School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 18/09/2020
(Adjective. feeling or showing care and compassion)
The value which we are focussing on around school at the moment is ‘Caring’ and I am so proud of the whole school community as I observe such incredible examples of ‘care’ from the children, staff and parents. Over the past two weeks with our return to school there really has been an abundance of ‘care’, from the carefully planned and staggered gradual settling in of our very youngest new Helenians to the care shown by children welcoming new pupils joining existing classes, and the care shown by teachers as they lovingly and thoughtfully establish relationships and routines with their new classes.
As you know, part of our school motto, written by the children, is ‘Care for each other’ and I will repeat also the wise saying Mr. Crehan quoted in his blog last week: ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. I have actually been quite overwhelmed since the start of term at how our ‘village’ is coming together to support each other with such kindness and loving care.
We have 79 new children, from Ducklings through to Year 5, who have just started at St. Helen’s College, and I trust that all of our new families feel that they have received a warm welcome and feel cared for by everyone: staff, pupils and ‘older’ parents alike. If you are one of our new families, we look forward to many happy and fruitful years as a community, working together to care for your precious children and develop them into caring, responsible and loving members of our school and the wider community.
The fact that we all show care ourselves is so important. Children learn best by example and it is every parent and educator's responsibility to raise caring children. Research in human development shows that the seeds of empathy, caring and compassion are present from early childhood but our children need adults to help them throughout their childhood to nurture and develop these virtues. We can do so by leading, suggesting or ‘instructing’, but surely the most effective way is by modelling: showing our children that we care, and that caring is rewarding and generates happiness and security.
We need to cultivate children’s concern for others, partly because fundamentally it is the right thing to do, but also because when children can empathise with and take responsibility for others, they are likely to be happier and more successful. They will have better relationships their entire lives, and strong relationships are a key ingredient of happiness. In today’s workplace, success often depends on collaborating effectively with others, and children who are empathic and socially aware are also better collaborators - and likely to make better friends!
As your children move through St. Helen’s College and they develop these key virtues, our young learners apply them every day - in the playground, in the classroom and at home. It is heartwarming for me to take a virtual ‘learning walk’ around Google Classroom and pop into the classes - collaboration and care is evident in abundance as the pupils and staff question, support and challenge each other in their learning with the utmost respect and care for each other. Feedback is given, additional challenges are set (pupils and teachers) and the sense of belonging and pride in these virtual classrooms is phenomenal. As a Head, I never envisaged the day where I would be able to take a virtual tour of the school and I feel such a sense of pride in the progress and outcomes of our pupils.
I am, however, grateful for now that Google Classroom has returned to its usual place as our flipped learning platform for homework (or home learning as I like to call it - the adults go to ‘work’!). There is no doubt that it is wonderful that face to face teaching has returned for our pupils, and that it is easier and more natural to show in person the care that is such an important part of the teaching/learning relationship.
Our current Year 6 pupils are stepping up to their new positions of responsibility and showing real care for others as the oldest pupils in the school; they should feel very proud of themselves. They are also preparing to sit the 11+ examinations which were postponed from early in the term and I would like to thank all the parents and teachers for the care they are giving the children as they approach this milestone in their educational journey. Our Year 6 pupils are superb ambassadors for St. Helen’s College and it is the exceptional care that they have received over the years which has enabled them to blossom into such inspirational young people: they are budding lifelong learners who contribute greatly to our school community and beyond.
Finally, a word about self-care. Through our focus on Mindfulness, philosophy and positive psychology, as well as our wider PSHCE programme, we teach children that caring for themselves is one of the most important things they can do. As a school, we believe that when a child feels loved and valued, they are best able to learn and achieve their full potential. This is why school staff and parents show our children such exceptional care, but it is important to recognise that a significant part of feeling loved and valued is loving and valuing ourselves, too. So I encourage you to take care not only of your children but of yourselves and, in doing so, to set another excellent example for them. In this busy, busy world of full time jobs, parenting and caring for others, we can lose sight of how important it is to look after ourselves. You might like to re-visit the Self-Care September calendar from Action for Happiness, which has some great tips for self-care this month.
Posted on: 11/09/2020
Weekly News - Friday 11th September 2020Our first full school week has been a resounding success! Well done to all our new Ducklings and Nursery children, parents and staff. All of the children seem so happy and settled, learning new routines and making new friends. Mrs. Drummond was welcomed into the Ducklings garden this afternoon (socially distanced of course!) and enjoyed meeting the newest, youngest members of the school community. It is a credit to the staff and parents that the children are already so comfortable in their new surroundings.
Sadly, the PA will be unable to run their usual 'Welcome Event' for new joiners and their families this year. However, we hope that all new families have now made contact with their PA class rep and feel welcomed by the parent body. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions at all.
This week we have launched our official St. Helen's College Art Instagram account. Please follow us to see examples of the lovely artwork being produced around the school! Just go to Instagram and follow St. Helen's College Art.
Mrs. Pruce has also introduced 'Artist of the Week' at Upper School. The 'Artist of the Week' will be announced every Friday in assembly.
If you do have a budding young artist, you might be interested to know that Mini Monets Art Club are soon re-opening their doors to run children's art classes once more. You can find full details here.
We have reviewed some areas of our curriculum for this academic year and have made some adjustments to our languages teaching programme. Pupils in Years 4, 5 and 6 will now focus on French as the main language, with Latin being introduced at Year 5 and continued into Year 6.
We hope to be able to offer a Spanish Club to those pupils who would like to continue with Spanish beyond Year 3 and further details of co-curricular clubs will be shared in due course.
Pupils lower down the school will continue to be taught Spanish up to the end of Year 3.
Mr. Aguiar, our Spanish teacher, is absent from school but we are delighted that Mrs. Rance will be teaching Spanish to the children in his absence.
Year 6 Senior Team
We are delighted to announce our new Year 6 pupil leadership team for this academic year.
Head Girl - Jena J
Head Boy - Zail T
Deputy Head Girl - Maya T
Deputy Head Boy - Samir H
Congratulations to all of the other Year 6 pupils who stood for the positions - it was an incredibly difficult decision as they all were strong candidates and superb ambassadors of the school. Hustings and voting will take place next week for the positions of House Captains and Sports Captains.
Autumn Term Welfare Newsletter
Please take the time to read the Autumn Term newsletter from Mrs. Wilcock, the school Welfare Officer. This contains important information about medication, asthma, flu vaccinations and more.
Raising Emotionally Strong Children - Parental EQ App
We would like to draw your attention to this new app which has been recently developed and launched by a group of experts, drawing from the fields of child development, behaviour psychology and clinical psychology. As parents, we all need as much help as possible and ultimately we all want to be the best parents possible to enable our children to flourish. This app has been designed to help parents be more self-aware, confident and connected with their children. Do take a look at the app and if you decide to download it we would love to hear your feedback. Please follow this link for further information: https://parentaleq.com/
Upper School Arrivals and Pick Ups
Thank you to all parents for adhering to the dedicated arrival time. We would like to remind all Upper School parents that children in Years 4-6 must not be dropped off prior to 8.15 a.m., unless they are with a younger sibling.
Next week we are due to have unusually hot weather. Please ensure that your child/ren come to school with sun cream applied prior to arrival and that they have their sun hats.
Individual pupil photographs will be taken by Tempest on:
Monday 21st September (Ducklings)
Tuesday 22nd September (Nursery, Reception and Year 1)
Friday 25th September (Years 2-6)
Please ensure that your child attends school looking smart in their full school uniform on the day of their photograph.
We are sorry that, due to COVID restrictions, it will not be possible for sibling photographs to be taken at school this year.
Posted on: 11/09/2020
Back To SchoolIt is so good to see all of the children and staff back at school! There is a real buzz of enthusiasm in the classrooms, and the sound of children’s laughter in the playground is a delight.Last term the children showed great resilience and determination with their learning and engaged fully with the online lessons and activities, but they are clearly thrilled to be back at school with all of their friends and teachers.
I am not surprised. A good school is, if you will excuse a cliché, a ‘home from home’. And if I may employ another wise saying, ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. Children benefit enormously from the variety of interactions and mutual love that a small community can provide, whether it be an extended family, a close, local community or a school. Nowadays, with smaller families (my parents’ Irish country background was very different), and less cohesive neighbourhood communities, school, for most children, provides a daily multiplicity of human interaction which educates, enriches and enlivens.
Not so long ago, ‘BC’, some forward thinking educational pundits argued that schools would gradually become obsolete. A brave new world of online classrooms and remote teaching would replace the existing arrangements, eliminating wasteful practices such as the school run and playtimes. A recent review of over 1500 studies carried out by academics at the University of Dundee concluded that online and blended learning are often more effective than traditional instruction. Certainly, last term’s lockdown experience showed us the enormous value of communication technology, and proved that pupil learning and well-being could be promoted very effectively remotely by skilled teachers using advanced online methods. But I am sure that every parent, pupil and teacher will agree with me that, while online use of IT can be used to support learning really well as part of a blended learning experience, actually being at school makes all the difference.
We are social creatures, and learning is a social, interactive process which is built upon strong relationships. It is very difficult to build and sustain such relationships online, and with the best will in the world they can never match the quality of face to face interactions, which foster friendship, trust and love. A huge amount of learning takes place during playtimes, working together in sports teams, choirs and clubs, through taking on positions of responsibilities, and by observing respected role models such as staff and senior pupils.
Covid-19 continues to constrain us, but the most important step has been taken – everybody is back at school. I know that my colleagues on the staff are totally committed to promoting your children’s education in the broadest sense to the very best of their ability, and that your children will flourish under their loving guidance.
Posted on: 4/09/2020
Weekly News - Friday 4th September 2020It has been so wonderful to hear the laughter of the children, see their smiling faces and feel the love within our community over the past two days. From our youngest Ducklings to our Year 6 pupils, there has been a calm and happy return to school. Thank you to all parents for supporting us with the new drop off and pick up routines and social distancing as we opened our doors this week. Please note that, if you have a child in Year 3 - Year 6, or have a child in Year 2 and a child at Lower School, and you would like to collect your child from the Long Lane entrance, you must email your form teacher to let them know. This will ensure that your child is sent to the correct exit at the end of the day. Year 2 parents who do not also have a child at Lower School must use the Parkway pick up point.
Our Year 6 pupils are already demonstrating their leadership qualities around the school and setting a great example for the younger pupils. Next week we will be hearing from those pupils who wish to stand for the positions of Head Boy and Head Girl as they will be presenting speeches in our remote assemblies. In Upper School assembly today, last year's Head Boy (Anish) and Head Girl (Catherine) shared some words of wisdom and encouragement with the children.
Speed Reading Success
We are delighted to report on the success of one of the pupils who left us at the end of Year 6 in July.
Michael K came 7th overall (adults and juniors) in the Mind Sports Olympiad Speed Reading competition in August! Competitors from around the world were given a brand new adult novel (372 pages) to read and then given a comprehension test. Michael read the 372 page book in 110 minutes and then did the test. There were some high level competitors in the competition. They calculated his raw reading speed at 909 words per min. Now that all of the results have been officially ratified, Michael will receive the Bronze Junior Medal. https://msoworld.com/2020-medal-table/
Michael's parents kindly shared with us that they have no doubt that the access Michael had to all kinds of books at St. Helen's College, and the emphasis we place here on reading regularly, must have helped him in this super achievement!
Road Safety Competition Presentation
Out of 470 entries, Arjun C (3M) was awarded second place for the Hillingdon Road Safety Dream Bike competition, which we shared on the school news last term. Arjun's design, the 'Weird and Wacky Bike', really impressed local councillors and over the summer break he was invited to the awards ceremony at the Uxbridge Civic Centre where the Mayor and councillor Keith Burrows presented him with a digital copy of his dream bike art work. Many congratulations, Arjun!
The Hillingdon Asthma Team have asked us to remind parents that, if your child has asthma and uses a preventative inhaler, you must make sure it is being taken regularly EVERY DAY as we are heading towards the most challenging season for asthmatics.
The school has a booking for flu jabs for all children from Reception to Year 6 for 2nd December. However, in the current situation we are unable to confirm the arrangements for this and we would therefore encourage any parents who are being offered flu jabs by their GPs to have children vaccinated independently from school if you would like to do this.
11+ Transfer: Senior School Open Evenings
We would like to remind Year 5 and Year 6 parents that many schools have virtual open evenings coming up and now is the time for parents to be be pro-active about looking into and booking these for any school for which you might wish to apply.
2+ and 3+ Entry To St. Helen's College Next Year
If you have a child born between 01.09.17 - 31.08.19 and you have not yet registered him/her with us, now is the time to do so! As always, we will begin the entry process for next September's new Ducklings and Nursery classes later this term, so please make sure that your child is registered if you have not already done this. The online registration form is available here. Please do remind any other friends and family who may be eligible for entry next year to register early too.
We now have a 'virtual tour' available on our website, hosted by last year's Head Boy and Head Girl, which prospective parents may watch to get a flavour of the school. Although we are unable to run Open Mornings for now, we will be able to accommodate individual (and slightly restricted) tours of the school for prospective parents as the term progresses so please do encourage friends and family to telephone Mrs. Smith if they would like to visit the school.
Many of our parents attended a superb workshop last year run by Elaine Halligan from the Parent Practice. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, they are sadly unable to visit us this year but all their training and courses are now available online at https://www.theparentpractice.com/programmes/about-our-courses. They also have a free pack for any parents who sign up to their newsletters 'How to get the best out of your children'. You can sign up at https://www.theparentpractice.com/signup.
We would be very interested to hear from any parents who do attend any of the workshops.
Posted on: 4/09/2020
(Definition: travelling from one place to another)
One of the groups which I am involved with outside of school supports and inspires each other in our jottings or blog posts and this month the theme to write about is ‘Journeys’. This has sparked many ideas for me in the last week as I have begun reflecting on what this means to me both personally and professionally and what it may mean to our St. Helen’s College community.
We all go on journeys of one form or another, be it physical, emotional, mental or, more recently, virtual!
Over the weekend do give yourself some time and space to reflect on the following:
Journeys we have been on
Journeys we are on
Journeys we will go on
Perhaps you could find a way of bringing the family together to discuss this theme or even inspiring older children to write reflectively or creatively about their journeys?
Journeys we have been on
Many of us look forward to physical journeys each holiday and this summer, although there were many restrictions on our travel, I still managed to travel north to visit my mother and friends in my home town of Oban on the west coast of Scotland. I then continued my journey eastwards to Aberdeenshire for a long overdue visit to my sister, brother-in-law and nieces. There were no visits to the airport this summer, packing sunscreen and beach towels, but my journey this summer was nourishing and grounding and took me back to my roots. For the first time in a long time I really appreciated the ‘journey’ and did not dwell on the destination and I soaked up the scenery, taking in the magnificent views as I drove from the south to the north. I am sure that many of you also appreciated our local environment and explored areas which we have perhaps neglected in the past when opting for overseas journeys for our summer holidays.
Journeys we are on
The journey we all find ourselves on at the moment during this global pandemic has been unique and one which we could never have ever imagined. However, it is so important to reflect on the positives on this journey. Families have found themselves spending so much time together, new routines have been established, and we have perhaps learned more about ourselves and others around us then ever before.
Journeys we will go on
I have not planned any physical journeys for the immediate future; however, I have promised myself some sea air as often as I can in the next few months. Visits to my daughter at university in Kent may be the driver of these journeys! The emotional and mental journeys ahead for us all are unknown at the moment and I will most certainly be using my mindful meditation, bringing attention to my breath and grounding myself to assist in coping with future journeys in a calm manner. Upper School pupils have taken part in some ‘grounding’ mindful exercises in our remote assemblies this week to help them through the journey of their busy day - please do ask your children how they ground themself and the effect that this can have for them.
I know I have commented on this before, but I will reiterate that our St. Helen’s College community is incredibly committed to working together on this strange journey we are currently experiencing. The trust, mutual respect and relationships between us all are being forged ever stronger as we journey together through this most bizarre time of our lives.
If you would like to pen your thoughts on ‘Journeys’ - those you have been on, those you are on or those you will go on - please feel free to share them. Over the course of this new academic year it would be wonderful to have some more guest bloggers to share this spot with me!
Have a wonderful weekend and a safe ‘journey’ to all this year.
I will leave you with you a photo of one of my favourite creatures - to whom I managed to get up close! - and a scenic view from my journey this summer.
Posted on: 10/07/2020
End of Term News - 10th July 2020We're All Going On A Summer Holiday!
Our final 'feel good' staff video of the lockdown can be found here. Enjoy and have a wonderful summer holiday!
2019-2020 School Magazine
We have, as always, been working very hard to produce a school magazine which showcases some of the excellent work the children have done this year, as well as some of the many activities in which they have taken part. This year we are not printing/distributing the magazine due to COVID-19 restrictions, but you can see the electronic version here and it will remain available on the school website. We hope that you enjoy looking through this lovely keepsake...the children might like to look at what the year group above theirs has been doing too, so that they get an idea of what life will be like for them when they enter their new year group in September.
Musician of the Summer 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 and applies and shares creative ideas successfully in class work. She has been a regular member of the Junior, Senior and Chamber Choirs. She is an excellent role model within the music department and is a music prefect, regularly performing at assemblies, recitals and outside of school. As well as playing the recorder fluently, she has singing lessons and is preparing to take Grade 7 on the piano.
An enormous well done to Anaiya B!
Lockdown Summer Term Sports Personality
A huge well done to Samir H, who has been named the Sports Personality of the Summer Term! Samir engaged with all of the Virtual Sports Day events, uploading lots of videos of himself taking part, and also completed a 26 mile charity challenge. Samir is a talented tennis player and has skills which would have made him a member of several sports teams this term, had school been 'normal'. He always encourages others to get involved and has been particularly encouraging to his younger sister during the period of lockdown. Congratulations, Samir!
Lockdown Sports Champions
Our Year Group Winners were:
Y3 - Oliver K
Y4 - Charlotte M
Y5- Vidhit N
Y6 - Eli V-B
The overall champion was Samir H.
Very well done to all those who took part in the virtual sports events!
Spring Term Sports Personality of the Term
Well done to Rhea A-V, who was named the Sports Personality of the Spring Term (which could not be announced at the end of the spring term due to lockdown). Rhea is a real all-rounder and has been a stalwart of many school teams. She has shown great leadership both on and off the sports pitch and has excelled in the football and netball teams and in her role as a Sports Captain, organising the table tennis trials. Congratulations, Rhea!
Sports This Year
The full sports round up for this year is here.
Mythology Competition Success!
Jasmine B and Uma D (Year 6) have been awarded joint 1st prize in the Arts section of the 2020 Annual Mythology Competition organised by The Primary Latin Project. They each wrote and performed their own individual song as a response to the story of Daedalus and Icarus.
There were some other excellent entries from children in Years 2-6, such as the lovely mythology-inspired piece of artwork by Riya C which you can see here.
The judges made the following comments.
'This year’s entries have been fantastic with such a wide range of materials and ideas used to help to convey the elements of the myths. It has made my job as judge of the art competition very tough because there were so many brilliant entries! Top prizes this year include songs, paintings on canvas, digital art and 3D models. Judging was done taking age of entrants into account to ensure ability was judged fairly. Higher marks were given to the originality of the entry, the attempt to convey all elements of the myth as fully as possible and overall presentation.'
Very well done to all those children who submitted entries and particular congratulations to Jasmine and Uma!
Junior Language Challenge
The uTalk competition played out very differently this year due to Covid so there were no national finals. Certificates have been allocated on different criteria as below.
Leo J (4KT) is one of only 13 children out of over 2300 to get full marks in both rounds and he has won a gold medal and £200 worth of uTalk language software! Tanishka M has won a silver medal and £50 of uTalk software. Other pupils were awarded bronze certificates. Very well done to everyone who took part, and special congratulations to Leo and Tanishka!
House Art Competition
Many congratulations to all of the children who entered our House Art Competition, who will each receive certificates. Winners' trophies were awarded to:
Windsor winner - Anjika G (4T)
Cambria winner - Ruby L (2H)
Ducklings Summer Picnic
Our Ducklings children had so much fun this week when they visited Father Desmond's garden for their summer picnic. You can see more photographs of the children enjoying this special event on our Galleries page here.
Mrs. McGee and the Ducklings staff are very proud of the resilience and joy our youngest children have shown throughout their disrupted first year with us, and we know that they are well equipped to move on for a very happy year in Nursery from September.
Lower School Beach Party
The children attending Lower School had a super day today, celebrating all that summer might bring with their very own beach party day! You can see more photographs of the fun and colourful time they had on our Galleries page here.
Spaghetti and Marshmallow Challenge
Our Year 1 children took part in a marshmallow and spaghetti challenge this week. The winners from Blue Whale pod (1HC) were Roshni and Ashvika, who managed to build a tower that measured 65 cm high. They were also the team that showed the most perseverance and determination. Well done, girls!
The Year 1 children would usually have been visiting Mad Bess Woods, where Mrs. Hunt lives, during their final week of term, where they would have had a wonderful time exploring and having ice creams. We couldn't quite bring the woods to school, but we could certainly bring the ice creams and the children enjoyed them immensely!
Year 6 French Day and Play In A Day
The Year 6 pupils enjoyed a 'fantastique' day of French themed activities on Wednesday, including bread making, disco dancing, French quizzes, traditional games and of course the annual talent show! Tasty crepes were served at lunchtime from a wonderful crepe van too. Well done to everyone for embracing the day. You can see more photographs from the day on our Galleries page here.
On Thursday, they put on a 'Play In A Day' version of 'Singing In The Rain', which would have been their grand Year 6 musical. The children entered into the challenge with enthusiasm and demonstrated their well-developed performance skills. The weather wasn't fantastic on Thursday and once or twice they were actually singing in the rain! You can see the video of their efforts here.
We wish all pupils and families who are leaving us all the very best for the future. We will miss you...please, please keep in touch. Old Helenian news should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org - we would love to hear all that your children get up to and to celebrate their future successes with you.
We also wish the staff who are leaving us every success for the future and thank them for their commitment to the school. We know that they will keep in touch with us and look forward to hearing from them. All the very best to class teachers Miss Dear, Mrs. Rance and Mr. Tovell and to Mrs. Stubbs (Music) and Miss Williams (Funtasia).
Mrs Califano (1HC) will be leaving us to start her maternity leave and we look forward to hearing happy news later in the summer from her and from Mrs. Rance too.
Mrs. Hunt, who has been a class teacher at St. Helen's College for 20 years, is stepping away from her class teacher role in September to concentrate on her leadership duties as Head of Lower School and one of our Designated Safeguarding Leads. We thank her for her excellent work as a class teacher over so many years.
Summer Reading Challenge
We know that many families have enjoyed visiting their libraries during the summer holidays and participating in the summer reading challenge. However, with the disruption to library services due to COVID-19 the challenge will this year take place digitally. Please do sign your children up to enjoy some super reading challenges, quizzes and other activities by following this link:
We look forward to hearing about the children's summer of reading for pleasure!
Summer Holiday Activities
Parents might be interested in these ideas for some activities to keep your children busy and entertained over the summer holidays.
Posted on: 3/07/2020
Weekly News - Friday 3rd July 2020Feel Good Friday - All About Me
We hope that the children enjoyed expressing themselves today by wearing something on the theme of 'All About Me'. What was very obvious, from the outfits worn by the children (and staff) both in school and at home, was what a diverse and vibrant community we are! Many among us chose to wear dress reflecting our culture or background and an enormous number of activities, sports and interests were represented too. Well done everyone for the effort put into outfits today, and I hope that you will continue to reflect on all that makes you an individual, including your heritage, your interests and talents and your dreams for the future.
You can see photographs of the children on our Galleries page here.
Virtual Sports Day Awards
Over the summer term, Upper School pupils have been preparing at home and participating in our Virtual Sports Day. The leadership board has been changing weekly in what turned out to be a hot contest! Congratulations to all who took part; the list of event winners is available here. Overall year group winners will be announced at the final assembly next Friday.
Chamber Choir 2020-2021
Thank you to everyone who submitted a video entry for our online Chamber Choir auditions. We are pleased to announce that the following children have been selected:
Ria M 4T
Riya C 5G
Mrs. Fawbert and Mrs. Garnés very much look forward to working on beautiful choral music with you. Thanks to Mrs. Allery also, who was as usual part of the selection process. Many congratulations to our newest members!
Old Helenian News
We are delighted to share the news that Old Helenian (and school neighbour) Rex Baldwin has just been made Deputy Head Boy of The John Lyon School for the academic year 2020-2021.
Last Day of Term
Next Friday, 10th July, is the end of term and is a half day. Collection times for each year group are shown below. Please do adhere closely to these in order to help us to maintain social distancing outside the school gates.
Ducklings - 12 p.m.
Lower School Site
Nursery - 12 p.m.
Reception - 12.15 p.m.
Upper School Site
1HC - 12 p.m.
1C - 12.10 p.m.
Key Workers Year 2-5 - 12.20 p.m.
Year 6 - 12.30 p.m.
To end our term with the Nursery and Reception children, we will be having a Bubble Beach Party at school on Friday 10th July.
We will use our last morning together to share in some fun activities around a 'Hawaiian summer beach party' theme in each of our bubbles here at Lower School. We would very much like to encourage the children to dress accordingly, so please do have a look at home for shorts, t-shirts, sunglasses or even a grass skirt for the children to wear on the day!
Children from Year 1 to 6 who are in school will have a socially distant final assembly at 11 a.m. in the playground at school (weather permitting), which we intend to live stream out to the children at home.
We look forward to sharing a fun-filled and no doubt emotional final day together.
All instrumental tuition for September has now been allocated and our timetables are full on all instruments except (unusually!) the flute. We have some outstanding Year 6 flautists who are leaving us this summer to transfer to their senior schools, creating a few more vacancies than usual. The flute is a beautiful instrument to learn and play, not too noisy to practise (!) and much prized by senior schools, since woodwind groups and orchestras need talented and experienced flautists. If you have a son or daughter in Year 2-6 who would like to learn the flute from September onwards, please contact Mrs. Allery directly at email@example.com. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Field Studies Council Summer Breaks
Families might be interested in booking a summer break at one of the lovely Field Studies Council locations across the United Kingdom. The locations are safe, remote and provide a lovely opportunity for your children to connect with nature. They can let their imaginations run free: get muddy, ford streams, build dens and create their own adventure. There is wildlife to spot, woods to explore and amazing creatures to wonder at. The beautiful FSC sites have peaceful nooks and crannies aplenty so you can finish reading that book, enjoy a real face-to-face chat and find the perfect spot for a picnic. Why not get out there and make the most of all that nature has to offer in our beautiful country?
Posted on: 3/07/2020
A Governor's PerspectiveOver the past few weeks you have had the opportunity to read blogs from Mrs. Drummond, parents and children all giving their thoughts on the distance learning provided by St. Helen’s College during these unprecedented times. I am writing now as someone who has looked on from the outside and has, for the past half term, been right inside “at the chalk face” or at least today’s IT equivalent! Back in the autumn, when Mrs. Drummond asked me if I would be willing to take on the supply maternity cover for Mrs. McLaughlin for the second half of the summer term, I was only too pleased to accept, but neither of us could possibly have imagined at that time what the summer term would bring.
At the beginning of 2020 we were being made aware that a pandemic might be just around the corner, but few of us understood what an impact that it would have upon our lives. As the spring term progressed, it became increasingly obvious that, in all likelihood, St. Helen’s College and all other schools would be asked to close and that the children would have to be educated at home. Waiting for that to happen was a surreal time as plans were made for what was surely to come, while the daily life of school continued largely unaffected. As Governors, we were kept fully apprised of the developing situation and we were always on hand to give advice and support to Mrs. Drummond and the SLT as they made their plans. As a former Head of many years standing, I have many experiences to draw upon but, like the majority of serving and ex Head Teachers, none that fully prepared us for this previously unimaginable situation.
As remote learning got underway at St. Helen’s College, I saw how much time and effort the teaching and support staff were putting into making necessary amendments to their lessons, planning and timetables. This was not in order to produce a ‘watered down’ curriculum, but rather to ensure the delivery of the richest curriculum possible from a different platform. As always, their aim has been to maintain the provision of as many opportunities as possible for the children to extend their love of learning and to develop independence, resilience and mutual respect as they grow as young people ready to make their mark in our ever-changing world.
This aim has been achieved successfully despite the challenges for staff, for the children and for you as parents. Even the most “tech savvy” people have had to learn new skills and understand new aspects of technology. St. Helen’s staff and children are fortunate in that many of them were familiar with, and aware of the power of, Google Classroom, but still there has been so much for all of us to learn. So, having been observing closely from the outside, on 1st June I entered fully into the St. Helen’s College online teaching experience. I knew the Year 3 curriculum well, I had already met the children in 3M and had been fully briefed by Mrs. McLaughlin, but I also knew that I had much to learn about the technology, and my learning curve in that department has been steep!
I am really enjoying teaching 3M. I have always enjoyed working with children, seeing those ‘light bulb’ moments, helping pupils to understand something new and exciting about the world or about themselves. I love watching as they grow and develop, ask questions and form their own ideas and opinions. All of these and many others are the reasons why I have been involved in the education of young people for so long. Yet remote learning and teaching online is a real challenge; it is hard work! There is no other way to describe it and my current experiences have brought me to reconsider many aspects of classroom teaching that I had previously taken for granted.
All teachers plan their lessons carefully. There is a curriculum to follow and many would argue that, as educators, we have been too bound by that, but that is a discussion for another day. However, we are, by our very nature, spontaneous beings. With the children in the classroom, no teacher would want to stick blindly to the plan when a new, unexpected learning opportunity appears. We are working with people, not machines, and therefore we want to respond to their needs as they arise. We constantly encourage our pupils to be independent. This is so much easier physically in the classroom where the teacher is able to monitor progress more closely during the lesson and gently steer a child back on course if they have drifted, often by asking a relatively simple question at the right time. With remote learning, a child may complete a considerable amount of work before the realisation that they are not quite on the right track. Similarly, with resources it is much easier to provide an individual with appropriate support or extension exactly as and when it is needed in a more discreet manner. Last week one of the pupils in 3M remarked that there were so many attachments to the assignment that day, so I explained that these were necessary ‘just in case’ for some and not all of the activities would be used by everyone.
However, I think that the greatest challenge of not being in the classroom with the children is that we cannot really see and appreciate each other as people. Yes, if all of the cameras are working and switched on then we can see faces, but not all of them all the time, and particularly not when the teacher is in ‘presentation mode’ on their device. As humans we constantly send out and respond to non-verbal messages, so not being able to see most, if not all, of these signals is very hard. A teacher is able to respond naturally and immediately to a smile, a shrug, a frown, a raised eyebrow or a despondent droop of the shoulders in the real classroom. These signals are unseen in a remote learning classroom and I have found this a very strange and quite challenging situation to which to adapt. The very term ‘remote’ is exactly what we, as teachers, do not want to be. We are not, and should not be, remote and distant; the children are used to us being there for them and that is how we have been used to working. The majority of teachers are not used to speaking into a void, to an unseen audience either and certainly that is something that I found I had to become used to pretty quickly. Some children have found it challenging to speak online; they feel more shy than they would be in the real classroom, and this can also prove to be a barrier to learning. A quiet, discreet chat is possible when we are physically in the same room but there is no such thing as a quiet chat in a Google Meet lesson where everything is heard, or printed, for all to see.
Fundamentally, of course, I am the same teacher that I was before this experience. I still want to undertake all that I am used to being able to do in the classroom, and so it has been frustrating when this has not been possible. I have no doubt that moving forwards there are some aspects of remote learning that we will want to keep. There are always positives that emerge from any situation, however difficult it might be. Remote teaching and learning has certainly made me ponder on which aspects of my role as teacher are the most important to maintain and those that I really would prefer not to continue.
After five weeks of teaching remotely, I can honestly say that it is only now that I am immersed in the situation myself that I can fully appreciate the enormous amount of time and effort it has taken the staff every day to provide for their pupils during this pandemic. So many aspects are involved: planning, delivering, marking, giving feedback, ensuring that pastoral care is all that it should be so that no child feels that their worries are not being heard and acted upon, speaking to the children about everyday matters, contacting parents to give information and reply to concerns, liaising with other staff and a myriad of other unexpected matters to be attended to. All of these things take so much longer than in a ‘normal’ school day. There simply are not enough hours in the day, or days in the week, and that is without taking into account the family commitments that all staff also have.
All of the staff at St. Helen’s College always work hard and thoroughly deserve their summer break every year but this is particularly true this year, far more than any other. As a Governor, and I know that I speak for Mr. and Mrs. Crehan and the other Governors too, I sincerely congratulate the staff and thank them, not only for surviving and rising so well to all of the many challenges presented to them recently, but also for their dedication and determination that has meant that they have provided your sons and daughters with such a rich and varied experience over the past months.
During the past weeks you have been able to have increased insight into your child’s school experience at St. Helen’s College and I hope that you have found it to be an interesting and rewarding one. We do not know exactly what the future will hold, but your sons and daughters are growing up in a very special school in historic times.
I wish you, St. Helen’s College pupils and the rest of your families a safe, happy summer break as refreshing as possible in our current times.