Remote Teaching and Learning

St. Helen's College has remained open throughout all periods of lockdown for the children of critical workers and, more recently, for our Early Years classes too. The Covid pandemic did, however, force teaching and learning entirely online for some pupils. 

We were extraordinarily well-equipped to move our educational provision online following the first lockdown announcement in March 2020.

We were already using Google Classroom for Flipped Learning tasks and homework, and most of our children were already familiar with this and other online systems. We quickly extended the use of Google Classroom and Google Meet for all classes from Reception to Year 6, surveyed parents to find out how we could best make online learning work for families, and developed an adapted timetable so that, for example, families with siblings in different year groups could have lunch and physical activity sessions at the same time.

For our Early Years classes (Ducklings and Nursery), we used the St. Helen's College Learning Portal and Tapestry to set activities and work online and we held 'keeping in touch' Google Meets so that the children continued to see their friends and teachers.

We are a very well equipped school and we quickly organised the free loan of school devices for any family whose child(ren) did not have their own device for online learning, for as long as required.

We taught our full curriculum. Although we kept largely to the usual school timetable, time was set aside every day for physical activity. 

Our teaching and learning support staff continued to assist in lessons and provided breakout sessions for those who needed additional help. 

Throughout each period of lockdown, we monitored pupil engagement very closely and followed up with parents if we felt that a pupil could better engage with their online learning. Our form teachers continued to hold pupil tutorials to monitor pupils' wellbeing and engagement, and our school counsellor remained available for one to one conversations with pupils who needed her. All pupils had opportunities, overseen by their teachers, to interact with their classmates daily. For all assemblies, lessons and Meets, all staff and children had their cameras on so that we could all see each other and interact fully.

We also made plenty of 'keeping in touch' fun videos, including story time and song videos for younger children, to promote wellbeing and our ever strong community spirit.

Our online teaching and learning approach included a combination of:

  • Live online lessons with class and specialist teachers.
  • Pre-recorded videos, or offline tasks, accompanied by an online optional Meet for children with their teacher if they need further explanation or support.
  • Set project work.
  • Teachers assessing/marking work and providing constant oral and written feedback to children to recognise effort and achievement and to encourage improvement.
  • Regular (at least twice weekly) assemblies to promote school values, mark festivals and national events, celebrate pupil achievements and pupil birthdays and so on.
  • Special online events/workshops such as online author visits, charity assemblies or celebrity visits.
  • Moving our annual competitions online, including our annual Singing Competition and our annual Speech Competition.
  • Setting online challenges for the children, including sport/physical activity challenges, 'Name the Place' challenges and promoting local and national competitions (in which our children are very successful!). 
  • Monitoring pupil work and pupil progress closely.

We are delighted that our children continued to make excellent progress throughout the periods of lockdown. 


Posted on: 14/05/2021

Weekly News - Friday 14th May 2021

Baroness Floella Benjamin Online Talk On Tuesday morning, Baroness Floella Benjamin joined Years 1-6 for an inspiring and educational talk. During her virtual talk, she passionately discussed her experience of moving to England from Trinidad, and the many successes that she has achieved throughout her life in the West End, film and television, as a children's author, and in her role as a member of the House of Lords. She inspired us all with her resilient and courageous response to racism, demonstrating the power of positivity and self-belief to overcome hardship and challenge. Education has always been important to Floella, and she articulated the transformative power of learning and striving towards greatness. She left us with her 4Cs for a happy life: consideration, confidence and contentment - all wrapped up with some extra COURAGE. We all had smiles on our faces as she sang us out with ‘smile’ by Charlie Chaplin.  Parents' Evening (Years 1-6) Another successful parents' evening took place remotely on Tuesday evening for parents of children in Years 1 to 6. We hope that you all found this useful and thank you for attending. Royal Parks Urban Tree Festival The Urban Tree Festival is a celebration of urban and suburban trees, woods, forests, scrubland, hedgerows and all the wild places that bring life and joy to our cities. It is taking place this year from 15th-23rd May. As part of the festival, The Royal Parks are offering free workshops to children in Years 3-6 and your children will be taking part in some of these during school hours. The workshops aim to get pupils thinking creatively and speaking out about the impact of urban trees during the climate emergency. We would like to encourage families to take your children to visit the Royal Parks over the next couple of weekends or over half term, and to take a look at the trees planted within them, to support their learning in this area. So don't let the weather dampen your spirits! Pop on your raincoat and explore the Royal Parks to inspire your children and yourselves to consider the importance of urban trees. Teddy Talks We hope that you will enjoy watching our brand new St. Helen's College Teddy Talks. These are short talks, given by experienced and dedicated St. Helen's College staff, on topics of interest to parents of babies and young children. Please follow the links below to watch our first six talks and please do share them with friends and family! Growing A Love Of Reading With Your Child - Shirley Drummond, Head Early Speech, Language And Communication - Lucy Hunt, Head of Lower School Positive Behaviour Management - Aidan McLaughlin, Deputy Head The Value of Nursery Rhymes - Jill Crehan, Principal Choosing The Right Setting For Your Child - Su Smith, Director of Admissions Baby Mindfulness - Poonam McLaughlin, Year 3 & Baby Mindfulness Teacher We will be making more talks soon, so if you have any ideas of topics on which you would like advice/tips, please do let us know. You can read more about the ideas behind this initiative in today's Head's Blog, which is a guest blog from Mrs. Smith. May Online Open Morning Our next virtual Open Morning for prospective parents will take place next Friday, 21st May, at 10.00 a.m. If you or any of your friends or family have children under 3 then please do join us online to find out more about the school and the entry process. Anyone interested in attending will need to register by following the link below, and will then be sent a joining link for the Open Morning in advance. If you have a child aged 3 or under and have not yet registered them with the school, please do complete a registration form for them so that we can add them to the list for entry in their year group. ​ Eco Team Trash Mob Next week, our Eco Team Reps will be out on patrol encouraging children to look after our environment by picking up any litter that they see and reminding people to use the bins in the playground for any remnants of snack, tissues etc. It is important that we all raise awareness of looking after our environment and we appreciate your support if you are also able to arrange a family litter pick in your local park. You might like to visit the Keep Britain Tidy website for ideas and inspiration. Mindfulness at St. Helen's College Last week's Head's Blog, all about Mindfulness at our school, was picked up by the Mindfulness In Schools Project (MiSP), who were delighted to read about how embedded Mindfulness is throughout the school community. We are very proud that St. Helen's College is being recognised as a frontrunner in children's mental health and wellbeing through our Mindfulness programme. You can also find MiSP on Twitter as @dotbschools. Half Term Holiday Club Bookings are now open for the May half term Holiday Club at St. Helen's College. If you have not already booked and you would like your child to attend, please login to your SchoolsBuddy account to book. Places are allocated on a first come, first served basis.
Posted on: 14/05/2021

Teddy Talks by Mrs. Smith

As you will know, I spend a lot of time meeting prospective parents and helping you to navigate the admissions process. I was involved in each one of your pre-joining experiences, since I have been with the school over 11 years now. This aspect of my work is one that I particularly enjoy. I remember well being a parent of very young children, and my husband and I making our own decisions about childcare and schooling for them. I remember, too, how tough it can be to parent a baby or toddler and how many variables there are in parents’ lives during that period. There are questions over maternity and paternity leave, finances, whether to move house for more space, whether a second or third child is a consideration and so much more. It can also be an emotional and exhausting time, as you navigate the early months and years of life as a parent, possibly feeling that you are losing your sense of self along the way. Here at St. Helen’s College, we believe that a positive, mutually supportive partnership between school and home is crucial to ensure a happy experience for your child. Starting a family is a miraculous time, but we know that parents of pre-school children have busy, demanding lives and we want to help. Another aspect of my role is overseeing the school’s marketing activity. I have been mulling over, for some time, how to dovetail the need for pre-school parenting support with one of our marketing aims, which is to reach parents of young children right from birth (since in the past some parents were leaving it too late to apply to St. Helen’s College, and then missing out on the chance of a place here). So, early this year, I came up with a proposal for a ‘Pre-School Parenting’ initiative. The initiative has two strands: one is to provide in-person baby/toddler classes here at St. Helen’s College for parents of pre-schoolers in the local community. The other is to make short videos with advice on various topics from our expert staff for parents of pre-schoolers. We decided to call these ‘Teddy Talks’, to include our school teddy, which is given out to prospective parents in goody bags when they visit. Next, I undertook some market research, sending a survey out to all of our current Ducklings, Nursery and Reception parents. I asked what they would have liked more support with when their children were 0-2 years old, and in what format they would most have appreciated that support. I am very grateful to all those of you who responded: the results were fascinating. It is clear that there is a significant need for more support for new parents on many topics: sleep, feeding, how to retain your own identity, how to manage behaviour and set boundaries, how to encourage reading and develop speech, how to bond effectively and calmly with your baby and how to manage the arrival of a sibling. The survey results made me even more determined to put something in place to support new parents. I am delighted to say that we have recently filmed our first six ‘Teddy Talks’, which I can now share with you. Each person who wrote and delivered a talk did so from the heart, working independently, and I am so proud of my colleagues for their bravery and willingness to be a part of this project on top of their extremely busy day to day lives. I hope that you will agree that these Teddy Talks are useful, and represent our ethos and values at St. Helen’s College effectively. Please do share them with family and friends, and encourage them to share them with any new parents they know, no matter how far afield! You might pick up some useful tips from them to use in your parenting, too. Please follow the links below to watch our first six talks. Choosing The Right Setting For Your Child - Su Smith, Director of Admissions Growing A Love Of Reading With Your Baby/Toddler - Shirley Drummond, Head Early Speech, Language And Communication - Lucy Hunt, Head of Lower School Positive Behaviour Management - Aidan McLaughlin, Deputy Head The Value of Nursery Rhymes - Jill Crehan, Principal Baby Mindfulness - Poonam McLaughlin, Year 3 & Baby Mindfulness Teacher We are looking forward very much to adding more videos to the Teddy Talk bank in future – we hope that this will, in time, become a comprehensive resource for parents in the local and wider community. So if you have ideas for relevant topics, please email me at to let me know.  I am now also working on the proposed programme of baby/toddler classes to be held at St. Helen’s College, when Covid restrictions allow. Mrs. McLaughlin is currently undertaking Pause Baby Mindfulness training, and will be offering Mother/Baby Mindfulness classes on site soon. We will let you know when these are going to begin, and will also let you know as other classes are added in due course. Thank you for supporting us by viewing and sharing the Teddy Talks and please do contact me with feedback or ideas on this theme. Parents and your needs are really, really important to us and we are here to support you in every way we can, from birth all the way through. Mrs. Smith
Posted on: 7/05/2021

Weekly News - Friday 7th May 2021

Parents' Evenings (Years 1-6) Thank you to all of the parents who attended online parent consultations on Tuesday for children in Years 1-6. We hope that you found these useful. The second parents' evening for these year groups will take place this coming Tuesday, 11th May. We look forward to seeing many more of you online then. Upcoming Author Visit - Baroness Floella Benjamin On Tuesday 11th May at 10 a.m. pupils in Years 1-6 will have the privilege of joining a live online event with Baroness Floella Benjamin, a truly inspirational speaker. The Baroness is celebrating the publication of both her picture book Coming to England: An Inspiring True Story About the Windrush Generation, and the 25th anniversary edition of her ever-popular memoir Coming to England: two books that give a powerful reminder of how courage and determination can overcome adversity. Parents and children have the opportunity to pre-order copies of these books if you would like to do so. THE PICTURE BOOK for younger readers (rrp £6.99) - Suitable for Years 1 & 2 A story about the triumph of hope, love, and determination, Coming to England is the inspiring true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin: from Trinidad, to London as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords. When she was ten years old, Floella Benjamin, along with her older sister and two younger brothers, set sail from Trinidad to London, to be reunited with the rest of their family. Alone on a huge ship for two weeks, then tumbled into a cold and unfriendly London, coming to England wasn’t at all what Floella had expected. Coming to England is both deeply personal and universally relevant – Floella’s experiences of moving home and making friends will resonate with young children, who will be inspired by her trademark optimism and joy.  THE MEMOIR (25th anniversary edition) (rrp £6.99) - suitable for Years 3-6 With a foreword by the author and some additional historical information, this is the incredible story of Floella’s journey from Trinidad to London, as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords.  Floella Benjamin was just a young girl when she, her sister and two brothers arrived in England in 1960 to join their parents, whom they had not seen for fifteen months. They had left the island paradise of Trinidad to make a new home in London – part of a whole generation of West Indians who were encouraged to move to Britain and help rebuild the country after the Second World War. Reunited with her mother, Floella was too overwhelmed at first to care about the cold weather and the noise and dirt from the traffic. But, as her new life began, she was shocked and distressed by the rejection she experienced. She soon realized that the only way to survive was to work twice as hard and be twice as good as anyone else.  If you would like to buy copies of Baroness Floella’s books, please click on the link below to order Important: as you go through the checkout, you will be given the option to have your book(s) delivered directly to the school, with no delivery charge. If you choose this option, please state your child's name and class in the 'Details Required For School Events' box, as this will ensure correct allocation of the book(s) to your child in school. This link will be open until midnight on Thursday 13th May. Models Required! Pullen's, our uniform suppliers, will soon be doing some updated photographs for their website of children modelling school uniforms. They are looking for 4 or 5 St. Helen's College children aged 4-9 to model our school uniform. The shoot will take place on 2nd June in Elstree (during half term) and the children will be needed for around 4 hours on that day. If you would like your child to be involved, please email, clearly stating your child's full name and age, and then await further instructions/confirmation.  May Half Term Holiday Club Bookings will open next week for Holiday Club for May half term. We will send an email to parents when bookings open. Please login to your SchoolsBuddy account if you would like to book a place for your child. Places will be limited to 15 children per bubble and will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. Parents are asked to send packed lunches for Holiday Club during half term as there will be no catering available on site. Upcoming Events As we are now gradually able to resume some of our events following such a disrupted period, we would like to remind parents to check the School Calendar regularly and add dates to your own diaries. In particular, coming up soon, we have Sports Days, residential days, Meet the Teacher evenings, Prizegiving and of course our Year 6 performances. Please do make a note of the dates! Chiswick Lacrosse - Summer Camps Chiswick Lacrosse will be running two weeks of summer camps this year, during the weeks of 16th and 23rd Aug. These are suitable for girls over the age of 9. The club has run lacrosse camps for over 30 years and are confident that it gives girls the very best introduction to a sport they may be playing at their senior school when they transfer. Approximately half of the girls who attend the camp are new to the sport. The camps also enable girls to meet up with their prospective peer group as we can group the girls according to their new school. If you are interested in booking a place for your daughter on one of these camps, you can find further information here. Do let us know if you plan to attend!
Posted on: 7/05/2021

Mindfulness v. Mindlessness

Over the past few weeks I have been so proud of all of your children as I have observed them navigate their learning inside and outside of the classroom. Schools are busy places for our pupils and we expect your children’s brains to ‘ache’ each day as they are challenged in lessons by the curriculum and the questions being posed to them, and asked to demonstrate their understanding of what they have learnt. It is therefore so important that we help children in coping with such a busy school day and busy lives in general.   As many of you know, we are a school which promotes mindfulness and we give your children time to be in the present moment, noticing, feeling, sensing and bringing attention to their breathing. We allow the children to be in mindful silence in assemblies, and there is a magical moment when, as adults and children, we feel that connectedness through our ‘strong’ silence as we bring attention to our breath and the present moment.  Children in Years 4, 5 and 6 are currently being taught more structured mindfulness courses too.  Year 4, as part of their Paws b course, are being taught about the main parts of the brain. This week in 4T they learnt about the role of the insula and how it works with the prefrontal cortex in assisting us to recognise emotions. I do tell the children that without mindfulness in my life I would find my job more challenging and I am always so pleased to hear that many parents also engage with mindfulness either in their workplaces or as part of your family routine. It is so important that we recognise how we may be feeling and give ourselves the opportunity to acknowledge emotions, talk about them if appropriate, and develop techniques to deal with these emotions.  In the last week I have had two very sad bereavements within my own family and, with the Covid regulations in Scotland, my sister and I have not been able to travel or attend the funerals of these close family members (for now, only 20 people may attend funerals in Scotland). I have managed to support my elderly mother from afar with her emotions and also allowed myself to be in the present moment to acknowledge and deal with my own feelings.   Your children are in a fortunate position, in that by the time they leave St. Helen’s College they will have a toolkit of mindfulness practices which will support them for years to come. It is a testament to our staff that so many of them are now either qualified mindfulness teachers or are currently undergoing training. Mrs. McLaughlin is currently training to be a baby mindfulness teacher for 0-2 year olds. Mrs. Hunt embarks upon a new course, dots, in June, which has been especially written with 3-6 year olds in mind. Mr. Roche is leading the Year 5 children in the .breath programme and Year 4 and Year 6 are working with me on the Paws b and .b courses. Our staff are interested in what the children are learning and this week I overheard a lovely conversation in the playground when one of our pupils explained to one of the lunchtime supervisors how she is training her mind to train her brain and then explained what different parts of the brain do! Mind blowing from an 8 year old! We all can make wrong choices or decisions and the children begin to realise that some of their choices may be ‘mindless’ choices - done on autopilot without much thought - like running down the path to get the front of the lunch queue!  They also learn that there may be consequences for mindless decisions - like having to go to the end of the queue! (The prefrontal cortex made the wrong decision!) But our pupils learn to respond mindfully and not react mindlessly. It truly is a joy when the children are able to take more responsibility for their actions, with an understanding that they are in control of their actions and decisions.  For those children who do find themselves feeling strong emotions of anger or maybe sadness, then the simple mindfulness practices we teach them can alleviate some of their tensions and increase their happiness levels. We talk about ‘growing happiness’ and we all have that ability! I will be attending the annual Mindfulness in Schools Conference on Saturday 19th June with other staff members including Mrs. Crehan. Over the past five years, I have come away from the annual conference feeling nourished and so proud of the role we are playing in educating your children to enable them to live full, meaningful lives with the knowledge, skills and understanding they need to flourish in today’s busy world.   You can find out more about why we teach mindfulness here.
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