Acting Head’s Blog 24th April Friday 24th April 2020

Welcome back for the Trinity Term. It was wonderful to see the children, and many of you, in my assembly yesterday morning and scrolling through pages of smiling faces and warm waves was a great moment. I am very excited to be ‘back’ together. Although we worked continuously through the holidays, the connection with you all was great to re-establish this week and something that I have missed. As I write, I can hear a pastoral Zoom check-in happening in another room and the chatter and fun is a welcome, familiar St Michael’s sound.

Yesterday we ventured into the launch of our new remote learning model and, as with the start of anything, we need the opportunity to find our feet and establish a rhythm. Gordon Baird will be initiating parental feedback once we have experienced a full week of school. I hope that you will all contribute when we have enough experience to make clear judgements.

Some parents have asked us why we are not delivering live lessons so I thought it would be helpful for me to explain our rationale. The reasons are far-reaching, and the bottom line is that we are confident that pre-recorded lesson content is the best, and safest, option for our pupils. Our decisions are based on thorough research and advice from professional bodies. Understandably, people will want something most similar to what we know, what we are comfortable with, as ‘normal’ a school day as possible.  However, if this situation has taught us anything it is that things cannot be the same right now. If we simply attempted to replicate what we traditionally know about an average school day then we could be setting ourselves up to fail.

Research from countries who are further into lockdown has shown that it does not work to try and replicate or attempt to produce what would usually be done in an average day in your school. An example of this would be by continuing with the timetable and having lessons taught live. Schools that have attempted this with younger children were commonly left with pupils who felt frustrated and de-motivated because it is extremely difficult to access teaching explanations and instructions via a live online session. If you were present for yesterday’s assembly, you will have seen the technical glitches and some teachers were unable to remain ‘in’ for the whole assembly due to internet failure.

In the classroom, we are used to collaboration and discussion. This is not possible in a live lesson online. In the classroom, we are used to having instructions or explanations repeated if they are not fully understood. This is not possible in a live lesson online. In the classroom, teachers read and assess understanding through body language and adapt our teaching accordingly. This is not possible in a live lesson online. Therefore, we have thought carefully about how we can accommodate all of our pupils’ needs through rigorously planned and prepared online lessons that can be accessed and repeated as much as and when possible.

By pre-recording our lessons and breaking them down into short, manageable chunks, we can ensure that the pupils absorb content and move on at a pace that is best for them. Any misconceptions or misunderstandings can be dealt with by re-watching explanations and instructions. There will be no bits missed through internet issues, juggling the family management of the household devices or re-scheduling time due to illness. The summer term curriculum has been entirely re-thought and put into this new lesson format. The children will be accessing the right content, teaching and learning for their stage and age and our feedback will guide them carefully through the term. There are a variety of tasks that children may do on paper, or online, or actively as enquiry-based learning within the home. The teaching model that we have implemented is essentially one that has breadth and variety.

Our aim, as teachers, is to be present and visible for the learning journey of our pupils. We will be engaging with them for their lessons, providing video, audio and written feedback as swiftly and responsively as possible. We will follow up issues with phone calls, video calls, chats on Seesaw or by email, whichever is the most appropriate and confidence building method for the group or individual concerned. We continue to be present in their learning and will be taking time and care to feedback fully and effectively.

As experienced professionals, we are confident that this model enables a realistic, helpful and inspiring method of learning for our pupils. We will, of course, continue to reflect on our practice and we will welcome your feedback once we have tested it out for the first two weeks. Please engage with us and allow our efforts to be effectively implemented before you draw any conclusions about it.

Thank you, once again, for your commitment and support to St Michael’s. What makes the school so special is our community and in times of challenge such as this, working together is more important than ever.  I wish you all a happy and healthy weekend.

 

Latest News

Prep pupils treated classmates and music teachers to a variety of musical performances this week in their half termly concert.

Performed in three instalments within their bubbles, the musicians showcased a variety of pieces, varying in both genre and instrument.

And although parents were unable to attend the concerts due to Covid-19 restrictions, the pupils’ families received a recording of the event.

Gordon Baird, Director of Music, said “We were delighted by how these first concerts of the academic year went despite the absence of the children’s parents. It was a lovely intimate experience for the children to play or sing to their friends and we heard some confident, accomplished performances.

Mr Baird added: “For some, it was their first time playing in a concert in the Prep school and we look forward to organising many more opportunities for them to perform throughout the year.”

A montage of the three music concerts can be found on the St Michael’s YouTube page at https://youtu.be/Bj_Wx4P9heg.

Spooky spiders and plump pumpkins sparked Halloween fun at St Michael’s this week.

Supported by the school’s Parents and Friends association, pupils enjoyed two games which offered great prizes to winners.

Coordinator of the Halloween competitions and P & F committee member, Kelly Downey said: “Given the restrictions currently in place, the P&F are focusing on strengthening the school community for parents and children this year.

“The competitions are a simple way for the children to have some fun in the week before half term, while raising some funds for the P&F.”

Children in Pre-Prep were tasked with guessing the number of spooky spiders in the jar, while Prep children were asked to guess the weight of a pumpkin. Pupils made a donations to the P & F in exchange for each guess they made.

And the winners of the games, Herbie W (Pre-Prep) A Ward, M Little, L Lutzow and H Owen (Prep), were awarded Halloween hampers which will help them celebrate this year’s festival in spooktacular style.

Kelly added: “The funds raised for the P&F will go towards funding activities and facilities for the children to enrich their time at the school.”

For more information about St Michael’s P & F association visit stmichaels.kent.sch.uk/parents-friends

 

Strawberries and sunflowers were just some of the items celebrated in last week’s harvest assemblies.

 

The annual Pre-Prep event, performed as three instalments this year, saw Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 pupils sing, dance and give prayer for the harvest while learning about the festival from their music teacher, Mrs Raveyeh.

 

 

Reflecting on the success of the events, Louise Raveyeh said: “I am quite moved by the children’s enthusiastic singing in our harvest celebration.

 

“It was a wonderful opportunity for the children to realise that there is joy in giving and sharing what we have and happiness for those who gratefully receive it.

 

“Their singing and eagerness to share with others was heartwarming.”

 

 

During the assemblies pupils sung songs about harvest time, nature and the variety of fruit and vegetables grown in this country.

 

Louise said: “I wanted the children to be thankful for what they have by realising what an amazing rainbow variety of food we have, created with individual characteristics just like them.

 

“I wanted them to realise the sense of joy that there is in sharing what we have.

 

“The songs reflect our celebration of what we have and realisation of the process of planting, harvesting and sharing.”

 

 

And it wasn’t just songs that helped the children express their thanks. Helped by their generous parents, Pre-Prep donated hundreds of food items and household essentials to the Swanley branch of Trussell Trust food bank.

 

 

Head of Pre-Prep at St Michael’s, Zerrin Leech, said: “We had tables, cupboards and bags festooned with food last week as our families gave very kind donations of food and other items.

 

“A huge thank you must go to the pupils’ parents for their wonderful generosity once again this year which will be gratefully received by the Trussell Trust.

 

“Thank you also to Mrs Ravayeh for leading our three harvest assemblies. They have been lovely with lots of new songs as well as my all-time favourite, Cauliflowers Fluffy.”

 

 

 

 

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.”

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