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Headmaster’s Bulletin – Edition 3

This Week

Dear Parents,

It was very good to see a number of parents here on Wednesday for our first SMT/Parents’ Tea & Coffee Afternoon. We usually try to have a topic that we can all chat about at these gatherings and this week we discussed homework, or prep as we prefer to call it here.

Mr Ford and I have been discussing the School’s current approach to prep in an effort to ensure that we have got it right. There are all sorts of factors we have been considering, including first and foremost our understanding of the boys’ abilities and what we believe they should be capable of finishing at home, as we expect them to work with increasing independence in the afternoons or evenings. There are of course other slightly more prosaic factors too, such as how much prep they will doubtless get once they all reach their senior schools, and how important independent learning will be for them at that stage in their lives.

My current belief is that doing a little bit of work in the evenings is, by and large, a good thing. Preps may well be designed to consolidate what the boys have been doing in lessons that day. They may look like the sorts of ‘old fashioned’ homework tasks one would expect any child to complete – without too much of the dreaded ‘death by worksheet’ approach in evidence I hope! Preps may also be styled as a truly preparatory task on occasion, so that boys can do a bit of planning and clever thinking in advance of having to complete an activity under their own steam in the lesson the next day. It is always very revealing – and useful – for us when boys research something at home, or when they revise, then produce work on their own the next day with us, based on the previous evening’s mental preparation. I have read some very interesting stories here over the years that have emerged out of this approach, for instance.

The logic is slightly different in maths in Years 3 – 6. Although there might be the occasional ‘preparation’-style homework, generally we want the boys to recall and revise what they have learnt in class. The Manga High web based resource is useful in this respect as specific tasks can be set based on recent work and the questions vary in complexity based on the success of the previous questions. Mr Ford, Mrs Campbell, Mr Hole and I are all currently researching all sorts of different web based IT homework/prep platforms, with the view that we might like to introduce one or two more in time, if they prove to be any good.

My strong belief is that you, as parents can best support your boys by taking a pragmatic approach overall to prep. By all means guide and support, but please do not be tempted to do the work for him. Question him about what he thinks he has to do, re-direct him to aspects of his work if you think he really has mucked it up but above all, leave him if you can, to get on with the work on his own.

When the wheels have fallen off late on a rainy Tuesday night however, and the dog has been sick on the carpet and the pasta has burnt onto the bottom of the saucepan and the boiler is on the blink and you have that urgent work call to the States to make and everyone is crying and the prep is still not done (I hope that does not sound too familiar to anyone?) I recommend you ask yourself “…is the juice really worth the squeeze?” If circumstances at home conspire, either beyond your boy’s control or because he simply has not copied down the instructions carefully enough, so that doing the prep is going to be counterproductive, then he does not have to do it. Put a note in his prep diary, or let us know, and we can take it from there. Tomorrow is another day…

We continued to explore our understanding of the word ‘diversity’ in our assemblies this week. On Monday I ratcheted up the ante around the cult of ‘The Grape’ that the boys seem to have engendered. Do ask them what they think the differences are between grapes and blueberries, along with what they think they have in common.

Mr Salt and the boys in 6S presented a very mature and very thought provoking assembly this morning, with a lot of very ‘grown up’ material based upon our theme. I was delighted they concluded their assembly with a list of top tips they recommended we all adopt, so as to make the most of the exciting and diverse world we all find ourselves living in. I was determined to share them with you today, as they are an excellent reminder for us all, I would say. They are:


Have a great weekend,

Tim Smith


Sports News

The first few weeks back to school are always a little unsettling for all involved. New environments, different classmates, an unfamiliar timetable and that is just the teachers. For the children it can all be a little overwhelming and this is particularly obvious when you add in to the mix all the things they need to remember for a games session and on which day. As well as more than likely experiencing a level of fatigue unfamiliar for the past 8 weeks. Needless to say, we have all found the first few weeks a challenge but I think we have finally got into our stride with regards to games and everyone seems to be used to their new routine.

The weather is helping and it is a joy to be able to spend each afternoon in the glorious sunshine out on the park and see the boys, not only learn new skills, but ultimately enjoy themselves whilst being active and healthy. On the last day of the summer holidays the games staff were in school and taking part in an FA coaching award in preparation for the new term. I am sure I speak for us all when I say that I have really enjoyed putting the things I learnt on that course into practice and it has certainly giving me a new level of enthusiasm for coaching football.

The FA now employs what they call a ‘4-Corner Model’ which encompasses not only the Technical Corner and the Physical Corner but to a greater extent, the Psychological Corner and the Social Corner. In essence it is a holistic approach, which falls in line with our new approach to instruction and coaching during fixtures. What we are seeing by ensuring games sessions are enjoyable and by giving the boys the power to work things out for themselves, is that they are making just as much progress but in a much more relaxed and pressure free environment.

In terms performance on the pitch there certainly does not seem to be any detrimental effect and we have had another successful week. I have spent time thinking about whether or not I should relay wins and losses to you, as I wonder if this contradicts our approach. However, I think it provides a measure of progress. Plus, we all win and lose in life and so hiding away from that obvious fact isn’t going to stop it from happening and so I don’t believe there is any harm in discussing what the results were. As long as all involved don’t get carried away with the wins or disheartened by the losses, then I will continue to do so.

Therefore, on Saturday the U11 A team came third in the Hall Grove 7-a-side tournament. On Monday the U10s won 2 and lost 2 against The Mall and on Wednesday we took three U10 teams to the TPS tournament. One of the A teams came second and the B team also came second in their competition.

Next week sees us pit our wits against Surbiton at U11 and there is a large Colts fixture against St George’s Windsor. There is also a U10 tournament at Kings House tomorrow. However, the most exciting thing about next week is that all the boys in Year 3 will have their first ever fixture for the school against Surbiton and a select few will also be attending a 5-a-side tournament also at Surbiton.

In other news congratulations must go to Mr Wales who represented MCC South v MCC North at Lord’s on Tuesday. He was 25 not out and bowled 9 overs taking 3 wickets in relatively close victory. I am sure it was an amazing experience and one which I am very jealous of. Be sure to ask him about it, if it’s of interest.

Have a good weekend.

Pre-Prep News

Thank you to all who attended our Reading Information Evening.  As promised last night, some information, which we hope will be useful.  If you were unable to attend but would still like a copy of the documents distributed, please do let me know.

Despite there being just 26 letters in the English alphabet, there are approximately 44 unique sounds, also known as phonemes.  The 44 sounds help distinguish one word or meaning from -another.  Various letters and letter combinations know as graphemes are used to represent the sounds.  The 44 English sounds fall in to two categories: consonants and vowels.  There is no such thing as a definitive list of phonemes because of accents, dialects and the evolution of language itself.  Therefore, you may discover lists with more or less than these 44 sounds!

Pronunciation is very important. Phonemes must be articulated as a pure, clean sound – to hear the correct pronunciation of phonetic sounds we recommend the following:

Phonics are a means to an end.  The sooner that children can recognise the sounds (phonemes), the letters (graphemes) that represent them and blend them together in order to read words, then the sooner they can read for understanding, purpose and pleasure.

Marilyn Brocklehurst through her Norfolk Children’s Book Centre freely dispenses her unquenchable enthusiasm for books and reading; it is definitely worth taking a look at her website.  Her contact details are as follows: Norfolk Children’s Book Centre, Church Lane, Alby, Nortwich NR11 7HB.

I highly recommend buying yourself a copy of ‘The Story Cure: An A-Z of Books to Keep Kids Happy, Healthy and Wise’ by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.

And finally, another useful website is Oxford Owl Reading Parent Tips:

 Help your child’s learnin#8F81B

We have continued to explore the theme ‘diversity’ in our assemblies this week through Hans Christian Anderson’s ‘The Ugly Duckling’.  The story teaches many lessons but the most important of all is that we should not discriminate and judge other people by their physical appearance – the barnyard animals ridicule and mock the duckling simply because he does not look like them.

Our first House and Vice Captains of the school year have been announced and they were awarded with their badges by Mr Smith in assembly yesterday.

Red:  Wilfred (House Captain) and Daniel (Red Vice Captain)

Yellow: Edward (House Captain) and Yuchen (Vice Captain)

Green: Aizhou (House Captain) and Jonah (Vice Captain)

Blue: Callum ( House Captain) and Thiyaan (Blue Vice Captain)

This week, the Courtesy Cup and Badge went to Jonny (Year 2) for being a kind friend and asking if someone was okay when they got hurt.

and Stars of the Week to:

Year 2: Anirudh for always presenting his written work really neatly.

Year 1: Avyan for excellent maths work this week.

Reception: Aryan for his lovely piece of writing about Marmaduke the very different dragon.

Congratulations to Theo (Year 1) and Viaan (Year 1), as both boys have achieved Level 1 Swim Award – well done!

Here’s what we’ve been up to in class …

The children in Kindergarten have thoroughly enjoyed bringing in toys from home to share with their friends and teachers. They have explored some of their creative skills whilst painting portraits of these – it is lovely to see them on display for everyone to enjoy!

The children were very excited to share their weekend diaries with their friends and teachers – what a busy bunch, we loved hearing their weekend news!

We have introduced the role of Class Helper – each day a child’s name is taken from an envelope and, if they want to, they can be the Class Helper for the day. This role involves the following: counting how many children are in class each day and serving the fruit at snack time.  Additionally, they may be first in the line and are called upon to assist the teachers with daily tasks in Kindergarten.

We have now introduced all six Golden Rules to the class and will continue to refer to them in our play and learning. As well as remembering kind hands and kind words, we have worked hard as a team to tidy up carefully at tidy up time.

Next week, our topic is ‘Autumn’ and we have asked the children if they are out and about over the weekend to find all sorts of leaves to bring in to school for a leaf activity. However, please refrain from bringing in conkers, acorns or pinecones.

This week in Reception we have been thinking about ‘Magnificent Me’.  We talked about our bodies and what makes us unique and different, but also ways that we are the same.  We read the story ‘Marmaduke the Very Different Dragon’ by Rachel Valentine, and talked about how our differences make us special, and how important it is to celebrate difference. This story inspired some wonderful drawings and writing – each boy drew a picture of their dragon, decided on a name and then wrote about what made each one special. They came up with some really special skills for their dragons, and it was wonderful to see how each dragon was so very different!

In our phonics sessions, we have been learning the sounds p, i, n, and using these letters (along with s, a, t) to blend and segment simple CVC (consonant, vowel, consonant) words. All the boys have enjoyed their reading this week and we have been pleased with the positive way they have approached this – we worked on pointing to each word as it is read, recognising character names in the text, looking for known letter sounds and, of course, we have encouraged plenty of talk about the story and illustrations. In mathematics, we have been looking at number formation, the position of numbers on a number line and lots and lots of counting!

Year 1 wrote some wonderful stories in English this week. After reading ‘Knuffle Bunny’ last week we wrote our own stories about a lost toy. The children thought carefully about using capital letters and full stops, and organising their writing into a beginning, middle and end. Next week, we will be reading the story of ‘Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present’ – Christmas will be arriving early in Year 1!

In maths, we have been learning all about 2D shapes. We have learnt to recognise squares, rectangles, triangles, circles, pentagons and hexagons. Later in the week, we looked at the difference between squares and rectangles and completed an investigation on how many different types of triangles we could draw using dotty paper.

During our science lesson, we continued our work on seasonal changes learning about how autumn turns to winter, with the days becoming shorter and the nights becoming longer. The children have enjoyed observing the weather over the course of the week using our weather station, positioned in the school’s front garden.

Year 2 have enjoyed planning their own circus stories this week, using their knowledge and imagination to come up with some of the most daring and dangerous acts you have ever heard of! They will be writing these up next week. Also, next week we will enjoy ‘Clown’ by Quentin Blake, which is a delightful picture book. The children will add speech bubbles and captions to the pictures to show what is happening and how the characters might be feeling.

During maths, the children have been consolidating their knowledge of adding and subtracting within 20, using a number line. They learnt how to subtract by ‘finding the difference’ (counting up) if the number subtracted was in close range of the first number in the calculation (14 – 12 = for example). Yesterday, we revisited 2D shapes and identified the names and properties of different   shapes, including regular and irregular octagons, hexagons and pentagons.

In science, the children have continued to explore forces by using a magnet to push or pull an object. They were fascinated about this, as they could not SEE the push or pull force itself but could feel it and they could watch the object move. In RE, we read the story of Abraham and discussed the message behind it. The children were able to share examples of when they were made a promise but had to wait a while for their promise to be fulfilled. We talked about the importance of being patient. We will continue to explore more Bible stories and their meanings next week.

We hope you enjoy the sunshine tomorrow!

headmaster's picture
Tim SmithHeadmaster