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

Latest News

As Y5 pupil, C Hunter, explained during Monday’s assembly, Sevenoaks School has organised weekly food/supply collections for those in need during these very uncertain times.  The collections have benefited local organisations such as One Big Family: Helping the Homeless, Friends for Families, The Hygiene Bank, Sevenoaks Food Bank: Loaves & Fishes, Community Cupboard, area primary schools and others.  Miss Cat Davison, the School’s Director of Service and Social Impact, updates its online social media feeds (@sevenoaksimpact on Twitter and Instagram) with the items needed each week.  We hope that you will consider helping with this effort.  Together we can make a huge difference for those living right here in our community!
The details of the collections are provided below.  If you do wish to participate, please ensure that items are unopened and handled with washed or sanitised hands, and that social distancing is strictly adhered to on delivery.
What: Food, Supplies (check social media links for current needs)
When:   Every Tuesday, 9am – 12pm
Where: Outside Claridge House, Sevenoaks School,TN13 1HU
(Claridge House is just to the right of the main entrance of Knole Park on High Street)
On Monday our community-minded pupil also discussed a book collection which took place earlier this year for children in Ghana.  Below are photos of EduSpots centres where the books are available for local communities throughout Ghana.

We’ve been amazed by the phenomenal success of the Art Department’s recent challenge “Painting without Paint”. Set as part of our remote learning programme, children were asked to select a work of art of their choice and to recreate it at home – but without using paint!

The Art Department has been overwhelmed by submissions, which Miss Rodwell, described as “creative, humorous and inventive”. She added “Staff have been impressed by submissions that showed how carefully the children have looked at their chosen artworks in order to create such brilliant responses.”

Posts on our Twitter account have received positive responses from prestigious art galleries, such as the Tate and the National Gallery, with The Lowry in Manchester commenting “Wow, we love this!!” on T Neville’s version of L S Lowry’s “Man Lying on a Wall”. But it’s not just art galleries in the UK, who have responded to the children’s art; their work has been liked by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen in Dresden and the Mauritshuis in Den Haag. One Year 3 pupil, who was inspired by artist Aja Trier, even reached New York, as permission was sought to post an image of one of her paintings. She was delighted to allow us to feature her work and on seeing J Gagg’s interpretation commented “Oh my gosh that is precious! Please tell the artist I love it! I will post on my Instagram and Facebook. Thank you!” She went on to tell us “I am always so humbled when kids are inspired by my work, but this is next level!”

In order to show you all the wonderful work our pupils have done, we’ve put together an online gallery of the work. Talking about the project and the reaction, Mrs Barratt declared “This is wonderful!” and reactions from other schools included the comment “Excellent work St Michael’s Art Department this is a really fun activity”.

Mrs Bridges told us “I am absolutely delighted, and inspired, by the way that the children have responded to these challenges. Creativity is keeping us connected, not only within our own community but across the world too!”

We can’t wait to see what the department comes up with next. Miss Rodwell is keeping us in suspense “I’ve been working on a new one today …”. We’re sure that our pupils will have even more opportunity to excel!

Click here to view our online gallery of more ingenious images.

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!

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