School News and Head's Blog
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.
Posted on: 26/06/2020
Weekly News - Friday 26th JuneReady to Rumble
Here is our next 'feel good' video, made in recognition of the fact that today would have been the Prep Sports Day. We hope it will remind you all that the St. Helen's College staff are keeping in good spirits and thinking of all members of our community, even while it is not possible for us all to be together in person. We hope you enjoy it!
It has been super to see the children back in their uniforms today for this week's Fun Friday theme. For some of them, it will be the last chance they have to wear their St. Helen's College uniform before they move on to their next schools, and it was lovely to see them so smart and so proud of their school colours.
We were also thrilled today to have a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Crehan, who were able to walk around the school and 'visit' the children by waving hello from the doorways of the pods.
Here they are in the Zen Garden - it was very hot, but the fountain was bubbling away just in front of them!
We have also been making an alternative marketing video at school today, to give prospective parents (who are currently unable to visit) a natural flavour of the school. The video has been directed by Mrs. Smith, filmed by Mr. Smith (no relation!) and stars Catherine and Anish, our Head Girl and Head Boy. It will be edited and the final version will be posted to the website in due course, but for now, here is a sneak preview of the likely ending.
PA Virtual Family Quiz
The Parents' Association will be running a virtual family quiz on Saturday 4th July at 3.00 p.m. Full details are available here. We hope that many of you will take part!
House Art Competition
Thank you to all of the children who have entered the House Art competition. You can see entries on the Galleries page. The winning house will be announced in the final assembly of term.
Music places for individual tuition from September have now been allocated. However, we do have a few vacancies for flute, trumpet and violin tuition. These will be allocated on a first come, first served basis, so please contact Mrs. Allery as soon as possible if you would like your child to begin lessons on one of these instruments. You can reach Mrs. Allery at email@example.com.
We have communicated with parents directly today to confirm that, sadly, we will be unable to run our Holiday Club this summer due to the Covid-19 restrictions in place which require strict consistency of staffing.
Here are some alternative clubs that might be of interest to parents this summer.
If you have a son or daughter who will be eligible for entry into St. Helen's College Nursery in September 2021 (children born between 01.09.17 - 31.08.18), and you have not already registered him/her, please ensure that you do so soon. We give priority to siblings when we are allocating the Nursery places, but they do need to be registered with the school in order for us to do so!
You should register your child by completing the online registration form at:
Some parents might be interested to read the latest articles from Attain Magazine, which can be found by following this link.
Posted on: 26/06/2020
DiversityLast week in the Upper School assembly I spoke to the children about ‘Diversity’. This was prompted not only by my attendance the previous weekend at the DiverseEd annual conference but also by the media coverage surrounding the ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests which have occurred around the globe. My opening slide in assembly was this, which shows our current Year 6 pupils back in Year 5.
I asked the children to take a long look at the photograph - what did they notice? What stands out for me is that we have the most wonderful group of 41 individual children in our current Year 6 - but to extend this further we have the most incredible school of 375 unique and wonderfully different and diverse children.
What is diversity in simple words? It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising our individual differences. These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.
I am sure that many of the older children were aware of the anti-racism demonstrations surrounding ‘Black Lives Matter’ and it is important that as a school we continue to educate your children to be aware of what is going on in the world around them. The children had the opportunity to listen to a very simple video message from one of the Cbeebies presenters which I also urge you as parents to view:
‘A message from our house to yours’
I do not wish to dwell on just one aspect of Diversity but over the past few weeks I have reflected on my role as a leader and at the end of the DiverseEd conference we were all asked to make a pledge to ourselves as to how we will continue our journey to ensure that we are preparing children for the future ahead. I will share my pledge with you all - ‘To keep raising awareness as a leader; to continue to educate myself more to enable greater good in my community and be proactive for change.’
During the online conference, which was attended by over 400 other educators from the UK and overseas, we heard from a diverse range of leaders and educators who continue to make a difference to their communities with the work that they do educating young people on diversity. I realised that, prior to leaving Scotland back in 1989, I had led an incredibly sheltered life. I was brought up in a small coastal town where there really was not much diversity at all in terms of race, religion, sexual orientation or even physical abilities. I do not think that this has adversely affected me as I believe that it is the core values which we adopt and are immersed in that allow us to be accepting of everyone in our society. However, looking back there are possibly some very uncomfortable truths in the lack of education surrounding diversity in my school days.
Thankfully over the years I have met and connected with such diverse groups of people that I have become the person I am now and the values of St. Helen’s College - respect, love, harmony, kindness, friendship, truth, honesty, integrity - are why this school, our ‘second family’, is so important to us all. I am proud that at St. Helen’s College we have good practice and an understanding around diversity; however, we must continue to educate ourselves and each other to ensure that we are correctly informed and this involves parents, of course, as you are a crucial part of our community too. Schools need to be safe places for everyone to have discussions regarding diversity.
I am sure that there are many of us who have faced discrimination at some point in our lives and it is our responsibility to ensure that any low level discrimination that takes place is challenged - whether at school or in the work place. We can no longer accept comments which in the past may have been passed off as ‘banter’. We should be vigilant and spot stereotypes in images or sadly the unconscious bias that people may show. Such discrimination needs to be called out and this is not always easy but it is necessary. We know that the bystander is often as powerful as the perpetrator when discrimination takes place – what we don’t do if we don’t challenge is as much a part of the problem as blatant discrimination.
I expect that, throughout your own lives and careers, there have been diversity issues which you have faced? I hope that, if so, you can use those to inspire you to help be a part of the solution. As adults it is our role to ensure that children do not face the same challenges which we may have encountered. It is by continuing to uphold good core principles, listening and discussing that we will further educate ourselves and help the youngsters of today to become aware, responsible adults of the future - a future which we would want for our children.
Posted on: 19/06/2020
Weekly News - Friday 19th June 2020Funny Face Friday!
It has certainly been a fun day today both in school and at home, as the children have donned their 'funny faces'. Here you can see some of our Nursery children making their funny faces! There are lots more photographs from around the school and home on our Galleries page here.
Thank you so much to the children who entered our House Art Competition, depicting the school values. We have thoroughly enjoyed all of the entries and the winners will be announced in assembly on Monday.
Next Week - Uniform Friday/Alternative Mufti Day!
Next Friday will be a flipped 'mufti day', when we invite children to wear their school uniform throughout the school day, whether they will be on the school site or learning at home. It might feel very strange to some of them to put it on for one last time this year! Of course we understand that some children might have grown out of all or part of their uniform, so please feel free to be a little creative if you need to, or to use PE kit, but please do encourage the children to wear their full school uniform if they have it.
Chamber Choir Auditions
If you have a child in Year 2 to Year 5 and they would like to audition to join the Chamber Choir, please check your Google Classroom for further details which have been sent out today.
Rising Up Together
A lot of information follows below about how things currently stand at school, and what the immediate and longer term future might hold. One thing is sure...as a school community, we have remained strong throughout lockdown so far and we will rise up, ready to come back together fully with joy and gratitude when we are finally allowed to do so! We hope that you will share this sentiment as you enjoy our latest SHC lockdown video, Rise Up:
The Remainder of This Term
We have, over the past week, surveyed parents of those children who are currently eligible to attend school but have not yet been back to the school site. Many have indicated that their children will return next week or the following week and we have made plans to accommodate them safely. Unfortunately we will therefore not be in a position to invite pupils from any other year groups back into school before the end of this term. We understand that this will be disappointing news for many families, as it is for us, but we are sure that you understand that, with the restrictions which are currently in place for school, all our school space and staffing is being fully utilised.
Travel To School
As the number of pupils on site has continued to increase gradually, the London Borough of Hillingdon's Road Safety Team have produced a poster to remind parents about best practice when travelling to/from school. You can read this here.
We have sent a direct email to parents today about Online Safety. If you have not already done so, you can register for our National Online Safety platform by clicking on this link and proceeding as a parent/carer. You will then be able to access many useful resources and a comprehensive course.
Please do not hesitate to contact us if you require additional guidance or if you have any concerns about your child's online safety. Our Designated Safeguarding Leads are:
Upper School: Mr. McLaughlin
Lower School/Ducklings: Mrs. Hunt
2nd Uxbridge Beavers - Places Available Now
Before Coronavirus prohibited face-to-face Scouting, the 2nd Uxbridge Beavers Group met weekly at the Scout HQ on Gatting Way (the same road as Hillingdon Leisure Centre). They are currently running weekly online meetings for their Beavers children. These meetings allow the children to burn off a little energy and also to safely connect online with other children their own age, which is more important now than ever.
The group currently has places and would be delighted to have girls and boys aged between 5¾ and 8 years old join them. You can find full details here.
Summer Holiday Club
Current government guidance, staffing restrictions and the protocols in place within school regarding grouping children mean that it will most likely not be possible for us to offer Holiday Club provision over the summer holidays. We will of course update you if the situation changes.
As parents already know, we will be saying goodbye to some members of staff at the end of this academic year. Mrs. Rance will be leaving us as she and her husband await the birth of their second child; they have decided to move further away from the school. Mr. Tovell is leaving us to move to a position much closer to his home, to enable him to spend more time with his family; he is also expecting his second child. Miss Dear has decided to step back from teaching altogether to devote more time to her family at home, and Mrs. Stubbs will also be relinquishing her peripatetic music commitments with us.
After 20 years as a class teacher at St. Helen's College, Mrs. Hunt will not be a form teacher next year. She will remain in her role as Head of Lower School but will now have the opportunity to teach some lessons in Year 1 and also to follow the progress of the children as they transition to Year 2. Mrs. Hunt also oversees Ducklings and is our Designated Safeguarding Lead for Ducklings and Lower School. Mrs. Hunt will miss the role of form teacher but she will now have the opportunity to visit all the classes and to assist across the EYFS to Year 2. Mrs. Allery, while remaining with us as a Year 5 form teacher, will no longer be Director of Music as she would like more time to focus on supporting her family, and Miss Phoebe Williams will no longer be working with us as a Funtasia Assistant. Mrs. Blackstone will, after some years of semi-retirement, be taking the plunge and retiring fully. We wish them all the very best as they move onto their next phases.
As previously announced, Mrs. Claire Fawbert will be joining us as our new Director of Music from September. Mr. Steve Roche will be joining us as Head of English and Year 6 form teacher. Miss Kyra Linton will be joining us as Head of Maths and Year 4 form teacher. Mrs. Victoria Briggs will be covering for Mrs. McLaughlin in 3M while Mrs. McLaughlin completes her maternity leave. Mrs. Nadine Pruce will be joining us as Head of Art, Miss Emma Rackham will be joining us as Year 1 class teacher and Mrs. Jane Smith will be joining us as a peripatetic flute teacher. We are also in the process of appointing an Early Years Assistant to work in our Ducklings class while Miss Hill completes her maternity leave.
Class Allocations 2020/21
Please find below the list of class/teacher allocations for the next academic year.
Our new intake of Ducklings will be led by Mrs. McGee
The new Robins Nursery class will be led by Mrs. Mann
The new Wrens Nursery class will be led by Miss Carmichael
Robins Nursery will become Kingfishers with Ms Matthews
Wrens Nursery will become Owls with Miss Joiner
Kingfishers will become 1R with Miss Rackham
Owls will become 1C with Miss Cooper
1C will become 2H with Mrs. Hussein
1HC will become 2B with Mr. Bustard
2B will become 3M with Mrs. Briggs (Mrs. McLaughlin following maternity leave)
2H will become 3B with Mrs. Belvoir
3B will become 4L with Miss Linton
3M will become 4T with Mrs. Thompson
4KT will become 5A with Mrs. Allery
4T will become 5G with Ms Gilham
5A will become 6R with Mr. Roche
5G will become 6M with Mr. McLaughlin
New parent meetings and transition meetings for parents whose children will be joining year groups from Ducklings to Year 2 have been arranged over the coming weeks. These meetings will take place online and parents have been sent the dates and will be sent further information before each meeting takes place.
Meet the Teacher evenings will take place, as usual, in September for parents of children in Years 3 to 6. The provisional dates are below - please add these to your diaries now.
Thursday 3rd September at 7 p.m. - Year 3 and Year 6
Tuesday 14th September at 7 p.m. - Year 4 and Year 5
We hope that these Meet the Teacher evenings will take place in person, on the school premises, as usual. If this is not possible, they will take place online. Again, further information will be sent to parents before each meeting takes place.
While we will not be able to hold our 'moving up mornings' this term as we usually would, there will be an opportunity towards the end of term for the children to 'meet' their new teacher online, and to welcome new pupils who may be joining into their class from September. Further details about this will be provided by class teachers.
Planning for September
Some parents have contacted us to ask about plans for our return to school in September. The truth is that, like schools across the country, we just don't know what September will hold for us all yet.
We are, of course, hoping and planning for a full return to school and for normal life to resume for everyone. Although we are also considering possible alternative scenarios, we will not be able to make any definite plans until nearer the time when the government makes further decisions and announcements based on the course of the pandemic at that point.
Staff will have a well-deserved and much-needed break over the summer, but we will certainly also spend time over the summer planning carefully and communicating with staff and parents. While it is hard for us all to sit with uncertainty for now, we just don't have any other option. We ask you to refrain from speculating or from contacting staff over the holidays; we will communicate with parents by 14th August over planning for the September return, and at least weekly from then on.
Parents are reminded that the uniform and equipment list is available in the Parents section of the website here. Please do take a look at what your child will need for September onwards as they move into their new year group.
Our uniform suppliers, Pullens, re-opened their shops on Monday 15th June and visits are currently by appointment only. Pullens have asked us to let parents know that they have the following measures in place to prepare for social distancing and to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of customers and staff:
Installed hand sanitising stations at the entrance to stores, placed physical markings throughout to ensure social distancing and positioned PPE equipment.
Stores are open by appointment only to limit the number of customers in store at any one time.
Late night opening on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, by appointment.
Request one adult per family with only the child/children who require uniform.
Card payments only.
Exchange/Refund policy – extended to 120 days.
10% discount, in June and July, on all orders placed online with a minimum value of £100, using code U4K10.
No-contact returns processes in place for online orders.
Live Chat available online, during working hours.
Click & Collect service from outside stores.
Specifying a deadline for families to order uniform online by 10th August to ensure uniform is delivered by the start of term.
Posted on: 19/06/2020
Pupil Perspective: Lockdown LearningThis week I invited our Head Boy, Anish, and Head Girl, Catherine, to co-write a blog to give us a pupil perspective of 'Lockdown'. I was so moved to read their blog, as I am sure you will be. We have the most wonderful ambassadors for what St.Helen's College stands for in our pupils - do enjoy!
Sometimes, life does change overnight. One day, the cities are hustling and bustling with myriad activities and children come back from school with dozens of stories to tell. The next day we wake up to empty streets and an untimely school holiday. We have been in Lockdown since 23rd March 2020. It seems a long time ago but that is when all of the children and teachers started homeschooling. This global pandemic has brought our country to a standstill. However, as we know, every grey cloud has a silver lining and understandably such difficult situations bring out novel challenges that we need to adapt to and overcome! It must have been extremely difficult for the teachers but they embraced the challenge and have been doing and are still doing an amazing job. All of the children have really enjoyed learning from home. The lessons are still bags of fun and everyone is co-operating to help each other do the best they can do. Year 6, with the help of their terrific teachers have even been doing their Year 6 projects at home!
This lockdown has brought in a wonderful opportunity for us to engage in activities we never had a chance to do before and we are able to spend quality time with our family. Also, this lockdown has allowed us to actually and properly direct our attention to nature. Everyday, everyone is waking up to the joyous sing song of the sparrow.
Another great thing that has happened during the lockdown is the reduction of pollution maintaining the tranquillity of nature. Not many of us are going out as often and therefore we are reducing the acceleration of climate change. This is positive news, meaning that we may still have time to save the planet and preserve nature for future generations to come.
Being at home gave us a new insight into school. It was a new step for all of the St. Helen's College community, but we overcame the technical difficulties and set up a hugely successful online learning programme. Google Meet, Google Classroom and Century Tech have allowed us to be able to adapt to these circumstances and still be able to thrive. As Ms Gilham has been teaching us, “The species that adapts will survive; those who don’t will perish”.
Having the opportunity to experience home learning is something that has not only added to our ever-growing list of experiences, it has shaped us into stronger people and given many the chance to develop new passions. It is so important to look for the good in things. As young people, we need to remember these events and reflect on them, for that is the only way we can improve and make a version of ourselves that contributes to society.
In this blog, we would like to show gratitude to all the teachers, staff and parents alike, for their support and hard work. The teachers have put so much effort into making sure we get the best out of our lessons, something which requires a lot of attention and time.
For us, home learning was very enjoyable, though vastly different. We have been keeping in contact with all our friends, via Skype, Zoom, Facetime and lots of other apps. Weekly, on the weekend, 6RD girls have been doing online quizzes using Zoom and Kahoot. This has been so vital, and has helped to bring joy into many people’s lives. This spirit is what will get us through this turbulent time; the sense of community.
As the number of cases have gradually begun to slow down, the Government has allowed schools to reopen partially by allowing Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back. Many of our friends have said that it is great to be in school and that they feel that they are protected with all the safety precautions that the St. Helen's College staff have put in place.
Since then, most of the children have been back in school learning with great gusto. The children definitely showed their love for learning and the teachers are going above and beyond to help us settle in new conditions and have as much fun as possible. The safety of others has always been the priority.
Some of the fun topics in lessons have been maths mysteries, drawing for the Hammersmith Hospital in art, Year 5 preparing for 11+ exams at home, creating board games with Year 6 and the school has been using a new website called Century Tech. Century Tech creates a learning path for you to follow, thereby nourishing your knowledge. In English, Year 6 have been working on their WW2 scrapbooks and Year 1 have been making their very own stories in computing! And the list doesn’t end there…everyone has been enthusiastically listening and participating in the bi-weekly assemblies and class meets. Everyone has loved every minute of this roller coaster experience. It shows how strong and determined our fantastic community is. If we work together and follow the rules, then we can be successful in defeating this virus. Google Meets are a great way of keeping in touch with friends and family, but if we persevere we will meet each other in person in the end.
Certainly there is a light shining proudly at the end of the tunnel, and if we work together, we shall get there very soon!
Catherine L and Anish A
Posted on: 17/06/2020
Weekly News - Friday 12th June 2020La-La-La Lockdown
We hope you enjoy this video to lift all of our community's lockdown spirits! Thanks go to Miss Walker and her son for teaching everyone the dance, and to Mrs. Crehan for the soundtrack. Well done all those who took part!
We enjoyed some wonderful music in the Upper School assemblies from our Year 2 children this week; well done to Ruby and Hana for their beautiful flute playing. It is such a delight for us to continue to celebrate the musicality of children.
Mrs. Nash will also be looking for some new violinists from next year - do contact Mrs. Allery if you have a child at either Lower School or Upper School who may be interested in learning the violin from September. You can reach Mrs. Allery at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mrs. Nash herself has been very committed to improving her own skills and is on Day 87 of 100 consecutive days of violin practice - she started this about a week before lockdown! She has also just started an online course with an amazing violinist in the US which lasts for 3 months. He sets daily practice assignments which take about an hour a day. Mrs. Nash is a true advocate of our current value of 'self-discipline'.
Funny Face Friday
Next Friday (19th June) we invite children to 'Funny Face Friday'. All children, whether attending school in person or taking part in remote learning, are encouraged to make their face a 'funny face'. Hats, wigs, glasses of any description, face paint, stick on jewellery....anything is welcome! We hope that this will be a real spirit-lifter for us all!
House Art Competition - Final Week For Entries
We would like to remind pupils to submit their entries for our House Art Competition. Pupils may be as creative as they like in producing their pieces of artwork: drawing, painting, sculpting, modelling, sticking/collaging: all these are welcome, and more! Art must be on the theme of a school value, and each piece of work must be accompanied by a note (NOT WRITTEN ON THE PIECE OF WORK ITSELF) which should give the child's name and class and clearly state the value depicted.
The list of values to choose from are:
The deadline for submitting entries (to your class teacher or pod supervisor) is Friday 19th June.
Thank you to Vandan V (Year 5), assisted by Sulaiman M, who shared this super quiz with his classmates this week. You might like to have a go too!
In our fast-paced society, it is important that young people know how reliable sources of news are constructed, learning how to identify bias and unreliable or misleading information in its different forms. Regularly reading a reputable newspaper will help pupils to access reliable news and to understand the concept of sources, the purpose of reports and the role of journalism in society. In school, we subscribe to First News, which pupils can read while here. We would like to remind you that you could take out a personal subscription to this excellent children's newspaper if you would like to do so. At the moment, there is a special offer so that you pay just £1 for your first three issues. More information is available at https://www.firstnews.co.uk/.
Book Token Competition
Our school needs you! Help us win £5,000 of National Book Tokens for the school library - and get £100 for yourself! Just enter the competition online, it only takes a minute: https://www.nationalbooktokens.com/schools
Pupils might like to get creative and enter the National Book Tokens competition to design a book token gift card. They could win £10 book tokens for all of their classmates if their design is chosen as the winner!
Posted on: 12/06/2020
Joyful JuneThis week I would like to talk about emotions. We are living through an uncertain and difficult time and, understandably, emotions are running high in many of us. At St. Helen’s College, we do not shy away from discussing our emotions, either amongst the staff or with the children. We believe it is important that we all recognise and accept our emotions, allowing ourselves to feel and then channelling our feelings into positive action.
Each month I circulate a calendar to all of the staff to display in the classrooms; this month’s calendar is ‘Joyful June’ and you can see a copy of it here. Every morning I look at the calendar and remember the motto from Action for Happiness - I read the advice for each day and I find that this makes me smile and realigns my thoughts. The Action for Happiness mantra for the moment is this: “The world is in crisis. Keep calm, stay wise & be kind”.
It is not always easy to follow this mantra. Over recent months, I have felt angry, upset and emotionally and physically drained. Should I feel bad for recognising this in myself? No - I do not feel bad for recognising these feelings. We are in a crisis and we are dealing with a situation which is so far removed from what any of us have ever experienced in our lives, it is only natural that we will feel unlike our usual selves. Nobody prepared us as human beings for so much uncertainty and so much change.
The anger I felt some months ago was real. Without getting on a political soapbox, I was enraged at the lack of clarity, communication and consideration given to schools at the beginning of lockdown, since it left us in a very difficult position without any clear guidance. As time has moved on and our situation has evolved, this anger has now dissipated; however, I used this emotion to motivate myself and our Senior Leadership Team to make a difference and to respond with initiative and resourcefulness to the situation we found ourselves in.
I have been upset that we are not able to look after all of our children in the way we would like to as educators, and I know that my colleagues have shared this disappointment and sadness. This has spurred us on to put into place the very best educational and pastoral provision for those children who are not able to be with us on our school site. Although my colleagues and I have at times felt these ‘negative’ emotions, they have been balanced by ‘positive’ feelings too. I am so proud of the resilience of our pupils and the incredible support from parents and staff. We can all take joy and a sense of satisfaction from knowing that we are doing our utmost to look after the needs of the children: not just their academic needs, but their personal wellbeing too.
I have felt emotionally wrung out as the impact of the past 15 weeks has taken its toll, and I know that this feeling has been shared at times by colleagues, parents and pupils as well as family members and friends. Back in February I attended the first webinar on how to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic; we had not been affected at that point but I listened to the experiences of an overseas school and way back then I did not think that, in June, we would still be in such a surreal situation. It is certainly a marathon rather than a sprint, and it is only natural that we will all feel worn out by the emotional roller coaster of hope, disappointment and grief we have been riding, as well as by the extraordinarily heavy workload that the pandemic has brought.
Since February, the Senior Leadership Team at St. Helen’s College has had to focus on planning and implementing strategies and protocols to allow children and adults to be as safe as possible whilst also maintaining a good level of educational provision and protecting our organisation’s future. We should have been moving forward with the objectives of our school strategic plan, developing our provision for the children at St. Helen’s College with exciting initiatives and developments. However, as for almost everyone, ‘normal’ life and business have been put on hold for us, and our - more frequent and lengthy - SLT meetings have had a different type of agenda. COVID-19 features as agenda item 1 and will, necessarily, continue to do so for the immediate future.
I have tried to follow the Action For Happiness mantra and I hope that I have remained calm, wise and kind. However, I have welcomed all the other emotions into my life, being fully aware of how important it is to acknowledge these emotions and respond to them in a mindful manner. In doing so, I am grateful for the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and other mindful practitioners whose books and research help me to improve my ‘practice’ and enable me to find a level of peace in a frantic world. I highly recommend this book or the app.
To all of our community - staff, parents and pupils - I say this: it is ok not to feel fine all the time! It is the ability to observe negativity without criticism which is key. We need to catch negative thought patterns before they take us on a deeper spiral. We need to develop greater self-compassion, observing unhappiness or stress but allowing the associated thoughts and feelings to come and go. I teach the children about ‘thought buses’ - they need to observe thoughts but should not allow themselves to jump onto one of the negative thought buses as it may not be such a pleasant journey. Many parents have approached me, keen to find out more about what we do at school in regard to mindfulness. I recommend that those of you who wish to find out more sign up for this course, which is for teachers and parents, or watch some of these videos.
For those of you who are finding this pandemic difficult, you are not alone. At times, we all struggle, and at times we all need support. There may be greater hurdles ahead as we begin to rebuild some sense of ‘normality’, with the world beginning to open up once more to trading, tourism and hospitality. We need to allow all of our thoughts and emotions a place, but also keep ourselves optimistic about the future. There have been so many positives for us to celebrate as a school, as we have seen children, parents and staff respond to this crisis so magnificently - and when some among us have found it difficult, the school community has worked together and provided the strong pastoral support needed. I am sure we will continue to find more positives as the summer months unfold.
It has been a joy over the last two weeks to see the children from Ducklings, Nursery, Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 back in school, along with the children of our key workers. As they arrive, they are lining up in the new ‘normal’ manner to enter school, the majority of them not even giving a backwards glance as they skip into school after sanitising their hands. I only wish we could bottle up their enthusiasm and happiness to send to you all - it would be a very lucrative ‘happy’ business!
What lies ahead next for schools is still unknown, but what I do know is that our planning has always had, and will continue to have, the wellbeing of the children at its core. As our country’s leaders advise us further, we will continue to respond with integrity and care, planning for the best outcome for our children and our school.
I feel nourished writing this blog and even more joyful as we end our second week of June - today’s note in the Action for Happiness calendar is 'Make a plan with friends to do something fun together!’ I have not seen any of my friends from outside our St. Helen’s College community since February half term. Like many of you, I have not seen my family for much longer. My mother (in her 80s) is alone in Scotland; my Easter trip there was cancelled and, as she does not use technology, weekly phone calls are her lifeline. Thankfully I have a cousin who shops for her and checks in on her. I shall, of course, plan to do something fun with my friends and family when I can - we all need to plan for the future ahead and be proud of what we have all achieved in this crisis together.
So, I have felt anger, frustration, disappointment, joy, pride and hope...but my overriding emotion today is gratitude. I am grateful for our community and the strength we are demonstrating together. I am grateful for the determination and support shown by parents, the resilience, adaptability and happiness shown by pupils, and the perseverance, love and sheer stamina shown by staff. You are all superstars!
Have a wonderful weekend.
Posted on: 5/06/2020
Weekly News - Friday 5th June 2020Singing Competition
What a wonderful afternoon we had today, hearing the children's entries for the final of our Singing Competition. The standard was, as always, astonishingly high and the children showed a high level of confidence, technical ability and performance skills. Mrs. Crehan had the very difficult job of judging this year and our gratitude goes to her for her adaptability in taking part in an online competition this time! The results were as follows.
Year 3 Winner - Advik
Runners up - Minaya and Xavier
Overall Middle School Winner - Advik
Year 4 Winner - Shruthi
Runners up - Anjika and Charlotte
Year 5 Joint Winners - Jessica and Maya
Runner up - Riya
Year 6 Winner - Jasmine
Runners up - Aarna and Laura
Overall Upper School Winner - Jasmine
Very many congratulations to all those involved and to our winners!
Hillingdon Road Safety Dream Bike Competition
Out of 470 entries, Arjun C (2B) has just been awarded second place for the Hillingdon Road Safety Dream Bike competition which we shared on this news blog recently. Arjun really took a keen interest and took his time to think about his dream bike and was very proud of his design. Using alliteration, he named his design the 'Weird and Wacky Bike'. Very, very well done, Arjun!
School This Week
We thought that you would all like to see some photographs of life around school this week, to give you a flavour of what it has been like getting ready for re-opening and being here with part of the community back with us. You can see these on the Galleries page. See if you can spot anyone you know!
Many thanks to Mr. McGee who has created outdoor cleaning stations for our Ducklings children so that they can continue to wash their hands thoroughly and regularly when playing outdoors!
Well done to Anjika G (4T) who wrote a fantastic Scratch program this week with a bilingual, colour-changing hexagon! You can try out her program here.
New Additions to the SHC Family
Many congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. McLaughlin, who welcomed their first baby, son Remi, this week! Remi weighed 6 lbs and 13 oz and the family are all back at home and enjoying their time together. We are sure that you would all like to join with us in wishing them well.
We are also delighted to announce the birth of Maeve, daughter to Miss Hill and granddaughter to Mrs. Hill!
Maeve was born on 24th May, weighing 6lb and 2oz. Miss Hill and Maeve's dad George have been having a wonderful time together as a new family and send all their love to the St. Helen's College community and especially to the Ducklings children - Miss Hill is enjoying her maternity leave but is missing you all very much.
House Art Competition
This year we will be holding our inaugural House Art Competition. Pupils may be as creative as they like in producing their pieces of artwork: drawing, painting, sculpting, modelling, sticking/collaging: all these are welcome, and more! Art must be on the theme of a school value, and each piece of work must be accompanied by a note (NOT WRITTEN ON THE PIECE OF WORK ITSELF) which should give your child's name, class and clearly state the value depicted.
The list of values to choose from are:
The deadline for submitting entries (to your class teacher or pod supervisor) is Friday 19th June.
World Environment Day
Whilst many pupils and teachers continue to work remotely, Freshwater Theatre Company wanted to find a way to celebrate World Environment Day with you online. We bring you a timely message from our Earth Explorer about the actions we can take to protect our environment for future generations: https://youtu.be/jLow_8SdNPg
Please do share this link with your colleagues, pupils and their parents, as well as your family and friends. The World Environment Day website [https://www.worldenvironmentday.global] has lots of information including a practical guide with more resources.
Lockdown Survival Guide
Although this guide is branded as a 'teen guide' for surviving lockdown, there is a lot in it which we feel would be useful to our current pupils - as well as to some of the Old Helenians out there who might be approaching, or in, their teenage years and might need some extra support through this difficult time. We hope that you will find it useful - you can access it here.
Rainbow Room Thanks
Our Year 6 pupils were delighted this week to receive letters of thanks from the team at Imperial College Healthcare Trust, acknowledging the colourful and creative pictures they produced and sent in to decorate the Rainbow Room at Hammersmith Hospital.
Posted on: 5/06/2020
Home Learning - A Parent's PerspectiveWhile many pupils returned to school this week, much of our pupil community continues to be educated via our remote learning platform, supported by their parents.
As all parents will know from the parent surveys you have completed, we have sought feedback formally from parents as we have established and developed our comprehensive remote educational provision. As we have gone along, we have also surveyed pupils and staff, to ensure that we have developed, and continually improved, a system that works for all of those involved. We believe that we have got an effective, user-friendly system in place and we know from recent parent feedback that parents are very happy with all that we have done, and very appreciative of the extra steps St. Helen's College has taken, which have really set our offering apart from that of other schools. Parents appreciate that things have not been easy for any of us but that, under unforeseen and difficult circumstances, the school has worked hard to offer something very valuable and to ease the burden on parents as far as possible.
This week, we have a blog from a parent, Mrs. Jamani, about her experiences of home learning with her daughter, who is in Year 5. Of course, the challenges have been different for those of you with younger children, but I thought you would all be interested to hear about learning in lockdown from a parent's perspective.
What you have all been doing, as parents, to support your children's learning during these tricky times is incredible. We know that you also have full time jobs, elderly relatives to care for, and the relentless 'busyness' that comes with daily family life. The school is very grateful to you all for your input with your children and for your continued support of the school and of each other. You should feel very, very proud of yourselves!
Home Learning - A Parent's Perspective
Like many parents I dreaded the thought of ‘home schooling’. For me, having a full time job that didn’t seem to slow down during lockdown, I wasn’t sure how this would work for us all. How would we all cope? Did we have enough supplies? Could I help with those interesting maths questions?
Looking back on those fears/questions now, I realise that I really had nothing to worry about.
Reviewing the past few weeks since term began after the Easter break, what has struck me as having really made a difference to us is how St. Helen's College has been able to adapt so quickly and the amount of resources we have in comparison to other schools. This has put a tremendous amount of structure back into my daughter's day. Having actual lessons within a structured timetable and live teacher interaction too has meant that my involvement hasn’t been at the levels I feared when first faced with the prospect of ‘home schooling’. I am so grateful for this, as I have no idea how I would have coped otherwise.
I now get to enjoy listening to my daughter’s class calls and the conversations and interactions she has with her classmates in her new study room and can see how much they are learning outside of the classroom setting! Remote learning has also given me a great insight into what her days may have been like when she was actually going into school, which I would never otherwise really have had a chance to experience.
My daughter also has positive things to say. She says that “remote learning has been really positive. If we need something the teachers are always at hand via Google Classroom or they might keep the Meet open so that we can go in and the teachers can help to explain things further. Also, when we mark our work we can go into the Meet and if we get a question wrong our teachers can help straight away. The added bonus is that we get help from our peers too. Our peers might be marking or have already marked the work so they can help by explaining it to us via Google Classroom or we can set up a Zoom call so people on the same thing can communicate/discuss and collaborate.”
Both my children have shown great resilience. They have embraced this new way of learning and living and actually all of us have seen the positives in what we do every day. Learning new things to cook, relaxing more, growing together, playing games, getting on with the ‘to do’ list and actually winning! Having a robust remote learning plan that has been executed well has meant that I, as a parent, have managed to juggle work and parental duties without the added pressure of being a teacher too! It has meant I can stress less and concentrate on making this time we have together as memorable as possible.
So a big thank you must go to all the staff at St. Helen's College for all their hard work, time, support and patience.