School News and Head's Blog

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Posted on: 23/02/2018

Head's Blog - Desire to Aspire

    Over the half term holidays I spent time with family and catching up with friends and enjoyed reminiscing about school days.   I have also been reading some delightful blogs from fellow educators who have written about who their Heros or Sheros are. What has struck me is the number of us who have been so influenced by the teachers who taught us, but have not quite realised this until much later on in our lives when we reflect on the influential people who helped shape who we are. Of course  families are big part of this too but for many of us the teachers who we have engaged with throughout our lives have been a massive influence. I am sure you will also have your Hero or Shero from your school days? At St. Helen’s College we have such inspirational teachers who will bring out the best in your children, ignite their awe and wonder in the world and challenge them to step out of their comfort zone to try new things. We encourage children to ask questions and give them an out of the box experience - the more hands on we can make our curriculum the more the children will remember, engage and enjoy.  As teachers we need to inspire our children for them to have the desire to aspire! On Saturday I attended the Chartered College of Teachers annual conference in London and met and listened to some inspirational educators.  One of the women who has left an impression on me was Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock MBE.  Maggie attended 13 different schools growing up and she was diagnosed with dyslexia. Her family were not affluent but they were engaged with their daughter’s education and allowed her to follow her dreams.   Sadly when Maggie told a teacher that her dream was to be an astronaut she was told to consider nursing as that was scientific too! Thankfully that would not happen here! Dr. Maggie is currently a Space Optical Instrumentation Manager, who designs many space instruments, and she has been involved in developing the Gemini telescope and the James Webb telescope. She also presents ‘The Sky at Night’ and, as a young child, she was fixated with the Clangers (particularly the Soup Dragon!) Listening to Maggie and discussing with other teachers after the event, I felt so proud of the curriculum we offer our pupils and the expertise of the staff we have on board. We also have our very own ‘scientist’ at school, Ms Gilham, whose career as a scientist started at the Medical Research Council based at the University of Sussex where she graduated with a BSc in Biology. As a cellular biologist for MRC, she joined a group to study the effects of the oil spill disaster in the Shetlands in the 90s, and also got involved in the study of skin cells from patients who had a genetic predisposition to skin cancers and how radiation affected their ability to repair their DNA.   Although research is such a dynamic and exciting field, the teaching profession has many benefits as a career. Moreover, she thought that it was more rewarding to teach people on a daily basis than to be pippeting microlitre amounts of chemicals in a test tube or growing skin cells in a petri dish! Ms Gilham then trained as a secondary science teacher and gained her teaching status, but realised that the year groups were all wrong. At this point, research summoned yet again and she worked at Brunel University, joining a group to study how skin cells get transformed to immortalised cells. This work was part of a study to help understand how mutations occur that might lead to the formation of skin cancer cells. It was an exciting job as skills involved the use of cellular biology techniques as well as molecular biology where genes relating to the regulation of cell growth were studied. Not many primary science teachers can say that they could sequence a gene! Ms Gilham’s passion for science and the benefits of research were her drive in the ten years she was in research. It is the same passion and love of science, plus the idea of inspiring children to become future scientists, that now keeps Ms Gilham in the teaching profession where she finally has found her niche in the primary classroom. Ms Gilham chose teaching over the opportunity to do her PhD! She absolutely loves the way children respond to her whenever they do experiments every single day in their science lessons. It is not only in Science but across the curriculum and throughout the school day, from Ducklings Kindergarten through the EYFS and up to Upper School, that all of our staff inspire your children with a three-pronged attack: they are great role models, they keep learning relevant and they continue to challenge and questions the children to heighten that sense of wonder about the world. Teaching is the most important profession in the world and it is a privilege to be part of this unique vocational profession.   This was recognised just this week by Sir Ridley Scott  when he gave an emotional speech on the night he received his Bafta Fellowship. The legendary filmmaker received a standing ovation from an audience full of stars of the silver screen. During his eight-minute speech, the 80-year-old also said he believed teaching was “the most important of all professions”. He said: “Sort that out and social problems will get sorted out. It sounds simple but we’ve been talking about it for years and it’s absolutely vital. My teachers inspired me.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eV_c6fjf4Ec&feature=youtu.be  (Sir Ridley Scott) https://www.theguardian.com/membership/video/2014/oct/15/space-scientist-maggie-aderin-pocock-power-dreams-video  (Maggie Aderin Pocock) Mrs. Drummond    
Posted on: 9/02/2018

Head's Blog - Pride

  I can hardly believe that we are at half term already and it is with a great sense of pride that I reflect on the beginning of 2018: Joyous January and Forte February! I always feel that it is important to enter the New Year feeling joyous about the year ahead and looking forward to what it will bring. Despite the joy of Christmas being over and in spite of the darkness surrounding us early in the morning and early in the evening we must remain joyful! February is upon us already -  Forte February - forte meaning ‘strength’ or ‘talent’ and a measure of mindset and attitude over ego and a lack of awareness. (I revisit this from last year!) It is in ‘Forte February’ that we should recognise the talents and strengths of everyone we spend time with, children and adults, celebrate abilities and gifts, take time for self-care and promote well-being.   In your children we have had so much to celebrate this half term; it has been an action packed half term with the children giving so much of themselves to their studies but also to the enriched co-curriculum programme of activities we offer here at St. Helen’s College. I am not about to list all the wonderful achievements of our pupils - the weekly newsletter, class blogs and photo galleries are testament to what an amazing community we have! We encourage the children to promote their own talents and to be able to do this without ‘showing off’ can sometimes be a challenge. They all have that inner strength to celebrate and we are developing this ability in every single pupil. Self-esteem, resilience, strength of character and a positive sense of self is something to promote and be proud of.   So this half term do take time with your family to be PROUD of your children but also to be proud of what every member of your family has achieved.  Below are a few synonyms to start the conversations! I am pleased with….I am glad that...I am happy with...I am delighted with... synonyms: pleased (with), glad (about/at), happy (about/at/with), delighted (about/at/with), joyful (at), overjoyed (at/over), thrilled (at/about/by/with), well pleased (with), satisfied (with), gratified (at), content (at), appreciative (of)   Have a wonderful half term holiday and thank you to everyone - pupils, parents and staff - for such a great first half term of 2018! Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 2/02/2018

Head's Blog - Reporting To Parents

Having worked in a range of schools prior to taking up the Headship of St. Helen’s College, I have been privy to a wide range of reporting methods. As a parent myself I always looked forward to my daughter’s Parents’ Evenings and to the report card coming home from school. She herself attended three different schools and they all reported to parents in different ways.  As parents, we all want to know that our precious ones are happy at school, developing their interpersonal skills and making good friendships and of course making progress in their subjects. Parents also want to know how we can support our children’s learning and personal development at home. Parents’ Evenings are one of the ways in which we report to our parents and we are aware that time restriction is a factor at these evenings. Teachers and parents alike could spend hours discussing a child’s learning thus this is why we have an open door policy and our staff are happy to meet with parents if they have a query regarding their child’s progress at any time - not just in the designated Parents’ Evening slot! Report cards are another way in which we are able to communicate with parents regarding your children’s learning.  I am sure that you all expect the report to be informative about how your child is progressing, not only academically but as an individual person in their own right and how you may be able to support your child at home. At St. Helen’s College, we pride ourselves on our school aims: Love of Learning To nurture a love of learning, and to develop fully every child’s academic potential. Through challenging, stimulating and creative teaching we aim to nurture the ability to think critically, creatively and flexibly, to work both independently and collaboratively, to be self-motivated and to persevere, and thereby to achieve high levels of scholarship while developing a lifelong love of learning. Outward Development To encourage all children to discover and develop their own excellence by participating in the widest range of challenging activities. We aim to encourage exploration, discover talent, nurture interest, and inspire achievement across the full range of creative, aesthetic, sporting and academic domains. We place great emphasis on activities which bring out the best in children. Inward Development To instil traditional Christian values and to nurture strength of character, so that the children will be ready to face, with integrity and confidence, the many challenges of adult life. We aim to instil core Christian values, to teach mindful self-awareness, to inspire virtue, confidence, imagination and versatility, and thereby to nurture confident, compassionate, creative, communicative, self-aware, adaptable citizens and leaders of the future. It is with this in mind that it is important that your children understand the ‘Habits of Learning’ which they need to develop in order to be a successful learner and flourish as an individual, ready for their journey through life. We encourage our pupils to develop the following habits in all that they do at school: To be organised and prepared for the day, for each lesson and for each activity they do To be able to work independently in their tasks without always seeking adult support or reassurance (including homework) To be able to collaborate with both their peers and adults in class and out of lessons To take initiative in their learning, think for themselves without waiting to be prompted, seize opportunities and be resourceful by having the ability to find quick and clever ways to overcome difficulties To have self-discipline - that ability to control one's feelings and overcome one's weaknesses This term, alongside reporting on academic achievement, we will be reporting to parents on your child's 'Habits of Learning'. We hope this will be very insightful and helpful to you and to your children. All teachers who work with your children will be able to comment on these habits and how they are developing in their subject area and the form tutor will then look at the child’s general ‘Habits of Learning’ across all subjects.    I know that if I had been given this type of information about my daughter when she was younger I may have done some things differently with her!  Do remember that your children are often very different at school than at home and the profile that the school has of a child can be quite different from what you see at home. This is why it is so important to establish good communication between home and school! Parent conferences and report cards are such a small part of how we communicate about your children’s journey at St. Helen’s College - so do keep the channels of communication open so that we may all bring out the best for each pupil in our care.
Posted on: 26/01/2018

Head's Blog - Reading

It was wonderful to see so many parents attending our reading information sessions across the school this week. Parental support is key for children’s learning outcomes and your attendance this week speaks volumes. I am sure that  Mr. McLaughlin, Head of English, and Mrs. Hunt, Head of Lower School, have inspired everyone and given you all food for thought. The conversations I had with parents after the meetings were very honest and I am sure reflect the home lives of many modern families. Sadly, the good intentions that many parents have at the start of the academic year can slip as life becomes busy. It is all too easy to end up hearing your child read in the back of the car or in the kitchen while you are multi-tasking, making dinner, checking emails and so on. However, time does need to be allocated to that wonderful experience of sharing your child’s reading book. This is the most important homework that we give the children. The foundation for successful reading and comprehension lies in the early years when children are unlocking that door to the kingdom of learning. 'Learning to Read’ will progress into ‘Reading to Learn’, and the development of secure comprehension skills, in particular, underpins how a child can access the curriculum in all subjects as he or she moves through their educational journey. ‘Book talk’ is enormously important, so please do spend time with your child asking them questions about the book they are reading; this will deepen their understanding and appreciation of the text. I know that Mr. McLaughlin shared some sample question prompts for parents and many of our reading scheme books have superb information for parents on the inside and back covers - please do take a look. Just as importantly, we can be the best role models to our children. Let your children see you reading! Seeing adults using reading as a purposeful activity to further learning or for joy and relaxation will underline to children how worthwhile an activity reading really is. This needs to be continued through your children's teenage years, when too often they feel bombarded with course reading for GCSE and A levels! Do remind them of the joy of reading or even pull out their favourite baby book from years gone by. My 18 year old daughter still enjoys snuggling in bed with me as we share her furry bound book we shared when she was a toddler - reciting the book from cover to cover - it still brings a tear to my eye as we chuckle at the simple story line and repetitive pattern of the book. The joy and emotional bond that reading together creates between children and adults lives forever. When you are out and about, why not have your children read the signs in the supermarket or the road signs? Or you might plan a day out by reading together from the visitor guide at the attraction you are visiting. Many museums, castles and National Trust attractions have their own children’s guides…so do encourage your children to read and plan the day. Not only will they be applying their reading skills but they will be using and developing many other skills such as  mapping skills, telling the time or learning about history - there is a whole world of learning to embrace in your family time outside of school. Many of us have been visiting our local parks for years but have never noticed some of the information boards that have been put in place to inform us about our local surroundings. The National Heritage, RSPB and Wildlife Trust have all invested in wonderful notice boards which children can read and learn from.   Our pupils at St. Helen’s College are fortunate in that there is such a buzz around visiting the libraries both in Lower School and Upper School. The pupils know that libraries are special places and are always excited to visit and seek out new reads and recommendations from their peers. Why not visit other libraries or bookshops with your children outside of school too, so that pupils can share with you the excitement of finding a new and interesting book. Thank you for your support in your children’s learning journey. I hope that our reading evenings have perhaps rekindled your own passion for reading and given you some useful tips on how to support your children in what is the most wonderful (and important) skill to learn and then use! HAPPY READING! Mrs. Drummond
Posted on: 19/01/2018

Head's Blog - The Chartered College of Teaching

  In February 2017 I attended the inaugural conference of the ‘The Chartered College of Teaching’. It was an exciting launch for the College which has been set up as a teacher-led organisation to support professional development, promote and share evidence-informed practice, and recognise excellence. The key aims of the College were to develop a chartered teaching programme, to encourage teachers to engage with research-informed pedagog and to provide the best teaching for the best outcomes for pupils.   I have attended several Chartered College events throughout the year and was so proud recently to attend a regional hub event, on a Wednesday evening after school hours, along with ten members of staff from St. Helen’s College. The event organiser was overwhelmed by the numbers of St. Helen’s College staff in attendance! So often in education teachers feel that the only way to progress their careers is to go into leadership thus we end up losing many excellent teachers from the classroom. This can be very unsettling for school communities if it means there is no continuity and consistency for the school.  We are very fortunate at St. Helen’s College that we have a very dedicated and motivated team and a very low turnover of staff. Our staff are so committed to improving pedagogy and practice to be the best practitioners we can be for your children. This month sees the launch of the pilot programme for teachers to achieve chartered teacher status. I am delighted that Ms Matthews, Head of EYFS, has been selected as one of the 150 participants to embark on this rigorous 14 month programme.  She will join teachers from around the UK and two international schools as part of the first cohort. Becoming a chartered teacher will be hard to achieve and the planned programme is demanding, but we know that Ms Matthews will bring her expertise to the programme and as a school we will also gain from the work she will undertake. I have also been invited to sit on the assessment board for this cohort of the Chartered Teacher programme and, in so doing,  I am honoured to represent St. Helen’s College and the independent sector.  Feel free to view the video on the link below - Justine Greening’s speech had clearly touched a nerve with me that day! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jn6e2jmfVwk
Posted on: 12/01/2018

Head's Blog - Ready, Respectful, Safe

We are at the end of our first week back and I hope that your children may have already enlightened you as to our new mantra. Perhaps you have heard your child using the phrase ‘Ready, Respectful, Safe’ or repeating part of the phrase. Last Friday, all members of our St. Helen’s College staff community participated in a superb morning of training which was delivered by a company called Pivotal Education. The company is run by a husband and wife team, Paul and Ellie, and they are supported by their team of trainers who all hold the same values and vision to inspire and motivate school staff and to create measurable change in behaviour, relationships and learning.   I have heard both Paul and Ellie speak at various conferences and Teachmeet events and am delighted that every adult who comes into contact with your children at school has now benefited from the Pivotal principles. We are now embracing some basic routines to continue to help our pupils to benefit from all that we offer at St. Helen’s College and to help them develop as responsible individuals. Over the course of the year we will be further reviewing our behaviour policy and the structures and routines that we currently have at school, but our starting point is to develop the pupils understanding of what it is to be: ‘Ready’ Ready for learning, ready to listen, ready to go to lunch etc. ‘Respectful’ Showing respect to their peers, to adults, to their environment, to themselves. ‘Safe’ Safe in their learning environment, safe with the people around them and safe in the activities in which they are taking part. I am sure that the phrase may also be helpful at home and you might already be considering the occasions when it may be very useful to use! When there are so many people interacting with children, it is important that we all have the same expectations and that we are consistent in our approach. I know that we all like routine, from the number of conversations that I have had this week with parents and staff about how we all enjoy holidays, but how that lack of structure and routine during the holiday period can be quite taxing and detrimental for children and adults alike! So, as we embark on our 2018 journey with Joyous January I hope that you will also embrace our mantra of Ready, Respectful, Safe.   For those of you who like reading, Paul Dix has just published his superb book which is not only entertaining by incredibly useful for not only teachers but also parents! ‘When the Adults Change, Everything Changes’ https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Adults-Change-Everything-Changes/dp/1781352739 Mrs. Drummond
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 http://www.rhysconcessao.com/index.html. 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

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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