patterns or creating symmetry. Finally, they can enjoy the fruits of their labour, experiencing that feeling of pride in a job well done! They can also learn that a badly mixed cake, or one with forgotten ingredients, might not rise and might be inedible – but that we can always have another go and learn from our mistakes!
When that same child is at school and is asked to produce a piece of art work, or to consider the method for a scientific investigation, or to plan a piece of creative writing, he or she will have developed a deep-seated confidence that they can plan and execute a task. They might be more willing to take a risk, to work independently and to make mistakes.
I remember walking with my two little boys through the woods near our home when they were perhaps in Year 1 and Year 2. It was a beautiful autumn day and we pulled on wellies and crunched through leaves, talking about all the autumnal colours and thinking of different words for ‘red’. We spent time trying to catch the leaves that were falling from the trees, counting them and competing to catch the most, and we jumped in and out of the shafts of sunlight coming through the canopy of leaves and branches overhead. Afterwards, we went home for hot chocolate and drew around the leaves we had collected, then coloured in our pictures. The afternoon was not planned, cost me nothing and lives in my memory as very happy shared family time. In addition, I remember my son’s class teacher calling me over in the playground after school in the following week and showing me a piece of writing my son (up until then, a reluctant writer) had done for the ‘hibernation’ topic. He had written about gold, russet and scarlet leaves, dappled shade and the whispering wind. He had written that the hedgehog knew winter was coming because the ground had changed from the hard, dry mud of summer to the soft leaf carpet of autumn, and he had written about leaves falling like rain and about conkers, round and brown, decorating the ground like Christmas baubles. His teacher was really pleased with the work and I felt so proud that our weekend activities and discussions had helped him to grow in his English ‘learning’.
In school, teachers look all the time for ways of bringing co-curricular links into the children’s learning. If children are learning about a particular country in Geography, they might create some artwork from that country in their art lessons. But, in fact, life itself is ‘co-curricular’ and this is what parents, in particular, have the amazing privilege and opportunity to show children. School is, in many ways, an artificial environment in which school staff try to recreate the world outside. But as parents, we have the world at our fingertips when we are with our children and are in the unique position of being able to show them its wonders.
So the answer to the question about how parents can prepare their child for educational success – at any point in life - is that you can do this by being with them, sharing experiences with them and talking with them about all that you are seeing, doing and discovering together. This includes, of course, listening to their observations and helping them to use new vocabulary to describe their experiences. If your child knows – really knows – that you see the wonder in the world, then he or she will look for it too, both inside and outside the classroom. If a child understands the pleasure to be found in discovering something new, he or she will want to take risks and seek out new experiences, at school and at home. Children look to us for love and guidance; they learn what they live.
So please do help us to light that fire!
** A side-note on reading. Prospective parents also ask, frequently, how quickly their children will learn to read and how many books they will be required to read at school or in homework. It is heartening that parents recognise the importance of reading and wish to support the school in encouraging early reading and establishing good reading habits.
However, it is important to note that we place less emphasis on rushing through reading schemes than we do on understanding all of the text being read all of the time. A child who reads twenty books in a term will not necessarily be more advanced in their learning than a child who reads five books. If the five books have been properly understood, and have inspired the child’s imagination, and have been well-discussed, then they might have a more profound, long-lasting, beneficial impact on the child’s future educational success than the twenty rushed-through books. For this reason, we do guided reading throughout the school and we always explain to prospective parents that parents are asked to read with their children daily, to question their children about what they have read and to find other opportunities to consolidate the child’s understanding of books and other reading materials