School News and Head's Blog

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Posted on: 1/12/2017

Head's Blog - Admissions Questions (by Mrs. Smith)

I spend quite a lot of my working life meeting parents of very young children, who are anxious to secure the best possible educational future for their sons and daughters. They ask me many questions, but I have realised that two of the questions which come up the most often are, perhaps, the two which give us a chance to explain the educational philosophy at St. Helen’s College the most succinctly. I therefore thought it would be worth sharing these two questions and answers with you all. Question One: What Is Your Ratio of Staff to Pupils? I sometimes think this must be in the ‘What To Ask A Nursery/School’ visitors’ guide given to parents when they first have children! Almost every family visiting the school with really young children ask us this question and, to some extent, they are right to do so. In Early Years settings in particular, it is necessary to have a fairly high ratio of staff to pupils in order to ensure the children’s safety and in order to carry out all of the necessary observations and record-keeping. So it is good that we can reassure prospective parents that our ratios at St. Helen’s College are very good indeed and better than in many other settings (a minimum of 1:4 at Ducklings, 1:6 in Nursery and 1:8 in Reception). However – and this is a crucial point – it is not the case that children who receive very close attention throughout their educational journey will be more successful than those who do not. Indeed, a measure of success in older children is how able they are to work well independently, to carry out individual research and to formulate their own ideas, structured answers or creative solutions without support from an adult. The challenge for parents and educators is to develop children from totally dependent babies, to fairly dependent toddlers to really quite independent pre-teens and then to fully independent teenagers/young adults! It’s not always an easy journey for a parent – I am currently close to despair over a 16 year old who seems incapable of turning off a bedroom light and opening his bedroom curtains each morning – but, with patience and perseverance, it can be done! Clever, creative teachers and parents will find ways, right from the earliest years, to make sure that children are well-supported at the same time as encouraging them to become independent, to take risks, to direct their own learning and to extend themselves. It is also true to say that the quality of staff and of their interactions with pupils is more important than just the sheer number of staff in a room. It is one thing to have lots of bodies sitting around observing children; it is quite another to have loving, committed teachers and support staff planning and delivering lessons carefully and dynamically, anticipating extra opportunities for learning and working to move all children into their ‘stretch zone’ to create interest and independence. This is what we strive for at St. Helen’s College, in every session of every day, and should be a much more important factor in why parents choose to send children here than simply how many staff are in a room. Question Two: How Can I Prepare My Child For Success At 3+ Entry/How Does St. Helen’s College Prepare My Child for Success at 11+? Whether parents are hoping to secure a place in the St. Helen’s College Nursery or at a highly selective secondary school, the answer to this question is the same. It’s summed up by this quote from one of my favourite poets, W. B. Yeats: ‘Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire’ In other words, the best preparation is not about trying to fill your child’s mind with facts, figures, the alphabet, the reign of Henry VIII or any other lists of things, events or mathematical processes. A mind is not an empty vessel, waiting to be filled with knowledge. It is a living thing, like a fire, needing to be lit and then stoked, needing (eventually) to take control of its own destiny and feed its own voracious appetite. To light this fire, parents can (and should) start right from birth to engage their baby’s interest. In the earliest days, months and years, much of this might be done through repeated rhymes and songs, through playing very simple games like Peekaboo, and then through playing with age-appropriate toys and games. It will also be done by talking to your child about all that is around them – I know my oldest son learnt all about odd and even numbers, as well as his two times table, by looking at door numbers on one side of the street everywhere we went, when he was still being pushed around in a buggy. He also developed early maths skills watching the Snooker World Championship with his grandfather! Eventually, school and home must work together lovingly, consistently, tirelessly and creatively to encourage curiosity and excitement in the world around us, so that your child’s mind and heart are opened constantly to new experiences and new learning. There are countless ways for families and school staff to do this through the years, but they all have the same principle at heart. It is simply spending quality time with a child, discovering the world and showing interest in what they are interested in. It is engaging in conversation constantly with your child. It might be reading together and talking about the words or pictures**; walking through the world and talking about what you see, hear or feel; cuddling together in bed and talking about what you’ve done that day, or intend to do; playing games, whether traditional or electronic, and talking about the games you’re playing; listening to music or singing together; learning actions to rhymes or perhaps taking every opportunity to count, to tell the time, to play, to sing and to laugh. Consider the parent and child who bake together. They can learn to plan an activity and sequence steps (‘Right, what do we need to do first?’). They can practise reading and counting (‘Can you read me number 3 on the recipe now?’). They can weigh and measure, developing fine motor skills and consolidating maths skills (‘So we have 200g of sugar. What will it weigh when we add the 200g of butter?’). They can carry out a scientific experiment, making predictions and documenting their results (‘What will happen to this cake mix when we bake it in the hot oven? Shall we take a photo of our amazing cake to show Mummy?’). They can experience the wonder of ingredients transforming into a delicious, sweet treat. They can indulge their artistic creativity in decorating a cake, perhaps making patterns or creating symmetry. Finally, they can enjoy the fruits of their labour, experiencing that feeling of pride in a job well done! They can also learn that a badly mixed cake, or one with forgotten ingredients, might not rise and might be inedible – but that we can always have another go and learn from our mistakes! When that same child is at school and is asked to produce a piece of art work, or to consider the method for a scientific investigation, or to plan a piece of creative writing, he or she will have developed a deep-seated confidence that they can plan and execute a task. They might be more willing to take a risk, to work independently and to make mistakes. I remember walking with my two little boys through the woods near our home when they were perhaps in Year 1 and Year 2. It was a beautiful autumn day and we pulled on wellies and crunched through leaves, talking about all the autumnal colours and thinking of different words for ‘red’. We spent time trying to catch the leaves that were falling from the trees, counting them and competing to catch the most, and we jumped in and out of the shafts of sunlight coming through the canopy of leaves and branches overhead. Afterwards, we went home for hot chocolate and drew around the leaves we had collected, then coloured in our pictures. The afternoon was not planned, cost me nothing and lives in my memory as very happy shared family time. In addition, I remember my son’s class teacher calling me over in the playground after school in the following week and showing me a piece of writing my son (up until then, a reluctant writer) had done for the ‘hibernation’ topic. He had written about gold, russet and scarlet leaves, dappled shade and the whispering wind. He had written that the hedgehog knew winter was coming because the ground had changed from the hard, dry mud of summer to the soft leaf carpet of autumn, and he had written about leaves falling like rain and about conkers, round and brown, decorating the ground like Christmas baubles. His teacher was really pleased with the work and I felt so proud that our weekend activities and discussions had helped him to grow in his English ‘learning’. In school, teachers look all the time for ways of bringing co-curricular links into the children’s learning. If children are learning about a particular country in Geography, they might create some artwork from that country in their art lessons. But, in fact, life itself is ‘co-curricular’ and this is what parents, in particular, have the amazing privilege and opportunity to show children. School is, in many ways, an artificial environment in which school staff try to recreate the world outside. But as parents, we have the world at our fingertips when we are with our children and are in the unique position of being able to show them its wonders. So the answer to the question about how parents can prepare their child for educational success – at any point in life - is that you can do this by being with them, sharing experiences with them and talking with them about all that you are seeing, doing and discovering together. This includes, of course, listening to their observations and helping them to use new vocabulary to describe their experiences. If your child knows – really knows – that you see the wonder in the world, then he or she will look for it too, both inside and outside the classroom. If a child understands the pleasure to be found in discovering something new, he or she will want to take risks and seek out new experiences, at school and at home. Children look to us for love and guidance; they learn what they live. So please do help us to light that fire! Mrs. Smith ** A side-note on reading. Prospective parents also ask, frequently, how quickly their children will learn to read and how many books they will be required to read at school or in homework. It is heartening that parents recognise the importance of reading and wish to support the school in encouraging early reading and establishing good reading habits. However, it is important to note that we place less emphasis on rushing through reading schemes than we do on understanding all of the text being read all of the time. A child who reads twenty books in a term will not necessarily be more advanced in their learning than a child who reads five books. If the five books have been properly understood, and have inspired the child’s imagination, and have been well-discussed, then they might have a more profound, long-lasting, beneficial impact on the child’s future educational success than the twenty rushed-through books. For this reason, we do guided reading throughout the school and we always explain to prospective parents that parents are asked to read with their children daily, to question their children about what they have read and to find other opportunities to consolidate the child’s understanding of books and other reading materials
Posted on: 24/11/2017

Weekly News - Friday 24th November

Many congratulations to Abigail Y in Year 6, who represented the London Borough of Hillingdon last weekend at the London Youth Games cross country competition. The event took place around Parliament Hill, with teams from all 32 London Boroughs taking part. Abigail did very well in the event, running against over 200 girls, some from secondary schools. The event has over the years produced many future champions, including Sir Mo Farah! So who knows where this could lead for Abigail if she continues to pursue her athletic ambitions?    Huge congratulations also to the team who represented St. Helen's College at the Packham Cup Football tournament last week. They reached the final and finished as runners up to Oak Farm in an enthralling final. After a slow start, the team scraped two wins in their first two matches and then started to improve with a 1-1 draw against Hermitage to progress to the quarter finals. The quarter final match was one of the best performances Mr. Dyson has seen from a St. Helen's College team, ending in a 6-0 win over Colham Manor. In the semi-final, a superb flicked header from Amrit gave St, Helen's College a 1-0 win which saw the team through to the final. After going 1-0 down in the final, Eli produced a moment of magic with an overhead kick to level the match, but unfortunately St. Helen's College ended up on the wrong side of the result. Well done to the team and a big thank you to the parents who came and braved the weather! Team members were: Max E, Lincoln B, Jed H, Amrit R, Ryeesa S, Ethan V-B, Eli V-B and Timi O. Last Friday, eight of our hockey squad took part in the annual Kwik Sticks tournament at Eastcote Hockey Club. Thirty-six teams took part in the tournament, divided into six groups of six. Our A and B teams produced some good hockey, scoring goals and defending well while putting in a lot of effort on the night. Unfortunately neither team progressed through to the knockout stages, but a very enjoyable evening was had by all. Team members were: Abhi R, Jed H, Hebe E, Sena A, Rajdeep B, Luke J, Mya S, Tamara A. On Wednesday, nine boys and nine girls took part in the Sports Hall Athletics Borough competition, at Barnhill Community Centre. Each child participated in two track and two field events, earning points collectively for the team. There were some great performances over the evening, but a special mention must go to Abigail Y and Zoe K, who came first in the 2+2 lap relay. Throughout the competition, the St. Helen's College team was very vocal in their support and encouragement for their team members, which was great to see. We came fourth so did not qualify for the next round, but our Year 4 and 5 pupils gained some valuable experience which they can take forward to next year's tournament. Team: Timi O, Lincoln B, Ethan V-B, Max E, Veer B, Daniel G-J, Alex C, Feranmi G, Abigail Y, Ryeesa S, Grace R, Lily F, Hebe E, Jada P, Rhea A-V, Zoe K, Chloe W. There are photos of this week's sports on our Galleries page. End of Month Music Recital We were treated to another super Month End Music Recital this afternoon, during which many children had the opportunity to perform to peers, parents and staff. It really is super to see the children making the most of their chance to enhance their performance skills, and growing in confidence each time they step in front of an audience. Congratulations to all who took part and many thanks to the music staff involved. Assemblies This Week Middle School and Upper School pupils welcomed three Metropolitan Police officers to assemblies this week. Figo (father of Paniz in Year 2), Jason and Peter all took time out of their busy schedules to share with the pupils what they do in their jobs. The children had the opportunity to try on some items of police uniform and to understand how the police help us in our lives, including the importance of e-safety for the older pupils. Yogi, the German Shepherd police dog, was a highlight but sadly he was called away on an urgent call with  his handler Pete midway through the Upper School assembly! Mrs. Drummond and Mr. Tovell had their first and hopefully last experience of being handcuffed, much to the amusement of the children!  I am sure that the children have enjoyed the activity books provided and hopefully they will all greet the police with a friendly hello next time they meet.  What a superb assembly this week from 2H as they took us on a journey to the west coast of Scotland and to the Isle of Coll to re-enact the story of 'Katie Morag and Tiresome Ted'.  The children have learnt so much about island life and the patron saints of the United Kingdom.  Mrs. Drummond, who was unable to attend on Friday, had a private sitting with 2H on Wednesday and was so moved at the children's rendition of 'The Dark Island', which reminded her of her favourite song to sing when she was in her school choir. Congratulations 2H. Christmas Events - Arrangements - Please Read Carefully! As Christmas approaches, there are many events planned. Please read through the following carefully and make a note of anything that is relevant for your child/ren! Sun 3rd Dec - PA Christmas Fair at The Winston Churchill Hall in Ruislip, from 11.30 a.m. to 4.30 p.m. The Y3/4 Christmas Play will be performed on Wednesday 6th December at 7.00 p.m. at the Winston Churchill Hall in Ruislip. Please note the change of date. Tickets are now on sale and you should book early to avoid disappointment by following this link. There is also a link to the booking system on the school diary entry for the event. Wed 6th Dec - Rehearsal for Y3 & 4 all day at the Winston Churchill Hall. Children (Years 3 & 4 only) will travel to and from the theatre by coach, leaving after registration. Packed lunches will be provided by school. Weds 6th Dec - 'When Sasha Got Swept Up The Chimney' performance at the Winston Churchill Hall at 7 p.m.  Children who are performing should arrive by 6:45 p.m. Thurs 7th Dec - All children (Nursery - Y6) will watch another performance of the play. We would like parents to drop children at the Winston Churchill Hall (Pinn Way, Ruislip) between 8:00 and 8:40 a.m. on this day, as there will not be time to ferry them by coach from school. Children in Years 3 & 4 will have costume photographs taken by Tempest after the show. All children will return to school by coach in time for lunch, and school will finish at the normal time.   Fri 8th Dec & Mon 11th Dec  - Infant Choir singing carols in the playground (8.15 a.m.) All are welcome to hear our carols! Fri 8th Dec - Carols Around The Tree (Upper School playground, 3.45 p.m.) All are warmly invited to join us in singing carols around the Christmas tree. Mulled wine will be served from 3.15 p.m. and the PA Christmas Hamper Raffle will be drawn. Mon 11th Dec - Robins and Wrens Nativity Play at Lower School at 8.45 a.m. All Nursery parents welcome - no tickets needed. Mon 11th Dec - Year 1 Christmas Assembly at Lower School at 9.15 a.m.  All Year 1 parents welcome – no tickets needed. Parents will be able to wait in the Methodist Hall for their child’s performance to start. Coffee and mince pies will be served from 8.30 a.m. Tues 12th Dec - Kingfishers & Owls Nativity Play at Lower School at 8.45 a.m. All Reception parents welcome - no tickets needed.           Wed 13th Dec - Upper School Pantomime trip to 'Sleeping Beauty' at Theatre Royal, Windsor Children in Years 2 – 6 should come to school in their full school uniform, bringing a substantial drink/snack for the pantomime. Pupils will have a late lunch back at school after the show. Children should be collected at normal time and Funtasia will run as usual. Thurs 14th Dec - Christmas Lunch (Nursery - Year 6) Thurs 14th  Dec - Lower School Children’s Party & Show  Nursery, Reception and Year 1 children should come to school in their party clothes. It is hoped that all Nursery children will stay all day due to the show in the afternoon. All children should bring a morning snack as usual. No reading books or school bags. Normal school times.                                    Fri 15th Dec - Carol Service   Children in Years 2 to 6 will take part in the Carol Service at All Saints Church at 11:00 a.m. Parents are warmly invited to attend the service.  Fri 15th Dec - End of term    Term will end at 11:50 for Nursery; 12:00 for Reception; 12:10 for Years 1 & 2; 12:20 for Year 3 & 4; and 12:30 for Years 5 & 6. Older siblings may be collected at the same time as their younger brothers and sisters. Mon 8th Jan - Spring Term commences. PA Christmas Fair - Sunday 3rd December 2017 There’s just over one week to go until the PA Christmas Fair and around four weeks until Christmas. The Fair will take place at Winston Churchill Hall is Ruislip, and is an exciting mixture of entertainment, games, food and shopping. It will be an ideal opportunity to buy some Christmas gifts (anything from books to soap, candles to SHC Christmas baubles).   To help us make this the best Christmas event ever, we really need your help. If you can donate any Christmas decorations, cakes, cupcakes, bottled water (small), drinks cans or small juice cartons, please do let us know - non perishables can be dropped off at the school office by Thursday 30 November 2017 at the latest and perishables should be brought to Winston Churchill Hall from 9.30 a.m. on the day of the event. Likewise, if you are able to volunteer to help on the day (even if it’s just an hour), please email us at pa@sthelenscollege.com. Thank you so much for your support. Parking Reminder We would like to remind parents picking up from clubs or Funtasia that normal parking regulations remain in place. Please do park in Court Park car park, not in the staff car park or across from school blocking neighbours' driveways. Mrs. Drummond is working hard to continue to build relationships with the neighbours, but seems to be meeting them in increasingly difficult circumstances apologising for the small number of parents who are not upholding school parking regulations. Please help us to maintain positive relationships with the local community. 
Posted on: 24/11/2017

Head's Blog - Life Before Risk Assessments

As you all know, last June we welcomed a team of inspectors from ISI (The Independent Schools Inspectorate) who inspected us on the Regulatory Requirements for Independent Schools, much of which was under the ‘H & S’ umbrella; first aid, fire safety, risk assessments, recruitment,  premises and buildings. Not surprisingly we were found to be compliant in all areas and had no recommendations!    On Tuesday I spent the day at CAP house in London, the headquarters for the Independent Schools Inspectorate, attending a day on ‘Health and Safety’. Along with others, I discussed all the regulatory requirements and updates to bring back to school. These help to ensure that all our policies, practices and procedures look after the safety of all pupils, staff and parents whilst at St. Helen’s College (1974 Health and Safety Act). But at the course we took a trip down memory lane and reflected on the days before risk assessments and the numerous policies. Back in 1992 I recall a superb ski trip I led to France to Les Menuires with a group of students aged 8 -11 years old. Not one risk assessment was written, the pupils were waved off at the school gates in Wimbledon by their parents and were returned a week later, tired and fresh faced after five days of ski school.  As the group leader, not one risk assessment was required, no first aid was taken with us (the hotel provided that and the ski instructors took care of any needs, with one child carrying her inhaler throughout).  It was pre-mobile phones and social media thus no photos were sent back home; all I had to do was call the school to let them know we arrived in France safely.   This was only one of the many school trips I have led over the years and, although we now have to fulfil our legal duties, H & S requirements should not be used as an excuse to stop children in taking part in exciting activities - well-managed risk is good for children. It engages their imagination, helps them learn and even teaches them to manage risks for themselves in the future. They won't understand about risk if they're wrapped in cotton wool. As adults we are risk assessing as part of the course of our daily existence, we are observant, we look and listen. Sailors are some of the best risk assessors as they react to the seas and move their positions on the vessel to ensure a safe and smooth pathway through the waters. Risk itself won't damage children, but ill-managed and overprotective actions could! I was saddened  a few years ago to read on a risk assessment that stepping up into a minibus had been risk assessed! Really?! And the ice-creams at the interval on a school theatre trip had to be risk assessed...I was speechless and declined my ice-cream fearful of the risk of having ‘brain freeze’! (NB - this was not at SHC!) I am delighted that we do not wrap our children up in cotton wool - our school environment is safe but the pupils are also taught to ‘risk assess’ for themselves.  I was delighted to see children playing conkers on 1924 day and pupils leap frogging on the grass!  What law was passed on the abolition of conkers?... I urge you all to keep exposing your children to adventurous and exciting opportunities - of course with your very owned managed risk but let’s not over protect them - let us not be creating more victims of the much talked about ‘cotton wool’ or ‘ bubble-wrap’ generation! Anyone for conkers?! Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 17/11/2017

News - Friday 17th November 2017

The school has been a riot of yellow and spots today as we have raised money for Children in Need. The children of 6D presented a most thought-provoking and moving assembly to tell us all about the charity and to thank the St. Helen's College community for their fundraising efforts. With 'live' reports from the BBC, an entertaining mime performance from Pudsey himself, a very moving video clip about a family living with disability and a super whole-class rendition of 'The Climb', the assembly served as a reminder of how lucky we are and how important it is that we show kindness and compassion towards those less fortunate. Raffles were held at Ducklings, Lower School and Upper School and we thank all parents who allowed their children to buy raffle tickets. The winners were absolutely delighted to be presented with a selection of prizes including Pudsey and Blush bears and ears and the much sought-after Giant Pudseys. Congratulations, winners! We are delighted to announce that, at the latest count, the school community has raised £1155.95 for the charity. These funds go directly to helping children in need. You can see photos of the day's colourful fun on our Galleries page. Senior Prefect Team Morning Tea Our Senior Prefect Team enjoyed morning tea with Mrs. Drummond and Mrs. Stark on Thursday in the Evans Hall. Soula had baked some delightful goodies for the children to enjoy, and Mrs. Drummond and Mrs. Stark very much enjoyed spending time with the senior team. You can see photos of the event on our Galleries page. Old Helenian Success Old Helenian Elsie G-J, who now attends Haberdasher's Aske Girls' School, has just won her first poetry recitation competition at senior school! Elsie's parents sent in a lovely note to let us know of Elsie's success, and added, 'We would like to thank St. Helen's College for helping Elsie to build a solid foundation in developing her public speaking skills. From growth mindset classes to poetry recitals and amazing assemblies, all of which have given Elsie the courage, confidence and enthusiasm to grow and enjoy presenting'.  Congratulations, Elsie! Pupil Photos - Thursday 23rd & Friday 24th November Individual and sibling photographs will be taken next week, as follows: Thursday 23rd November - Upper School pupil photographs and optional sibling photographs Friday 24th November - Lower School pupil photographs and optional sibling photographs Monday 27th November - Ducklings pupil photographs Individual pupil photographs will be taken during the school day. In addition, if you have two or more children at the school and would like to have a photograph taken of the siblings together, please bring them to either the Upper School hall from 7.45 a.m. on Thursday or the Lower School hall from 7.45 a.m. on Friday. You should stay with your children while you wait for your sibling photograph to be taken, and then deliver them to their school site as usual for registration. Please do encourage your children to wait patiently for their sibling photograph and to be ready when called, so that we may get through the sibling photographs as efficiently as possible. Please ensure that all children wear full, correct winter school uniform on the day(s) of their photograph(s). PE/Games/Sports Club kits, if needed, should be brought into school and the children will be able to change after their photographs have been taken. Switch Off Fortnight Switch Off Fortnight runs this year from Monday 20th November to Sunday 3rd December. Class eco rep's will be making posters to promote 'switching off', which will be displayed around the school. Children at Lower School and Upper School will hear assemblies launching the idea of 'switching off' to save energy, and there will be a focus on trying to find the most 'Eco friendly class of the week'.  Pupil Eco Reps will be checking throughout the week to see whether doors are closed when classrooms are not in use (to save heat), lights are off (when appropriate), whiteboards are switched off when not in use etc.  We will also be attempting to reduce our electricity use by not using interactive whiteboards at all on the morning of Wednesday 29th November. The winner of the most Eco-friendly class competition will be announced in assembly on Friday 31st November. There will also be ten facts hidden around the Upper School playground, and Upper School children will have until Thursday 30th to find the facts and fill out their form. Completed forms should be handed to class teachers and children will be rewarded with a sticker. At Lower School and Ducklings, facts will be displayed for children, parents and staff to read. We look forward to working together to be Eco-friendly and to educate our pupils about how to reduce energy waste in their day to day lives. Y3/4 Christmas Play - Important Arrangements for All Year Groups The Y3/4 Christmas Play will be performed on Wednesday 6th December at 7.00 p.m. at the Winston Churchill Hall in Ruislip. Please note the change of date. Tickets are now on sale and you should book early to avoid disappointment by following this link. There is also a link to the booking system on the school diary entry for the event. Wed 6th Dec - Rehearsal for Y3 & 4 all day at the Winston Churchill Hall. Children (Years 3 & 4 only) will travel to and from the theatre by coach, leaving after registration. Packed lunches will be provided by school. Weds 6th Dec - 'When Sasha Got Swept Up The Chimney' performance at the Winston Churchill Hall at 7 p.m.  Children who are performing should arrive by 6:45 p.m. Thurs 7th Dec - All children (Nursery - Y6) will watch another performance of the play. We would like parents to drop children at the Winston Churchill Hall (Pinn Way, Ruislip) between 8:00 and 8:40 a.m. on this day, as there will not be time to ferry them by coach from school. Children in Years 3 & 4 will have costume photographs taken by Tempest after the show. All children will return to school by coach in time for lunch, and school will finish at the normal time.   Uniform Reminder In order to maintain the lovely high standards for which St. Helen's College is known, please ensure that your children arrive at school in full school uniform. If wearing normal school winter uniform, they should always wear their felt cap or black velour hat to arrive at school. Woolly hats may be brought into school for wearing at break/lunch times and with PE kits. If wearing PE kit to school, tracksuits should be worn over the PE top/shorts. Whatever they are wearing, children should make every effort to look as smart as possible at all times. Shirts should be tucked in, shoes shined, collars and ties straightened, hair brushed and hats worn straight and with pride please! Thank you, as always, for your support in helping your children to represent their school with pride. Friday 15th December - Funtasia Arrangements Term ends on Friday 15th December. We would like to give parents early warning that Holiday Club will be running on this day up to 4.45 p.m. only. 
Posted on: 17/11/2017

Head's Blog - Time To Talk

Over the past couple of weeks, many other Independent Prep School Heads have contacted me as part of our collaborative network to discuss what we offer our pupils in terms of personal development and in particular additional pastoral support for children who may benefit from further nurturing.  We are very fortunate here at St. Helen’s College that all our staff go that extra mile for each and every pupil at the school but we also do have our very own special listener for the children, Mrs. Brooker. It occurred to me that this is one of the many excellent things that happen at school every day, but of which parents might be unaware. From time to time, children may feel that they need to speak to someone about something that is bothering them. Whilst class teachers allow time for children to talk through a programmed timetable of one-on-one tutorials as well as being available whenever needed, we offer an additional service at St. Helen’s College whereby Mrs. Brooker can make some time for children to explore how they are feeling. In addition to her role as a Teaching and Learning Assistant, Mrs. Brooker provides a pastoral role in the form of Time to Talk sessions. She has completed a Certificate in Counselling Skills course at level 2 and is currently undergoing a level 3 training course in Counselling Studies at Brookfield Adult Education Centre. Children can self-refer for Time to Talk sessions via a green card in the red letterbox in the hall, or they may be referred by their class teacher directly. Once Mrs. Brooker receives a green card, she arranges some time to see the child. Initial meetings with the child involve asking what brings them to the session and how they are feeling. Children are offered a range of simple activities (colouring, Lego, Play Doh) to help them feel comfortable in sharing and exploring their thoughts, feelings and behaviours. An assessment of the child’s needs is discussed with the class teacher and additional time slots are made available during lunch times where necessary. In addition to children being listened to in an empathic manner, sessions may involve instruction in relaxation exercises, such as mindfulness, breathing techniques or resetting energy dials. The sole focus of attention is on the wellbeing of the child. Literature on the various exercises may be sent home for further practice. We are most fortunate to have Mrs. Brooker on our staff. It is quite unique for a stand alone Prep School to offer a bespoke service to support the mental health and personal development of pupils in this way.  Next Friday, Mrs. Crehan and I will be attending a Mental Health Conference in Oxford with some very reputable speakers and practitioners. I am sure the day will be very valuable and that we will glean some new ideas and make new connections. However, I also have every confidence that, with what we already offer through our holistic approach to education and our creative curriculum, we will find that St. Helen’s College is already strides ahead in this area! Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 10/11/2017

News - Friday 10th November 2017

The school has had a day of reflection and gratitude, remembering those who gave their lives in conflict to ensure the safety and freedom which we so often take for granted today. We joined together for a silence at 11 o'clock to remember the fallen, and we have all been wearing our poppies with pride. Oak Farm Librarian Visits Nursery Earlier in the week, a librarian from the Oak Farm Library visited our Nursery classes to talk to the children about the many different books that they can borrow from the library. She explained how to look after books and talked to the children about how we should behave inside a library. The librarian sang songs and read two wonderful stories to Nursery, which are still being talked about by the children now! Chamber Choir Recording Our Chamber Choir made a recording yesterday as their entry for the national Barnado's competition, which the school enters each year. We have reached the final twice in recent years and are hoping to repeat this success! This year's pieces are the beautiful 'Can You Hear Me?' by Bob Chilcott and 'Thank You For The Music' by ABBA. Should we reach the final again, the Chamber Choir will be signing along to the 'Can You Hear Me?' piece. The finals, as usual, will take place at the Royal Festival Hall in March. We will find out in January if the Chamber Choir has made it through. Do wish us luck! Girls' Football Tournament Our girls' football team took part in the School Games District Schools football tournament held at Hillingdon Leisure Complex this week. Fourteen teams from our local area took part and the St. Helen's College team drew girls from Years 4, 5 and 6. Games were very short - lasting only 6 minutes - so our girls had to get off to a flying start and they did just that! In their first match again Cowley St Laurence they won 3 - 0 and in their second match against St. Bernadette's they won 4 - 0. In their final match they faced Oak Farm in a very competitive match. The St. Helen's College team had lots of shots on goal, but it was Oak Farm who scored to win the game 1 - 0. Well done to all the girls who took part in the tournament: Ryeesa, Kyra, Hebe, Ionie, Aaria, Rhea A-V, Lily, Maya S and Abigail. You can see a photo of the girls on the Galleries page. Upper School Parents' Evening Thank you to those parents who attended the Upper School parents' evenings this week. It was a pleasure to see so many of you and we hope that you found your consultations useful. Children in Need Tog Day and Raffle As usual, the school will be supporting Children in Need this year and hoping to raise some money for this most worthwhile of charities. The children of 6D are taking responsibility for running the fundraising for this event and have been making posters to display throughout the school. Next Friday, 17th November, all children and staff are invited to wear 'spoctacular spots' and/or yellow clothes to school. There is a suggested donation of £2 per child for this tog day, but any donations will be most gratefully received. There will Children in Need raffles running at all sites, with prizes as follows: Upper/Middle School: 1 large Pudsey Bear and 1 small Blush Bear Lower School: 1 large Pudsey Bear and 1 small Blush Bear Ducklings: 2 small Blush Bears There will be also be several runner up prizes including small bears, Pudsey/Blush ears and pens. Tickets will be sold next week, from Monday 13th November, and will be priced at £1 each. Please do encourage your children to bring in some money to buy raffle tickets, either from the school office or from our Year 6 children at break times. Many thanks, as always, for your support for those less fortunate. PA Christmas Fair 2017 11.30am - 4.30pm, Sunday 3 December 2017 Can you believe that Christmas is just 6 weeks away and it's just 3 weeks until the PA Christmas Fair? This year, instead of year group parties, the PA has organised a fete where the children will have an entertainer and some food and will be able to meet Father Christmas. The added bonus this year is that there will be a huge range of stalls selling items that the parents can buy - so you can get a bit of Christmas shopping done while you're there. To make this event the best day out for all of our children, the PA is looking for some volunteers who would be willing to help out on the day for varying times between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. This could involve anything from setting up/clearing up the hall to a shift as Santa: 9 x Santa’s Helpers for a 1½ hour shift each (uniform provided). Helpers to run stalls. If you would like to volunteer, please contact us at pa@sthelenscollege.com with your name, contact details, what you would like to do and the times that you are available.  All help will be welcome.    Finally, if you have any good quality Christmas decorations or Christmas trees that you would be prepared to let us borrow for the day, please contact us at  pa@sthelenscollege.com. Thank you. Old Uniform If any parents have any school uniform items which are no longer being used, we would be grateful if you would consider donating them either to raise funds for the PA or to charity. Parents are asked to bring items to the school office. Branded items in good repair will be sold by the PA in second hand uniform sales, which will hopefully take place at school once a term from now on - please keep an eye out for news of when these will take place. We also now have a system for sending uniform directly to a school in India, where it will help to clothe children who need it, so unbranded items and any branded items which do not sell will be sent off to India. St. Helen's College children will, in due course, be able to see pictures of their uniform being worn in the Indian school. The cost of shipping uniform will be £3.50 per kilo, so if any parent would like to donate towards this, please hand contributions in to the school office, in an envelope labelled Uniform Charity.   We hope you will agree that it will be useful for St. Helen's College parents to have access to regular second hand uniform sales, and that donating clothes to an Indian school is a very worthwhile venture. We also hope that you will be able to dig out plenty of old uniform as the months and years go by, and that this will help you to declutter! Thank you very much, in advance, for your support in this endeavour.
Posted on: 10/11/2017

Head's Blog - Festive Shopping

It is only the 10th of November and I can hardly believe that we are already being bombarded by the commercial aspect of Christmas. On the high street, on the television, on the radio and online, advertisements and commercials are vying for position for the top gifts for this year!  I am not against the giving and receiving of gifts at Christmas, but it can be rather extreme and intense, especially when we are only in early November!  So….I thought to myself, if you cannot beat them (which we won’t) then why not join them! Do read on to find some of my top recommendations for your children – gifts to keep the learning active, interesting and fun! For those of you who celebrate Christmas, there are great stocking fillers and games which will improve the skills which your child can then apply to their learning in school.  And for those families who do not celebrate Christmas, well, who needs an excuse to play games with your children which will enhance their learning? Mainly for younger children, Nursery to Year 4: Orchard Toys – a British based company from which I have purchased many superb games over the years for schools and as gifts. The maths and literacy games are particularly good; it is hard to choose my favourites as I rate them all. https://www.orchardtoys.com/dept/orchard-toys-games_d012.htm The Early Learning Centre – still an all time favourite; although the high street stores have disappeared, thankfully their online store is still stocking some of my favourites. The weighing scales learning game and numerous jigsaw puzzles never go amiss. https://www.elc.co.uk/puzzles-games-and-gifts/learning-games/ For older primary school children: The Happy Puzzle Company – I only wish I had discovered this company earlier, but over the past six years I have rated this highly for pupils in the early stages of developing their spatial awareness and logical thinking skills. There are so many games which will develop the cognitive ability of young pupils in a concrete and interactive way.  https://www.happypuzzle.co.uk/categories/improve-specific-skills/visual-perception.aspx Bright Minds - On the Bright Minds site, you can search by style of game (Maths, English, Science, Tech…) and by age, making it easy to find games and investigation kits suitable for your child. ​https://www.brightminds.co.uk Some books to consider for Year 4 upwards: Descriptosaurus – pupils soon become hooked on this book and, with its useful CD to accompany the book, your child’s writing skills and use of vocabulary will certainly improve. My copy of the book is currently being enjoyed in Year 6 – but I highly recommend this for Year 5 too. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Descriptosaurus-Supporting-Creative-Writing-Ages/dp/0415640865    - Mrs. Wordsmith - The name says it all! The six month subscription comes with a book every month for six months. They include a total of 10,000 excellent words and it looks brilliant. It comes with practice cards, a reference folder and daily activities too - perfect for Year 5! https://www.mrswordsmith.com/ Buster Books - I spotted these books being carried around school by our Year 5 pupils and have tracked them down online. Our library has a copy, but these should be a ‘must have’ for all pupils. The English book is called 'Write Every Time' and the maths book is 'From Zero to Infinity' http://www.busterbooks.co.uk/  Mr. Thorne’s resoruces – Mr. Thorne’s YouTube videos and apps are a great resource for all ages. They help to develop phonic skills in the early years, and progress to spelling, grammar and comprehension apps to improve skills for pupils up to Year 6. https://www.mrthornenetwork.com Do take a look at some of the sites I have recommended. If you like what you see, I hope that your stocking fillers may have a more educational slant this year.  I am sure that your children will not be disappointed, and nor will you! HAPPY SHOPPING! I would love to hear what you have purchased. Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 3/11/2017

News - Friday 3rd November 2017

Yesterday at the Houses of Parliament, our Year 6 children had a fantastic day exploring the home of British politics. They sat in on exciting debates in the House of Commons which sparked interesting opinions around the EU and Catalan independence. The children then had the opportunity to put their own manifestos together and hold a live vote in the parliament education centre. A representative of our local MP, Boris Johnson, came to see us and we were given some insight into the plans for Heathrow airport, HS2 and Hillingdon Hospital. There was also time for a tour of Westminster Abbey, exploring the lives of its famous inhabitants such as Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens and several past kings and queens of England before returning back to school. It was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and the staff at the centre were amazed by the knowledge the children displayed. Perhaps we have some future politicians among us!   Meanwhile, our Year 1 pupils had a 'whizzpopping' time at the Roald Dahl Children's Gallery. The 'snapper whippers' loved exploring the exhibits in the gallery. They even got to travel in the glass elevator and got shrunk so small that they could fit inside the television just like Mike TV!! Everybody made their own dream jars - imaginations really ran wild. It was a 'phizz-whizzing' day out! This morning, our Robins and Wrens Nursery pupils enjoyed a trip to Playtrain, where they had great fun climbing, swiming, jumping and riding on the wide variety of soft play equipment. The children thoroughly enjoyed their first school outing; riding on a coach with all of your friends is an amazing experience. All three year groups did a marvellous job of representing St. Helen's College in the wider community; accompanying staff received lots of lovely comments about how smartly the children were dressed, how beautifully they behaved and how intelligently and enthusiastically they engaged with the activities on offer.  You can see photographs of the trips on our Galleries page. Remembrance  As usual at this time of year, we are now selling poppies ahead of the Remembrance events next weekend. Next Friday, pupils at all sites will join for a minute's silence at 11 a.m. and will hear in assemblies about the great sacrifices made by those who gave their lives in the World Wars to secure the freedom and opportunities which we enjoy today. We hope that all children, parents and staff will wear their poppies with pride. Upper School Parents' Evenings Thank you to all of the parents who attended parents' evening on Thursday this week. It was lovely to see you all and we hope that you found the evening informative and enjoyable. The next parents' evening will take place on Tuesday 7th November and we look forward to seeing many more of you then. PA Christmas Fair Please note that the PA Christmas Fair will take place on Sunday 3rd December (NOT Saturday 2nd December). Further details will follow in due course. Cold Weather Reminder With the cold weather now approaching, please ensure that your children have enough layers/warm clothing with them daily. In particular, please ensure that pupils wear tracksuits over PE/Games kits.
Posted on: 3/11/2017

Head's Blog - Our Inner Story And Other Interesting Reads

Every holiday I manage to indulge in reading and this half term holiday gave me the opportunity to delve into two books which I had been waiting to explore. The first book, Teaching Creative Thinking: Developing Learners Who Generate Ideas And Can Think Critically (Pedagogy for a Changing World), was an energising read which served to affirm all that we are doing at St. Helen’s College in our approach to learning and the way in which your children are being taught.  There has been much debate in the educational world about what are the most important qualities or learning dispositions for education to cultivate in young learners.  Research suggests that one of the key capabilities for learners, both at school and in later life, is the ability to think creatively and critically. The book provides a very user-friendly practical guide for educators with easy to use pedagogical strategies including problem-based learning, growth mindset, playful experimentation and the classroom as a learning community. Does any of this sound familiar?! The second book, which I am still reading, is by the award winning psychologist Dr. Tim O’Brien.  His book ‘Inner Story’ is for people who wish to understand their mind – it refers to the two stories inside your head; one about your life, the other ‘the inner story’ which controls you life. Not only am I finding this a fascinating read personally, but I can also appreciate, professionally, how this awareness may help to develop skills when working with other people.  I am grateful that Mindfulness is already a part of who I am and I already use practices to enable me to maintain balance and perspective in my life. However, I cannot recommend this book enough to all parents, to further assist not only in your own life but to help support your children in understanding how they have a choice about their ‘inner voice’.  The book assists in understanding our self-esteems (not a singular self-esteem) and helps us to understand behaviour as our main way of communicating what is going on inside our mind. If you are interested in becoming more successful, happier, confident, being a better leader and making your team a high performing team then this is a read for you. After all, don’t we all strive for this both in our professional lives and in our personal lives? What parent does not want their child to be successful, confident and happy!  I will leave you not with a book recommendation but a TEDx talk about neuroplasticity, which our Year 6 pupils learn about as part of their .b mindfulness course.  Thank you to Mrs. Patel for sharing this link following our morning chat at the gate on Wednesday, as I had not seen this talk before by Dr. Lara Boyd – enjoy! Our brains are fascinating! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNHBMFCzznE If you are interested in the books: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inner-Story-Understand-Change-world/dp/1518820476 https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1785832360/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 Mrs. Drummond 

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