Headmaster’s Bulletin – Edition 1
A very warm welcome again to those of you new to our school! Welcome back to our existing parents and welcome to the first Bulletin of the new school year. I aim to send this to you every Friday, with news and views on a range of endeavours that have been taking place here each week. Mrs Murphy and her team produce the ‘Pre-Prep News’ and Mr Darmon, Head of Games and PE, produces the weekly ‘Sports News’ for you all to read. I hope all three missives will help you as parents to remain fully informed of all that your children are getting up to at our school, amongst other things. Please click on the relevant tabs above in this section of the website to see each one.
I suppose I have pretty strong views on what I believe constitutes a successful educational experience and I suppose, for someone in my position, that ought to be expected really. All sorts of factors contribute to my continually developing views on education and over the summer I read a good number of books and blogs and followed a few educationally focussed trails down various Twitter worm holes, all of which have proven to be very good food for thought for me at least, as we begin this new academic year in earnest.
For those of you who are not new to our school community you will know that I have particularly strong views on tutoring. By and large, I do not find it easy to accept that tutoring is really very necessary, in plenty of cases when I discover that it is happening. I have a somewhat inbuilt abhorrence of the racketeering nature of the whole business – I blame the vestigial influence of my parsimonious Scots Presbyterian antecedents – but I would also wonder why someone who professes to be such a naturally gifted teacher chooses to work as a private tutor rather than in a school.
I am however very keen on providing the best support we can for all our pupils here. Perhaps I am becoming a little more complaisant in my old age regarding my former very intractable stance on tutoring, but there are some general recommendations around it that I would like to share now. I am prepared to accept that in some very particular instances for some children only, a bit of an ‘academic top up’ from someone at home in the evenings (who is not mum or dad) can be beneficial, if only to support the development of the child’s self-esteem and confidence to tackle a particular curriculum area. I would always say however that any tutoring should only ever be for a specific identified purpose, for a limited time and with a very definite measureable end goal to be reached in mind.
I just get so depressed on behalf of children when I hear about a lot of the tutoring that happens; school starts in early September and the tutor arrives the next day and school finishes in July and the tutor has finished the week before, with a year of grinding, dull, repetitive tasks covered but no significant learning having taken place. How ghastly! I would recommend, as parents, you do not sleep walk into the tutoring trap. If ever any of you do believe your child needs a bit ‘extra’ rather than getting a tutor in, come and talk to us about it and let us see if we can help here first. I also very strongly believe that gains to be derived from tutoring, in terms of 11+ entrance preparation, are marginal at best and if tutoring is the only way any child will be well enough prepared to pass the entrance exam for any school, then that school is most definitely not going to be the right one for him in the long run.
Here’s a link to a recently published report on tutoring that I came across, which was covered widely in the press, in case you wish to find out more:
Reading lots of books – reading a lot of anything in actual fact – is I think one of the ways your children will be able to ensure they are well prepared to get the most out of school life. Mrs Campbell, our Head of English, and I share this strong belief in the power of reading, hence her ‘Summer Holiday Fun with English’ project that she launched with the Prep boys at the end of last term. I have seen much of what your sons have accomplished and I have to say, it is tremendous! There is great breadth to the books the boys read, and a fabulous selection of reviews and analysis from a lot of them about the books they devoured. This is so exciting for Mrs Campbell and me to see and I know my English teaching colleagues are very much looking forward to drawing out all that wonderful language that your sons have been exposed to. Strong language skills matter so much across the entire curriculum range of course and Mr Campbell (no relation), our Head of Maths, also knows what a huge difference it makes to our boys’ ability to get stuck into the tricky word based maths problems they will see this year if they are also good readers generally.
Our Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) begin next week and it is always great to know that our pupils are extending their knowledge and skills in all sorts of different ways beyond the confines of classroom based lessons, once the formal teaching timetable has concluded each day. We have a brand new CCA on offer from next week and there are still spaces available to join it, if your son would like to. On Monday afternoons, Mrs Samuel, a Pre-Prep parent and one of our colleagues from the teaching staff at Hampton School, will be running a ‘Community Service’ CCA. She has masses of really exciting activities planned, that will lead boys to think about and get involved with supporting their community. We are aiming this CCA primarily at boys in Years 4 – 6 but may offer a Year 3 version of it next term. This sort of CCA is just the type of thing that boys going for Senior School interviews, as part of the 11+ process, can talk about and it really does help to mark them out in the minds of any Senior School Head or member of the Admissions team. Any boys completing this CCA also automatically get to include it as evidence in their L.I.O.N. Award folder in order to complete the ‘Community’ section. It all sounds rather like a win to me! If you would like your son to join in on Monday afternoons, please email Mr Richards directly.
Maintaining positive relationships with members of our local community is very important to us. This of course includes our neighbours. I would be very grateful if you could please ensure that if you are bringing your children to school by car, you park considerately and do not ever obstruct our neighbours’ driveways or park too close to the corners on the roads near to our school. There is one thing guaranteed to really upset our neighbours – and rightly so – and that is when they are not able to leave their own home in the mornings or afternoons because one of you has parked across their driveway. Please do think very carefully before you park.
News of an individual pupil now. Tom Clark in Year 6 had a very exciting start to the summer holidays. Tom qualified for the NDP (National Development Programme) Tumbling semi-finals at a competition in Hastings back in March. As a result, he went on to represent the South East Regional Team in the Regional Finals in Birmingham later in Term 3. He won Gold in Birmingham which put him through to the National Finals in Telford in July. Here, he competed with great focus and won Gold, making him National Champion in his age group and level. We were able to congratulate Tom in assembly on the first day back. I have seen video footage of his tumbling routine and I have to say, it is heart stopping stuff!
Excellence of this sort is always remarkable in one so young. Further to the point I made at the beginning of this Bulletin, my views on education were being shaped further, right up until the very night before the new school year began, as I watched this episode from the ‘Imagine’ series on the BBC. I should have been getting an early night of course but as soon as this started I was immediately drawn in, and then soon utterly transfixed:
If you were being sensible and got an early night on Tuesday and didn’t see it, perhaps at some point you might be interested to watch it too? It made me think about all our pupils and consider notions of giftedness versus talent, intelligence, individuality, the value of hard work and accomplishments, along with all manner of other matters to do with how and why any child loves learning…
If I do not see you at the Shrewsbury House Football Tournament or the Hampton School Football Tournament tomorrow, have a great weekend.
Three days back, two games sessions down and four teams involved in three tournaments tomorrow and it feels like we have never been away.
I hope you all had a great summer. I certainly did, but I felt myself eager to return last week and the thought of spending some ‘Indian summer’ afternoons watching the boys play football was the main reason. It hasn’t quite worked out like that yet, but regardless of the weather, the boys have leapt into their football like a last ditch tackle and the excitement and enthusiasm is palpable.
We have been talking to the boys this week, as we will throughout the term, about responsibility and this has been particularly apt for me when discussing all things to do with kit. We were plagued with lost property last year and so we have tried to make a real effort this week to discuss with the boys the need to be responsible for bringing in the right kit on the right day and looking after it. We want the boys to understand the importance of high standards, which in this instance are at the forefront of every successful sportsman.
The action comes thick and fast this term, with two particularly interesting dates to make note of. The first is Friday 22 September, which sees us deliver our annual swimming gala. I have been busily collating everyone’s stroke of choice, with just a few more left to collect. As and when I have all the information, then I’ll put together the programme for the day and hopefully this year it won’t be cruelly abandoned due to a thunder storm.
Saturday 23 September is the second date to mark on your calendar, when we host our annual 6 a-side football tournament at Hampton school. A very busy couple of days but I hope two very successful days and the boys are already getting very excited. Mr Campbell’s U11 team won the tournament last year; so it will be interesting to see if Mr Henderson can repeat the success with this year’s U11s.
Tomorrow sees the U11 A team play in the annual 7 a-side tournament at Shrewsbury House and the U11B and U10 A & B are playing in a 5 a-side tournament at Hampton school. I’ll be doing the rounds and attempting to see all the boys play, so I hope to see many of you there too.
If I don’t see you, have a great weekend.
Chris Harrison will be running his annual Saturday Sessions in the excellent sports hall at Hampton School. These sessions are perfectly suited for young cricketers who wish to improve and enjoy some cricket in the winter period. The weekly sessions will allow young player’s to make significant improvements in understanding, technique, performance and confidence. The young cricketers will be placed in skill specific groups when appropriate and there will be a good coach to player ratio. Please click here for more details on how to book a place.
Please note that the Co-Curricular Activities (CCAs) commence next week. There is a list on the School notice board along the driveway at prep detailing the activities taking place this term. If you have any queries please do contact Mrs Parkinson on firstname.lastname@example.org
The individual and Year group photographs take place on Wednesday morning so neat hair, shiny shoes and full uniform plus their best smile are a must!
A very warm welcome back to school. We are delighted to report that the children have settled well in their respective classes this week. It is clear the children have had the greatest of fun, as well as some relaxation over the summer break. We are all looking forward to the year ahead.
It was great to see so many of you at the Parents’ Information Evening on Tuesday; we hope everyone found it useful. As we settle in to the new year there no doubt will be some teething issues with new timetables and so on, however, be assured we shall keep you informed of any changes. To this end, we aim to send out timetables for Reception, Years 1 and 2 by the end of next week once we have been back at school for a full week.
Please do ask members of staff if you have any queries – you can contact your child’s class teacher directly via email or send a message to the School Office. Here are the email addresses to assist you:
Year 2: Miss Goscomb email@example.com
Year 1: Mrs Doyle firstname.lastname@example.org
Reception: Miss Johnston email@example.com
Mrs Timba firstname.lastname@example.org
Kindergarten: Mrs Hand email@example.com
On Wednesday, we have individual and class photographs taking place. Please remember to send your child in to school in the correct uniform, looking as neat and tidy as possible. Year 2 children must bring their PE kit in on that day as opposed to wearing it to school!
We are very lucky to have the support of the Parents’ Association during the year, they work with great energy and enthusiasm on our behalf. If you are interested in becoming a Class Rep, Mrs Murphy will put you in touch with Mrs Taylor (Class Rep Co-ordinator), who will be able to give you an overview of exactly what the role entails. We understand they are especially keen to hear from Reception parents!
Have a wonderful weekend.