Head’s Blog 1st March 2019 Friday 1st March 2019

Welcome to the second half of the year. I hope you enjoyed a relaxing half-term break.

The past ten days or so have been notable for the wonderful weather, which has been enjoyable for all of us but must signal irrefutably that alarm over climate change is justifiable.

I was slightly dismayed in the final week before half term to receive a communication from the National Association of Headteachers advising heads not to permit children to take time out of school to protest at climate change on Friday 15th of February.

For us it was a staff training day and children were on half term, but had it not been and had I been asked by parents or children if I would have permitted absence to take part in this event, I would certainly have said yes.

The spokesman for Number 10 said that such action “wastes lesson time” and “increases teacher workload”.

There was of course a great deal of debate in the media about the appropriateness of allowing active political engagement on a school day and the importance of being in school in term time, about the likelihood of children and young people being aware enough to be so engaged, and about whether permission to attend, if given, reflected a failure to fulfil one’s duties as Headteacher to ensure attendance and to present politics in an unbiased way.

So how would I respond were a roving reporter to come to St Michael’s Prep?

Well to the question of allowing political engagement on a school day I would say that it is a fact that learning takes many, many forms and is not restricted to “lesson times”. Of course I don’t believe that missing school is something that I should condone. Participation in concerts, foreign travel, local survey and mapping work, library visits, walking through forests, counting birds for the Big Schools’ Birdwatch, organising and running events to raise money for charity are all moments of intense and memorable learning for children at school in the 21st century and they all take place with everyone’s approval in “lesson time” and many of these are certainly not in school.

No one would say that in doing any of these activities that this “wastes lesson time” nor would they say that they shouldn’t take place because the child should be in school.

So yes, I endorse children participating in such a momentous collective protest because I know that there is a powerful sense of exhilaration and connectivity when you belong to a large crowd with a common purpose, whether it be cheering competitors in a football crowd, waving torches and singing at Young Voices concerts or marching towards a civic centre to meet those responsible for decision making in order to bring about change to protect the planet. It’s powerful stuff.

The second argument suggesting that young people cannot fully understand the nature of the predicament of the world or the appropriateness of peaceful protest fails to acknowledge the truth about the young people of today. The young people I work with are wise and savvy, creative and interested, passionate and engaged and they deserve to be heard by those at the very top of our political systems. In fact, I know that those at the top could learn a great deal from them. Failure to seek the views of young people or to give them any credit for their views is completely unacceptable.

Our national curriculum teaches children to respect leaders who changed the law through pursuing passionate protest to improve the world, whether Rosa Parks and her part in the Bus Boycott or Nelson Mandela’s fight for the end to apartheid in South Africa and many more besides. Pedagogically we know that powerful learning is learning by doing.

So I’m sorry we were already on half term that day and that I couldn’t officially join the ranks of those who encouraged and facilitated pupil participation in that action, not because it’s a party political issue but because it is a global issue of immense importance.

What more urgent issue is there to secure a successful future for our children than to make sure that the water and the air and the land remain able to support our population?

The children of today are struggling to understand how adults have let this happen. They are struggling to understand why world leaders permit pollution, the devastation of forests and habitats, the invasive presence of microplastics in all the elements. They are struggling to understand why, when scientists measure and evidence the impact of the melting of the polar ice cap, nobody has come up with a solution to stop this from getting worse.

And of course the only way that we will ever solve this problem that man has created is to work together with people in other countries, understand each other, connect with each other, make rules about how we should live and work together and look after our planet together and stick to these rules and teach values way, way beyond those currently called “British” and required by our inspectorate.

If I prevented pupils from engaging in any action that might make a difference, that is when I would be failing in my duties as a Headteacher.

I hope you have a wonderful 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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