Head’s Blog 25th May Friday 25th May 2018

It’s always sad to say goodbye to people who have been the backbone of the school and I think if you look closely at some of the staff who are retiring and moving you might see that their toes are actually fixed into the ground here!

Carol Bent

After 21 years as a member of staff at St Michael’s Carol Bent is retiring. As I hope you know, retiring from St Michael’s means coming back frequently to help us out with cover! During her time here, first as a parent and then as a member of staff, Carol has been a stalwart member of the English, drama, history, geography and French departments and behind-the-scenes has also supported music and theatre through major organisational and support roles for all productions. She has cheerfully masterminded props, costumes, ticket sales and marketing. Carol goes above and beyond for her form and even though she is now part-time, is always here on important days to support and celebrate. As a teacher she will be remembered for her firm and disciplined classrooms where expectations are high and children learn a great deal. Carol has taken on leadership roles within the staff body and frequently this involved doing the thankless tasks for which I would like now publicly to thank her.

Carol and her husband Dave will be frequent visitors, we hope, and although Carol is officially retiring from the school, we expect to see her frequently! We wish her all the best and hope that she enjoys the opportunities to see her new granddaughter and visit family.

Darryl Edwards and Seppie Chapelle

We shall be sorry to see the departure of Darryl Edwards and Seppie Chapelle, who have been associated with school for almost two decades. Darryl took over the art department and has loved developing his curriculum and showcasing the art created by the children around the school. It has been so good to see him encouraging practising artists to work with the students and a lasting legacy will be the sculptures in the school grounds and the art gallery in the main corridor. In addition to assisting with music trips, Darryl has of course enjoyed building more and more ambitious sets for plays. One of his large- scale music backdrops has found permanent residence in the music room and none of us will forget the final triumph of his set for “ Lord of the Flies “ nor his flashing sets on “Guys and Dolls” and “Joseph”. Darryl made a huge contribution to the combined creative arts tours in the last few years and his work preparing packs and lists and beautiful booklets has been a strength of the tours. He takes up a new role at Hazelgrove Prep School https://www.hazlegrove.co.uk/ and as they move to Somerset we wish them both well.

Seppie worked at the school from 1999 to 2011 and then again since 2015, formerly as Head of French and latterly as Year 3 teacher. She initially joined us as a French teacher and took over as Head of Department in 2001, ably leading the department for a decade. As a French leader, Seppie set up the scheme of work and was fully involved in the musical and theatrical life of the school. Seppie will be remembered for her kindness to her classes, very detailed preparation and creative teaching, not forgetting her love of pink and Chihuahuas.

We wish Seppie good luck with the move and lots of opportunities in her new life in Somerset.

Sue Billings

Sue has been associated with St Michael’s for almost the same amount of time and her children, now grown up and pupils of St Michael’s, brought her here in the first place and here she has stayed to enthuse and to inspire. I have enjoyed seeing Sue take on the leadership role of mentoring NQTs and liaising with training establishments to provide placements for young teachers and we thank her for this invaluable work.

Sue is extremely organised and has high expectations of her pupils, whether that be on the netball court or in the French classroom. It has been good to see her play an active role in chapel life also. Sue is looking forward to being able to follow the magnificent careers of her very successful children and we wish her well as she sets off around the world in their pursuit.

Rachel Martin

After just over five successful years at St Michael’s, in which Rachel joined the senior leadership team, challenged her colleagues to make provision for and understand better the additional needs of children and saw her own son join us and flourish, Rachel is moving nearer to home to a parallel role in Holmewood House School. In her time here we have undergone a great deal of training together and are wiser and better equipped for it. Rachel has championed the voice of those with additional needs and at her very successful AEN evenings at which children and parents have spoken with eloquence and humour about the barriers to learning that they have overcome, we have all benefited from listening and learning.

We thank Rachel for all the development she has brought about and wish her every success and a little more time at home in the mornings in her new school.

Lauren Pearce

Lauren Pearce is taking the plunge to move abroad and work at Repton, Dubai. Lauren came to us as a newly-qualified teacher four years ago and I could barely contain my wish to offer her the role within the interview itself. She has not disappointed and in a very short time became a leader and a mentor to others.

Lauren’s wisdom belies her youthful years and she combined international competitive sport with excelling in the classroom and on the sports field and we shall miss her.

The wonders of modern technology of course mean that we may be able to add her school to our international links and stay in touch. I fervently hope so. Lauren goes with all our good wishes for this next exciting phase of what is clearly already a stellar career.

Head of Learning Development

I am delighted to let you know that Ms Lucinda Cook has been appointed to the Senior Leadership Team as Head of Learning Development.

When Lucinda joined the staff, her fantastic reputation preceded her and it has been wonderful to see the impact that she and Louise Medd have had on their own class and on the small groups for whom they have run interventions.

As I worked with Lucinda closely this past year, I’ve very much enjoyed the humour and intuitive ways in which she encourages children to be resilient, self-aware and take risks in their learning.  Lucinda has a wealth of experience and training in EAL, Gifted & Talented, working with parents and holds a qualification in counselling, dyslexia and Mental Health.  It is pleasing that this in-house appointment allows extensive handover between Rachel and Lucinda.

I congratulate her on this appointment and look forward to her joining the senior team.

Latest News

A Sevenoaks food bank is 318 kilos heavier following a donation from St Michael’s.


The school surprised charity The Community Cupboard with the generous donation on Monday, February 1 following a Christmas collection for the cause.


In total, £965 was raised from parent and staff donations throughout December, which St Michael’s Parents and Friends Association (P & F) used to organise a Sainsbury’s shop of food and toiletries for the charity.


Commenting on the school’s motivation to help the food bank, Co-Chair of St Michael’s P & F, Kelly Downey, said: “Delivering our donation to The Community Cupboard was an amazing and uplifting moment. Being able to bring the school together to contribute to a cause which plays such an important role in our community during this time was very rewarding.”


Greeted with three car loads of canned foods, long-life products and toiletries, Kelly also describes how delighted the charity were with the school’s generosity. She added: “The team were really blown away by our donation and thankful for the time we’d taken to raise the money and organise a delivery.


“It was a great feeling to be able to put an initial idea from a St Michael’s parent into action, and to see the impact we would be having on the local community.”


Kelly added: “We recognise that this is a very difficult time for everyone, especially those who can’t afford to put food on the table for their families. We hope that our donation can be a small step in making a difference for those people.”


Since the start of January alone, an additional 22 local families have registered for The Community Cupboard’s support, reflecting the increased pressures caused by the ongoing pandemic across the country. And it is only thanks to generous donations that the charity can continue to provide help to those who need it most.


Trustee at The Community Cupboard, David Carter said: “We would like to express our extreme gratitude to St Michael’s for their wonderful donation. We are very lucky to receive regular donations from local groups, but they are rarely to this scale.


“The food and toiletries kindly given to us by St Michael’s have allowed us to fully restock our shelves as well as putting plenty of stock on standby for new referrals. The size of this donation will allow us to give substantial food packages to the 22 new families who were referred to us in January. St Michael’s help is invaluable to us and will make a huge difference.”


Since its launch in January 2020, The Community Cupboard has continued to help families in Sevenoaks, and has extended its help to cover a 20 mile radius including Edenbridge, Westerham, Surrey, Sidcup, Rochester and Ashford, due to the pandemic.


The Trustee added: “We began as a small group of people determined to make a difference locally in an area where food banks were lacking. Little did we know, a global pandemic was on its way and our efforts would be needed tenfold. To say we hit the ground running would be an understatement.”


Run by four members and six volunteers, The Community Cupboard works tirelessly to deliver parcels to families, and in January alone distributed 3.1 tonnes of food, toiletries and essential items.


David said: “We began the charity on the foundation that ‘if we can help, we will’, and with the community’s help, I’m proud to say we are doing just that. We see a lot of hardship and sadness in doing what we do, but it really opens our eyes to the incredible hard work various organisations and charities do in our community. Thanks to generous groups like St Michael’s, we can confidently say ‘yes, we can help you’.”


The Community Cupboard are currently taking donations of tinned and long-life food products, as well as toiletries and essential items. Monetary donations are also welcome and will be put towards bulk orders for the charity.


The charity is based at The Garage, Gamcock meadow, West Kingdown where a covid secure donation drop off process has been put in place.


For more information about The Community Cupboard, or to donate to the charity visit www.thecommunitycupboard.co.uk.

Mr Bridges is on a mission to keep St Michael’s motivated with his latest exercise plan designed to make exercise fun.

The Director of Sport at St Michael’s, who is a very keen runner himself, has created a beginner to 5k plan for anyone wanting to keep fit this lockdown.

The six-week plan, featuring workouts, running challenges and rest days, covers a range of exercises aimed at strengthening all parts of the body.

Mr Bridges said: “I have created this training programme for the St Michael’s community to help anyone who wants to have a go at running during lockdown and safely get to 5k by the time we return to school. The plan is suitable for Prep-aged pupils, parents and staff, including absolute beginners.”

The teacher, who has 15 years’ training as a running and triathlon coach, added: “The programme is designed to build a body capable of running 5k at the end of the six weeks, and what better time to have a go than during lockdown.”

The detailed plan, organised into weeks and week days, follows a key where the letters W (walk) and R (run) appear alongside the number of minutes the activity should take place for. For example, 6 x 1:30w/2:30r represents a 1 minute 30 seconds of walking followed by 2 minutes 30 seconds of running, repeated six times.

Mr Bridges said: “The programme includes progressive long runs from week 3 onwards, the only day where the running is based on distance rather than time.

“On Mondays I will also be sharing a different workout on the St Michael’s PE YouTube channel which pupils can take part in.”

To share your experience of the programme, including photos please email tusher@stmichaels.kent.sch.uk. By sharing this information you give consent to it being shared on St Michael’s social media channels and publications.



Warm, welcoming and impressive. That’s how St Michael’s new Head describes the school.

“I’ve always liked St Michael’s and have been visiting it for several years as part of sports fixtures with my previous schools”, Nik Pears said.

“Something that has always impressed me about St Michael’s is the atmosphere and people that belong to it.

“The sense of community you feel when walking through the doors of the school is extraordinary”, he added.

An avid sportsman, experienced leader, and family man, Mr Pears brings with him a wealth of ideas for St Michael’s, including his core value of equipping pupils for life.

Nik , who joined St Michael’s in January 2021, explained: “I am very keen on developing a growth mindset in my pupils. In this ever-changing world, our children need to be prepared for life outside of the classroom.

“Pupils need to be adaptable, resilient and perseverant, and learn to accept their failure and mistakes as important parts of their personal development.

“By equipping children with the right interpersonal skills during their school years, we can set them up for a future in which they may have to fight for their place in the world.”

Nik’s concept of growth mindset can also be applied to his broader vision for the school.

Coming to St Michael’s from his headship at Kent College, Pembury, Nik believes the challenges posed by Covid-19 can teach schools a lot about the importance of flexibility and community.

Mr Pears said: “These unprecedented times have been a huge learning curve for schools.

“Navigating a school through a global crisis was never going to be easy, but it has shown just how necessary it is to put pupils at the heart of every decision.

“As someone who has experienced the period as both a teacher and parent, it is very clear that we are all battling the same storm in different boats.

“It is incredible how people have found new and creative ways to deal with the circumstances. From Zoom concerts, to helping food banks, to keeping each other’s spirits high with funny videos, this period has shown us a lot about community which we will learn from and remember.”

Having belonged to multiple Prep schools himself throughout his education and as a teacher, Nik is excited to be entering this new stage in his career at St Michael’s.

Reflecting on his own school years which saw him attend schools in London, Devon and Dublin, he said: “I always enjoyed school as a child and made the most of every opportunity I was given.

“I particularly enjoyed subjects like music, drama and history and was fascinated by the things that we learnt.

“I was also heavily involved in sports and belonged to the Kent U18 rugby group. Even now you’ll find me in a pair of wellies at the side of the pitch cheering on my pupils and own children.”

Nik added: “I was one of those children who wanted to get stuck into everything, even the things that I found difficult.

“As well as my sports clubs, I belonged to multiple choirs, as well as orchestras where I played the drums, trumpet, piano and guitar.”

Mr Pears also spoke about the impact his own teachers had on his time at school and the person that he is today.

He said: “I had some amazing teachers which taught me a lot of things about life and leadership.

“Sir Anthony Seldon, one of my history teachers, was particularly inspiring and sparked my passion for the subject.

“The Head of my Prep school in Dublin also gave her pupils a lot of time. She was a hero.”

And Nik’s teachers aren’t his only role models in life.

He said: “A man called Phil Wall is also a huge inspiration of mine. Phil is the founder of the charity We See Hope which works with orphans and vulnerable young people in sub Saharan Africa.

“Phil’s selflessness and passion for the cause inspired me to become an ambassador for the charity.

“His exceptional leadership, authenticity and integrity is just inspiring.”

Mr Pears also explained how his love of people has guided him to the many leadership roles he has held.

Nik said: “I very much enjoy being with people and having a good laugh. I’m very lucky to have such an amazing family including my wife, Emma and our two children, Jessica and Josiah. Our pet hamster Charlie is also a valued member of the family who kept us well entertained during the first lockdown.”

He added: “Being a leader brings so many opportunities to show warmth, empathy and understanding to others, and I can’t wait to become a member of the St Michael’s community.

“When pupils leave St Michael’s to pursue their senior education, I hope they remember me as someone who was kind, knew them well and valued their opinion.”


On Tuesday 15th December, St Michael’s hosted a fun-filled charity day for Thames Valley Air Ambulance (TVAA).

Organised by Year 7 pupil Lucy, whose life who saved by the emergency team last Christmas, the school partook in a range of fundraising activities including a fun run, Christmas jumper day, and brain-teaser quizzes.

Lucy said: “With Mr Wiseman’s help, I planned activities to raise some much-needed money for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance and increase awareness of their work.

“A lot of people don’t realise what a great charity they are, and I hope our fundraising day has changed that.

“Not only do they save people’s lives in moments of crisis, but they provide long-term support to families who undergo medical emergencies.”

Amanda McLean, Chief Executive of Thames Valley Air Ambulance, said: “A big thank you to the staff and pupils of St Michael’s for coming up with creative ways to involve everyone in fundraising. In sharing her story, Lucy has helped us spread awareness of what Thames Valley Air Ambulance does. We can only do what we do because of the imagination and generosity of our wonderful fundraisers. We hope you had a lot of fun on your fundraising day!”

Lucy, whose story recently featured in the TVAA’s Christmas appeal, said: “Thames Valley Air Ambulance helped me at a time when my parents couldn’t. When I was seriously injured, the team stepped in and became my heroes.”

“It means so much to me that St Michael’s have come together to support this cause.”

The highly successful events saw pupils spread festive joy while raising an impressive £2556.60 for the charity which relies wholly of public donations.

Mrs Bridges, St Michael’s Acting Head, added: “Yesterday was amazing! The whole school had such a great time, and pupils were very excited to take part in a different fundraiser which meant they could enjoy the outdoors, whilst raising money for such an important charity. Everyone gave their all in the sponsored run and it was a brilliant event to watch.”


Mrs Wade, Head of Girls’ Games also said: “The children did remarkably well considering the conditions, and ran superbly for Lucy’s cause.”



And Lucy’s family echoed this gratitude for St Michael’s support. They said: “We wanted to say a huge thank to the St Michael’s community for supporting Lucy’s appeal for the Thames Valley Air Ambulance this Christmas. We’re so grateful to you for getting behind this amazing charity to whom we owe so much. We know from experience that your donations really do save lives. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2021!”

For more information about the Thames Valley Air Ambulance or to donate visit: www.tvairambulance.org.uk/support-us/donate



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