Head’s Blog 5th July Thursday 5th July 2018

My challenge this week will be to not exhaust you with superlatives! The final week of the school year is a time of celebration and reflection.

Last Friday’s Prep school sports day and campout were fantastic events, marked by huge community spirit, supportive and encouraging behaviour and lots of people having a really good time.

For many parents for whom this was their first sports day, they were astonished at what was organised for them and for their children and recognised the hand of an experienced team, ably led by Cal Wade, in providing this seamlessly well organised event. My favourite memories were watching children encouraging one another at moments they were being challenged and I think this combination of support in competition and recognition and understanding of struggles, when they happen is the most wonderful thing to behold.

Later in the evening as we moved into the campout and barbecue phase the atmosphere continued to be social, fun relaxed and very enjoyable.

I congratulate Fraser Wiseman on his meticulous organisation of sleepers, tents, food and drink and for staying up all night which frankly I am unable to do. Also to Steve Wade who kept us company overnight and the huge team of staff who served and cooked the evening barbecue and the diehard remainers who were still doing breakfast in the morning.

On Monday evening we were treated to the finest end of year concert in my time at St Michael’s.  For me what made it special, apart from the glorious music, was the fact that so many people were involved and the fact that the standard was exceptional. The music department is an incredible team and an event like Monday showed not only how much pleasure they give and take from leading children in performance and ensemble work, but also how much they support one another. I know of no other school, for example, where on sports day music peris are dressed up in school sports staff uniform and helping on events!

The chance to tour as a group of course builds this team work but on Monday we witnessed not only an even higher standard of music ensemble making than ever before but also even more joy in the making of it. So thank you to Emily, Jack, Matt, Rob, Debbie and Jackie. The exceptional contribution you make to the life of the school is never taken for granted and is a source of great pleasure and delight to me as Head. The second half of the concert finished with a complete performance of Vivaldi’s “Gloria”, a gorgeous work that in rehearsal, week in week out, revealed itself to all the groups learning it, in its full glory. Intense, beautiful, lively, complex and rich in Latin and dedicated to shouting about God, what’s not to like?

To say that this was ambitious is somewhat of an understatement, but the cheerful, energetic and inspiring work by Gordon Baird took this idea and made it fully expressed in the most wonderful community experience. First class soloists, a professional orchestra, incredibly well trained choirs of children, parents, staff, former staff, former pupils, tenors and basses from Judd, and other people who just like singing. The singing was extremely precise, full of joy, and confidence born of meticulous rehearsals.

I am deeply grateful to Gordon, Jack, Emily, Tracey, Louise who led us through all these rehearsals and to Jackie who led the orchestra and brought along many of her friends to be in it. I could not have been prouder of everyone involved. Thank you.

On Tuesday I very much enjoyed the Pre-Prep production and, yes, there was a great buzz created in our sports hall marquee. Pleasure in performance for so many children oozed out of them. The theme of the show was how important each individual bee is within the hive and this transfers well as a theme for them to take away. We certainly saw how important each one them was in putting on that whole show. Word-perfect singing, some amusing dances, comic lines delivered with assurance and good timing, incredible costumes organised by parents and some fine solo performances from Year 2 and some great collective singing from all the children, trained by their teachers and Mrs Beesley. Wonderful work.

On Wednesday evening the same space became the focus of our end of year Prize Giving in Prep, which is both a solemn and joyful moment in our calendar. We celebrated a huge diversity of excellence, from those who have worked to achieve the highest marks, to those who have struggled but made progress and those who set an example by their fine behaviour and kindness to others and many other skills besides. We were delighted to welcome Lizzie Thompson, Old Michaelian and now an engineer with Williams working in the F1 world. As well as being a delightful, engaging, and a slightly self-effacing visitor in classrooms and the staffroom all day, she gave a very interesting speech about how engineers work, what they do and how maths and science feeds into this career. We were extremely fortunate to share so much time with Lizzie, and we were delighted that her dad was able to come too. It was wonderful to share Luke Brightman’s cheeky film to round off the year, which surpassed previous versions offered in its explicit humour. I congratulate Luke on this fine achievement and wish him well as he moves on. Last night we said an official farewell to all the leaving staff and today the children will be offering good luck wishes in assembly this morning. With any event such as Prize Giving there is a huge team and a great deal of time spent in advance of the evening getting everything ready and I’d like to thank, Ian and his estates team, Ben and Tom in IT, Jane, Karen and Sara in Marketing, Kathryn, and the office staff and Mary for sorting out the prizes, flowers et cetera, Mark and his team for the delicious canapés and refreshments, and Fraser for organising pupils and staff. I’d also like to thank my secretary, Helen, who ensures everything is ready for me.

Kayla and Jake in the closing speeches spoke both eloquently, confidently and with a certain refreshing honesty about their journey through St Michael’s and I was proud of the people they have become and the achievements of all our leavers.

Wherever you’re heading this summer, go safely and have some fun and a rest. I congratulate all the pupils and staff at St Michael’s on a fine year and look forward to sharing a formal round up later in the holiday in my Head’s Review.

Wishing everyone a happy summer holiday.

Jill Aisher

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

 

 

Weekly eNewsletter