Head’s Blog 17th November 2017 Friday 17th November 2017

At a senior leadership team away day last Saturday, we focused amongst other things on memories and emotions, some of which were happy and some sad.

The poet and prophet Kahlil Gibran writes in his poem “On joy and sorrow“ :

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

To read the rest of this poem please follow the link http://www.katsandogz.com/onjoy.html

At this sober time of year when we reflect on the death of so many in war, perhaps it helps us to understand more if we remember that pain and pleasure are interdependent.

We cannot understand loss fully unless presence has been enjoyed.

So we were saddened to hear of the death last week of Father Paul Cox formerly Headmaster of St. Michael’s Prep. To his wife Jenny and his daughter Tamsin we extend our deepest condolences. They remain in our prayers at home and at school. The poem resonates as I think of all that Paul and Jenny gave to St Michael’s. My sense of loss is very great and I am sure that I am not alone in this feeling, but it is good to know that this loss is measured In the myriad ways he changed and shaped and developed the school and for that we will be eternally grateful.

Paul was Headmaster here for a decade till he retired in 1990 and before that, coincidentally, was House tutor of my husband at Tonbridge School. We have been delighted to welcome Paul and Jenny to every Prize Giving for four years and only a few weeks ago they were here again for Old Michaelians’ Day.

Jenny founded the Pre-Prep with just three pupils in 1982 and during Paul’s tenure the P&F was born, under its original name “The Friends of St Michael’s.” Paul increased the numbers here, developed weekly boarding, introduced girls to the school and fulfilled a much more widely ranging role then than Heads do now, which included cleaning, hoovering, mowing the grass and organising everything that happened. So when the stable block was converted to become the Pre-Prep they were the manpower along with trusty colleagues. When Paul has visited the school with Jenny lately, they have always offered some new insight into the life they loved here. This was their home and their passion for ten happy years.

Paul spent his last day at home, gardening and finishing a project with Jenny. He became ill quite suddenly and died at home. As a community we mourn Paul’s passing and offer to Jenny and their daughter Tamsin, our deepest condolences. We will hold them in our thoughts and prayers and we will be happy to pass on any letters and cards for them and hope that just as they were upheld in their life by their faith, that at the time they must now be parted that this faith will keep them strong.

A memorial service will take place on Friday 24th November at 12.30pm at St Richards Church, Upper Station Road, Heathfield TN21 8DS and will be taken by Paul’s twin brother, Archdeacon John Cox. Parking will be limited. Donations to the British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research.

 

It was good to last week to spend time at the Independent Schools Council‘s special educational needs conference, where a range of stimulating and enlightening talks and workshops filled my day. One of the striking slides in the afternoon presentation was a graph of different coloured undulating lines travelling horizontally, parallel to each other. This graph represented the ups and downs of everyday life within a group and the point was made that children need to learn that the graph of life does go up and down and that down is okay and it will become up. Understanding which activities can make you feel good is an important part of teaching children to self-regulate and look after themselves, whether that be through sport, running around, playing an instrument, creating a work of art or dancing.

I am certain of the importance of being outside in developing well-being and we are lucky that at St Michael’s we have so much space to enjoy.

Children, of course, have the power to lift one’s spirits and I am always better for spending time in classrooms, watching children, listening to them and talking with them.

I was delighted to walk two Headmasters around the site this week, firstly Craig McCarthy from Russell House down the road and secondly Martin Collier, newly appointed Headmaster at Haileybury School. Whilst, psychologically, for some families considering boarding, Haileybury may not be an obvious choice because of its distance, in reality it is only an hour away and as it is an excellent school, it is worth considering for our families at St Michael’s. Haileybury is looking for the abler child, and provides an excellent, broad and rich education. Do go and see what they have to offer.

As we head into the preparations for Advent and Christmas, for some there will be a mixture of joy and sadness.  Our human frailty and the wonderful way in which community can offer strength and support lies too at the heart of that story, to which we will turn our attention in the weeks to come.

I look forward to seeing some of you next week at the St Cecilia’s concert.

If you haven’t already, please do prioritise taking part in our well-being survey.  Your views and responses are crucial to building an effective plan for growth and improvement.

Have a great weekend.

Jill Aisher

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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