School News and Head's Blog
Posted on: 11/01/2019
Head's Blog - Digital WellbeingAt the end of November, Mr. Crehan, Mr. Lewis and I attended a conference at Radley College in Oxford arranged by the Independent Schools Council on Digital Strategy. This is an annual conference which brings together school leaders to discuss and share good practice from around the world on how we are preparing tomorrow’s leaders, your children, for this new era of digital transformation.
The day was a mix of key speakers, workshops and networking opportunities. We all attended a variety of workshops and one of the workshops I attended struck a chord with me: ‘Digital Wellbeing’. We all know that mental health and wellbeing is hugely topical at the moment, but are we all playing our part in looking after our ‘Digital Wellbeing’?
Technology is superb and we cannot deny that we are in a very exciting era where digital technology plays a big part in all our lives, but it is crucial that we employ strategies to ensure we do look after our digital wellbeing and that of our children.
Over the festive period I am sure that many of the children received digital items; games, tablets, smart phones….and perhaps parents did too.
I did chuckle when I read on Saturday 29th December an article in Schools Week, in which Damien Hinds our Education Secretary has recommended that ‘pupils should ditch gadgets and climb trees’ by schools introducing an activity passport for all school pupils - see link below.
I am somewhat saddened that yet again the government seem to be dictating to schools about the job we should be doing - surely many of the activities on these passports are part of normal family living and I am delighted that many of them also appear on our St. Helen’s College curriculum!
However, digital wellbeing is a very serious aspect of healthy living and I was delighted to have been discussing this with Mrs. Smith. One of her friends has recently developed a website for parents, which I think you will all be very interested in reading about and perhaps you will take action too.
I shall now hand over to Mrs Smith…..
A friend of mine has co-developed a website called ‘Sign4Year9’ for parents who want to resist the pressure to let their child have a smart phone before they are emotionally mature enough to handle social media and unrestricted internet access. The idea is based on research highlighting the dangers of children having access to smart phones too young, including lack of face-to-face conversation, declining amounts of time spent outdoors and/or with family and extended family, and the perils of social media and internet access for our children’s mental health. I am sharing it in the hope that St. Helen’s College parents and staff will want to sign (and share) the pledge, which is designed mainly to give parents support in resisting pressure from their children to get a smart phone too soon. It is important to note that the pledge only relates to smart phones. Allowing your child a ‘normal’, ‘unsmart’ phone, without internet/social media access, before their teenage years would still be ok!
The Sign4Year9 movement is in its infancy, so this is a chance to be there at the start of something which will hopefully go nationwide and which has already been shared internationally. If this is an idea which speaks to you, and you would like to sign up, please visit Sign4Year9 to add your name to the growing number making the pledge. Read on to find out why I believe it is so important that you do!
Earlier this year, a study carried out by MusicMagpie and published in the Independent found that a quarter of children under the age of 6 own a smart phone. It also found that 8 in 10 parents do not limit the amount of time children spend on their phones, and that 75% of parents do not disable the data function so that their children are able to use these smart phones to access the internet and social media apps freely over wifi networks and through mobile data. A staggering two thirds of parents admitted that they do not put a cap on their child’s monthly smart phone spend.1
As a parent of older teenagers, these statistics were shocking to me. However, as an aunt to children aged 10, 8, 4, 3 and 1, I suspect they probably sound about right to parents of very young children, who are used to seeing their children operate smart phones and who are often amazed and impressed at their children’s ability to operate technical devices at such a young age.
Smart phones, ipads and laptops weren’t widely used by children 15 years ago – the ‘baby phone’ phenomenon has been a growing area over the last 10 years in particular. Smart phone technology hit the mainstream for children just before my two sons started at their senior school and my husband and I bought them each a smart phone when they entered Year 7. We believed that having a phone was all but essential from the beginning of secondary school, as our sons would be travelling to/from school independently for the first time. Being able to communicate with them whenever I wanted was also a huge comfort to me, as a parent, as they began a new chapter in their lives. It is humbling now to hear my sons say that they wish we had delayed them getting smart phones for a year or two. It is also obvious to me, with hindsight, that they would have been perfectly safe and healthy - indeed, possibly safer and healthier – with ‘unsmart’ phones at age 11 and 12. Their school has never limited the use of smart phones at break or lunch times and my boys particularly bemoan the fact that, on any given day, many of their friends chose not to play football at break time because they were too busy on their phones. The school is now undertaking a consultation with parents, pupils and staff on the use of smart phones and is considering an ‘out of sight’ policy for phones in school, which has my wholehearted support, not least because, while not directly affected, my sons have been aware throughout their teenage years of various cases of children upset by social media activity both in and out of school. I believe that children should be unable to access social media during their ‘working’ day at school, to enable them to concentrate on developing face-to-face friendships, to indulge in healthy, active break times, and to help them to focus on study in their primary place of study - school!
There is a growing movement of parents who are concerned about the effects of children being given smart phones too young. Although these phones are incredible, useful pieces of technology with many advantages, research has shown that they can have some very detrimental effects on children. In particular, the following effects are now being recognised by parents and researchers:
Smart phones can alter the parent-child relationship as children become more dependent on their smart phone and the immediate (although not always correct) answers it provides to their questions.
According to more than one study2, smart phones, especially when permitted in the bedroom, can cause later bedtimes, lack of sleep and fatigue. These factors may contribute to lack of concentration, reduced physical co-ordination and lower attainment at school, as well as reduced ability to cope, emotionally, with the demands of life.
Ready access to smart phones can hinder a child’s creativity and imagination. Exciting, colourful games requiring short attention bursts may slow children’s sensory and motor development.
According to a leading child psychotherapist, published in the Daily Telegraph3, the ubiquity of smart phones, broadband and social media are contributing negatively to the power and pace of mental health issues in children and teenagers, including eating disorders and teen suicide rates.
The fast-paced nature of interactions on social media, in particular, do not allow children the time and space to reflect on the impact of their words and actions. Reflection, self-evaluation, self-limitation, listening skills, tolerance and empathy are qualities that should be embedded in our children as they grow; if opportunities for them to be embedded are lost, these qualities may not be there in the adults of tomorrow. What sort of a world will we be living in then?
Researchers have found that smart phones can be detrimental to a child’s socio-economic development4. According to these findings, the amount of time children spend on smart phones and similar devices could impair the development of the skills needed for learning maths and science.
Smart phone use can be addictive5. Children who become dependent upon, or addicted to, smart phones are likely to experience problems caused by this addiction during their teenage years and in later life, including the inability to form healthy, functioning relationships with family and friends. This phenomenon is becoming known as ‘technoference’, as technology use interferes with everyday living.
The unrestricted (or minimally restricted) use of smart phones can cause obesity6, and it is unlikely that there is no relation between the increasing rates of child obesity and the increasing amounts of time spent by children on screens.
Unrestricted internet access has many, many risks for children who may access inappropriate content. Obvious risks are that they may access, and become desensitised to, pornography and extreme violence. Risks less considered by parents are that children may access information about disease and death before they are emotionally ready to cope with this; they may access inappropriate ‘beauty’ and/or body images before or as their own bodies change in puberty, which may cause body dysmorphia, anorexia or other mental health issues; they may experience online bullying; they may connect with strangers who groom them sexually or radicalise them; they may discover inappropriate information about friends, relatives, neighbours or other people.
Technology has done a lot to make our lives easier and more efficient. But, as parents, it is our job to be concerned about the impact that devices like smart phones can have on our children, and our job to decide when our children are emotionally mature enough to handle the many threats of unrestricted internet and social media access. The growing body of research cannot and must not be ignored. Please, if you agree, sign the Sign4Year9 pledge to try to take back some ‘parent power’ and to help limit young children’s exposure to the potential negative effects of smart phones.
Finally, in addition to the studies cited below, you may also be interested in this piece, which found a direct correlation between smart phone use by parents and behavioural issues in children. We must all be mindful of our own smart phone use too.https://globalnews.ca/news/4315717/parents-smartphone-addiction-children-behavioural-issues/
Posted on: 14/12/2018
Weekly News - Friday 14th December 2018It has been a busy term in the classroom and your children have worked very hard indeed. Particular mention must go to our Year 6 pupils, who have been striving for excellence throughout their 11+ preparation with many of our pupils now preparing for independent school examinations in January. We wish them all well and they should remember the advice given to them to be themselves...and keep reading!
As you are aware, no formal homework is set for students over the holidays; however, we would assume that every child will continue their reading journey throughout the holidays.
The festive holidays are a particularly good time to spend quality family time together, playing good old traditional board games such as chess, Ludo, Monopoly, card games, Pictionary etc. You may like to look at the Happy Puzzle Company (for Years 3-6) and Orchard Toys (for Ducklings - Year 3) for appropriate games and puzzles to enrich the pupils' learning while having fun together.
Enjoy visiting places of interest, talking to your children and remember to have some calm and peace over the festive season.
Christmas Events and Celebrations
It has been a most Christmassy week here at St. Helen's College as we have remembered the true meaning of Christmas and celebrated this special time of year through many events.
The week began with Nursery and Reception children putting on their nativity plays for their peers and parents; these were incredibly accomplished performances. It is astonishing to think, when watching these young performers, that they are only 3, 4 and 5 years old! Their ability to remember lines, move correctly around the stage and perform confidently in front of a large, enthusiastic audience was really very impressive indeed. As I commented at the end of the performances, we are in good hands with our leaders of the future.
The children of Ducklings and Lower School were really amazed on Thursday when they had a very special visitor. Yes, Santa managed to make time to come and see them! Mrs. Crehan also joined with Santa for some Christmas singing with the Ducklings. Sadly, Mr. Crehan was unable to join us as he was busy looking after reindeer for a friend!
Lower School children enjoyed their Christmas party afternoon and pantomime (performed by West End in Schools) on Thursday afternoon. The day before, all Upper School children had had a fantastic trip to the Theatre Royal, Windsor to see Dick Whittington.
Christmas lunch was served on Thursday for all, and it was a joy to see the children enjoy the festive lunchtime so much, with music, crackers and lots of good cheer! Special thanks must go to Andrew, our Chef, Soula, our Catering Manager and all the wonderful Accent staff who look after us so well in the dining hall all year round. Our Head Girl and Head Boy gave a heartfelt vote of thanks on behalf of the school.
Well done to our Christmas tree decoration competition winners. They were:
Ducklings - Aaria M
Wrens - Leo A
Robins - Armaanââ V
Kingfishers - Alexia C
Owls - Veer K
1HC - Riya S
1J - Rian M
2B - Milo M
2H - Saanvi S
3B - Deven D and Eshan N
3M - Anokhi B
4T - Maya S
4KT - Georgia S
5A - Ciaran R
5G - Anaiya B and Keaton P
6M - Mia N
6W - Hebe E
Thank you to all of the parents who attended our end of term Carol Service today. As ever, it was a poignant occasion with lovely performances from the choirs, orchestra and staff choir. We thank you all for your generosity in supporting the charities with the leaving collection.
Music and Sports Personality of the Term
An enormous well done to Xaviella F, who has been named Musician of the Term for her outstanding effort, commitment, dedication and achievement within the music department.
Xaviella has always worked conscientiously and demonstrated enormous enthusiasm over several years, in all aspects of music at St. Helen’s College. She has excellent music skills and applies and shares creative ideas successfully in class work. She began singing in the Lower School choir and has continued in the Upper School. Two years ago, she was selected to join the Chamber Choir and has already performed at two prestigious venues in London.
Xaviella is an asset to the music department and now holds the responsible position of Music Prefect. Instrumentally, she is a fluent recorder player, plays the violin in the school orchestra, has recently taken up the double bass and, as her crowning glory so far, has successfully achieved a distinction in her Grade 8 piano exam!
Well done, Xaviella. You are an inspiration to the young musicians of St. Helen's College and you thoroughly deserve this accolade.
Our Sports Personality of the Term trophy was also awarded today. This term, the trophy went to Zoe K, a young lady who represents the school in many sports and always works hard to contribute to team success.
Zoe was a member of the football, tag rugby, sports hall athletics and cross country teams this term and also regularly plays in the netball team as well as representing a netball team outside of school.
Zoe was a double champion this term, winning both District and Borough cross country titles and she went on to represent Hillingdon at the London Youth Games cross country championship.
A fantastic WELL DONE to Zoe.
Year 4 and 5 children enjoyed the first ever Cookery Club in Upper School this half term. It was such an exciting and fun club for them, as shown by their Cheshire Cat grins and gleeful little leaps as we announced the recipes for the sessions!
The children started each session by putting on their chef hats and aprons and issuing a warm greeting to Soula, our chef. They were shown good hygiene practices and all the necessary health and safety rules in the kitchen as they were shown around how the school kitchen works. At each session, the children prepared and cooked/baked different recipes which included smoothies, apple crumble, savoury mince pasty, vanilla sponge cupcakes and even a festive Christmas Tree chocolate sponge cake. The children learned food preparation and cooking techniques but, equally importantly, they experienced the joy and love of cooking and food, which is essential as a life skill. Many thanks to Ms Gilham and to Soula for running the club.
Spring Term 2019
The lunch menu for the spring term has been published to the School Documents page of the website and is available here.
Co-curricular clubs will begin the week commencing Monday 14th January. Thank you for submitting your selections; final allocations will be sent to you in due course. Please make your payment via SchoolsBuddy to confirm your child's place at your allocated clubs.
Breakfast Club bookings for next term should be made via your SchoolsBuddy account. Please note that you must book your Breakfast Club places through SchoolsBuddy or your child will not be able to attend; places are limited and are allocated on a first come, first served basis. Subject to availability of places, you may book a place at Breakfast Club up until 7.30 a.m. on the day of attendance. You can do this using a computer or mobile device, including smart phone. If you are unsure of how to do so, please see a member of the office team at your earliest convenience.
Posted on: 7/12/2018
Weekly News - Friday 7th December 2018Many thanks to Mrs. Patricia Adams, the Head of St. Mary's School in Gerrards Cross, who visited us this afternoon to run an interview workshop with our Year 6 children, many of whom will have senior school entrance interviews early next term. Mrs. Adams gave our pupils some great advice and we hope that they will have taken her two most important messages to heart: that 'over-preparation is the foe of inspiration' and that 'magic happens when you believe in yourself'.
Masterclasses like this are the cherry on the cake of preparation for interviews and public speaking in general, which begins at St. Helen's College from the very earliest years. Our pupils perform publicly regularly and the many and varied opportunities they get at school to challenge themselves intellectually and to get involved in all sorts of activities, sports and music give them plenty to speak confidently about!
We wish our Year 6 pupils all the very best in the various interviews they will be attending next term.
Assemblies This Week
Wow! Well done to Year 1 for a fabulous Christmas assembly today. The children sang with confidence and real rhythm, and without exception they spoke their lines with excellent clarity and projection. It was super to hear some of the history of Christmas, including how Christmas trees and Christmas cards originated, as well as to consider the true meaning of the Christmas story. Very well done to everyone involved.
3M performed their Christmas-themed assembly today too, which incorporated both an alternative and a traditional Christmas story and ended with an interactive carol involving staff and pupils, with a lyrical twist! The pupils' delivery of their (many) lines was flawless and the acting was first class. The children managed to combine humour with poignancy, showing great maturity in their performances. Well done indeed, 3M.
Christmas Is Coming!
Thank you to all of the many parents who visited school today to hear the Infant Choir perform Christmas songs this morning, with a special guest visit from the Mayor of Hillingdon, and to join us for our annual Carols Around the Tree this afternoon. It was super, as always, to bring our community together in this way to look forward to the joy of Christmas. Please read on below for details of Christmas events next week and the end of term arrangements.
Monday 10th December
8.45 a.m. Nursery Christmas Assembly at Lower School
All Nursery parents are warmly invited to join us to watch the children perform their Christmas assembly. Coffee will be served in the Lower School Hall from 8.15 a.m.
Tuesday 11th December
8.45 a.m. Reception Christmas Assembly at Lower School
All Reception parents are warmly invited to join us to watch the children perform their Christmas Nativity. Coffee will be served in the Lower School Hall from 8.15 a.m.
Children from Nursery, Year 1 and Year 2 will have had the opportunity to watch the Reception dress rehearsal on Monday 10th December.
Wednesday 12th December
Upper School (Years 2-6) Pantomime trip to see Dick Whittington at Theatre Royal, Windsor. Please note that details will be sent to parents separately.
Thursday 13th December
Christmas lunch for Nursery to Year 6, followed by a pantomime performance for Nursery to Year 1 at Lower School by West End In Schools.
Friday 14th December
11.00 a.m. Carol Service at All Saints Church (Years 2-6).
All parents are warmly invited to join us for our annual Carol Service at All Saints Church.
End of Term - Half Day (12.00 N/R, 12.10 Y1/2, 12.20 Y3/4, 12.30 Y5/6). Holiday Club running p.m. only.
Holiday Club will then be running from Monday 17th to Friday 21st December. Please remember that all bookings must be made through SchoolsBuddy.
Monday afternoon's chess match against St. Bernadette's was good fun and closely fought. The atmosphere was competitive but friendly and it was great to finish the term's chess on a high in what has become a regular and most enjoyable fixture. St. Bernadette's team won by a margin of the result on just one board. Well done to those who played.
There are a few clubs which will run an extra session next week to make up for a session missed earlier in the term; parents whose children attend these clubs have been emailed directly. All other co-curricular clubs for the Autumn term have now finished.
The co-curricular programme for the Spring term will be published on Monday via SchoolsBuddy. Please note a change to our booking procedures. In order to protect some time for the children to play with their peers and, particularly in Upper School, for staff to be able to catch up with children regarding their school work, we are restricting the number of clubs children may attend at lunchtimes to three per week. I trust that you understand that the well-being of the children is paramount. There will be no restriction on after school clubs.
Posted on: 7/12/2018
Head's Blog - Christmas by Mrs. SmithWhatever your religious beliefs, Christmas is such a huge part of British culture that it’s almost impossible not to take part. It is most special as an opportunity to spend quality time with family and friends and to reflect upon how lucky we are to have so much love and warmth in our lives.
Your children have worked very hard at school this term; they have had to adapt to new year groups, routines and academic demands. They have completed a lot of learning, inside and outside of the classroom, and have stretched themselves intellectually. They have made new friends, established relationships with staff members they hadn’t come across previously and embraced new, interesting and challenging concepts at every turn. They have been busy outside of the classroom too, taking part in co-curricular clubs, playing sports and games, learning musical instruments and giving performances. So we hope that Christmas will be a time of rest and relaxation for them and for you, too. In the hope that you will have the chance to spend some quality time together, I would like to share with you some suggestions for things to do together which should help to make the most of your Christmas family time, while keeping your children’s intellectual and creative curiosity alive. You may already have planned to include some or all of these into your Christmas holiday – I hope so!
Visit some Christmas lights
The UK lights up at Christmas and it can be a magical, peaceful experience to visit Christmas lights. You might like to visit ‘Kew at Christmas’, the Enchanted Woodland at Syon Park, London’s South Bank or the Oxford Street/Regent Street lights. Or you might simply walk around your own neighbourhood, appreciating the effort your neighbours have put into lighting up the world! Why not get creative and make Christmas lights pictures back at home afterwards, using paints or colouring materials, glitter, sequins or anything else you can find.
Help your children to buy Christmas presents
It is lovely for young children to experience the joy of thinking of others and giving gifts, and to learn to budget, by choosing Christmas presents for their family. You could give your child a small budget and help them to divide it up into a budget amount per recipient, and then to work out how much they will spend in total and how much change to expect. Help them to wrap their own gifts and write their own gift tags (don’t worry if they don’t look perfect!) – wrapping can be a tricky skill to master and doing it for themselves will help children to develop their fine motor skills, as well as being such a happy and loving experience. They might even like to make their own wrapping paper by stamping plain paper with Christmas shapes, or drawing a pattern.
Write thank you letters
It can be tempting nowadays to send emails, texts or messages on social media to thank family members for presents. But if you encourage your children to sit down and write thank you notes/letters by hand for any gifts they receive, you are helping them to develop their handwriting, their English and communication skills and their presentation skills. I still remember the ‘formula’ my mother taught me for thank you letters:
1. Thank the person for the gift and tell them why you love it/what you will be doing with it.
2. Tell them what a lovely Christmas/birthday/event you had and what made it special.
3. Express your wish that they have also been having a great time and that you will see them again soon.
Being able to plan a letter or simple piece of writing is a great skill and writing thank you letters is a great way to practise! As children grow older, their letters can become longer and more sophisticated.
Bake Christmas goodies together
Gingerbread, Christmas cookies, mince pies, sausage rolls, trifle….there are many, many treats to make at this time of year and cooking them together can be great fun! Weighing and measuring skills, creativity/artistic skills, practising telling the time and working out how much time is left, fine motor skills…all of these are developed during baking. And if you pop on some Christmas music while you bake, you can have a sing song together too (or maybe even encourage your children to practise their recorder or other instrument while the baked goods are in the oven!). Your children might like to write out recipes or create a homemade recipe booklet, practising their handwriting, spelling and creative skills. You could even gift baked goods, with handwritten recipes, to friends or neighbours (see below). If you haven't yet tried making 'stained glass' biscuits, which involve melting a boiled sweet into a cookie, why not try those this year - there's a recipe here and these look brilliant hung on the Christmas tree!
By giving your time selflessly to help others, you can show your children the true meaning of Christmas. You could offer to volunteer with a charity, or perhaps take an hour one morning, with your children, to go through your kitchen cupboards and take out a few items to donate to your local Foodbank. There are collection points now in many major supermarkets, or you can find details of your local Foodbank online. If you have an elderly neighbour, why not knock on their door and ask them if they need any assistance with shopping, cooking, decorating etc. in the run up to Christmas. Small acts of selfless service can be incredibly meaningful and rewarding.
Play board games, Charades etc.
Board games are the perfect way for a family to spend time together. There are many superb family board games available; my favourites are the traditional ones like Snakes and Ladders, Frustration, Monopoly (and there is an excellent card version, Monopoly deal) and Cluedo, all of which develop counting/maths skills, gameplay and critical thinking skills. There is a really wide choice of games on the market for all ages and many are educational as well as fun. If your children enjoy puzzles, Christmas is a perfect time to do a really big one together as a family. Charades is another great family game to play at Christmas. You don’t even really need to buy a game. Just think of songs, films, books, plays and television shows that all of the family will know, and write them on pieces of paper. Stick them in a hat and take it in turns to mime them to each other without speaking.
‘Twas The Night Before Christmas
If you do one thing with your children this Christmas, I urge you to read them ‘'TwasThe Night Before Christmas’, a traditional poem about St. Nicholas visiting a home to fill stockings with gifts. This poem, suitable for children of all ages, is responsible for many of our modern day ideas about Santa Claus and Christmas gift-giving.
If you have older children who already know ‘The Night Before Christmas’, you might like to read them Carol Ann Duffy’s superb modern re-imagining of the poem, ‘Another Night Before Christmas’.
Reading together is the most important thing you can do with your child. We hope you will read to them and with them every day over the Christmas holidays, and that they will see you reading lots of books/newspapers/magazines/journals too. Do pop a few books on those Christmas lists, if you haven’t already.
Merry Christmas one and all!
Posted on: 30/11/2018
Weekly News - Friday 30th November 2018What a super end to the month we had today, as we heard lots of our pupils give individual performances at November's Month End Music Recital. There were pieces performed on brass, string, woodwind, piano and voice and the children were, without exception, confident and accomplished in their music. They have clearly been putting in the practice required to improve! It is always so wonderful to hear the children perform at these small, informal concerts, which give them the opportunity to develop their confidence and performance skills as they build towards the more formal performances they will give in our larger concerts. Congratulations to the children who took part.
We would like to remind all parents that half a term's notice, or payment in lieu, is required when terminating individual music tuition.
4T shared their recent learning with us today as they presented their assembly all about how they follow the 'yellow brick road' learning pathway to achieve success with their adventure writing. They explained how they have been using their metalearning skills, including collaboration, critical thinking and reflection, to produce outstanding Greek myth writing and then to improve their writing even further. There were some super performances, with excellent singing, dancing, speaking and acting. Well done indeed, 4T.
Selfless Service In The Nursery
To follow on from our SEWA introduction last week, a parent and two volunteers from the Charity 'Langar Aid' visited Nursery today and the children helped them to pack 'bags of warmth' for the homeless. You can see more about Langar Aid on their Twitter page: https://twitter.com/LangarAid?s=08. We feel very proud that selfless service has been demonstrated by some of our very young pupils today!
Our Athletics squad took part in the indoor Sports Hall athletics competition today and finished 4th. Well done to all those who took part.
School Games Platinum Award
At the indoor athletics event, our Sports Captains were presented with the School Games Platinum Award which St. Helen's College has achieved for the second year running. This recognises the excellence and breadth of the sporting opportunities offered to pupils at St. Helen's College.
Well done to the netball team, who were 4-0 victors in their friendly fixture against Ryefield this week.
Switch Off Fortnight
Switch Off Fortnight is now at an end, but we hope that the message promoted by our Eco Representatives over the last two weeks will live long in the hearts and minds of your children and that they will themselves become 'Eco Ambassadors' and spread the word that we should all be doing everything we can to conserve the resources of our planet. Please do continue to Switch Off whenever you can to save energy.
We would like to thank those families who have been able to use the new school bus service this academic year and we trust that you have found this service useful.
Unfortunately, due to lack of demand, we will be discontinuing the service at the end of this term. We are very sorry that we will not be able to continue with this service.
Moving forward, we would like to encourage more parents to work together and organise car shares to alleviate traffic congestion and to help families with the daily school run.
Posted on: 30/11/2018
Head's Blog - Reclaiming The Inner YouA couple of weekends ago, I took time out to spend quality time with a group of female friends with whom I had found myself losing touch over the years. We rented a beautiful house in the Cotswolds and spent two days indulging in each other’s companionship. It had been about six years since we were all together last without husbands and children, so we had much catching up to do...but what I had not bargained for was that I would be leading Mindfulness meditation sessions throughout the weekend and that we would end the weekend writing notes of gratitude to each other which were then shared at breakfast on Sunday as we prepared to return home.
Time, as we all know, flies by and it really saddened us all that we had allowed so much time to pass without making time for each other; yes, we had all seen each other over the years, but always at busy occasions surrounded by so many other people and our conversations had mainly centred on our families.
We all have very different careers, ranging from successful Global Director at a well known IT company to pharmacist, senior recruitment manager, nurse…but what was most surprising to me was that all these female friends, except myself, were currently not working….they had removed themselves from the treadmill of the work place to reflect on their lives, regain some balance and give more time to themselves and family. They are very fortunate that they find themselves in this position and all are grateful that they are able to do so. It is not often that I am told to sit down, relax and dinner will be prepared (never, in fact - although the fact that I also had a raging temperature and horrendous cold coming on did help)!
Over the course of the weekend we discussed our children (ranging from 7 to 20 years old); we all wished that we had been given that ‘parenting handbook’ that someone will make a fortune from when it is published! Parenting is definitely the most rewarding, challenging and important ‘career’ that we all have, and one that you really cannot step away from (except for that well deserved you time!). Schooling was also a key talking point and I am always very mindful when amongst friends that I do not to get on my soap box about education. Each of our nine children had attended independent schools either for their primary or secondary years and our experiences were all very different. None of the schools were offering what we offer at St. Helen’s College in terms of the balance of instilling that love of learning alongside outward and inward development - striving for academic excellence but also valuing personal development to the extent that we do. Mindfulness, Positive Psychology and P4C were new terms to them when talking about the education of young children; work places and universities offered such aspects of life learning, but not a Prep school curriculum! (Yes, I felt very proud of our school community!)
To spend such quality time with close friends, nourishing our souls with laughter, compassion and empathy, was just wonderful. We did nothing over the weekend (a visit to the local village for coffee was the most energetic activity!), but the time relaxing back at the house was the ‘therapy’ we all craved.
I came away not only with rekindled friendships and appreciation of my friends but with both a book and music recommendation that I will share with you.
The book is ‘59 seconds’ by Richard Wiseman: ‘At last, a self-help book that is based on proper research. Perfect for busy, curious, smart people’. Some great chapters on ‘Parenting’, ‘Relationships’, ‘Motivation’. Easy to read...thought provoking.
My music takeaway, some of your children have already shared in assemblies: ‘Einaudi - Waves’ the piano collection...beautiful!
The biggest takeaway though for me personally is something which I am sure many of us need to embrace...remember who we are...not the mother, father, wife, husband, engineer, lawyer, doctor, teacher….it is only by giving yourself time to reclaim the inner ‘you’ that ‘you’ can give the best of yourself to your family and your career.
Have a great weekend!
Posted on: 23/11/2018
Head's Blog - Read All About It!I was saddened this week to hear from my author friend Jacqueline Harvey that, whilst on her current book tour, when she asked 300 assembled children how many of them enjoyed that special time each day when their teachers read to them, the children were somewhat bemused by this. One little boy went on to tell her that the teacher would often put a story on the interactive whiteboard and they read it to themselves… I am sure that the Head Teacher of this school was on their knees in dismay at this.
I am proud to report that reading is very much alive at St. Helen’s College and reading for pleasure is celebrated right from our Ducklings through to Year 6. But, oddly enough, I am still very much dismayed when I speak to many of our children around the school about their experiences of reading at home.
I know this may be a very generic sweeping statement, and I apologise to those of you who do engage with your children on a daily basis with their reading, but more and more schools are finding that reading is being neglected at home. Parents are either too busy to hear their child read or it is the last aspect of homework to be addressed and thus the book stays in the bag. I urge you all to rethink if you find yourself hearing your child read whilst you are driving them to school, or hear yourself say, ‘I’m too busy at the moment - read to me while I prepare dinner,’ or even worse, ‘get on with something else, I haven’t got time’.
Last year Mr. McLaughlin arranged superb reading sessions for parents throughout the school, encouraging you all to embrace ‘reading for pleasure’ and to ‘get caught reading by your children’. I am now asking all parents to make a pledge within their families that reading with your child takes top priority. Whether it is you hearing them read, sharing a book with them or just generally showing an interest in the book which they are currently reading - we need to ‘Big Up’ reading!
Reading unlocks learning, creativity, imagination and critical thinking and if we do not have inspired, inquisitive, curious children then we are failing in our duty as teachers and parents.
Having spent time analysing our own assessment results over the course of several years, we know that the best indicators for success in 11+ examinations are good reading and comprehension skills.
Children need to ‘hear’ a story being read to them, to hear how language enriches their experiences and sparks that awe and wisdom in whatever genre of story that is being shared with them. It is the one time as an adult that you need to set aside any inhibitions, become a budding actor and engage with the texts to draw your child in.
The majority of our children learn how to read through a balance of our phonic based teaching and comprehension strategies; they learn the phonetic alphabet (https://phonicsinternational.com) - all 44 phonemes - the sounds which can be made with the letters of our alphabet and all the variations. They begin to be able to decode, recognising the graphemes, sounding out and blending for reading. Teaching comprehension sits alongside this e.g. when children infer the meaning from the context, they summarise the main points from a text, develop questioning strategies etc.
However, school cannot do this in isolation and home plays a massive part in this. It is for pupils aged 8+ that I am the most concerned (Years 3 upwards). At this stage, parents tend to wave the flag - ’Yeah! My child can read now!’...well, that is just the beginning! Your child now needs to enrich their reading skills and be exposed to a wide range of texts to develop their reading and comprehension skills.
ALL children should be reading every night either to an adult or sharing a text with an adult, or discussing what they have been reading with an adult.
If you do have a reluctant reader, please let your form teacher know - we need to engage every child with reading. It is the crux of all learning and home and school must work together to create avid learners. Sadly, children will never become avid learners if they are reluctant to use their reading skills. Which is why we ask parents to put reading to the top of the homework list.
Please see below an extract from our ‘Homework Policy’. Please note that much of the homework expectation the whole way through the school is for adults to spend time reading to/with/hearing your child.
Weekdays during term:
Reception: 10 minutes per evening
Year 1: 15 minutes per evening
Year 2: 15 minutes per evening
Year 3: 20 minutes reading + 20 minutes homework task(s)
Year 4: 20 minutes reading + 30 minutes homework task(s)
Year 5: 20 minutes reading + 30 minutes homework task(s)
Year 6: 20 minutes reading + 40 minutes homework task(s)
Please note that 20 minutes is a minimum reading time, not a maximum!
I urge you all as parents to review your family homework habits and to prioritise reading - it is key to all learning.
Posted on: 23/11/2018
Weekly News - Friday 23rd November 20186M taught us all a superb lesson today on the importance of grammar and punctuation through their entertaining assembly. For anyone who feels a bit discombobulated about their conjunctions, prepositions, apostrophes etc., these young children are such great ambassadors and they clearly know their stuff! Well done 6M!
We were delighted to welcome Karthik back to St. Helen's College this week for his third visit to assemblies to remind us all to be the best we can be in our acts of selfless service. Pupils in Middle School and Upper School were also congratulated as we read out our value spotters for the acts of kindness which had been acknowledged around the school this week. It is important that our awareness of acts of kindness is raised, no matter how small that act is. Selfless service is all about giving joy to others, looking after our environment and making our world a better place for us all.
You can see the presentation used by Karthik in the assemblies here. For more information about the SEWA organisation, you might like to visit their website at www.sewaday.org
Quick Sticks Hockey Tournament
On Friday afternoon last week, eight of our pupils travelled to Eastcote Hockey Club for the annual Quick Sticks borough tournament. We had two teams of four entered into the tournament, each playing matches in a group with four other teams, with the winners definitely going through alongside the top two runners-up out of the six groups. Unfortunately our A team didn't make it through but our B team gained one of the runners-up spots. In the quarter final, our B team went 2-0 down but staged an amazing comeback to win 3-2, with children and parents very excited! In the semi-final, we took the lead but unfortunately lost 2-1 which meant that we finished in third place. There was some great hockey played by both teams with all children and parents really enjoying the afternoon. A team: Jayan C, Luke J, Hebe E, Mya S. B team: Aditya S, Alex C, Tamara A, Ionie M.
London Youth Games Run
Congratulations to Zoe K (Year 6), who was selected to represent Hillingdon at the London Youth Games cross country event held at Parliament Hill last weekend, after winning the borough cross country competition earlier this term. Zoe was one of 165 runners competing from across London's 33 boroughs. The course was very challenging as it included going up the dreaded Hampstead Heath Hill on both laps of the course. It was a great day for racing, with some beautiful weather, and Zoe had a good race, finishing in 1st place for Hillingdon borough and 18th place overall. Zoe is following in the footsteps of another famous London runner who also took part in this event - Sir Mo Farah represented Hounslow in cross country at the London Youth Games, placing 9th in the 1994 under-13s race! We will follow Zoe's running career with interest!
We are pleased now to be able to announce the totals raised for the following charities:
Children In Need - £1,625.95
British Legion Poppy Appeal - £234.34
Many thanks indeed to everyone who contributed to either charity via school. Your generosity is much appreciated.
Month End Music Recital
Parents are reminded that the November Month End Music Recital will take place next Friday (30th November) in the Evans Hall from 3.45 p.m. All are welcome, so please do come along to this lovely informal recital to hear the children play a variety of instruments.
Christmas Tree Decoration Competition 2018
Just a reminder that, as usual, we will be running our annual Christmas tree decoration competition for all children. The trees will be put up in school on 25th November and the children should bring in their beautifully hand decorated, creative decorations from Monday 3rd December. There will be a winner in each year group. Please can the children remember to label their decoration with their name and class.
Switch Off Fortnight
Our Eco Team will continue to promote Switch Off Fortnight next week, reminding everyone to save energy by turning off lights and electrical devices whenever possible, both at home and in school. We hope that you and your children will make it a lasting habit to save energy wherever possible.