Head’s Blog 17th November 2017 Friday 17th November 2017

At a senior leadership team away day last Saturday, we focused amongst other things on memories and emotions, some of which were happy and some sad.

The poet and prophet Kahlil Gibran writes in his poem “On joy and sorrow“ :

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

To read the rest of this poem please follow the link http://www.katsandogz.com/onjoy.html

At this sober time of year when we reflect on the death of so many in war, perhaps it helps us to understand more if we remember that pain and pleasure are interdependent.

We cannot understand loss fully unless presence has been enjoyed.

So we were saddened to hear of the death last week of Father Paul Cox formerly Headmaster of St. Michael’s Prep. To his wife Jenny and his daughter Tamsin we extend our deepest condolences. They remain in our prayers at home and at school. The poem resonates as I think of all that Paul and Jenny gave to St Michael’s. My sense of loss is very great and I am sure that I am not alone in this feeling, but it is good to know that this loss is measured In the myriad ways he changed and shaped and developed the school and for that we will be eternally grateful.

Paul was Headmaster here for a decade till he retired in 1990 and before that, coincidentally, was House tutor of my husband at Tonbridge School. We have been delighted to welcome Paul and Jenny to every Prize Giving for four years and only a few weeks ago they were here again for Old Michaelians’ Day.

Jenny founded the Pre-Prep with just three pupils in 1982 and during Paul’s tenure the P&F was born, under its original name “The Friends of St Michael’s.” Paul increased the numbers here, developed weekly boarding, introduced girls to the school and fulfilled a much more widely ranging role then than Heads do now, which included cleaning, hoovering, mowing the grass and organising everything that happened. So when the stable block was converted to become the Pre-Prep they were the manpower along with trusty colleagues. When Paul has visited the school with Jenny lately, they have always offered some new insight into the life they loved here. This was their home and their passion for ten happy years.

Paul spent his last day at home, gardening and finishing a project with Jenny. He became ill quite suddenly and died at home. As a community we mourn Paul’s passing and offer to Jenny and their daughter Tamsin, our deepest condolences. We will hold them in our thoughts and prayers and we will be happy to pass on any letters and cards for them and hope that just as they were upheld in their life by their faith, that at the time they must now be parted that this faith will keep them strong.

A memorial service will take place on Friday 24th November at 12.30pm at St Richards Church, Upper Station Road, Heathfield TN21 8DS and will be taken by Paul’s twin brother, Archdeacon John Cox. Parking will be limited. Donations to the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research.

 

It was good to last week to spend time at the Independent Schools Council‘s special educational needs conference, where a range of stimulating and enlightening talks and workshops filled my day. One of the striking slides in the afternoon presentation was a graph of different coloured undulating lines travelling horizontally, parallel to each other. This graph represented the ups and downs of everyday life within a group and the point was made that children need to learn that the graph of life does go up and down and that down is okay and it will become up. Understanding which activities can make you feel good is an important part of teaching children to self-regulate and look after themselves, whether that be through sport, running around, playing an instrument, creating a work of art or dancing.

I am certain of the importance of being outside in developing well-being and we are lucky that at St Michael’s we have so much space to enjoy.

Children, of course, have the power to lift one’s spirits and I am always better for spending time in classrooms, watching children, listening to them and talking with them.

I was delighted to walk two Headmasters around the site this week, firstly Craig McCarthy from Russell House down the road and secondly Martin Collier, newly appointed Headmaster at Haileybury School. Whilst, psychologically, for some families considering boarding, Haileybury may not be an obvious choice because of its distance, in reality it is only an hour away and as it is an excellent school, it is worth considering for our families at St Michael’s. Haileybury is looking for the abler child, and provides an excellent, broad and rich education. Do go and see what they have to offer.

As we head into the preparations for Advent and Christmas, for some there will be a mixture of joy and sadness.  Our human frailty and the wonderful way in which community can offer strength and support lies too at the heart of that story, to which we will turn our attention in the weeks to come.

I look forward to seeing some of you next week at the St Cecilia’s concert.

If you haven’t already, please do prioritise taking part in our well-being survey.  Your views and responses are crucial to building an effective plan for growth and improvement.

Have a great weekend.

Jill Aisher

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Sunsets and sizzling sausages set the tone for the new term last Friday as Year 7 pupils celebrated the start of their senior education journey.

The annual event, traditionally held as a Camp Out, was delivered as a fun-filled barbecue night which the children enjoyed with teachers including St Michael’s Acting Head, Mrs Bridges.

Throughout the evening pupils tucked into dinner cooked by Deputy Head Mr Wiseman, and toasted marshmallows on an open fire.

And to make use of their new term energy, games and group bonding activites were carried out, followed by a walk up the school’s famous Warren where the sunset was relished in all of its glory.

Reflecting on the sucess of the event, Head of Year 7 and 8, Mrs Shield, said: “Unfortunately, we were unable to camp this year, but that did not dampen anybody’s spirits.

“One of the highlights of the evening was our twilight walk to the top of the Warren where we marvelled at the beautiful site that our school occupies.

“We viewed the bats swirling the skies in the dusk of late summer and ended the evening with a well-deserved hot chocolate – not forgetting the squirty cream and yet more marshmallows.

“Life-long friendships were made and re-established after the long summer break.”

This month St Michael’s Prep is celebrating the opening of its new Astro Turf pitch.

Completed during Summer 2020, the state-of-the-art facility will provide a huge boost to the school’s sporting facilities and allow it to offer a broader range of activities including boys hockey and football to its pupils.

Its floodlights will also enable St Michael’s to host sports matches during evenings, as well as inviting external schools and clubs to enjoy the new pitch throughout the year.

Ben Bridges, Director of Sports at St Michael’s, said: “We’re really excited to use the Astro Turf for the first time this month.

“We feel extremely lucky to be able to offer this to our pupils in both Prep and Pre-prep and are thrilled about the benefits it will bring to our sporting curriculum.

“As well as hockey, the new pitch will allow us to offer many other sports to pupils and will prevent the children from missing lessons due to inclement weather.”

Planning for the Astro Turf began in 2014 and has seen St Michael’s grounds undergo a significant transformation since construction began last summer. During this time pupils were fascinated by the diggers, dumpers and bulldozers which visited the school, while nursery and kindergarten children were treated to close-up views of the machinery.

Mr Bridges added: “Although it was a slightly delayed start due to the poor weather we faced, this feels like the perfect time to put the incredible space to good use.

“This is really going to move sport at St Michael’s to the next level, as well as providing us with opportunities to engage with the local community. We’re excited all round.”

 

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

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