eNews: Friday 6th September 2019

From the Head

Welcome back everyone! And an especially warm welcome to all our new pupils, their families and the new staff. I hope you had a wonderful summer and a great start to the new year.

One of the fantastic things about the holidays is that it enables me to see my own adult children who live in other countries now. With the flights that were taken by our family this summer I was impressed that my children have offset their carbon travel footprint and where feasible travelled across land by public transport rather than flying. We didn’t reach the impressive levels that Greta Thunberg did, sailing across the Atlantic to attend the climate conference, but I confess my children’s actions have encouraged me to do the same.

This summer I had the added excitement of learning that in January I will become a grandmother. As we as a family have become used to the idea that the next generation is on the way and have begun to think about the responsibility of that, it’s been lovely also to watch the preparations, the reading, the commitment and the sense of anticipation at the impending new arrival.

One of the unexpected gains of the reading material that my son and his wife are working through is the delightful news that all the pointers to good parenting outlined in the book, which is based on scientific research about childrearing, are things that largely they recognised as having been done by us to them. Hurrah, I say. Well done us.

But of course as we were reminded in our training this week, this most important job of bringing up children is something that as parents we simply do not have training for and so it is vital to share worries, challenges, theories and learning on the subject with other parents so that collectively we can learn to do exactly what is needed to bring out the very best in our children.

As the new year begins in earnest this week, the staff have enjoyed three days of training and preparation and some quality input from a range of professionals to help and guide them, as every year, in reflecting and refining what they do. We’ve covered safeguarding, working closely with parents, using TAs effectively, thinking about increasing engagement through questioning, training about IT and lifeguarding. It’s been a busy time but a stimulating one.

But for us the learning doesn’t stop when the teaching starts. In fact the opposite is true because as receptive and reflective practitioners we gather information all day long about what is needed by our pupils and you as parents can help us in that endeavour by letting us know significant things that will help us respond. Certainly teaching is shaped by the feedback we get, by the engagement we sense, by the inspiration we detect and we learn from as well as about the pupils we teach.

Just as I learnt from my adult family this summer so too we all learn from collaborating with you and with your children. Here’s to a fantastic year together !

Jill Aisher

Staff News

Patrick O’Keefe, Governor of St Michael’s

A Sevenoaks resident since the age of 10 and degree educated in construction management at the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), Patrick has spent his entire working career at the O’Keefe Group, joining the company from university and having a leadership role for over 20 years. At the O’Keefe Group, Patrick has delivered controlled growth over this period as well as continued investment in their people and their infrastructure.

Patrick has worked with a number of Non Executive Directors as well as furthering his own development at the London Business School. He also acts as a consultant in the field of Family Business and works as a mentor for young executives working in various sectors, but within a family business unit. Patrick has worked with a variety of charitable sports clubs local in the area, working with the senior management teams

Patrick’s three children all attended St Michael’s over a 16 year period from 2002 to 2018. We are delighted he is joining the governing body.

Tatyana Syradford, Peripatetic Piano Teacher


Tatyana Stratford is a piano graduate of the St. Petersburg State Conservatoire, Russia (Bachelor’s Degree in Piano Performance, Chamber Ensemble, Piano Accompaniment and Teaching) with a strong background and passion for music education. Tatyana combines a rigour of Russian Piano School and a holistic, healthy appoach of teaching music through singing and movement. She is inspired by Kodaly, Dalcroze and Colourstrings pedagogical methods.

Tatyana understands that every child is unique and tries to tailor piano lessons individually to their abilities. Her aim is to foster confidence at the piano, an enjoyment of music making, a creative imagination and fundamentals such as as the development of technical proficiency, sight reading skills and to be able to play piano with artistry.


Tatyana believes that music stays with us for the rest of our lives. It develops intellectual, cognitive abilities, balances and enriches our emotional world, improves reading and discipline, and increases children’s creative capabilities. Being introduced to a good quality music education is fundamentally important for a growing child.

Tatyana’s interests apart from music are theatre, history of art, philosophy, walking and camping.



Mike Guy, Peripatetic Piano Teacher

Over the past fifteen years, Mike has been involved in a wide variety of musical
genres and performing situations, and currently maintains a busy schedule as
professional performer on accordion and piano/keyboards, as well as working
as a musical director and composer/arranger.
Originally from Melbourne, in 2004 Mike spent a few months in the Caribbean
before moving to London, where he has worked with a host of UK and
international talent including Sophie Solomon, The Puppini Sisters, Nina Ferro,
Osvaldo Chacon, Roberto Pla, Lisa Stansfield, Dame Edna Everage, Macy Gray,
the National Symphony Orchestra, Anais Mitchell, Todd Sickafoose and others.
Mike performs regularly at a host of venues throughout central London,
including the Quecumbar, the 606 Club, the Vortex, the Spice Of Life,
Pizza Express Dean Street, the Pheasantry and others.
Mike enjoys cycling, reading and cooking, and is looking forward very much to
commencing work at St Michael’s.

Jess Haynes, Gap Student

Jess is very excited to be returning to St Michael’s as a Gap Year Student. She was a pupil here from 2008 to 2014, before winning a sports scholarship to Kent College Pembury where she completed her education. Her hobbies include many different sports and activities such as netball, photography and travel.

Jess plays netball for London Pulse U21’s and last year toured Australia with the England U17’s squad. She has also achieved her Sports Leaders Qualification where she coached younger children of all abilities. Jess is really looking forward to joining the team at St Michael’s!

News from Pre-Prep

• Monday 9th Sept Year 2 parents coffee morning 8.45am – 9.30am
• Tuesday 10th Sept Year 1 parents coffee morning 8.45am – 9.30am
• Wednesday 11th Sept Reception parents coffee morning 8.45am – 9.30am
• Monday 16th Sept Nursery Mon/Wed/Fri parents coffee morning 8.45am – 9.30am
• Tuesday 17th Sept Nursery Tues/Thurs parents coffee morning 8.45am – 9.30am
• Wednesday 18th September Kindergarten parents coffee morning 8.45 – 9.30am

Welcome to the Michaelmas term. It was so lovely to see all the smiling faces on Thursday morning despite many of you having been held up by more than one lorry!
I am so pleased that Stable Court is back in proper use after 6 years. The builders BMR, have done a brilliant job on the sympathetic refurbishment of our building and the Year 2 children are very excited to be the first children using the classrooms. I know over time there will be art work to complement the spaces. If you need to access the Year 2 classrooms at any time you will need to go via our Pre-Prep main building and sign in as at Reception as normal. You will not be able to get through the black gates into the courtyard.

I am sure you have labelled every item of clothing but if I could remind you to label book bags, snack boxes and wellies it really does help the Pre-Prep staff to return things to the right child.

I know you have all received a letter requesting that you keep your child at home if they are poorly, or if they have been sick, for a minimum period of 48 hours. Please do help us to keep our school a healthy one by respecting this, especially as we have a child with a compromised immune system.

During the next two weeks I will be holding coffee mornings for parents of each year group in the Pre-Prep dining room. You are welcome to join me from 8.45am. There will be plenty of time to ask any questions and I intend to finish the coffee mornings with a tour of Stable Court if you so wish.

Overheard: I’m grown up now!

Have a lovely weekend.

Zerrin Leech

Reminder– Late Payment Fee

As previously advised, we have introduced a late payment fee of £100 with effect from 5th September 2019, which will apply if the debt has not been paid within 21 days from the due date, (usually the first day of term).

A reminder about late payment fees is shown on our fee invoices. It is also detailed in our terms and conditions and our fee schedule, both of which are available on the school website www.stmichaels.kent.sch.uk

Di Birmingham

Director of Finance and Operations

On this week’s Message Board

Please log into our Parents’ Portal and click into the Message Board to see new important information as follows:

  • Biographies of our new members of staff
  • Young Readers Festival returns to Sevenoaks

On this week’s Community Events page

Please log into our Parents’ Portal and click into the Community Events page to see community information as follows:

  • Young Readers Festival returns to Sevenoaks

Senior School Open Days

These can now be found on our Senior School page. 

Upcoming events include Christ’s Hospital, Cobham Hall, Haileybury, Kent College Pembury, King’s Rochester, Sevenoaks School, Skinner’s School, Tonbridge Girls’ Grammar and Whitgift School.

We’re delighted to announce that our Senior Schools Fair will return to St Michael’s on Thursday 17th October 2019. Keep an eye on our Senior Schools Information page for details.

Latest News



On Wednesday, November 27 Year 5 and 6 pupils took part in a Spelling Bee hosted by Mrs Andrade and Mrs Baisch.

Challenged with spellings such as synonymous, counterfeit, and accommodation, it was an extremely close competition with many tense rounds.

Winner of the Spelling Bee, Moyo in Year 6, triumphed with her correct spelling of the word ‘conscience’.

Commenting on her success, Moyo said: “I really enjoyed taking part in the Spelling Bee and was really surprised to win.

“It was challenging as there were some words I’d never heard of, but it was fun to guess the spellings of these words and apply what I knew about other spellings to my answers.”

“It was great to take part in the competition with my friends.”

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!

                                                       Year 6 and Mrs Yarrow pose with some of the First Chapter Friday books.


“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.”