School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 16/10/2020
What's All The Fuss About?
On 9 October, the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2020 was announced, recognising the outstanding achievements of people from across the United Kingdom. On this year’s list were 133 individuals who have been recognised for their services to education during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. These include teachers, head teachers and principals who have gone above and beyond to provide education to young people.
One Head who has very deservedly been recognised is Katharine Birbalsingh. Katharine is the Head and founder of the Michaela Community School, an 11–18 mixed, free secondary school and sixth form in Wembley, established in September 2014. I have followed the work of the school and Katherine’s social media presence over the years and sadly Katharine has, on several occasions, had to defend what she and her staff do at Michaela to inspire the pupils to be their best. I have always stood back and refrained from judgement; I feel that much of what her school stands for reflects what any good school should be doing.
For example, her school has a stringent behaviour policy which the pupils are expected to fulfil, the school has “family lunches” where staff sit with the pupils and the children are expected to make conversation, use their cutlery correctly, pour drinks, and clear their guests’ plates. The school asks children to walk on a particular side of the corridor when passing each other; the school asks children not to ‘loiter’ between lessons, arriving promptly for their next lesson, and the pupils are asked to memorise poetry by heart and recite it back.
Over the years of reading about Michaela and watching Katherine being interviewed I have reflected on life at St. Helen’s College. Many of the Michaela Community School routines and expected behaviours resonate so closely to what we expect of our children here at St. Helen’s College! So what is all the fuss about it being branded ‘Britain’s Strictest School’?
Our Ducklings may only be 2 years old but, with encouragement, they tidy up their toys, they sit beautifully at snack and lunch around their tables, they say please and thank you and they recite a little prayer and song of thanks for the food they receive.
Our Nursery pupils learn poems off by heart and recite these to their peers and parents in a special poetry assembly - the beginnings of our annual speech recitation event which, as you know, continues throughout the school.
Pupils at Lower School and Upper School walk calmly along corridors, with the Upper School children knowing that they stick to the left hand side on the stairs. At both Lower and Upper School the children understand the behaviour expected of them and the children sign a classroom pledge together to state that they will uphold the standards expected from them. Those who find it difficult to uphold these behaviours are supported appropriately and there may be the occasion for further actions if required. Ultimately, the children know that behaviour routines are based on our mantra of ‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’ and, as a school, we have taken the best aspects from UK behaviour specialist Paul Dix and embedded them into our daily routines with the children.
I truly believe that children enjoy structure and routines and they need consistency, but most importantly they need to feel safe and loved. I take my hat off to how the staff at Michaela Community School have weathered the social media storm over their routines and how the school is run - but I say keep up the great work!
I feel so blessed to have the most amazing staff here at St. Helen’s College and this half term has been a testament to their stamina and professionalism as they are back doing what comes naturally to them all - bringing out the best in your children. I also feel blessed to have the parent body we have! You are truly invested in St. Helen’s College and what we do TOGETHER brings out the best in your children!
Have a wonderful half term break with your children and do speak with them about the activities and lessons they have engaged with this half term but also discuss some of the routines which we have at school - I am sure that you will agree that your children - ‘our’ children - are not in the ‘strictest’ school, but that they feel loved, safe and are thriving in a school environment which has good solid routines and boundaries. And that is a good thing!
I leave you with an interesting article written back in 2016 by ResearchED’s Tom Bennett and his impressions of Michaela Community School some years ago in the early days - I would love to hear your impressions!
Posted on: 9/10/2020
Weekly News - Friday 9th October 2020Prizegiving
It was super to see the children who left Year 6 this summer on Thursday evening, as we held our annual Year 7 Prizegiving event. This year we held the event online and were pleased that proceedings were able to run in the same way as usual, albeit virtually! As well as the presentation of the prizes, we enjoyed some pre-recorded music from the Chamber Choir and a thought-provoking story from Lucy Crehan, Educational Advisor to our Board of Governors, who inspired us all by asking one simple question: 'Why not?'. Mr. Crehan was quite right when, in his closing remarks, he commented on the potential that all of our children have to ask 'Why not?' and carve out their own path in life. Well done also to our new Head Girl, Jena, and Head Boy, Zail, who gave a confident and meaningful vote of thanks - a great start to their tenure!
It was delightful to see our Year 6 leavers in their new school uniforms and we are very proud of how they have all begun their senior school journeys. We congratulate them on their well-deserved prizes and wish them all the very best for the forthcoming academic year, during which we know they will use their well-established St. Helen's College values and work ethic to underpin further success.
On Wednesday we held a special Prizegiving assembly here at school, at which the form prizewinners from last year's Year 3, 4 and 5 were recognised. In every class, one child was awarded the Excellence prize, one child received an Effort prize, and two children received special prizes to recognise individual contributions and achievements. Mrs. Drummond presented children with their certificates and book tokens and every child recognised should feel very proud of themselves.
Artist of the Week
Each week, Mrs. Pruce chooses a child who has made a particular contribution to art lessons and recognises them with an 'Artist of the Week' certificate. However, this week, the standard of commitment and work has been incredible, making it difficult for her to choose. This week, therefore, the award goes to a whole class, 3M, for their wonderful still life studies. Well done, 3M!
It has been very exciting over the last couple of weeks to see our Year 5 and 6 children with their new ukeleles. They have been learning how to tune their own ukeleles, learning notation and composing their own pieces of music. We look forward to our first performances in due course.
Head Boy/Head Girl team
Mrs Drummond touched base with Jena and Zail this week to see how they were settling into their new roles thus far having already had two opportunities to speak on behalf of the school in public. Jena said, 'it feels good to represent the school and have a positive impact on the other children',while Zail noted, 'it's great to have more responsibilities and to be a role model to others'.
We are feeling exceptionally proud of all of our pupils this term; they have settled well into new routines and all have embraced being back together again.
Pupils from Year 2 - Year 6 participated in the Mindfulness in Schools Project 'Sit Together' today and managed to remain focussed for the full 6 minutes - quite a testament to our pupils at the end of a very busy week. They have all received a certificate in recognition of sitting together and I would recommend that you read this week's Head's Blog which has a link to an interesting article for you to enjoy.
Lower School Parents' Evenings
Thank you to all of the Nursery, Reception and Year 1 parents who attended our first ever video parent consultations this week. The new technology worked well and the evening ran very smoothly. The second evening will take place on Thursday 15th October from 5.00 to 8.00 p.m.
Mrs. Rooney and Mrs. Rumney Run!
Huge congratulations to Mrs. Rooney, who braved the wind and rain on Sunday morning to complete her second London Marathon, this one virtual!
Having only signed up six weeks ago, she was extremely pleased to gain a personal best of 5 hrs 11.
Mrs. Rooney tells us that running around the streets of Hillingdon, Ickenham and Ruislip gave her time to think about people that inspire her.
Mrs. Rumney also spent Sunday morning running, as she ran 15 miles alongside a friend who was running the virtual London Marathon in Oxford. Her friend, the Head of a school in Oxford, was accompanied by various friends and family throughout different sections of the 'race' and Mrs. Rumney ran further than a half marathon herself!
As with so many things during the current pandemic, this adapted way of running required extra determination and resilience as there were no crowds and no finish line to spur runners on. Well done indeed, Mrs. Rooney and Mrs. Rumney - you are an inspiration to us all!
Posted on: 9/10/2020
Does It Matter?For those of you interested in Mindfulness, I am linking below a super article which has recently been written by Claire Kelly, the Director of Curricula and Training at the Mindfulness in Schools Project.
The article resonated with me, since we frequently hear the notion of Mindfulness or the word ‘mindful’ bandied around, but it is often misunderstood.
I am delighted that, at St. Helen’s College, our children are increasingly becoming more aware of what exactly Mindfulness is and is not. Today in assembly the children were led through a Mindfulness practice by one of the MiSP (Mindfulness in Schools Project) experts, Niamh. They were encouraged to notice what was going on in their body, in their mind, and eventually to bring attention to their breath.
What the pupils participated in may have been really challenging for some of them. Do ask them about the experience which they had in assembly today and ask if they will strive to take time to pay attention to their breath at least once a week.
The number of St. Helen’s College staff who have participated in training to spread our mindfulness education around the school is also increasing; we now have Mrs. Crehan, myself, Mrs. McLaughlin, Mrs. Hunt and Mr. Roche, with more staff showing an interest in taking the next steps to becoming a qualified Mindfulness teacher.
I will leave you with this quote from Jon Kabat Zin, a Mindfulness Master, as he explains what Mindfulness is...
“… a way of being in wise and purposeful relationship with one’s experience both inwardly and outwardly. It is cultivated by systematically exercising one’s capacity for paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally, and by learning to inhabit and make use of the clarity, discernment, ethical understanding, and awareness that arises from tapping into one’s own deep and innate interior resources for learning, growing, healing and transformation, available to us across the lifespan by virtue of being human.”
Please do read the article. Namaste.
Posted on: 2/10/2020
Weekly News - Friday 2nd October 2020Harvest Assembly
Thank you to our Year 5 pupils who today reminded us of the significance of Harvest Festival, performing a remote assembly with an important message. Sadly we are not accepting physical donations for Harvest this year, but we know that many parents, pupils and staff would like to make a donation as usual. Hillingdon has a website for Food Banks which highlights where to donate food and when:
It was wonderful to have the re-launch of Chamber Choir today, with our Year 6 pupils singing in their separate bubble groups.
Covid-19 restrictions mean that we will not be able to hold our normal Prizegiving this year but our Year 6 leavers, now Year 7, will be joining us remotely next Thursday for a celebration of their St. Helen's College achievements. Next week in assembly there will be additional commendations presented to our Year 4 - Year 6 pupils for their achievements during the last academic year.
After 18 committed years at St. Helen's College, Mrs. Harker, one of our Lower School Teaching and Learning Assistants, will be leaving us at the end of this half term. Mrs. Harker has worked with so many children over the years and will be greatly missed. We wish her well as she relocates to Chipping, near Preston.
Miss Eaver will also be leaving at Christmas as she relocates to Dorset to be with her family. Miss Eaver has worked in Nursery and Funtasia for the past 5 years.
Mr. Barnard, who has worked with us for the past 2 years as part of the maintenance team, is also relocating to Devon to be with his family and his last day with us will be Friday 16th October.
We are delighted to welcome some new staff to the team.
Mrs. Chesworth has joined us working in Reception (Kingfishers) in the absence of Mrs. Neri.
Miss Freegard will replace Mrs. Harker in 1C from 2nd November.
We were absolutely delighted to hear of the wonderful news of a new arrival, baby Thomas, who is the first grandson for Soula and her family. Congratulations Soula!
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation we have taken the decision not to run any co-curricular clubs this term, as our priority must be the safety and wellbeing of the children. There are, however, still many opportunities to try new activities and learn new skills outside of school. We would encourage our parents to look at some of the suggested activities and links below, many of which are from our existing club leaders, for online or socially distanced activities outside of school hours.
Computer Xplorers Middlesex, who provide our Minecraft Club, are offering St. Helen's College pupils the opportunity to join a remote online Game Design Club in October. Information can be found here.
Mr. Foale, our chess coach, has forwarded information about the online Delancey Chess Challenge and online Weekly Chess Activities.
Mr. Stidder, our school tennis coach, has provided information about tennis activities happening locally in Hayes and Ickenham. You can find Tripletts Community Tennis Centre term time information and half term information here.
Wayfarers Tennis Club term time information is here and half term information is here.
Other clubs which might be of interest include Mother Nature online science clubs.
Club Hub provides many links to a variety of online clubs and activities currently being offered in the London region too.
We would really encourage our children to keep trying new things and to develop their skills as much as they can, even during these challenging times.
We encourage children to wear watches to school, to support them in learning to tell the time correctly. However, please note that Fitbits or similar devices are not permitted. Children seen wearing these devices will be asked to remove them.
If you have not yet completed the ISC (Independent Schools Council) Coronavirus survey, we would encourage you to do so. Please simply follow the link below and answer the questions - this information is being collected from all ISC member schools.
Posted on: 2/10/2020
Mrs. Sal Cheema
On Tuesday this week, our community came together as staff and parents paid tribute to Mrs. Sal Cheema, who made her final journey from Parkway surrounded by family and friends. Mrs. Cheema very sadly passed away last week, having lived with cancer for many years. She and her family have been members of the St. Helen’s College community since their oldest son Suraj joined us back in September 2008, with their youngest son Amar joining the school a few years later in September 2011.
Mrs. Cheema was one of the most inspirational women I have ever met and I know that everyone who knew her has been touched by her courage and selflessness over the years. She embraced every day to ensure that her boys were happy and she and Mr. Cheema are such amazing role models to us all in how to live alongside cancer and not allow a disease to take over one’s life.
Back in September 2018, Mr. and Mrs. Cheema joined with five other couples to work alongside the national Breast Cancer Now campaign and they raised awareness through sponsorship with Marks and Spencer, appearing on posters in store and nationwide via social media. Amar, then in Year 5, delivered the most heartwarming assembly to the Upper School children about his experience of his family living with cancer. The sense of pride he showed that day in assembly as his mum filmed him from the side of the hall will never be forgotten.
Mrs. Cheema also started to blog about her life online, in a blog very aptly named ‘My Beautiful Life’, which carried a strap line encapsulating both her upbeat attitude and her intrinsic values:
If the risk of getting cancer in a lifetime is 1 in 2 and I have had cancer twice, I believe I have taken one for the team. You are very welcome!
Her blog is raw and emotional but also joyful and always full of hope, with her boys and husband an integral part of her writing. I have shared Mrs. Cheema’s blog with many family members and friends over the past few years; she brings a sense of reality to those who read it and an appreciation for the gratitude we should all feel. Her words and her attitudes remind us to live every day in the best way we can.
Mrs. Cheema was also involved in other fundraising activities throughout her illness. She supported the Willow Foundation back in 2016 and then in 2018 raised the profile of the Noah’s Ark Hospice. Most recently, in September 2019, she organised a 12 hour walk around Hillingdon Athletics Stadium to raise money for AMMF, the UK’s only bile duct cancer charity. Family, friends and staff joined together on this day and, yet again, Mrs. Cheema’s endless positivity and stoicism shone through.
Mrs. Cheema was also Chair of the Parents’ Association at St. Helen’s College and the family were always keen supporters of school events. In the summer of 2019, we were delighted that Mr. and Mrs. Cheema joined us as our Guests of Honour for Amar’s last Sports Day at St. Helen’s College. It was a wonderful day, during which Mr. and Mrs. Crehan and I were able to reminisce with them about the boys’ days at St. Helen’s College and to thank them for all that they had done to support the school over the years. It took a lot to stop Mrs. Cheema from participating in the mums’ race, but thankfully she had forgotten her running shoes! The photographs I have shared above are from that wonderful day.
Mr. Cheema has now launched a just giving page in memory of his wife to raise funds for the Michael Sobell Hospice. If you would like to join the community in donating in memory of Mrs. Cheema please follow the link here.
Mrs. Cheema’s values have always been the shared values of our school community. She will be dearly missed by us all and our heartfelt condolences go to her whole family. She has taught us all so many life lessons and her memory will live on through her wonderful boys and husband.
Posted on: 25/09/2020
Family InstinctThis week I have a guest blog from Mrs. Hunt, our Head of Lower School.
When Mrs. Drummond asked me to write a blog, my first reaction was one of panic! What would I write? What would be worthy? I have never been a fan of Facebook or the like because I think who would be interested in my life!
I am genuinely never happier than when I am with my family; we are lucky enough to share the same interests and the adage of ‘families that play together, stay together’ rings true for us. That said, I find myself in a position which many of my friends and colleagues are facing or have faced. My baby is off to uni! This, and the fact that I am about to reach a very significant birthday, has made me somewhat more reflective than usual.
Many of you will know that I have been at St. Helen’s College for numerous years and was privileged enough to see both my children pass through the school. I have very fond memories of Tom staring lovingly through the nursery door, waving patiently as Miss Carmichael gently coaxed him back into her room.Whereas, a few years later, Lois would just burst in demanding the attention of Mrs. Mummy! How quickly those days flew by and how treasured they are.
When I show prospective parents around at Lower School, I often refer to the ‘feel’ of the school. I will always remember when Mr. Crehan showed me around in 1999 and how I knew it was not only where I wanted to work, but also where I wanted my children to start their schooling. I would also like to add how impressed I was by the fact that Mr. Crehan was able to refer to each child we saw by name, something I have always tried to emulate. (It is at this point that I can hear my new Year 1 children calling, ‘but you always get in a muddle’!! I refer back to that aforementioned birthday as an excuse and the fact that there are approximately 164 of them at LS and one of me!).
Anyway, going back to that ‘feeling’ you get inside when you know something is right; I have continued to trust that with many decisions, including future schools. I truly believe that when children are happy then they will learn.
Late last year I became aware that my eldest, Tom, was not truly happy. He was at Swansea University, half way through his engineering degree. We would communicate by text and the occasional phone call and he would make the occasional comment that hinted that things were not as they should be. My instincts were on high alert and over the Christmas holidays my husband and I managed to get him to tell us what was wrong. It turned out that he had realised that engineering was not for him, which was not an easy decision for someone who had been committed to a career in engineering since his first box of Lego! Anyway, after a great deal of discussion, he left Swansea behind and set forth on his new career path to be a paramedic. He has been an ECA on the frontline since June and he loves every minute of it - it is wonderful to see that he is happy once more.
We are all currently coping in situations that none of us could have foreseen, but when I walk around the school I am greeted by joyful and happy children who, with dedicated support from the staff, are showing remarkable resilience and acceptance of their new normal. As I stand sentry at hometime, I am witness to more true happiness as I see them being reunited with you, their loved ones, their family. I am also delighted to report that despite our necessary adaptations, my recent prospective parents spontaneously commented on the ‘feel’ of the school and, I might add, complimented me on my ability to name the children we encountered!
So in summary, is there a profound message in my blog? Well actually I think there is.
Family is everything. Treasure time together, laugh, cry, talk, listen and play together. Trust your instincts; they will serve you well.
Posted on: 25/09/2020
Weekly News - Friday 25th SeptemberMindful Sit
The Mindfulness in Schools Project will have their national Schools Sitting Together very soon and we will be participating as a school on Friday 9th October by having all the children from Year 2 - Year 6 sitting together in a mindful practice.
Harvesting The Crops
Mr. Rizzo is very proud of the crops which have been harvested from our Upper School and Lower School gardens, including tomatoes, potatoes, beans, courgettes, marrows and pumpkins (which Soula intends use to make some soup for us). We are most fortunate to have such enthusiastic staff who are keen to share their passion for the outdoors with the children and other staff.
Mrs. Couto has sadly broken her leg and will be away from school until she has recovered. We wish her a good recovery and will miss her presence in Lower School as one of the lunchtime supervisors and as patrol at 227 Long Lane. In her absence Miss Hunter (Mrs. Hunter's daughter) has joined our staff and will be covering for Mrs. Couto.
NHS Test and Trace Covid App
The government has just launched the new test and trace app. We would encourage parents to download the app from the app store - more information can be found here.
Face Coverings at Drop Off and Pick Up
Given the current situation, it is more vital than ever to ensure the safety of our children, family and friends. We would like to encourage parents to wear face coverings during drop off and pick up. It is a sensible precaution for parents and should help to lower the risk where social distancing can sometimes be difficult. Whilst this is not part of the official government guidelines, we should try and play our part in preventing the spread of infection at a time when cases are rising.
COVID Symptoms - Latest NHS Advice
It is really important that you follow the latest NHS advice regarding COVID symptoms and whether/when to get your child tested. You can read this advice here.
Unfortunately we have now taken the decision not to offer Holiday Club over the October half term period, due to COVID restrictions and uncertainty. We feel it will be beneficial for the school staff and pupils to have a 14 day quarantine from the school environment. This will also give us an extra opportunity to arrange further cleaning across the school sites, ready for the next half term.
Parents are reminded not to park over neighbours' driveways on the streets around school. Many of the neighbours also need to leave home to do the school run or to get to work and we have had several neighbours being blocked this week.
Posted on: 18/09/2020
Weekly News - Friday 18th September 2020Chamber Choir Re-Starts!
We are delighted that we will be able to re-start Chamber Choir rehearsals shortly, with an adapted timetable to allow children to practise in their year group bubbles.
Remote Chamber Choir will start from next week, with lyrics and backing tracks put onto Google Classroom each week for the children to learn.
Mrs. Fawbert, our new Director of Music, will then begin to lead in-person rehearsals on Friday mornings from 8 - 8:30 a.m. in the Upper School Hall, as follows:
Friday 2nd October for Year 6 pupils
Friday 9th October for Year 5 pupils
Friday 16th October for Year 4 pupils.
Rehearsals will then continue after half term.
COVID restrictions do not allow us to put on Harvest Festival assemblies at Lower School or our Upper School Harvest Festival church service in the way that we usually would. We know that parents, pupils and staff will still wish to make donations of food items at Harvest time to support those in the local community who do not have enough to eat. Hillingdon has a website for Food Banks which highlights where to donate food and when, which you can see here: https://hillingdon.foodbank.org.uk/give-help/donate-food/
Year 5 will be leading our Harvest assembly and we will be sharing further information about this in due course.
Our youngest children have been very busy this week building their relationships with each other and exploring their world through play and more focussed sessions, all carefully planned and linked to the seven areas of learning and development. You can see photographs of them enjoying themselves on our Galleries page here.
Individual Pupil Photographs
Individual pupil photographs will be taken by Tempest on:
Monday 21st September (Ducklings)
Tuesday 22nd September (Nursery, Reception and Year 1)
Friday 25th September (Years 2-6)
Please ensure that your child attends school looking smart in their full school uniform, including blazers for Upper School children, on the day of their photograph.
We are sorry that, due to COVID restrictions, it will not be possible for sibling photographs to be taken at school this year.
Welfare, Child Safety and Uniform Reminders
Please note that, if you feel the need to give your child Calpol or any similar paracetamol based product in the morning, you should not send him/her into school. These products mask symptoms, including but not limited to high temperatures, which is why it is not appropriate to send a child to school after taking such medicines.
If your child cycles or scoots to school, please ensure that they wear a suitable protective helmet.
Girls who are currently wearing summer uniform should ensure that what they are wearing complies with the uniform list. Summer dresses should be worn with white socks only and never with tights. Modesty shorts may be worn under the summer dress for lunchtime physical activity (e.g. for girls who are likely to cartwheel!). These must not be visible when worn under the dress. Leggings and other long-leg coverings are not permitted.
Drop and Go
Year 2 children may now use drop and go/pick up and go on Parkway, and morning drop and go on Long Lane. If you are dropping off at 227, you must not leave your child until there is a member of staff available to see them safely into school.
Message from the Parents' Association
On behalf of the PA Committee I would like to convey a huge warm welcome to the St. Helen's College new parents. We hope that you have all settled well into school life and that the children are enjoying their time at St. Helen’s College so far.
This Saturday the PA team would have hosted the annual welcome event we hold for new parents, serving delicious fresh homemade cakes, sandwiches, tea and coffee. For the last few years we have had great weather so we are able to sit outside in the garden, mingle and chat. Unfortunately this year we have had to cancel this event due to the current situation we face. Many other events have also been cancelled this year but we hope next year we may be able once again to hold the PA Summer Fete, children’s Christmas parties and co-ordinate other activities for parents and students.
The main purpose of such events is to bring the St. Helen’s College community together; however, some events that we host do generate funds and these funds are used to buy things that can enhance our children’s experience at school. This has included things like Camelot at Lower School and the tree house and games tables at Upper School.
Those parents who are part of the PA Committee and wider PA Class Rep team really enjoy the role and are proud to make such an impact in our children’s experience here at St. Helen’s. However, time is a precious resource that we are sadly lacking, so we are always really grateful for any support that you can give. Please do look out for future updates on any events we plan to hold, what support is required and how you can get involved. If you have any suggestions then please do get in touch, we are always looking for fresh ideas to help our children get the best out of this fantastic school. If you would like to get involved please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mrs. Jamani, PA Chair
Posted on: 18/09/2020
(Adjective. feeling or showing care and compassion)
The value which we are focussing on around school at the moment is ‘Caring’ and I am so proud of the whole school community as I observe such incredible examples of ‘care’ from the children, staff and parents. Over the past two weeks with our return to school there really has been an abundance of ‘care’, from the carefully planned and staggered gradual settling in of our very youngest new Helenians to the care shown by children welcoming new pupils joining existing classes, and the care shown by teachers as they lovingly and thoughtfully establish relationships and routines with their new classes.
As you know, part of our school motto, written by the children, is ‘Care for each other’ and I will repeat also the wise saying Mr. Crehan quoted in his blog last week: ‘it takes a village to raise a child’. I have actually been quite overwhelmed since the start of term at how our ‘village’ is coming together to support each other with such kindness and loving care.
We have 79 new children, from Ducklings through to Year 5, who have just started at St. Helen’s College, and I trust that all of our new families feel that they have received a warm welcome and feel cared for by everyone: staff, pupils and ‘older’ parents alike. If you are one of our new families, we look forward to many happy and fruitful years as a community, working together to care for your precious children and develop them into caring, responsible and loving members of our school and the wider community.
The fact that we all show care ourselves is so important. Children learn best by example and it is every parent and educator's responsibility to raise caring children. Research in human development shows that the seeds of empathy, caring and compassion are present from early childhood but our children need adults to help them throughout their childhood to nurture and develop these virtues. We can do so by leading, suggesting or ‘instructing’, but surely the most effective way is by modelling: showing our children that we care, and that caring is rewarding and generates happiness and security.
We need to cultivate children’s concern for others, partly because fundamentally it is the right thing to do, but also because when children can empathise with and take responsibility for others, they are likely to be happier and more successful. They will have better relationships their entire lives, and strong relationships are a key ingredient of happiness. In today’s workplace, success often depends on collaborating effectively with others, and children who are empathic and socially aware are also better collaborators - and likely to make better friends!
As your children move through St. Helen’s College and they develop these key virtues, our young learners apply them every day - in the playground, in the classroom and at home. It is heartwarming for me to take a virtual ‘learning walk’ around Google Classroom and pop into the classes - collaboration and care is evident in abundance as the pupils and staff question, support and challenge each other in their learning with the utmost respect and care for each other. Feedback is given, additional challenges are set (pupils and teachers) and the sense of belonging and pride in these virtual classrooms is phenomenal. As a Head, I never envisaged the day where I would be able to take a virtual tour of the school and I feel such a sense of pride in the progress and outcomes of our pupils.
I am, however, grateful for now that Google Classroom has returned to its usual place as our flipped learning platform for homework (or home learning as I like to call it - the adults go to ‘work’!). There is no doubt that it is wonderful that face to face teaching has returned for our pupils, and that it is easier and more natural to show in person the care that is such an important part of the teaching/learning relationship.
Our current Year 6 pupils are stepping up to their new positions of responsibility and showing real care for others as the oldest pupils in the school; they should feel very proud of themselves. They are also preparing to sit the 11+ examinations which were postponed from early in the term and I would like to thank all the parents and teachers for the care they are giving the children as they approach this milestone in their educational journey. Our Year 6 pupils are superb ambassadors for St. Helen’s College and it is the exceptional care that they have received over the years which has enabled them to blossom into such inspirational young people: they are budding lifelong learners who contribute greatly to our school community and beyond.
Finally, a word about self-care. Through our focus on Mindfulness, philosophy and positive psychology, as well as our wider PSHCE programme, we teach children that caring for themselves is one of the most important things they can do. As a school, we believe that when a child feels loved and valued, they are best able to learn and achieve their full potential. This is why school staff and parents show our children such exceptional care, but it is important to recognise that a significant part of feeling loved and valued is loving and valuing ourselves, too. So I encourage you to take care not only of your children but of yourselves and, in doing so, to set another excellent example for them. In this busy, busy world of full time jobs, parenting and caring for others, we can lose sight of how important it is to look after ourselves. You might like to re-visit the Self-Care September calendar from Action for Happiness, which has some great tips for self-care this month.