School News and Head'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!
Posted on: 23/06/2017
Competitive Sport - Head's BlogI am still buzzing after the excitement of all our Sports Days. Following the Foundation and Pre-Prep Sports Day last week, on Thursday we had the most incredible event at Hillingdon Athletics track where pupils from Year 3 to Year 6 had us all on our feet cheering for them, congratulating them and in awe of the incredible skills (not only of the sporting sort) that were demonstrated.
Over the years there has been so much written about the place of competitive sport in schools and the debate will surely continue, but I for one certainly am an advocate of competition from a very young age. It nurtures the growth mindset that underpins how we teach the children and supports our pupils to deal with failure (FAIL; First Attempt in Learning). It further encourages the children to strive even harder to continue to practise and understand the concept of ‘mastery’ in their learning.
In the lead up to Sports Day the children were keeping an eye on the sports boards, looking at the previous records which had been set by ex-pupils and setting themselves goals to try to break those records. And boy, didn’t they smash some of those long standing records! Zoe even beating one record set by her sister, who was in attendance as a Sports Leader! Good, positive sibling rivalry!
Many of the pupils spoke to me directly about how they were intending to use their mindfulness practices before their events to overcome their wobbles, worries and nerves. It is so wonderful to hear from the pupils in Year 4 and 6 how they are engaging with using some of the tools they have been equipped with in their .b and paws b mindfulness learning.
The Year 6 Sports Captains and House Captains spoke so eloquently and with confidence. The pupils really did sum up why we feel so proud of your children for the values and character traits that they demonstrated not only on the day but in the preparation for the event. They were living embodiments of the Olympic and Paralympic values:
· Respect – fair play; knowing one’s own limits; and taking care of one’s health and the environment
· Excellence – how to give the best of oneself, on the field of play or in life; taking part; and progressing according to one’s own objectives
· Friendship – how, through sport, to understand each other despite any differences
· Determination – the drive and motivation to overcome both physical and mental barriers in order to achieve your goals.
· Courage – having the self-belief and confidence to overcome adversity and face difficulty.
· Equality – showing respect and humility towards all those around you in the spirit of fair play.
· Inspiration – being motivated by the achievements and actions of others and being a positive example to others.
It is no wonder that we have so many former students returning to us year after year to be part of our annual Sports Days as Sports Leaders. These Old Helenians hold onto the values which were so much part and parcel of their life when they were pupils themselves at St. Helen’s College. Their contributions on Sports Day are a testament to the school; they have grown into responsible, independent young men and women and are now actively giving back to their community, as well as consolidating and developing further skills and attributes in preparation for what lies ahead for them as members of our workforce in the near future.
I feel truly honoured to have experienced another of my firsts this year – one of the best Prep School Sports Days that I have ever witnessed! Congratulations TEAM St. Helen’s College!
Posted on: 16/06/2017
To Play Or Not To Play? - Head's BlogTo play, or not to play…that really is the question when it comes to the Early Years Foundation Stage, especially here in the Independent sector. For many, the early years classroom remains that mysterious and terrifying place in every school where the children magically learn to read, write and count even though they seem to play all day! Indeed, ‘play’ and the value thereof, has long been a bone of contention for many - teachers, educational researchers and parents alike. However, it seems to me that the crux of the problem lies in how we define the ‘play’ that is afforded to our children.
The EYFS curriculum offers a framework to support practitioners in helping young children learn and develop through play. It was developed through extensive discussion with professionals, academics and practitioners and represents an amalgamation of their knowledge and experience. It begins with the premise that every child is unique and that learning and development occurs at different rates and in different ways. Additionally, there is a strong focus on enabling the fulfilment of each of the three ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’: Playing and Exploring, Active Learning and Creating and Thinking Critically - fundamentals which have far-reaching connotations for the way in which we all learn*. The EYFS framework has also been designed to be flexible in responding to every child’s individual needs and, while it sets out a number of goals and milestones, these are not set in stone.
But what does that mean for your children?
Throughout Ducklings, Nursery and Reception, ‘play’ at St. Helen’s College can be defined as cogent, purposeful and engaging exploration. Yes, your children will be presented with a huge range of child-initiated, open-ended games, activities and opportunities for learning where we, as adult practitioners, take a step back and let the children lead the learning. However, these child-led learning opportunities are carefully planned to maximise potential and they are successfully coupled with inspiring teacher-led sessions to impart the vital academic knowledge of literacy, mathematics, communication and language that your child will need as he or she moves through our school. We are extremely fortunate to have an expert EYFS staff, who are astute in knowing how and when to guide the children, either with a carefully worded question here and there or a gentle nudge to try a different approach. The need for our children to develop motor skills, social skills, creativity, confidence and self-esteem (not to mention that all-encompassing sense of awe and wonder) is beyond doubt and play is vital in this. Whether it is seeing a group of children work together to write a recipe in the ‘Mud Kitchen’ or watching the joy on a child’s face on discovering that they are suddenly able to find a number bond to ten after ‘playing’ with the Numicon tiles in the sand tray, it is easy to see that purposeful, collaborative play is an essential part of learning. I think we would all agree that our children should not be subjected to endless rigorous academic teaching at such a tender age and the holistic approach to learning in the EYFS here at St. Helen’s College has proven consistent in enabling hugely successful outcomes for our children year on year.
It is staggering to think that much of what we now take for granted about early education dates back to Friedrich Froebel’s revolutionary work as long ago as the early 19th century. It was Froebel who believed that young children should learn through play and through first-hand experiences with natural materials like sand and water and that physical education was of huge importance at school. Froebel put the relationship between educator and child at the heart of learning and saw each child as an individual whose wishes and choices should be respected. These were revolutionary ideas in his time – so revolutionary that both his school and his kindergarten were banned at different times by the Prussian authorities for such radical thoughts! However, Froebelian theory continues to be at the heart of most current Early Years teaching and many other principles founded almost two hundred years ago continue to ring true with the St. Helen’s College ethos - not least in our school motto: Excellentium e Concordia - Excellence through Harmony.
Over the past three weeks, we have undertaken our wonderfully successful EYFS Family Discovery Days across Nursery and Reception, opening our classrooms (both indoors and out) to offer parents a glimpse of the vast learning opportunities available to our younger learners - play included. As a staff, we were thrilled to see every parent stepping into their children’s shoes for a few hours, taking a full and active part in all the learning, play and fun! Each time you joined your children playing with blocks, with sand, water or clay, or became immersed in a scintillating bug hunt, or planted and tended plants in the ‘Garden Centre’, you were seeing planned, purposeful play in action. I do hope that it proved to be an enlightening and rewarding experience for those of you who were able to attend (as well as a lovely excuse to join in a bit of play yourselves!) and the many positive comments we have already received from parents have been truly heartwarming to hear.
So, I urge you never to underestimate the benefits of play, no matter the age of your child and perhaps consider playing a game or two with your family this weekend. Play really can shape learning for life from the very start; a true building block to the future, limited only by our imagination.
I realise that I might be somewhat biased in this, but I am proud to admit to a deeply held belief that we can all look to the EYFS for inspiration in shaping the path for our future learners - there’s a reason we are named the ‘Foundation’ stage after all…
*Should the Characteristics of Effective of Learning only be prioritised in the Early Years? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BTYhmRHDPl8