Head’s Blog 30th November 2018 Friday 30th November 2018

In the context of an article about the relationship between exams and children’s mental health, Barnaby Lenon, Chair of the Independent Schools Council wrote in no uncertain terms about his belief in the importance of exams.

I read his article with interest but I cannot say that I agree with him. Healthy debate, I’m sure, will abound about some of the points he makes.

This week we publish our leaflet about the changes we have made to our Year 7 & 8 curriculum and I hope that many of you will enjoy reading about them. Whilst in part the driver for our changes has been the demise of the Common Entrance in Year 8 as the route into senior schools at Year 9, the changes we have made, which include the way in which we will assess excellence and understanding, are born of a philosophy that is growing within the school; that expressing learning can take so many forms.

Of course in the Prep school world we are not steering our children towards nationally accredited qualifications. Our colleagues in the Secondary sector will at times struggle with the content they are obliged to teach and its relevance and application in the lives of their pupils. I certainly remember dreading the unit in the French GCSE when I had to teach children how to buy petrol or book hotel rooms.

Nevertheless when Mr Lenon says “committing useful knowledge to the long-term memory is one of the main purposes of school education”, I cry “but no!”

Committing facts to long-term memory will in the end be a skill, like map-reading, that some of us will use less and less. We have the internet and research materials and with a couple of touches on the phone we can check all manner of facts.

The roots of the word education lie in Latin. E duco – I lead out. And of course all staff engaged in the life of the school lead children forward into greater learning.

I believe the main purpose of school education is to open the minds and souls of the children we meet, to inspire them, to excite them, to engage them and to celebrate in every conceivable way possible all milestones of their learning as well as equipping them to be creative and committed in their learning, courteous, collaborative and critical thinkers.

This week I had two examples of learning which would not fit behind an exam desk. Firstly on Wednesday we rejoiced again in the myriad ways in which children demonstrated their learning and shared it in the challenge project feedback sessions that were happening for the first hour of the day all over the school. What is extraordinary is that the high expectations and the open ended-ness of tasks set are the markers of advanced thinking and creativity and yet these are embraced by all abilities. The freedom to express learning in film, in display boards, in art or in lively interactive presentations, in film and this time even in cakes is truly phenomenal. Many, many more children achieve high levels of success, pleasure and satisfaction given the choice about how they present their learning.

The second time I faced evidence of learning that could not be collected sat at a desk was when I watched Reception have their final rehearsal for the nativity play next week.

Learning, engagement and enjoyment in Reception took many forms; the child with a great deal to remember and the requirement to concentrate hard and take turns, the child who succeeded in standing still (relatively!) at the appropriate moments, the child who found true expression in movement or singing or performance and the child who perhaps last year looked down and cried and this year spoke lines with pride and joy.

So let’s build on this idea of showing learning in new ways. Let’s keep a healthy respect for exams but know that they are only a part of the purpose of school.

I know parents choose this school because we find ways to affirm and include every child and because we look outwards, question and reflect.

In the run-up to Christmas I look forward to sharing with many of you the milestones in learning that your children have reached.

I also in a different vein look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow at the P&F Christmas bazaar. Rejoice …..those silly jumpers and hats can have an outing that justifies their initial expense!

Have a great weekend and let’s make advent begin in style.

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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