Head’s Blog 1st March 2019 Friday 1st March 2019

Welcome to the second half of the year. I hope you enjoyed a relaxing half-term break.

The past ten days or so have been notable for the wonderful weather, which has been enjoyable for all of us but must signal irrefutably that alarm over climate change is justifiable.

I was slightly dismayed in the final week before half term to receive a communication from the National Association of Headteachers advising heads not to permit children to take time out of school to protest at climate change on Friday 15th of February.

For us it was a staff training day and children were on half term, but had it not been and had I been asked by parents or children if I would have permitted absence to take part in this event, I would certainly have said yes.

The spokesman for Number 10 said that such action “wastes lesson time” and “increases teacher workload”.

There was of course a great deal of debate in the media about the appropriateness of allowing active political engagement on a school day and the importance of being in school in term time, about the likelihood of children and young people being aware enough to be so engaged, and about whether permission to attend, if given, reflected a failure to fulfil one’s duties as Headteacher to ensure attendance and to present politics in an unbiased way.

So how would I respond were a roving reporter to come to St Michael’s Prep?

Well to the question of allowing political engagement on a school day I would say that it is a fact that learning takes many, many forms and is not restricted to “lesson times”. Of course I don’t believe that missing school is something that I should condone. Participation in concerts, foreign travel, local survey and mapping work, library visits, walking through forests, counting birds for the Big Schools’ Birdwatch, organising and running events to raise money for charity are all moments of intense and memorable learning for children at school in the 21st century and they all take place with everyone’s approval in “lesson time” and many of these are certainly not in school.

No one would say that in doing any of these activities that this “wastes lesson time” nor would they say that they shouldn’t take place because the child should be in school.

So yes, I endorse children participating in such a momentous collective protest because I know that there is a powerful sense of exhilaration and connectivity when you belong to a large crowd with a common purpose, whether it be cheering competitors in a football crowd, waving torches and singing at Young Voices concerts or marching towards a civic centre to meet those responsible for decision making in order to bring about change to protect the planet. It’s powerful stuff.

The second argument suggesting that young people cannot fully understand the nature of the predicament of the world or the appropriateness of peaceful protest fails to acknowledge the truth about the young people of today. The young people I work with are wise and savvy, creative and interested, passionate and engaged and they deserve to be heard by those at the very top of our political systems. In fact, I know that those at the top could learn a great deal from them. Failure to seek the views of young people or to give them any credit for their views is completely unacceptable.

Our national curriculum teaches children to respect leaders who changed the law through pursuing passionate protest to improve the world, whether Rosa Parks and her part in the Bus Boycott or Nelson Mandela’s fight for the end to apartheid in South Africa and many more besides. Pedagogically we know that powerful learning is learning by doing.

So I’m sorry we were already on half term that day and that I couldn’t officially join the ranks of those who encouraged and facilitated pupil participation in that action, not because it’s a party political issue but because it is a global issue of immense importance.

What more urgent issue is there to secure a successful future for our children than to make sure that the water and the air and the land remain able to support our population?

The children of today are struggling to understand how adults have let this happen. They are struggling to understand why world leaders permit pollution, the devastation of forests and habitats, the invasive presence of microplastics in all the elements. They are struggling to understand why, when scientists measure and evidence the impact of the melting of the polar ice cap, nobody has come up with a solution to stop this from getting worse.

And of course the only way that we will ever solve this problem that man has created is to work together with people in other countries, understand each other, connect with each other, make rules about how we should live and work together and look after our planet together and stick to these rules and teach values way, way beyond those currently called “British” and required by our inspectorate.

If I prevented pupils from engaging in any action that might make a difference, that is when I would be failing in my duties as a Headteacher.

I hope you have a wonderful 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!

Weekly eNewsletter