I’m still getting used to submitting the newsletter from my home and not with the busy sounds of pupils outside my office. The physical separation we are currently experiencing is new for us all, but our goals and priorities remain the same: our amazing pupils, your wonderful children. We are all working extremely hard to do our very best, and in that we are united.
In times of difficulty, one sure-fire way to help us find security and calm is through gratitude. Earlier this year, I read Christine Carter’s ‘The Sweet Spot’ with the aim of finding maximum productivity alongside energy and happiness. It can be challenging to maintain a calm, creative and positive outlook when faced with difficult and uncomfortable tasks. However, making time to reflect on the good parts of each day can have a significant impact on our mindset, mood and outlook. This week I have been especially grateful for the messages of positive feedback that have brightened my inbox. It is lovely to experience your gratitude for the hard work and efforts of our committed teachers and support staff. I continue to be inspired by things that they are doing each day: carefully planned lessons and learning opportunities, extensive feedback promoting engagement, and positive interaction and support for colleagues, parents and pupils. So thank you, for recognising that although things are different, they are done with experience, wisdom and a whole lot of love for our precious children.
There is no doubt that when we return to school, things cannot go back to exactly how they were before. I am excited to see what this could look like. We will have all upskilled and adapted to new ways of working and interacting with each other. You have all been into my home and attended my assembly! I never thought I would write that sentence! Let’s continue to enjoy the best bits of this time in the knowledge that everything we do in the future will have added wisdom and experience with the potential to be even better than before.
From the Head of Pre-Prep
I have had some more positive emails this week and a good Zoom conversation with the Year 1 Reps so I can see that you are all beginning to get to grips with home learning through Tapestry and Seesaw. I know that it is a stressful time for you all, but I would like to say what a good job you are doing of listening to our video clips and following our instructions. Give yourselves a pat on the back!
Looking at some of the work the children are doing at home and some of the lovely video clips of the children really helps St Michael’s teachers. We are all missing your children. The buildings are not the same with only a handful of children in them. Thank you for your understanding if your child’s work is not marked every day as several teachers have their own children at home to teach as well as getting work organised for the next week and being on the rota to come into school to teach key workers’ children.
If you haven’t looked at St Michael’s on Twitter for a while, I urge you to look at some of the Prep school artwork that was posted this week. There are some very clever interpretations of famous paintings and they have attracted some great interest from galleries and artists. It shows just how St Michael’s is about developing the whole child and giving them an all-round education. Well done to everyone who took part.
If any of you would like to share overheard comments from your children at home, I am happy to share them in the newsletter if you wish to email them to me. They will of course be anonymous.
Let’s hope the sun shines this weekend.
We’re delighted to announce that Emily Balcombe has been appointed as part-time teacher in the Music Department, teaching pupils in Years 3-5.
Emily has worked as a singing teacher at St Michael’s for the last 10 years, and is absolutely delighted to now have the opportunity to work with all of the year 3-5 pupils in their class music lessons.
She grew up in a very musical family and often performed in concerts around the country with her siblings. Singing has always been a real passion of Emily’s, and she deems herself lucky to have worked with some fantastic choirs. She has also taught in theatre schools, coaching children for lots of different West End shows.
Emily lives in Tonbridge with her family, and enjoys going to the theatre, dancing, and socialising with her friends.
Fantastic Fundraising for the NHS
We’re so proud of our Year 6 pupil, L Clapham, who has raised funds for his local NHS Trust. Here’s his story:
Going bald for the NHS
I didn’t want a haircut at home during lockdown. However, seeing the doctors and nurses risk their lives every day tackling the coronavirus, I wanted to show them my appreciation. I know we are fortunate with our situation, but others are not so lucky.
I hoped being filmed going bald could raise a little money for the NHS. It would also be fun seeing the transformation to my head.
I have raised £622.50 for the local Maidstone & Tunbridge Wells NHS charitable trust fund. This was much more than I thought we would get.
On the day of the haircut I was a little nervous when the shaver came out. Friends and family had nominated my little sister to do most of the shaving. It was OK though; I still have two ears.
It’s actually great not having to brush my hair. Stroking it feels very satisfying – I might even go bald again in the future!
St Michael’s P&F
There are two important announcements from the P&F on our Message Board and Community page, including a St Michael’s radio station for the children and an incredible yoga effort to raise funds for one of the charities which would have been supported by the Summer Ball.
Our Prep School Art Challenge has been a phenomenal success, with galleries and artists from all over the world responding to your images. Read more about it in our article and see more images on our Twitter page and in our online gallery.
As you can see, the Art Department have received an overwhelming number of images from you all. Please don’t worry if you don’t see your picture in the gallery yet, it’s still a work in progress!
Two former St Michael’s pupils have been selected for the final phase of the England Under 16 Hockey Assessments.
Lottie Bingham and Anna Faulstich, who attended St Michael’s until July 2017, have remained great friends and play hockey together at HC Knole Park.
Lottie said “ I loved playing hockey at St Michael’s and I am delighted that Anna, my best friend , has joined me in the England training programme that I was also selected for last year. We are both very jealous that St Michael’s now have a wonderful, new astro pitch at school!“
Both girls were also members of the successful Year 6 St Michael’s who won the regional IAPS and came 5th in the National Finals .
Congratulating the girls on their achievement, Mr Thomas, who taught them at St Michael’s, said: “We are extremely proud of Lottie and Anna and all they have achieved since they left St Michael’s. They were extremely hardworking in all their sports at school and it is great to hear that they have taken their hockey to such a high level. We look forward to hearing how they get at the trials and someday welcoming them back to play on our new pitch.”
Many congratulations to Lottie and Anna, St Michael’s wishes them the best of luck in the next phase of assessments.
A former St Michael’s student has been awarded an Honorary Sports Scholarship to support her excellence in athletics.
Harriet Medlen, who attended the school between 2011 and 2018, has received the scholarship from Sevenoaks School.
Harriet, who is in Year 9 at Sevenoaks School, said: “My time at St Michael’s helped me to develop my love of sport especially athletics and hockey. I have very happy memories of sports days and Mrs Wade taking me to IAPs athletics competitions. I am very grateful to all the teachers at St Michael’s for their encouragement during my time there. I am proud to have achieved a sports scholarship at Sevenoaks School and I am looking forward to making the most of this opportunity.”
And commenting on Harriet’s success, St Michael’s teacher Mrs Wade said: “It is great to hear that Harriet has been awarded an Honorary Sports Scholarship from Sevenoaks School. We are extremely proud of what she has achieved since leaving St Michael’s. Harriet is an excellent games player and an outstanding athlete. She was very hardworking in her sports at St Michael’s and it is great to hear that she continues to achieve highly. Well done, Harriet!”
Don’t judge a book by its cover, it’s the first chapter that holds all the secrets!
“Good readers, make excellent writers.” says St Michael’s Library Assistant, Helen Yarrow, who has launched an exciting reading initiative in the Prep school this term.
Mrs Yarrow, who joined the St Michael’s team in September 2020, is passionate about books and believes children should read a variety of genres and authors before they choose what’s best for them.
Keen to implement this strategy at St Michael’s, Mrs Yarrow has introduced First Chapter Friday, a project designed to get pupils reading a range of books, rather than the same authors, characters and storylines over again.
First Chapter Friday sees pupils receive a list of 10 books, suited to the reading proficiency of their year group, each term. Every Friday, pupils read the first chapter of a new book with their form groups before deciding whether to continue reading it in their own time.
Mrs Yarrow said: “The aim of First Chapter Friday is to help the children find a book they really want to read.
“By exposing the children to books that they wouldn’t normally pick off the bookshelf, it introduces them to a range of subjects, and inevitably fosters their love of reading.”
Helen added: “Some form groups choose to read the chapter independently during the sessions, some listen to their form teachers reading the chapter, and some take turns to read different paragraphs.”
“By inviting pupils to read sections of the chapter out loud, the form tutors are also helping to develop the pupils’ language acquisition and public speaking skills. The challenge has many benefits to it.”
Titles on this term’s First Chapter Friday lists include both fiction and non-fiction books spanning a variety of themes and genres.
One popular title is Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill, which Sean C from Year 6 describes as “extremely interesting”. He added: “I really enjoy Shackleton’s Journey because it takes you on an adventure, showing you how Shackleton’s crew survived and what they encountered along the way.
“My favourite part of the book is where it describes how they escaped their sinking ship.
“Since reading it with my form during First Chapter Friday, I’ve enjoyed coming to the library to read more of it at break and lunch times.”
And explaining the planning process behind First Chapter Friday, Mrs Yarrow said: “I create the reading lists using recommendations from websites such as Love Reading for Kids as well as my own research.
“I try to ensure the First Chapter Friday books are 2020 titles to keep them in tune with modern authors and contemporary ideas.”
“This term I’ve included a range of titles focusing on the Black Lives Matter movement and Black History, as well as those written by black authors. Such books include The Faraway Truth by Janae Marks, Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly, and The Wild Way Home by Sophie Kirtley.”
She added: “First Chapter Friday encourages form groups to discuss the different topics linked to each book. It is designed to make the sessions an interactive experience which is both fun and educational for the children.”
Other favourites from Mrs Yarrow’s reading lists include The Battle of Bubble and Squeak by Philippa Pearce, The Giver by Lois Lowry, and A Boy Called Hope by Lara Williamson.
Mrs Yarrow said: “Different pupils gravitate towards different books, but there have been some very clear favourites.”
She continued: “I get the children to read the first chapter of the book as it’s in these pages that the author establishes the hook of their novel.
“Friday Chapter Friday helps pupils recognise the importance of a first chapter and shows them various ways they can make their writing engaging.
“One of the main aims of the initiative is to inspire the children to write their own stories.”
My son began his journey at St Michael's last Friday in the Nursery class and, one week on, I have to write to say how impressed I am and how thrilled we are with our decision to send him to such an amazing school.
The approach to settling them in has been perfect!
St Michael’s is a wonderful school. Fantastic teachers, a nurturing environment. It has suited our three children who are all very different in their academic and pastoral needs. Thank you.
Year 6 Parent
St Michael's is a place where I can let my imagination run wild.
Year 6 pupil
We were struck by the warmth and kindness of everyone we met; pupils as well as staff. We believe in giving our son the right start and instilling in him the joy of learning and satisfaction from achievement. We can see this happening at St Michael’s
My daughter has had such a wonderful school life at St.Michael’s. We really couldn’t have asked for a better school for her in terms of academic life, extra-curricular activities and friendship groups. We still can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by and that she will soon be leaving!