School News and Head's Blog

6 Blog Posts found

Posted on: 15/12/2017

Weekly News - Friday 15th December

As another term draws to a close, we wish you a very happy festive season and a well deserved rest.  Please note that, if your children will be attending Holiday Club over the holidays, you should use the Evans Hall entrance on Long Lane, rather than the Parkway entrance, for both dropping off and collecting your children. This is because some refurbishment works will be taking place in classrooms in the main Upper School block. We look forward to seeing all pupils back at school, well-rested and ready to learn, on January 8th! Lower School Nativity Plays and Christmas Assemblies This week we have been privileged to watch the most wonderful performances from our Nursery, Reception and Year 1 classes. The beautiful nativity stories were retold in the children's individual and unique way and the acting was complemented by outstanding singing. I am sure that everyone in the audiences was truly moved by the magical joy that the children exuded during their time on the stage. It is a testament to the school staff and to the excellent parental support our pupils receive that the children reach such amazing heights at such a tender age. Thank you to everyone involved. You can see photographs of the Lower School performances on our Galleries page. Christmas Lunch Soula and the Accent team provided a delectable Christmas lunch for the school yesterday. Ian and Amanda from Accent Catering's head office were in attendance and were overwhelmed by the children's manners and by the positive feedback which they gave to the catering staff. It was wonderful to see our pupils appreciating home cooked festive food! You can see some photos on our Galleries page. School Games - Platinum Award We are thrilled that St. Helen's College has become one of the first schools in England to win a new national award for making a commitment to develop its students to be the best they can be in competitive school sport. We are one of only 104 schools in the country to receive the special School Games Platinum Award. The Award is part of the School Games Mark, a government-led awards scheme launched in 2012 and administered by national charity the Youth Sport Trust, which had close to 9,000 applicants this year. Its aim is to reward schools for a commitment to the development of competition across schools and into the community. Participating in this process allows schools to evaluate their PE provision, grading them either bronze, silver or gold, and assists schools in developing an action plan for future progress. The Platinum Award is the new fourth level of the award scheme, introduced earlier this year to celebrate schools who had shown consistently high levels of enthusiasm and commitment to school sport. Applications were only open to those schools who had achieved five successive gold awards. To achieve the gold award a school must meet a certain set of criteria, which includes engaging a high percentage of young people in both curricular and extracurricular activities, participating in a minimum number of competitions across different sports, and reaching out to target groups including young leaders, volunteers, and those previously identified as the school’s least-active pupils. We are really delighted to have been recognised with this award. As an independent school, we have a creative and exciting PE/Games curriculum, as well as a quite unique co-curricular programme with over 70 clubs. Our pupils reach very high standards in core sports such as football, rugby, netball, hockey, tennis and athletics but, perhaps as importantly, they are also able to ‘have a go’ at sports as diverse as lacrosse, badminton, taekwondo, yoga, tri-golf, gymnastics, handball and many more. This exposure to the widest possible range of activities leads pupils to uncover real talents or interests in the sporting world, and to go on and compete at high levels in their chosen sport(s). Competitive sport develops a healthy drive to succeed, pride and humility in victory, grace and resilience in the face of defeat, and the ability in pupils to pull together as a team for a common purpose. These traits can be seen in every St. Helen’s College pupil and we are enormously proud of the way in which our sporting and co-curricular programmes contribute to our pupils’ personal development. Chess Team Well done to the St. Helen's College chess team, who played a friendly tournament against St. Bernadette's last night. Although unsuccessful in an overall team win, the pupils demonstrated superb perseverance and resilience in their playing. Thank you to Mr Foale for arranging such great opportunities for our children. You can see photographs of the competition on the Galleries page. Sports Personality of the Term Congratulations to Eli V-B in Year 4, who has been awarded the Sports Personality Of The Term cup. Eli has made an excellent contribution to school sport this term, representing the school in the football team and the Sports Hall Athletics team. In PE lessons or school teams, he has been a real impact player who helps the team to be successful whenever he plays. He is a regular in the school senior football team, despite only being in Year 4, and is the joint leading goal scorer in the football team this term. He also scored with a fantastically memorable bicycle kick in the Packham Cup final! Eli's football excellence has been recognised outside of school as well; he has been selected to train and play for Chelsea football club. Well done to Eli! The following pupils were also high commended for their sporting achievements this term: Jasmine B - for showing excellence in trampolining when taking part in the British Gymnastic Trampolining London regional league and winning a gold medal. Abigail Y - for a significant contribution to school sport this term in several teams and for representing Hillingdon in the London Youth Games cross country event.   Musician of the Term The Musician of the Term trophy is awarded for outstanding effort, commitment, dedication and achievement within the music department. The winner this term is someone who 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; she applies and shares creative ideas successfully in class work; she is impeccably behaved and an excellent role model; she is a reliable music monitor; she enjoys and sings in the Senior Choir; she plays the recorder fluently in class and at Recorder Club; she has been learning the violin for several years and, having recently passed Grade 4, is working towards Grade 5. She is also the lead violinist in the school orchestra. A tremendous well done to Amishi K! Music Results We are thrilled to announce the following music exam results so far. More will follow in due course, as they are received. Very well done to all of the children who sat exams and have achieved such excellent results! Shreya 6M - Grade 5 singing DISTINCTION Anish 4A - Grade 2 violin DISTINCTION Mia 5G - Grade 2 violin MERIT Nidhi 5G - Grade 1 singing MERIT Dhiya 4A - Prep Test flute Tanishka 4T - Prep Test singing Kimaya 3V - Prep Test singing Guitar Vacancy A vacancy has arisen for individual guitar tuition. If you have a son or daughter at Upper School who is interested in learning the guitar, please email Mrs. Allery at The place will be allocated on a first come, first served basis. School Magazine The latest issue of St. Helen's College Voice, containing your children's written work and art work, has been sent home with your child. It is also available online here. Enjoy! Co-Curricular Clubs - Spring Term There are still a few spaces in the following clubs for next term. If your child would like to try any of these clubs, please email as soon as possible. Places will be allocated on a first come, first served basis: Wed - Y6 Debate Club Thurs - Y4/5 French Drama Fri - Y5/6 Pastel Drawing Pennies For Clean Water The children in Year 5 have been searching down the backs of sofas and raiding the wells of their parents cars over the past few weeks on a penny drive to raise money for WaterAid. Inspired by what they had learnt in geography about the risks of drinking dirty water in some parts of the world, they each aimed to fill an old water bottle up with pennies. This money would then be used to buy a very special Christmas gift to help people have access to clean water for a healthy life. 5G raised £84.14 and decided to purchase a water tank and handwashing stations and 5W raised £165.84 and decided to purchase two hand pumps, two sets of taps and a water tank.  All money raised will be doubled by the UK government. Pictures of the children doing the count and purchasing their gifts can be seen on our Galleries page. Well done to Year 5 for raising so much and making such a difference to people in need. If your family would also like to buy a gift of water for life please use the link below.
Posted on: 8/12/2017

Weekly News - Friday 8th December

Year 3/4 Production The Year 3 and Year 4 children truly declared our festive season officially open as we were taken on an incredible journey with Sasha and her orphan friends up onto the rooftops of London and to the North Pole, meeting the most extraordinary characters en route!  I am sure that everyone who attended either of the productions would agree that the play was truly outstanding. The performance was executed exceptionally well, with the children's talents in singing and dancing on full display and their comedic timing wonderful! Congratulations to all involved. You can see photographs of the production on our Galleries page. PA Christmas Fair Last Sunday we had our very first PA Christmas Fair in the Winston Churchill Hall. There were such festivities as the children were entertained throughout the day, the highlight being their visit with Santa! Thank you to the PA committee and the amazing army of helpers who made the day possible - such community spirit and fun for all! The PA have sent this message: We held a Christmas Fair for the first time this year and it was a mammoth event! Thank you to everyone who offered their time, helped with the poster design, came early to set up and stayed late to set down, wrapped presents, made donations, manned stalls, baked cakes, carried things in their cars, attended the event etc. The Christmas Fair would not have been possible without your support so we are truly grateful. Thank you also for the feedback that we have already received. We hope that those of you who attended enjoyed yourselves and that the event got you into the festive spirit. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy new year.  Carols Around The Tree Thank you also to all parents, staff, pupils and friends who joined us for our Carols Around The Tree on Friday afternoon in the Upper School playground. It was a very festive occasion and we all enjoyed singing carols together so much! Well done to all of the lucky winners of the Christmas hampers, and thank you again to everyone who made a donation for their class hampers and/or bought raffle tickets. We're sure you agree that they looked amazing and made lovely raffle prizes. Infant Choir Carols Our amazing Infant Choir have been singing Christmas songs in the playground at Lower School this morning, and will be doing so again on Monday morning. Their grasp of lyrics and music is really exceptional for children so young and we hope that parents have enjoyed hearing them sing. Very well done to all involved! There are some photos of the choir singing on the Galleries page. Reminder of Arrangements for Last Week of Term 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)  PLEASE SEE THE CHRISTMAS LUNCH MENU ON THE SCHOOL DOCUMENTS PAGE. 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. All parents are warmly invited to attend the service.  Fri 15th Dec - End of term    Term will end at 11:50 for Ducklings & 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. Staff News We will be bidding Miss Bentley, our peripatetic violin teacher, a fond farewell at the end of this term as she embarks on a new life up north in Yorkshire. So many of our pupils have benefited from Miss Bentley's expert tuition over the years and we are all very grateful for her contribution to the musicality of St. Helen's College. In January we will welcome our new violin teacher, Mrs. Collier, to the  music staff and some of the pupils may have already met her this week during her visit. Mrs. Collier is very established in the local area, having previously been Head of Music at another local school, and I am sure that her strong connections with the Hillingdon Music School Orchestra will be a great addition to the opportunities and experiences of our pupils.  Mrs. Dilworth has been with us at Lower School as a Teaching and Learning Assistant for the last year, but she will be leaving us at the end of this term as she pursues a new career. We are pleased that she will also remain as a member of our bank staff. Mrs. O' Mahoney will be returning to us as a Teaching and Learning Assistant in January and we are delighted that she will be rejoining the St. Helen's College family!  Next term, Miss Davies will also be returning to Lower School on a part-time basis after her maternity leave. Mrs. Meeran will remain with us on a part-time basis.  Mrs. Sue Blackstone, who has been the matriarch of our Holiday Club provision, will be retiring from her duties after this December's Holiday Club. We cannot thank Mrs. Blackstone enough for her many years of dedication and care to our pupils. We will not be saying goodbye to Mrs. Blackstone just yet, as she will still be running our Breakfast Club provision until the end of this academic year.  Miss Carmichael, our Wrens Nursery class teacher, will be stepping into the role as Holiday Club manager, ensuring that our well established and popular Holiday Club will continue in the same vein.  Co-Curricular Clubs Thank you to all parents who have returned their co-curriculum booking forms for clubs next term. We carefully monitor the amount of extra curricular activity the children do, ensuring that they are involved but also maintaining a healthy balance so that they can cope with the rigour of the academic day. In rare cases it may be necessary to limit the number of activities a pupil is doing for their well being. Similarly, we look for opportunities to encourage those who are not involved to experience new things. Club confirmations will be sent home next week. Clubs have now finished for the term, except for the following catch up sessions which will run next week: Tuesday 12/12    Y3 tennis, Y4/5/6 tri-golf, Y2 football. Thursday 14/12   Y2 tennis, Y4/5/6 tennis. Spring Term Programme and Menu The Term Programme for the Spring Term has now been published to the School Documents page of the website, and dates have been added to the School Calendar. As usual, it will be a busy term and there are several dates for parents to note! Please note, in particular, that Funtasia will be closed on the Friday before Exhibition Day. The Lunch Menu for the Spring Term has also been published to the School Documents page. You might like to review this with your child before next term begins.
Posted on: 8/12/2017

Head's Blog - When I Grow Up (By Mr. Crehan)

Children at school are often keen to share their ambitions and to tell us what they want to be when they grow up. Over the years, astronauts, footballers and hairdressers have been regular favourites, but children’s interests ebb and flow as they broaden their experience and new vistas open for them. It is quite rare, I suspect, for a child to make a career decision at the age of 8, pursue it single-mindedly, and realise that ambition at the age of 14. As a young child, Rhys Concessao had sat in on his mother’s piano lessons and then started to take lessons himself. He quickly picked up proficiency and started to work through the grades. Rhys joined St. Helen’s College at the age of 8 when he was Grade 3 on the piano. One morning at school, Rhys listened as Brendan, a fellow pupil who was two years older, played brilliantly in assembly. Brendan was a Grade 8 pianist who played with great sensitivity and panache, and his performance inspired Rhys who, shortly after this experience, told me that he had decided to become an international concert pianist. And he was serious about it. Rhys began to practice every day for several hours and was hungry for more rehearsal time. Rhys’ parents, Nisha and Roshan, supported his ambition wholeheartedly, and, following discussions with them, we arranged for Rhys to attend school part-time so that he could have extra lesson and practice hours, while working to a modified school curriculum. Unsurprisingly given Rhys’ exceptional motivation, he made dramatic progress, started to win music competitions and performed wonderfully at the St. Helen’s College Musicians’ Concert. He went on to win a Scholarship to The Purcell Music School and a Sir Elton John Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music. Since then Rhys has won many awards and has performed at venues and events around the world, as documented on his website He has received particular support from the great pianist Láng Lǎng, with whom he has studied. An international performer, Rhys was closer to home last month and I heard him play Chopin’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 1 in E Minor with the Reading Symphony Orchestra. Given his tender age of just 14 and the challenge presented by this particular concerto (Chopin was a virtuosic pianist and the final movement is particularly challenging) I was not expecting more than a competent performance, but I could not have been more wrong. Rhys’ playing was technically faultless and full of nuance and emotion. To cap this, he played the famously difficult, hand-blurring La Campanella by Liszt as an encore – brilliantly. For this piece, Láng Lǎng’s advice to Rhys was to use his fingers on the piano keys like a duck flapping in the water to get the best sound! There is a short clip of Rhys paying part of the concerto (but sadly not the encore) on his website. We have invited Rhys to attend St. Helen’s Day next year. He was inspired by a fellow pupil and it would be wonderful for our current pupils to hear of - and perhaps be inspired in turn by – the intense passion and patient practice on which Rhys is building his success. A last word from Rhys: ‘As Láng Lǎng puts it simply, “If you can dream it, you can do it.”  
Posted on: 1/12/2017

Weekly News - Friday 1st December

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. Staff News We say farewell to Mrs. Diana Hamilton today, one of our long-serving lunchtime supervisors at Lower School. We wish her well in her new career as Activity Leader in a care home.  Mrs. Jannie Fong will replace Mrs. Hamilton and I am sure the pupils will make her very welcome next week.   Switch-Off Fortnight Our Eco Reps have been very busy around the school recently, checking that as a community we are looking after our environment. They have reminded us all in their assembly presentations of the importance of saving energy. Many children took up the challenge to solve the Switch-Off quiz and there was a hive of activity around school throughout the week as they found clues, answered questions and became more eco-friendly and energy saving! Well done everyone and congratulations to all staff who refrained from using their interactive whiteboards as challenged by our eco team!  Christmas Holiday Club & Co-Curricular Bookings The booking form for the Christmas Holiday Club has now been posted to the School Documents page of the website. Please note that completed forms must be returned to the school office by Friday 8th December at the latest, and that places are allocated on a first come, first served basis. The Co-Curriculum Programmes for the Spring Term have also been posted to the School Documents page of the website. Please return booking forms promptly and by Wednesday 6th December at the latest. Mini Monet Art Classes If your son or daughter is a budding young artist and you would like to give them even more opportunities to indulge their creativity, you might be interested in the spring term Saturday art classes run by Mini Monets. Full details are available on their website at
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

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