School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 6/10/2017
Follow Your Dreams - Head's BlogFor those who were not able to attend last night's Prizegiving ceremony, I would like to share the inspirational speech from our Guest of Honour, Mr Kevin Carson, Head of The Royal Masonic School for Girls. His own journey of following his dreams led him to become the successful, well rounded person he is now. Enjoy!
"It is a genuine pleasure to be invited to St. Helen's College this evening to join you for your Prizegiving, and to join in the celebration of the achievements and progress of so many fabulous students.
St. Helen's College is a school that shares so much with my own school, RMS for Girls. Some of our similarities occur through the distinctive curriculum that we each offer, such as a focus on .b and mindfulness, or our commitment to learning beyond the classroom, both of which we too view as important aspects of educating the whole child. Other links are in respect of staff, because Mrs. Drummond, as I am sure many of you here tonight are aware, was a key teacher for many years in the Prep School at RMS before she joined St. Helen's College. Most importantly, our schools are similar in respect of a strong ethos that we live by, and also through a commitment to a holistic education for our pupils, which is very much central to my own sense of what is important in the development of each individual child. And at RMS we too believe in responding to the talents and the contexts of each pupil before us, of allowing the children to develop and to pursue each of their talents and dreams. And it is that theme of encouraging the pupils here tonight to pursue and to follow what is distinctive, special and important to each of you that I will return to throughout my speech.
The boys and girls who will come on stage this evening to receive prizes have of course all now moved on to secondary school, have made that move from the family atmosphere of their prep school here at St.Helen's College to big school, to senior school. I know both from my own experiences when I was your age and through my years as a teacher that the move to senior school is not always straightforward to make at first, but to all of the Year 7 pupils here tonight I ask you to trust us that it gets easier with every week in your new school. If you have not done so already, you will very soon settle in and feel secure and happy in your new school.
And yet even when you have fully settled in and feel truly at home, in the larger environment of a senior school it is not always easy for you to be yourself, and to remain true to yourself, as I remember from my own school days as I tried to pursue my own dreams in secondary school.
I have, as you may have noticed, a slight accent. I grew up in a city called Liverpool. It is a city that to this day many people associate with two things other than having a funny accent: those two things most commonly are the pop music of The Beatles and football. More specifically, at least in my family, Liverpool Football Club. I was taken to my first football match on my 3rd birthday, to Anfield, the home of Liverpool FC. I was only a toddler, dressed in full kit yet barely aware of what football was, and so young that despite the noise and shouts of 40,000 fanatical supporters I fell asleep during that first match watching Liverpool. But from that game onwards I was taken regularly to watch Liverpool by my father, grandfather, uncles and aunties. And soon enough I also played football regularly as a boy, every day in fact, with my two brothers and our friends, with anybody at all who wished to join in and play. So by the time that I was your age, I knew in my heart that all I wanted to do, the one dream that I knew I had to try to follow, was to be a professional footballer and to play for Liverpool Football Club.
And because I played so much, because I practised all of the time, and was lucky to have some great coaches and the support of my family, I got better at playing football. In everything in life we improve through practice, through learning from our mistakes. So by the time I was your age I had got good enough at football to play in a boys’ team that played at Wembley, a team that had won national football tournaments, and even better than all of that, a team that had played at Anfield, Liverpool’s stadium. Working together we became good enough as a team to get the chance to meet the England manager at the time, Bobby Robson, and one day a scout came to watch us from a professional football team, a team called Bolton Wanderers, and asked some of us if we would like to have a trial at their professional football club. I was one of those boys asked to go along, and they liked me enough at Bolton to invite me to train with them every week. So from the age of 11 I travelled every Wednesday night with my father to Bolton and trained with their coaches. I practised really hard, got better at passing and tackling, heading and shooting. All I wished was to be offered what was called a schoolboy contract, because I was still convinced that if I could be offered a schoolboy football contract at Bolton then one day I might become a professional footballer for Liverpool. That was my first dream, hope, passion.
But even though I practised every day, and played in three or four matches every weekend, I was not offered a schoolboy contract by Bolton. Some of my team mates were offered a contract, and one even became a professional footballer, but Bolton decided after two years with them that I would no longer be invited to train there each week. So, at age 13, I began to realise that my dream of becoming a professional footballer for Liverpool was becoming less likely because no matter how hard I tried there were some extremely talented players who were simply better at football than I was. I can still remember quite strongly how very disappointed I was at the time. Team mates and friends of mine were still at Bolton, some had even moved on from Bolton to train with Liverpool, and it felt at the time like the end of the world that I was not going to be able to pursue my first childhood dream.
But now, looking back on my years playing football as a boy, I do not view them with the sharp sadness that I felt then. In fact, I am very happy that I pursued that dream. I have realised since then that the skills I learnt following my passion have served me really well in my life. Not the passing and tackling, or the heading and shooting - there is not so much use for those skills as a Headteacher. But the other skills that I learnt such as teamwork and of communicating really well with the other members of your team, or of working hard and of all working together with one shared aim. Developing each of those key skills, which I developed first and foremost from my years playing sport, make me thankful and appreciative that my family supported me in pursuing what was special and most important to me when I was 11 years old. It matters not that my dream did not come true.
In truth I soon enough got over my disappointment aged 13. One of the reasons I got over it and moved on was because by the age of 13 I had developed a new interest, a new passion: acting and performing. I had performed parts in school plays in my primary school, small parts when I was younger, larger parts by Year 6, and I had loved being involved in school productions, being part of a team again, all working together with one aim of putting on a great show. And then in Senior School, in Year 7, I was taught by the most wonderful Drama teacher, Mr. Robinson, who asked me to play a lead role in a play that he was entering for a Play Festival at a theatre in Liverpool. We rehearsed for weeks and performed our play at the festival, but we didn’t win first prize – you can’t always win in life. However afterwards an agent for actors approached me and my family and asked if he could send me along to an audition for a television commercial for Heinz Tomato Ketchup.
So I travelled down to London with my mother, auditioning against talented children who attended drama school and who had already acted on stage and screen. And on this occasion I was fortunate enough to be chosen for the part. Heinz decided that they wanted a squeaky voiced boy with a Liverpudlian accent to sell Heinz sauce in a new squeezy bottle. I had to say lines such as “This new Heinz squeezy ketchup is really neat because now I can put it right where I want”. So that was fun, an enjoyable and different experience. And in acting, as a child, once you have shown that you can perform one part reliably and behave yourself on set, it becomes easier to be cast in other roles. So, soon after the sauce advertisement, I was involved in a BBC drama, working with some fabulous actors. And then, at age 13, not too long after my disappointment as a budding footballer, I was cast in a role as a family member on a soap opera on television at the time that was called Brookside. Your parents will remember it even though you will not know it as Brookside is no longer shown on television today.
I played the part of a character called Geoff Rogers, who was also known by the unflattering nickname of Growler, for over four years. Working on a weekly television show was a wonderful experience for me as a child. I didn’t always have to go to school, which at the time felt very nice and special. Once again I was working with wonderful actors, and also getting to know wonderful directors and writers such as Jimmy McGovern and Frank Cottrell Boyce, who you might have read as the author of novels such as Millions or The Astounding Broccoli Boy. Through acting on Brookside, I enjoyed lots of other opportunities such as travelling around the country, meeting Ronald Dahl because my character suffered dyslexia, and appearing on other television and radio shows such as Children in Need and BBC Radio 1. All lots of fun, but importantly following this new passion of mine allowed me to develop more skills that have served me well to this day: the importance of rehearsal and preparation, improving my presentation and communication skills, and once again, learning to work well as part of a team alongside lots of very different types of people.
In many ways, it is true to say that working as an actor on Brookside changed my life. But not in ways that you might expect. I certainly didn’t enjoy being recognised wherever I went around Liverpool, and I realised over time that unlike all the other actors on the show I didn’t burn with a passion inside me to wish to be an actor and to do whatever was required to be an actor for the rest of my life. I enjoyed every day there, but over time I learnt through pursuing this passion that it wasn’t a new childhood dream. Instead of any of this, working on Brookside changed my life because it opened my eyes to a world beyond that which I had known growing up in Liverpool. I realised just how many exciting and interesting jobs there were out there, creative and inspirational jobs that I might want to do, now that I had learned I did not wish to be an actor. So, once again, I do not regret being allowed to pursue my interest in acting from the age of 11 to 17; in fact I am really appreciative of everything I learnt from those years and that I make use of in my life each day.
One other benefit that came from being on Brookside that I was paid, which was certainly a novelty as a small teenage boy. My parents allowed me to spend a small allowance each month and the best thing about having a little financial independence was that it allowed me to pursue other interests, new passions that were developing throughout my time in secondary school. My love of music developed and I learnt to play the guitar, playing in bands with friends at school and university, which I enjoyed very much. As I got older, I was able to travel more, learn more about the world beyond Liverpool and England, which I still to this day value greatly. And I was allowed throughout my time at Senior School to develop my love of reading, of reading and studying English Literature. This only happened seriously from the age of 14 onwards, due to another inspirational teacher, Mrs. Woodhouse, but soon I was buying as many books as I could read each week, devouring the ideas and stories of the best writers throughout history.
By the age of 16 I knew without any doubt that studying literature was very much the thing I wished to do; I wasn’t at all sure where it would lead yet, but I knew it was the passion burning inside me that I had to pursue. And so I asked to leave Brookside because I wanted to study A Levels and go to university. And I should thank my parents at this point – it is always good and right to thank your parents - because my parents were hugely supportive of a decision that to others did not make the best sense or at least not the best financial sense. Their response to such questions was that you should always celebrate and love the child before you, which is no bad message for parents and teachers alike.
And as with my earlier dreams, my passion for reading and thinking about literature was both fun in itself and also developed skills that I try to apply each day of my life. With reading literature these lessons were mostly about trying to gain a better understanding people who had led very different lives to my own, and also about trying to be a good, kind and caring human being.
So I did go on to study English Literature at university, and I was fortunate enough to study at Cambridge University, where in time I finally realised that the one constant throughout my whole life, the one thing that I had benefitted most from when pursuing each of my different passions, was great teachers. Truly great teachers. And so I set out on a path to try to be one of them too. This particular passion is one I have not stopped pursuing yet. And, over many years it is this passion which has brought me here to you all this evening, celebrating a school full of great students with a wonderful attitude to learning, and also their fabulous, dedicated teachers.
So I said at the start of this speech that my main theme would be encouraging the pupils here tonight to pursue and to follow what is distinctive, special and important to each of you. That is not a bad message, but it is a common message, one I am sure you have heard before. And so, as with many great books, there is a slight twist at the end of my talk this evening. That is because I believe that passion can be a double-edged sword in learning. When we’re told to develop our passion and to follow our dream, often that means to develop what we’re already good at. And the truth is that some things take longer to get really good at than others.
So the most important message that I would wish to make to you as you each go through the next stage of your education is: don’t just follow your passions, but also broaden your passions. Broaden your passions because then you can be certain that you will be doing a lot of really great learning - and lots of really great learning means you will go on to lead really great lives."
Posted on: 6/10/2017
News - Friday 6th October 2017It has been another very busy week at St. Helen's College, with Prizegiving, Harvest Festival celebrations, special assemblies and school trips.
It was a pleasure to welcome back our Year 6 leavers for our annual Prizegiving Ceremony at the Winston Churchill Hall in Ruislip last night, and to celebrate their many and varied achievements during their time at St. Helen's College. We would like to extend our thanks to our Guest of Honour, Kevin Carson, who gave a most inspirational speech (see this week's Head's Blog), and to the Chamber Choir, who performed so beautifully. Huge congratulations to all of our prize winners, not only the Year 6 leavers but also the form prize winners from Years 3 to 5.
Harvest Festival Celebrations
Thank you to our Year 5 pupils, who presented two entertaining and thought-provoking performances at the Upper School Harvest Festival celebrations at All Saints Church this week. The celebrations were attended by all pupils and staff in Upper School and many parents. We were all reminded of the importance of working together and sharing our bounty with those less fortunate. We were grateful for so many generous donations of food, which are being sent to Slough Homeless Our Concern and The Salvation Army.
Our Lower School Harvest Festival Celebrations take place next week. The Nursery will have their Harvest Assembly on Monday 9th October at 8.45 a.m. Coffee will be served in the Methodist Church Hall from 8.15 a.m. on this day.
Reception and Year 1 will perform their Harvest Assemblies on Tuesday 10th October at 8.45 a.m. (Reception), and 9.15 a.m. (Y1). The Infant Choir will perform on this occasion between the Reception and Year 1 assemblies, at approximately 9.10 a.m. Coffee will be served in the Methodist Church Hall from 8.30 on this day.
All Lower School children are asked to bring a donation of food on the day of their Harvest celebration. The most suitable food items are non-perishable items such as canned and packet goods with a long shelf life. Please do not send in fresh fruits or vegetables.
We were delighted to be visited again this week by Kartig from the organisation SEWA. In the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit, Sewa means Service – and a unique concept of service: Selfless Efforts for the Welfare of All. SEWA UK is a Hindu faith-based humanitarian non-profit service organisation. Kartik reminded us of the importance of everyone taking some time to be selfless in this busy world. SEWA is a universal concept, which involves performing an act of kindness without expectation of reward. It is performed selflessly and without ulterior motive. As a concept, SEWA in embedded in Indian traditions, and is actively promoted by different cultures and faiths – as the core belief is the same – to sacrifice your time and resources for the benefit of others without expectation of anything in return.
Many, many congratulations to Mr. McLaughlin and Miss Vig, who recently became engaged to be married! Mr. McLaughlin and Miss Vig plan to hold their wedding during 2018.
PA Bollywood Night - Tomorrow!
The PA Bollywood Night will take place from 7 p.m. at Baylis House tomorrow night (Saturday 7th October) and there are still a few tickets left. If you are interested in coming along, you can turn up at the venue and pay on the door. Tickets cost £26 for an adult, £12 for a child and children aged 2 and under go free. Food will be served at 7.30 p.m. (with adult starters and the children’s food coming out first) so make sure you arrive in good time. This promises to be a fantastic night of fun and we look forward to seeing you there!
Our Y4-6 cross country team took part in the School Games District cross country competition this week, held on the Vyners School playing fields. The boys raced first over the 2km course, with over 100 boys from across the Uxbridge district taking part. Timi O finished first in 10th place followed by Daniel C in 17th place and Ethan V-B in 41st place. Our Y4 and Y5 boys Adi S, Rishi S-P, Patrick E, Eli V-B and Michael K gave a very good account of themselves in their first cross country event, coming in 51st, 56th, 66th, 65th and 76th places. Overall the boys came 7th in the team competition.
The girls' race followed and our girls showed great strength in running over the 2km distance. Zoe K finished 2nd and gained a silver medal and Abigail Y finish in 4th place, narrowly missing out on a bronze medal. Chloe W, Maddy H and Grace R finished a very credible 40th, 41st and 42nd place respectively. In the team competition the girls finished in 4th place.
Well done to everyone who took part and trained hard in Court Park over the first few weeks of term. We are delighted to report that the girls team and Timi have qualified for the Borough cross country finals which will take place on Monday. Good luck to our runners!
Posted on: 29/09/2017
Annual Heads' Conference - Head's BlogThis week's blog will be a rather short one, as I need time to reflect in greater depth on the range of seminars I have attended and keynote speakers I have listened to this week at the annual Independent Association of Preparatory Schools Heads’ Conference. Along with 600 other delegates from UK and overseas prep schools, I have heard from a diverse and fascinating range of speakers.
In his keynote speech, 'Rethinking Education: Essential Skills for People Working in the Machine Age’, Dr. Harvey Lewis posed several questions. Why do we educate our children? Do we think there will be jobs for our current 4 year olds when they are ready to join the workforce? Are robots really coming for our jobs?
Dr. Barry Hymer, educational psychologist and researcher, then reaffirmed everything that we are currently doing at St. Helen’s College in his talk discussing learning theory in the areas of motivation, mindset, talent development and independent learning. He has written a super book, 'The Growth Mindset Pocketbook'. It is a must for every teacher and is also recommended reading for parents to understand how schools are now approaching education. If you are interested in buying your own copy, the link is below.
These are only a snippet of the many sessions attended and I look forward to reflecting on what I have learnt this week and to discussing it with the staff, so that together we may keep enriching the experiences your children have at school. I will, of course, continue to share my thoughts with you in next week's blog!
Posted on: 29/09/2017
News - 29th September 2017On Monday this week, STEAM Day saw pupils engage in a diverse programme of exciting activities to investigate Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Maths. Visiting companies, staff and parents provided workshops to help children learn through memorable hands-on experiences. From designing a water delivery system with Affinity Water, to designing and testing wind tunnels; from building bridges and rafts to making cheese and honeycomb, pupils (and staff) enjoyed challenging themselves. Wildgoose developed a bespoke app for the school, using gamification for learning; there were Maths challenges including puzzles, codes and rotational symmetry designs; children made lava lamps, marble runs and umbrellas and pupils took part in orienteering sessions. The children at Upper School were visited by representatives from Tesla, who brought along two Tesla cars and demonstrated self-drive technology. The children will, no doubt, never forget seeing the cars in action! You can see the photos from STEAM Day here.
STEAM Day and last week's St. Helen’s Day are two examples of the creative and enriched curriculum we offer the children here at St. Helen's College. The school’s philosophy is that children learn best when they are happy, secure and valued, and when each child is challenged to extend their learning in exciting and varied ways. Listening to the pupils themselves reflecting on their experiences during these two days, it is clear that the last week has enhanced their education in quite special ways. We would like to say an enormous THANK YOU to all of the parents who supported these events by helping your children dress in 1920s dress and, especially, by running or assisting at workshops on STEAM Day. We know how lucky we are to have such a supportive and involved parent community and we hope that you have enjoyed hearing about your children's experiences at home too!â
6M Assembly - National Languages Day
As inspiration for their class assembly this week, 6M looked to National Languages Day. The children presented a performance looking at the importance and benefits of learning different languages, from challenging oneself to being able to understand and appreciate cultural differences in our world. During the assembly, the pupils spoke in an astonishing array of foreign languages, including Dutch, Urdu, Mandarin, Spanish, Norwegian, French, Swahili and many more! They also looked ahead to their Year 6 residential trip to France, during which they will immerse themselves in French language and culture, and recited a multi-lingual poem as well as singing 'Hakuna Matata' with a linguistic twist. Well done indeed, 6M, on an interesting, informative and fun assembly.
All parents are warmly invited to our Harvest Festival celebrations in October. Arrangements are as follows.
The Upper School (Years 2-6) Harvest Festival will take place at 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday 3rd October, at All Saints Church.
The Nursery will have their Harvest Assembly on Monday 9th October at 8.45 a.m. Coffee will be served in the Methodist Church Hall from 8.15 a.m. on this day.
Reception and Year 1 will perform their Harvest Assemblies on Tuesday 10th October at 8.45 a.m. (Reception), and 9.15 a.m. (Y1). The Infant Choir will perform on this occasion between the Reception and Year 1 assemblies, at approximately 9.10 a.m. Coffee will be served in the Methodist Church Hall from 8.30 on this day.
All children should bring a donation of food on the day of their Harvest celebration. The most suitable food items are non-perishable items such as canned and packet goods with a long shelf life. Please do not send in fresh fruits or vegetables.
Food donations will be given to the Salvation Army and to local charity SHOC, which supports homeless people in Slough. Slough and the surrounding area is a region badly affected by homelessness and social exclusion. It is an urban area of extremes and great diversity. While the town itself is home to a large number of successful international companies, around 15% of Slough’s residents live in communities that are among the 20% most deprived income areas in the country. SHOC (Slough Homeless Our Concern) is a day centre which provides care for the homeless in Slough and those at risk of becoming so. It is the only centre within a 20-mile radius which offers the homeless both crisis care and long term, transformational help towards independence.
âWe hope that you will join with us to generously support these two charities.
Kai Joins Lion King Cast As Simba!
We are delighted to announce that Kai P-W (6M) has been cast as the young Simba in Disney's Lion King on the West End stage! Kai will join the cast for rehearsals from mid-October and will be performing as the young Simba from November through to May 2018. We will share dates for his performances when exact dates are confirmed, as many pupils, parents and staff will no doubt wish to go and see him perform. Well done and best of luck, Kai!
School Games Gold Mark
Once again, St. Helen's College has been awarded the School Games Gold Mark to recognise the breadth and quality of the sporting provision here at school. This is the fifth year in a row that we have been awarded the Gold Mark, and we are now eligible to apply for the Platinum Mark next year! As part of our application, we were asked to fulfil criteria in the areas of participation, competition, workforce and clubs, and we are delighted that the hard work of everyone at our school has been rewarded this year.
Half Term Holiday Club
Bookings for the half term Holiday Club are now open. The booking form has been posted to the School Documents page of the website.
PA Bollywood Night
Just one week to go and there are only 20 tickets left for the PA Bollywood night to be held on Saturday 7th October. So if you want to come, now is the chance to grab the last few tickets! Not every PA event is about fundraising and the price you pay for the ticket is for food only. The rest of the evening's entertainment is courtesy of the PA! The famous dancer, Jay Kumar, will be there to perform and teach everyone some Bollywood moves and a DJ will be on hand to keep the music playing (Bollywood and current) so that we can party the night away! Remember, we only have 20 tickets left. Tickets are £26 per adult, £12 per child and children aged 2 and under go free. So come along to what promises to be a fantastic night of fun. To purchase tickets email email@example.com. Don't miss out, do it now! Thank you to everyone for your support.
Posted on: 22/09/2017
News - 22nd September 2017What a wonderful trip to the past today has been! The children and staff dressed up in 1920s style outfits and lessons investigating the past were delivered. Pupils had traditional sewing and handwriting lessons, using chalk and slate. They learnt about old money and converted pounds, shillings and pence into today's money, practised times tables by rote learning chants, compared 1920s maps of Hillingdon with today's maps, discovered the art deco movement and its influence on fashion and learnt some traditional folk songs. Typing and dictation skills were practised, and children also learnt about the commercial use of telephone and made their own string telephones. They also investigated life in Britain and Spain in the 1920s. At break times, old fashioned playground games were played. The children at Upper School took part in a PE drill lesson led by Year 6.
Our Lower School pupils were fascinated to discover that the first television was produced in the 1920s, and that votes for women and the discovery of penicillin were two of the big topics of the time. The history of St. Helen's College in the 1920s was brought to life in Upper School assembly. The children discovered how Hillingdon changed in the 1920s, how the school came to be founded by Dorothea and Mary Watson in 1924 and where the original school house was on Long Lane. It was fascinating to learn so much about the school and parents may be interested in seeing the presentation used in the Upper School assembly today which is here. In the afternoon Mr. and Mrs. Crehan came to visit. They watched the whole school PE drill and spoke in an afternoon assembly about their memories of St. Helen's. Our Year 2 pupils were awarded their St. Helen's College value cards by our senior pupil team in a short ceremony and the school song was vigorously sung by all.
Thank you to all parents for dressing the children in such wonderful outfits today. It has been a great St. Helen's Day!
Ducklings and Nursery Entry 2018
The admissions procedures for entry to St. Helen's College in September 2018 are now beginning. Last night we held a very successful meeting for parents of children who are eligible to join Ducklings next September, and we will soon be contacting parents of registered children to invite them in for our Ducklings 'Stay and Play' entry meetings in January. Likewise, we will shortly be contacting parents of registered children who are eligible for 3+ Nursery entry next September to invite them in for their entry meetings in January.
If you have a child who was born between 01.09.15 and 31.08.16 and you have not yet registered him or her, but would like Ducklings entry for next September, please do register now.
If you have a child born between 01.09.14 and 31.08.15 and you have not yet registered him or her, but would like 3+ Nursery entry for next September, please do register now.
The registration form can be completed online here.
Parents' Evenings - Nursery, Reception and Year 1
Parents' evenings for all classes from Nursery to Year 1 will take place on Tuesday 3rd October from 4 - 7 p.m. and on Thursday 12th October from 6 - 9 p.m. We use an online booking system which you can access here. Please follow the online instructions to book your appointment. On the evening itself, you should arrive fifteen minutes or so before your appointment to give you time to peruse your child’s work, which will be laid out in the Lower School hall. â
PA Bollywood Night - Saturday 7th October
It’s really not long now until the PA Bollywood night on Saturday 7th October, so do make sure that you reserve your places now as they are going fast. As well as Bollywood dancing, there will be a raffle, photo opportunities and henna tattoos (£5 per person) available on the night. Tickets are £26 for an adult and £12 for a child and the price includes a three course meal and unlimited soft drinks. There is a separate menu for the children and children aged 2 and under go free.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday 26th September to let us know how many adult and child tickets you would like. We will then send you payment instructions and a unique reference number which you will need to quote to make an electronic bank transfer. Don’t miss out on this night to remember!
Posted on: 22/09/2017
Back to School - A Parent's PerspectiveI am delighted to have received this blog from a Year 4 parent who has reflected on the past couple of weeks of school life and how we are working with parents to support your child's learning. Many thanks to all parents who have attended the recent Meet the Teacher evenings and other information sessions. We hope to roll out other events for our parents to keep building home-school support structures for the children and to enhance your understanding of how your children are learning.
I confess that I find the end of the summer holidays quite hard. Despite the fact that it’s lovely to get back to the happy St. Helen's College environment, it’s sometimes a challenge to settle into the new routine that each school year brings.
It was wonderful therefore to be invited to the Year 4 and 5 Meet The Teacher evening in the first week of term, perfect timing to get my head back into the ‘school mind-set’ again. This year the structure of the session was slightly different with both year groups being covered together, and personally I found it so beneficial.
After a warm and enthusiastic welcome from Mrs. Drummond, the teaching team gave parents a tremendous insight into what to expect from the coming academic year. I felt the meeting gave a really useful overview of how the curriculum will be covered and the approach taken to learning and development at St. Helen's. The passion and energy of the team shone through and I came away from the meeting feeling so positive and much better equipped to support my son through this year.
Week two brought another invitation to parents, this time to attend a workshop hosted by St. Helen's aiming to help parents and carers understand our children’s online world.
When I was a child hardly anyone had a personal mobile phone, and smart phones were unheard of! The world that my son is growing up in however is very different, and today in the UK smartphone ownership has become so commonplace that it’s remarkable if someone doesn’t own or have access to such a device. My boy has an iPad and, like most children I know, he simply loves to watch videos on YouTube, create elaborate worlds in Minecraft and play games via one of the countless apps we have downloaded.
Technology plays an increasingly large part in our children’s everyday lives, indeed research carried out by Ofcom* in 2015 indicated that 90% of children aged 5-15 are online. Whilst it can be a wonderful and exciting enabler, it brings with it a whole series of new worries for me as a mother, and I often find myself questioning how I can ensure that my child is safe online?
I was therefore encouraged to read in the school news about the collaboration between O2 and the NSPCC, and was very pleased to be able to attend the workshop on Monday run by the NSPCC. It was really excellent – informative, fun and most of all reassuring. Whilst the session really highlighted to me that this is one parenting challenge that I have to face head on, it also confirmed that there is help, guidance and support out there. The key message that I took away from the session was to talk to my son often about this and get involved in his online world, just as I do in other areas of his life, so that I can support and guide him, and address any issues should they arise.
I very much recommend attending the workshop should you get the chance, or getting hold of the leaflet they have produced entitled Your Child’s Online World – A Guide For Parents.
There is a lot of information about how O2 and the NSPCC can help in this area on their website www.o2.co.uk/nspcc and there is also an Online Safety Helpline available on 0808 800 5002 which is free of charge and open to anyone.
I would like to end with a thank you. Thank you Mrs. Drummond and St. Helen's College, not only for the way that you support our children, but for the way that you support parents too!
* Ofcom (2015) Children and Parents : Media Use and Attitudes
Posted on: 15/09/2017
Meta-Learning by Mr. TovellLast year, I was given the opportunity to blog about my Master’s journey, which I was half way through at the time. It covered the beginnings of my research for my dissertation and how meta-learning had not only transformed my teaching methods in school but also my skills as a parent. The aim of my research was to uncover children’s perceptions of meta-learning: did they enjoy it; did they see value in it and did they believe it made them better learners? I have now submitted my dissertation and am delighted to have found that the children in my class not only enjoyed being meta-learners, but also felt it really helped them as learners. My research also complements the largest study ever in education - with a sample size of two hundred and fifty million students - which found that meta-learning is the second biggest contributor to child progression behind effective feedback (a link to an article in The Economist which analyses these findings can be found at the bottom of this page). As a result, St. Helen’s College is now to become a school of meta-learners.
In essence, meta-learning is about understanding yourself as a learner so you can become the best learner you can be. For this to be achieved, learners must be exposed to different ways of learning (what we are referring to as learning strategies) before being given an opportunity to reflect on how effective they were and in which other situations they can be used. Therefore, the focus is on how they learn (the process) as opposed to what they have learnt (the output); an approach which is proven to drive student attainment.
Chris Watkins states that for meta-learning to be effective, we must make learning an object of attention, conversation and reflection, and then apply what has been learnt.
Consequently, we will be focussing on providing children with opportunities to talk about, understand and then use strategies needed to be outstanding learners. These include:
Once children have learnt in a certain way, they will be asked to reflect on their learning and it is this ability to reflect on and then improve their future learning which really drives progress.
At home, please discuss with your children what they have learnt and what they did to learn it as it is the development of these learning strategies that will allow them to become independent, lifelong learners.
In academic writing, I always like to conclude with a quote as it is so often the case that the sentiment I wish to convey has been expressed more eloquently by someone before. In my last blog, I followed this same process and included a quote from a ten year old boy from a piece of research I had read where he stated meta-learning was a ‘good thing’. Now, I am in the fortunate position to be able to quote directly from a Helenian who was explaining why he would recommend meta-learning to other children.
‘I describe myself as an outstanding learner now, because I really pick up things
and meta-learning really helped. Otherwise, I would still be a good learner and not a great learner’.
My thoughts exactly!
Posted on: 8/09/2017
How Far Will They Go? - Head's BlogIt is such an exciting, albeit nerve racking, thought for any parent to think about their child’s future. What will they do when they leave school, what will they achieve, will they be happy? It is too much really for many of us to take in, but often we cannot stop thinking about it even from the day they are born.
This week in my first assemblies with all the children from Reception through to Year 6 I used the theme tune ‘How Far I’ll Go’ from the Disney film ‘Moana’ as my starting point. The children sang with gusto as the majority of them had all seen the movie and knew the song well. We then spoke about Moana’s character, about her strength and independence, and about wanting to do her best. We considered how she could be who she is even though sometimes finding things difficult and challenging.
I welcomed all the pupils to their very own island – ‘St. Helen’s College’, where they belong and where we all live as a community. Our motto created by our very own pupils was revisited:
S - Strive for Excellence
H – Help Others Achieve
C – Care for Each Other
The pupils know what our, your and their expectations are of them, so as we embark upon a new school year I have left the children with the question, ‘How far will you go this year?’ If they uphold all that St. Helen’s College stands for they will be proud, strong and independent young individuals who are capable of achieving great things, knowing that they have done their best in all aspects of school life.
All this would not be possible of course without your support and the high level of teaching and care from the St. Helen’s College staff. We have had two very busy training days this week on teaching and learning, all of which will impact upon the progress and experiences your children will have in school. In future blogs you will be hearing more about some of the new and exciting approaches that will empower your children to take their learning further then you might have thought possible!
The academic year 2017 – 2018 is off to a superb start!