Head’s Blog 30th November 2018 Friday 30th November 2018

In the context of an article about the relationship between exams and children’s mental health, Barnaby Lenon, Chair of the Independent Schools Council wrote in no uncertain terms about his belief in the importance of exams.

I read his article with interest but I cannot say that I agree with him. Healthy debate, I’m sure, will abound about some of the points he makes.

This week we publish our leaflet about the changes we have made to our Year 7 & 8 curriculum and I hope that many of you will enjoy reading about them. Whilst in part the driver for our changes has been the demise of the Common Entrance in Year 8 as the route into senior schools at Year 9, the changes we have made, which include the way in which we will assess excellence and understanding, are born of a philosophy that is growing within the school; that expressing learning can take so many forms.

Of course in the Prep school world we are not steering our children towards nationally accredited qualifications. Our colleagues in the Secondary sector will at times struggle with the content they are obliged to teach and its relevance and application in the lives of their pupils. I certainly remember dreading the unit in the French GCSE when I had to teach children how to buy petrol or book hotel rooms.

Nevertheless when Mr Lenon says “committing useful knowledge to the long-term memory is one of the main purposes of school education”, I cry “but no!”

Committing facts to long-term memory will in the end be a skill, like map-reading, that some of us will use less and less. We have the internet and research materials and with a couple of touches on the phone we can check all manner of facts.

The roots of the word education lie in Latin. E duco – I lead out. And of course all staff engaged in the life of the school lead children forward into greater learning.

I believe the main purpose of school education is to open the minds and souls of the children we meet, to inspire them, to excite them, to engage them and to celebrate in every conceivable way possible all milestones of their learning as well as equipping them to be creative and committed in their learning, courteous, collaborative and critical thinkers.

This week I had two examples of learning which would not fit behind an exam desk. Firstly on Wednesday we rejoiced again in the myriad ways in which children demonstrated their learning and shared it in the challenge project feedback sessions that were happening for the first hour of the day all over the school. What is extraordinary is that the high expectations and the open ended-ness of tasks set are the markers of advanced thinking and creativity and yet these are embraced by all abilities. The freedom to express learning in film, in display boards, in art or in lively interactive presentations, in film and this time even in cakes is truly phenomenal. Many, many more children achieve high levels of success, pleasure and satisfaction given the choice about how they present their learning.

The second time I faced evidence of learning that could not be collected sat at a desk was when I watched Reception have their final rehearsal for the nativity play next week.

Learning, engagement and enjoyment in Reception took many forms; the child with a great deal to remember and the requirement to concentrate hard and take turns, the child who succeeded in standing still (relatively!) at the appropriate moments, the child who found true expression in movement or singing or performance and the child who perhaps last year looked down and cried and this year spoke lines with pride and joy.

So let’s build on this idea of showing learning in new ways. Let’s keep a healthy respect for exams but know that they are only a part of the purpose of school.

I know parents choose this school because we find ways to affirm and include every child and because we look outwards, question and reflect.

In the run-up to Christmas I look forward to sharing with many of you the milestones in learning that your children have reached.

I also in a different vein look forward to seeing many of you tomorrow at the P&F Christmas bazaar. Rejoice …..those silly jumpers and hats can have an outing that justifies their initial expense!

Have a great weekend and let’s make advent begin in style.

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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