Head’s Blog 17th May Friday 17th May 2019

In a week that has been characterised by very little pupil absence from school, and a great deal of quiet time as children sit and demonstrate the written aspect of their learning, it is perhaps good at the end of it to think about how important making mistakes is when we are learning.

My assembly this morning in both parts of the school shared a new book in our library called “Your Fantastic Elastic Brain” by Jo Ann Deak and Sarah Ackerly https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fantastic-Elastic-Brain

As a beautifully illustrated, scientific explanation of the areas within the brain, their discrete functions and their connectivity, it gives all children of whatever age a really clear understanding of how complex and extraordinary our brains are and how much we can influence the brain’s functioning through our resilience to failure and through perseverance.

The analogy with an elastic band is accessible and enabled me to show an elastic band with the knowledge of a five-year-old around a small book and an elastic band with the knowledge of a 13-year-old around a much larger book, but of course in reality the elasticity is not a multiplication of cells but the strengthening of the relations between them in the neuron pathways.

We are lucky to live in an age where it is possible to photograph brains while they are working and one day (perhaps when I grow up!) I would like to learn more about this field of science as there is a direct relationship between this understanding and our ability to influence and ensure mental health.

Some of our training on autism a couple of years ago enabled us to understand completely what happens when a child has a meltdown or “amygdala hijack”. Its central location in the brain and the impact of such a meltdown prevents the functioning of most of the other parts of the rational brain and when you see how much that influences the child’s ability to control themselves and to make sense of what’s happening to them, you understand that giving children time to calm down until they’re ready to listen is the only way of dealing with anybody in this mental state.

This clearly resonated with some of the children in the assemblies and it was pleasing to see them finding it helpful.

I began the week sharing the impressive video made by Greta Thunberg, who spoke at a TED talk about her climate protest.

www.ted.com/talks/greta_thunberg_school_strike_for_climate_save_the_world_by_changing_the_rules

She revealed that she had struggled as she was diagnosed autistic herself and she experienced a very low period of depression when she was 10 and was supported through this difficult time. In what can only be described as a magnificent, extraordinary and moving, not to mention eloquent and impactful speech, Greta talks about how she struggles to understand the rest of humanity who do not see the climate emergency in black-and-white as she does with her autistic brain. What a powerful argument and how much we should be listening to this young person and indeed all of those in our care.

It was great to welcome Simon Larter-Evans, Head of St Paul’s Cathedral School for a visit on Wednesday afternoon. I’m very lucky to be a governor at his school and I enjoy the cross-fertilisation of ideas that comes from getting under the skin of another school, quite apart from the immense pleasure of access to all that glorious music. Later this term we’re taking The Twelve to a choir practice and service in the cathedral and I know it will be a memorable experience.

I look forward to seeing many of you on Sunday at the circus. If you have any complaints, you can get your own back while I’m in the stocks!

Have a great weekend.

Jill Aisher

Latest News

The governors of St. Michael’s Prep School take pleasure in announcing the appointment of Nik Pears as our new Head Teacher with effect from January 2021.

Nik was educated at St Dunstan’s College, London and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He is currently Head of Prep at Kent College Pembury, a post he has held since 2016. Prior to that, he was Headmaster of the Junior School at Sevenoaks Prep for 5 years. Nik is also an ISI inspector and a governor at Dulwich Prep, Cranbrook. We believe that he has the experience and qualities required to lead St Michael’s into the next chapter of its history.

Nik represented Kent U18 group at rugby and has a love of all sports. He is an accomplished musician and has performed at The O2 and Wembley Arenas. He is an Ambassador for “We See Hope”, a charity working with orphans and vulnerable young people in sub Saharan Africa. Nik devised The Social Entrepreneurs Project an initiative that challenges young people to turn £10 seed capital into £100 or more with their profits going to support the work of the charity.

We feel very fortunate to have secured Nik’s headship and welcome him and his wife Emma and two children, Jessica and Josiah into the St. Michael’s family from the start of next year. Nik has said

“I am delighted to have been appointed the next Head of St Michael’s Prep. Having lived in the area for the past twenty years, it is a school I have known and long admired for its ambitious and child-centred approach to learning. There is a very special atmosphere in the school and I am excited to become a part of the community, getting to know the children, parents and staff over the months and years ahead. St Michael’s is privileged to have an experienced and committed Senior Leadership Team and I very much look forward to working together with them as we embark on an exciting future for the school.” 

Some of our super St Michael’s Swimmers have won an array of silverware at recent events.

At the Sevenoaks Swimming Club presentation evening, I Pennington Legh was presented with the Kingsbury Cup for U10 girls; A Green was awarded the Kingsbury Cup for U10 boys; E Green received runner up plate for the best U9 boy; S. Taylor was awarded the Mike Radford Trophy for most improved U9 boy; A Ashton was presented with the U9 Individual Medley Cup and U9 trophy for most improved swimmer; B Tovey and J Taylor were both awarded plaques with their positions from the recent Sevenoaks Club Championships.

At the Black Lion Gala, Gillingham, at the start of March our swimmers again came away with medals. A Ashton won three gold, one bronze, one fourth and one sixth medal; A Green three gold and two silver medals; E Green four silver and one bronze medal; S Taylor one silver and one fourth medal and J Taylor a fourth position medal. V Medlen also came away with a medal from the gala.

Well done to all those swimmers; your hard work and dedication is certainly paying off!

Mrs Denton

Swim School Manager

Well done to our doubles girls, E Julio and S Savidge, who also played in last weekend’s Junior Orange Ball Tournament in Sevenoaks. They played four matches, won two, beating Sevenoaks Prep and Lady Boswell’s and lost two to the eventual finalists Amherst and Granville.

This was a great performance by the girls, particularly in the light of little experience of Orange Ball competition.

Well done!

With around 20 pairs competing, representing 9 schools, pupils S Taylor, D Booth, J Vanderlanh-McKeown and J McDonnell were proud to represent St Michael’s at the Sevenoaks Junior Orange Ball Doubles, held at the Sennock Centre in Sevenoaks on Saturday 7th March.

S Taylor and D Booth started their Orange Ball tournament well with a win against Lady Boswell’s, before losing to a very strong team from Sevenoaks Primary. They followed with a close match against Amhurst Primary which they lost 7-6 and needed two wins from their remaining games to make the final stage. They won the first quite easily against Russell House and then had a tight match against Sevenoaks Prep. It was neck and neck throughout, but they kept their cool and won 7-6.

Their tally of three wins to two losses saw our Year 4 pair through to the play-offs. They had two games against a Year 5 pair from Sevenoaks Prep and New Beacon. They lost both games narrowly, 7-6 and 7-5, finishing 6th overall, which was a good performance given they’re at the younger end of the Orange grouping and the standard of the competition was high.

J Vanderlanh-McKeown and J McDonnell both demonstrated strong teamwork, good sportsmanship and skills. They came up against some strong competition from the other schools but never gave up and kept competing to the end with some great saves, serves and volley. The boys also showed respect towards others and maintained a positive attitude at all times. Both boys really enjoyed the tournament and look forward to improving their position at the next one.
It was great to see both pairs supporting each other throughout the games! Very well done, keep up the good work!

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