Growing Initiative - Head's Blog

Posted on: 15/11/2019

This week I have to admit that I jumped for joy, literally, when I heard the news that we have been shortlisted for the prestigious TES Independent School Awards in two categories: Student Initiative and Sport. We are incredibly modest about our achievements at St. Helen’s College and every week I pick up an educational journal only to read about what ‘initiatives’ other schools are discussing when often we have been doing many of these things for several years - e.g. P4C, Flipped Learning or Mindfulness. But this week I want to focus on the impact of what we do here at school with our pupils which enables them to show ‘initiative’.  

Initiative is a self-management skill, and self-management is one of five key life and work skills for young people entering the workforce. Your children are nowhere near the age of entering the workforce but they are certainly proving that they are going to be an incredible workforce for the future!

‘Initiative’ is defined as 'the ability to assess and initiate things independently'.

There has been a plethora of activities recently in which we have seen our pupils stepping up to the mark, conceiving of and leading on some wonderful projects. The confidence, self belief and leadership qualities which the children possess are admirable and most definitely worthy celebrating. Our JRSO team and our Sports Leaders have been recognised by being shortlisted for the TES Awards, but it is true to say that pupils across the school are incredibly resourceful and enthusiastic in their self-led endeavours. 

Examples of some of these activities are:

  • A Year 6 pupil designing an 'inside out sound box'. This is a very intricate project, which is worth a future blog in itself. The design and planning process is now complete and the build is in hand,  so watch this space!

  • Year 6 boys setting up a ‘Times Tables Rockstars’ club. Inspired to improve their mental maths skills, this group of boys are eager to encourage other pupils form Year 4-6 to challenge and improve their mental agility too.

  • Year 5 girls running ‘Nature Club’, which has involved organising and sourcing resources and activities to bring joy to their peers through the exploration of nature.

  • Year 6 pupils holding maths clinics in the library at lunch and break times for younger pupils to have some peer tutoring in maths topics

  • Numerous charity fundraisers throughout the school; every class becomes involved in charity fundraising and all ideas are led by the pupils.

Another definition of ‘initiative’ is the power or opportunity to act or take charge before others do. Yet again we witness this on a daily basis at St. Helen’s College. Only yesterday at lunch, a Year 3 pupil told me that he would be applying for the position of Head Boy when he was in Year 6 as he has so many good ideas for me for the school and children! I shall not reveal his innovative ideas but I am sure this proactive young man will go places in the future. Even our youngest Ducklings were innovative in their thinking today as we discussed what to do with the toy cars in the garage which had missing wheels!

So, how can you support your young children at home to develop skills such as innovative thinking, problem solving and  entrepreneurship? Below is a list of some tips recommended for toddlers and preschool children. If we can encourage our youngest pupils in this way, this will provide a great start to developing their confidence, self-belief and leadership qualities.

  • Praise your child’s efforts, not the result. “I know you worked hard to put the napkins on the table. Thank you.” “It took a lot of time to put all your toys away.”

  • When your child asks a question, if appropriate, respond with a question. “What do you think?” 

  • When your child says, “I can’t do it,” instead of immediately helping, suggest other options depending upon the task. “Can you try doing it a different way?” “Tell me what you need to make it work.”

  • Allow your child to make decisions so he/she becomes comfortable doing so. Even a toddler can choose which clothes to wear when given options or between a cheese or ham sandwich. (This helps decrease frustration, too.)

  • Allow a little extra time so that your child can do things themselves, like putting on their shoes or coat, packing their bag or picking out a book to read in the car before you leave the house.

  • Provide opportunities for your child to have creative play – playing outdoors, playing with groups of other children in structured time, drawing, painting, making things or baking.

  • Avoid screen time! Time spent watching movies and playing video games decreases the need to be creative and take initiative.

And for us adults in the workplace! We all need to inspire the younger generation so here are a few tips for our further future success: 

  • Never stand still.

  • Do more than is required of you. 

  • Think as a team member, not an employee.

  • Speak up and share your ideas. 

  • Consider every opportunity. 

  • Always be prepared. 

Regardless of the outcome at the TES Awards Ceremony in February next year, it is a huge testament to our school that we have been shortlisted for our achievements in the two categories. We need to remember that it is our staff and parents coming together to support the children in a safe and nurturing environment which enables our pupils to develop these most crucial skills which will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.

Mrs. Drummond