Head Master's Blog Archive2011/12

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Summer Term 2012

The year has come to an end and what a remarkable year it has been. Over the last 12 months I have attempted to give some idea as to what it is like to work at Blundell’s Prep School, through the eyes of a new Head Master! The learning curve has been steep but exhilarating and now that I have done the full cycle I am left in no doubt as to the quality of what is offered at BPS.

Anyone who watched the Year 6 production of ‘The Wind in the Willows’ could not have failed to be impressed by the quality of the performance. After many months of preparations, prop making, line learning, song rehearsing, the time had finally come to welcome an excited audience to Ondaatje. Wednesday night was fantastic and Thursday night even better, as all of the children relaxed into their roles and delivered an unforgettable performance. There were some stand-out performers and special mention should go to the incorrigible Mr Toad, played by Greg Kitson, the wise Mr Badger, played by Ollie Kilbride, the loyal Mr Mole, played by Will Spencer and the dapper Mr Rat, played by Tabitha Vause. The other 36 members of the cast also played significant parts with some children taking on multiple roles with lots of lines to learn. It was a team effort and that was very clear to see. As I mentioned on Thursday evening, the quality of performance would not have been possible without the inspirational guidance of Mrs Cracknell and Mrs Charlesworth. They did a quite remarkable job and thoroughly deserved the ovation from the audience and the cast. A night to remember for many years to come.

The Leavers’ Service on Thursday morning was a lovely way to say goodbye to our Year 6 and those who are moving on to warmer climes. With poems and recollections of the many years spent at the school, it was a lovely opportunity to spend time together and I was delighted that we were joined by many of our Pre-Prep children and staff. So many of the fond memories which were shared by our Year 6 pupils were from their time in the Pre-Prep and Nursery and this really emphasises the importance of those early years in education.

Having had our own Speech Day just over 10 days ago I was delighted to attend the Senior School Speech Day on Friday afternoon, not least because I could just sit and listen! Over 1500 people were present to hear the thoughts of Chairman of Governors, Cedric Clapp, guest speaker and OB, Assistant Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney and of course our out-going Head Master, Ian Davenport. It was a wonderful occasion and a fitting end to the school year. How fortunate we are to be able to send our children on to a Senior School which values every individual and a community that welcomes all who wish to be part of it.

Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to read my Sunday afternoon ramblings. You will, I hope, be pleased to hear that I intend to continue with the Blog next year although I may make a few changes to the format and invite some guest Bloggers to join in. More on that to follow but for now I will sign off by wishing everyone a happy and healthy summer break. Oh and by the way, it looks like the sun has finally made an appearance. Will it last? I hope so.

Mon 9th Jul 2012, 09:10

Where has the year gone? It would fair to say that at Blundell’s Prep we live by the mantra ‘Don’t count every hour in the day, make every hour in the day count.’ I think that every minute, let alone every hour has been used this past week! The Year 3 Greek Day was a huge success and as 34 Greek Gods and Goddesses came processing into assembly on Monday morning I was concerned that we may have to ask the Spartans among them to leave their swords and spears at the door. Some of them looked very fierce indeed, particularly Oscar and Kit, who were very much in character throughout the day. Monday afternoon saw our Year 6 head over to the Senior School for their Induction Afternoon and they were joined by the other children who will be going into Year 7 at School House in September. As I arrived for tea it was lovely to see our children chatting away to those who will be new to the school and sharing stories over a drink and a doughnut!

On Tuesday we celebrated Olympic Day with lessons packed full of dancing, singing, designing and smoothie making (and drinking of course!). Once again I was asked to take on the duty of sampling all 8 of the different flavours so I dutifully obliged. The ‘Sweden is Very Berry’, ‘Saint Kitts Sip’, ‘Seville Smoothie’, ‘Jamaican Fruit Punch’, ‘Russian Raspberry Roulette’, ‘Oreo USA’, ‘Pink Panther’ and the ‘South African Sling’ were all delicious but my favourite (if you are interested) was the ‘Pink Panther’ the offering from the UK team and compromising strawberries, milk and yoghurt. As you might imagine, this was a highlight of the day for the teams of mixed age children from Years 3 to 6. We finished the day with an assembly in the marquee where poems were shared and chocolate medals were awarded. It certainly got us in the mood for the start of the games in just 4 weeks’ time.

Over in the Pre-Prep the Year One children were word perfect for their Summer play. Their performance of ‘Stone Soup’ was wonderfully entertaining and once again emphasised how much these children have grown up over the year. Some of them were a little hesitant back at Christmas but not this week. William Luxton was particularly good as one of the farmers and spoke with confidence and clarity.

The Summer Concert on Wednesday evening must have been one of the highlights of the year for the many families who joined us for this musical extravaganza. The picnic hampers were over-flowing with tasty treats and a cold glass of fizz or two and the weather held for long enough for picnics to be enjoyed. The quality of musicianship was quite remarkable and it would be difficult to highlight individuals when the choirs, groups and ensembles all performed with such enthusiasm. One individual who deserves a mention is our very own entertainer extraordinaire, Mr Simon Swain. I had no idea that he had such comic talent! These evenings are only possible with the efforts of our talented team of peripatetic music teachers along with Mrs Bruce and Mrs Cracknell. We are very fortunate to have such a strong team in place with which to support the vast array of musical interests at BPS.

Speech Day is THE date in the calendar and the culmination of the academic year. Those who joined us on Friday could not have failed to be impressed by the inspirational words of our guest speaker, Dr Lara Herbert MBA as she spoke of her life in Zimbabwe, her training as a doctor, her time as a Commando and subsequent tour of Afghanistan, and her adventures whilst climbing Mount Makalu. The audience were captivated and with good reason. The lucky children who received awards on the day were a credit to the school as they smiled and thanked Dr Herbert but the biggest smiles were seen on the faces of Frances and Sparkle as they shared their music trophy. I could not have wished for a better end to the term. But hang-on, we have one week left and there’s the small matter of two performances of The Wind in the Willows to look forward to as well as a Leavers’ Service, the Year One trip to Kent’s Cavern and Babbacombe Model Village, the Nursery Two trip to Pennywell Farm and the Nursery One trip to Kia Ora Farm. Let’s hope that the sun keeps shining.

Mon 2nd Jul 2012, 09:55

I would have to say that last week was probably the busiest that we have had at the school this year, and we are rapidly approaching the end of the term! It was packed full of events and this coming week looks to be just as busy. This half of term may only be four weeks long but we pack a lot in! The Prep School Sports Day on Monday was blessed with wonderful weather and although the track was a little soggy in places, races could still go ahead. There were some wonderful individual performances and in total 12 school records were broken across all age groups. Anna Maunder in Year 3 broke the records in all four of the Quad athletics events – a remarkable achievement. Every child in the Prep School had the opportunity to perform and the afternoon was very well supported by parents – I think the sunshine played its part!

On Tuesday we had our whole school photograph and again the weather held. The children looked incredibly smart and I have to admit to feeling very proud of our school as I stood back to see them all in position and ready to smile. They were very patient and the Nursery children were especially good – I hope that the picture comes out well.

‘Move up Day’ on Wednesday was a great success, as children spent the morning with their Form Teachers for next year. There were teamwork games aplenty as they all got to spend time in their forms for next year and this was particularly exciting for our Year 2 children as they had a taste of what it is like to be in Milestone’s House. We welcomed a number of children who will be starting with us in September and what an impression they made. Numbers are looking very good indeed for September and with more parents coming to see us this week, they could be even better.

On Thursday we welcomed the parents of our Year 6 children to the Prep School for the Leavers’ Evening and what a treat awaited them. Earlier in the term, the children had entered the Diamond Jubilee Tea competition, organised by The Duchess of Cornwall. Sadly they did not make it in the final but the menu that they put together was spectacular and our Leavers’ Evening provided the ideal opportunity to share their creations with their parents. More attentive hosts you could not have wished for and the entertainment that followed made for a very special event. There will be several more opportunities to say goodbye to our Year 6 but this was their opportunity to look back at all that they had achieved over their years at BPS. As the children sang ‘Jar of Hearts’ (their choice) there were a few tears shed and I can quite understand why.

By Friday the rain had returned and the Pre-Prep Sports Day was forced inside. This did not dampen the spirits, nor the turn out of the parents, and the audience were treated to the traditional sprints along with the less traditional ‘Potato and Spoon Race’, the ‘Dress the Queen Race’ and the much anticipated ‘Dad’s Walking Race’. There was a lovely atmosphere and the children gave their very best to every event. Whilst many would argue that the athletic performances were the highlight, the giant chocolate medals that were on offer may well have come a close 2nd!

And finally, at the very end of the week, a tired but elated Year 4 returned from their overnight residential at Folly Farm. After 48 hours of outdoor activities they were in need of a good wash and a good rest, but the war paint that was still very much in evidence suggested that a very good time was had by all.

So that was last week but what of the coming 5 days...

The Year 6 Induction afternoon at School House, a Year 3 Greek Day, a whole school Olympic Day, the Summer Concert, the Year One Summer Play and Speech Day. Busy times but lots of fun to be had. I look forward to seeing you during the week.

Mon 25th Jun 2012, 11:45

Escot tripHow many of you would fancy being up to your waist in a swamp? Not for you? Well this is the position that our Year 2 children found themselves in on Friday during their visit to Escot. In the words of Mrs Southgate who joined Mrs Kimber and Miss Howlett, "The children were amazing. The physical challenge was hard enough but to have the courage to keep walking without knowing what was at the bottom posed an even greater test. Getting the mud out of their toes was also quite an ordeal!" I was delighted to look through the photos and see the wonderful facial expressions of those who were brave enough to venture across the muddy swamp and two ponds. These photos will be available for parents to access through the secure part of the website at the end of the week. As well as Escot pictures there will also be photo galleries of all our major events and trips, available in high resolution for parents to download and print. More information to follow in Friday's newsletter.

The theme for this week's blog is 'new'. The new sports uniform arrived and we were delighted to see so many parents come to buy the tracksuit on Tuesday and Wednesday. The children look very smart and were clearly very excited to get their hands on the new gear. There is plenty of stock so please do take the opportunity to visit the School Uniform Shop over the rest of this term or by appointment over the Summer Holidays.

You will also have heard the news that Nicola Huggett will be the new Head of Blundell's from January 2013. As I have mentioned in previous Blogs, I feel strongly that change is a good thing and this is a particularly exciting one as Nicola comes with a wealth of experience from working at several outstanding schools. Nicola and her husband, Spencer have four children and I am delighted that two of them will be joining the Prep School in next year's Year 4.

England beat Sweden in a major championship for the first time which was new (I thought I would include this at the special request of Mr Swain!).

Year 6 have been working incredibly hard in their rehearsals for Wind in the Willows and are making excellent progress. The time and energy that is involved in putting this production together is astounding and I know that we are in for a real treat in a few weeks' time. Year 6 will also be treating their parents to a selection of delicious appetisers at their Leaver's Tea on Thursday before presenting their memories of their time at Blundell's. It should be a super evening.

We have the Prep and Pre-Prep Sports Days to look forward to, with the latter having a parents race. I hope that you've been in training! Wednesday will also be an exciting day as the children get the opportunity to 'Move Up' to their new classes for the morning. New teachers, new rooms, new subjects, new challenges! The summer term is a busy one, but's that's nothing new!

Mon 18th Jun 2012, 09:45

I don’t know if you would agree with me, but the summer term has flown by. With only 4 weeks left until the end of the school year it is remarkable to consider how much has been achieved. The reason that I mention this is that I have been reading back over my Blog in order to get some detail for Speech Day and what strikes me is that it is going to be difficult to pick out the highlights. There is certainly plenty to mention as I look back at the final week before half term. The Year 6 residential to Kelly College was clearly a highlight and I hope that the children are now well rested, having been put through their paces with 5 days of challenging activities. If you haven’t had the opportunity to look at the Year 6 Blog then please do take a moment to follow the link on the Home page of the website. The pictures give you a very clear idea as to what the children (and staff!) got up to. You may also notice the very unflattering shot of me hanging from a rope having climbed (eyes closed, knuckles white, knees trembling) up the tree. “I don’t like heights” just doesn’t cut it with 40 Year 6 children, especially when you have spent the year challenging them to step outside their comfort zones, so up the tree I went. It was exhilarating and terrifying in equal measure and has now given me a bit of a bug – ‘Go Ape’ during the summer hols awaits! I wasn’t alone in being wary of the tree climbing and some personal challenges were met by some very brave children. I wouldn’t want to embarrass them by naming them here but they know who they are and the smiles on their faces as they reached terra firma were all that was required to see how much it meant. This was my first visit to Kelly College and I have to say that the set up at the Adventure Centre is first rate. The centre staff worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone enjoyed themselves and the days were packed full of challenges, both physical and mental. Team work was essential and I was delighted to see our senior pupils working so well together. Mr Mildren, Mr Moore and Mrs May certainly felt that the children did themselves proud.

There were several other acts of bravery during the week. I had asked some of our talented musicians to perform in Chapel in front of an audience of 400 Senior School staff and pupils. It was remarkable to see the way that they took this in their stride. As Year 6 were away, it was left to our Year 5 pupils to sing as a choir and they did this brilliantly. Alex and Laura in Year 4 played a lovely piano duet and then Grace in Year 5 played her clarinet to huge applause from the assembled pupils. When you take a moment to step back and look at these performances you do marvel at the courage shown. What was even more impressive was the lack of concern displayed by those who performed – they just got on with it and were flawless. If confidence is the most important quality that we can instil in our children then these individuals have it in abundance!

I do hope that you enjoyed the Jubilee Weekend, whether you were involved in local celebrations or ventured to the capital to brave the elements (I managed to get to paragraph 3 before mentioning the weather – a personal best!). We stuck to the TV coverage and a jaunt down to the Canal to join in the festivities and to view the bunting, some of which was made by BPS children. It took us a while to find it but it was there, contributing to the sense of occasion and the wonderful atmosphere. And what an atmosphere there was at the Jubilee Concert, the weather held out and Cliff’s pink suit took centre stage, along with Grace Jones and her hula-hoop! With the Olympic Games just around the corner there is a great deal to look forward to and I know that whilst only 20 days of school remain, the rest of this term will be equally action-packed.

Mon 11th Jun 2012, 09:05

It was a very busy and a very warm week at the Prep School. On Tuesday we all came together to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee. The tables were laid up with Union Jack table cloths, cups, plates and napkins, there were flags to wave, hats to wear and a delicious lunch to enjoy, all supplied by Mrs Moys and our wonderful catering team. The highlight must have been the spectacular Jubilee cake which was cut by William and Alicia to huge applause and then promptly devoured by children and staff. Diamond Jubilee celebrationsEveryone was in good voice for the National Anthem and having given Mrs Moys and team a hearty "Three Cheers" we then embarked on a series of Mexican Waves. There were cheering competitions for each year group and a very special rendition of "Happy Birthday" for Emma. It was a wonderful occasion and one that was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

On the subject of wonderful occasions, the Nursery Summer Play took place on Friday afternoon and had the usual mix of laughter and only a few tears. The children did fantastically well to present 'The Three-Cornered Hat' to a proud audience of mums, dads, grannies and granddads. It never ceases to amaze me that children of only 3 and 4 years old are able to stand on the stage and remember their lines. They sang beautifully and were a real credit to Mrs McDowell and Mrs Pym.

The Blundell's Senior School athletics event on Friday afternoon also benefitted from glorious sunshine and there were some superb performances from the BPS competitors, many of whom won their events and even broke some long-standing records. I managed to get across the road just in time to see the relays, many of which were won by BPS. It was a super afternoon and our thanks go to the Blundell's Senior School staff who put the event together.

My family and I have spent the weekend in Oxfordshire as Sarah was taking part in a charity marathon walk across the Ridgeway. The event has grown since its inception last year and the huge effort that went into preparations for the day were quite remarkable. I didn't quite make it to the start line to wave off the walkers but I could hear their spirited warm up in the sports hall – who "woops" at 5.30 in the morning? Although based at Moulsford there were several other schools involved and a strong sense of community was evident throughout the day, from the bleary eyed volunteers manning the water stops through to those entrusted with feeding the famished walkers and families at the finish line. As walkers came across the line having braved many hours in the sweltering heat, there were lots of smiles and some very sore feet. In total the 150 walkers raised over £15k for Breakthrough Breast Cancer and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust – a fantastic effort!

Do take a moment to look at our school website as we will be using a Year 6 Blog to keep you up to speed with events at Kelly College over the coming week, as our senior year group head to Tavistock for 5 days of adventurous activities. I am certainly looking forward to spending Thursday with the children and staff although I may well have to face some fears of my own as the morning will be spent on the high ropes course.

I wish you all a good week ahead and an enjoyable half term.

Mon 28th May 2012, 09:30

This week I had my first experience of the Devon County Show which seems ridiculous when you consider that I lived in Exeter for 4 years but the show wasn’t really on my radar as a student. It should have been because it is a fantastic event and one that is well supported by those connected with Blundell’s. On Friday I joined Marketing Director, Sally Twiss, and Senior School staff in the Blundell’s marquee and we had visits from a great many OBs as well as plenty of prospective BPS parents. I was delighted with the number of young families who knew that we were at the show and made a bee-line to come and say hello. I will certainly be inviting them all to visit the school over the next few weeks. The Saturday of the show saw thousands of families descend on Westpoint to enjoy the many exhibitors, the animals, the attractions and of course, my personal favourite, the food vendors. A quick wander through the Food Court allowed for the sampling of some of Devon’s finest cheeses and ice-creams, all washed down with some delicious cider. If only I had known as a student!

On Thursday I visited Badminton School in Bristol for the IAPS District 4 meeting. The chance to get together with other Head teachers from the region is one that I relish and it is fascinating to hear of the many challenges that are being faced by everyone in our sector. That said, all were in buoyant mood as we heard about the Cornish division of ‘Sing up – Sing to Success’ and the work that is being done to bring school’s together to sing. We were challenged to sing a traditional Kenyan greeting and it was a good job that we were joined at the conference by Directors of Music, ensuring that there our efforts were a great deal more tuneful than had it been left to the Heads alone! For me the highlight of the day was the very interactive presentation from ‘Quiz Club’. Now what do you get if you combine a room full of Heads, a quiz competition and electronic buzzers? The answer is competition, groans of despair and plenty of “I knew I should have gone for answer 2” and this was only from our team of 4 which included our very own Mr Folland as well as two other local heads who shall remain nameless. How did we fair? Well we didn’t come last but there was the Michelangelo vs. Botticelli incident which cost us dear and it was an uphill struggle from there! The quiz master, a man who could sell snow to Eskimos, had us spell bound as he hosted the quiz in a style akin to the greatest of quizmasters, Bob Holness (I always wanted to be on Blockbusters). We will certainly be introducing this at BPS as it offers a challenge to those children who have knowledge beyond the curriculum. You don’t have to be the best writer, the most proficient speller or the most confident on stage but you do need to have a thirst for knowledge and I know that we have a number of children who would relish this challenge. More on this to follow.

A very weary looking Year 5 returned from Kelly College on Friday having thoroughly enjoyed their time there. Mrs Garcia, Mr Kerr and Mr Mildren felt that the children had been presented with a great many personal challenges over the 3 days and all had responded positively. This was a great opportunity for them to throw down a marker for next year and I was delighted to hear that so many of them had taken the opportunity to do just that. I hope that all were able to catch up on some sleep over the weekend.

There is a great deal to look forward to this week. On Thursday and Friday we welcome you to join us for the Exhibition of the work created during Creative Arts Week. At the same time you will be able to enjoy the Tea-Time concert and then on Friday we welcome parents to our coffee morning and Awards Assembly. I do hope that many of you will be able to join us.

I am told that a heat wave is on its way – now that is good news!

Mon 21st May 2012, 08:15

Our week started with a musical flavour as we were joined in assembly by some of the talented musicians from the Senior School, accompanied by Director of Music, Andrew Barlow. We were very grateful to them for giving their time and for sharing their talents, the highlight of their visit being the beautiful solo performance of Adele's 'Make you feel my love' by a young lady in Year 9. It was stunning and the whole room was captivated by the performance. The Mayor of Tiverton's inaugurationOn Tuesday, Sarah and I attended the Inauguration of the Mayor of Tiverton and our Head Girl and Head Boy were on hand to present the new Mayor with a bouquet of flowers and our best wishes for his time in office. We were delighted to join other local schools at this important occasion for the local community.

Open Week went very well indeed with a number of families taking the chance to come and see the school in action. Having the opportunity to show the school off during the working day is always preferable and our guests were hugely impressed by what they saw. The smells emanating from the Food Tech room may well have helped as Bacon, Cheese and Mustard Twirls were offered, courtesy of our budding Year 4 chefs. It was fascinating to speak to our visitors and to find out what they were looking for in a school for their children. A number were concerned with the lack of teacher led activities during their child's early years education leading, they felt, to an apathetic approach from children who should be buzzing with excitement when they go to school. Mixed ages in classes, few opportunities to get outside to exercise, to play sport or to take part in activities away from the classroom were all frustrations being experienced and the reasons why they felt that BPS could offer more. With small class sizes in each year group and opportunities to take part in activities being further enhanced next year, you can understand the appeal. If our visitors had the opportunity to see the wonderful ballet performances on Thursday they would certainly have been impressed. The sheer delight that was so evident on the faces of those who performed for their parents and grandparents was wonderful to see.

Sun at last! Sadly not in time for cricket or rounders at the Prep School so we have our fingers crossed that it will last in to next week. On Saturday I headed over to the Senior School to see some ex Prep school pupils in action and watched as a young lady from Bristol Grammar School tore through the Blundell's under 12 A side. Let's hope that our own cricketing superstar, Kinna can do much the same on Wednesday – if it doesn't rain of course! Our Year 5 children are heading off for their residential trip to Kelly this week and will enjoy a programme of adventurous and team-building activities. I hope that they make the most of the opportunity and perhaps challenge themselves to have a go at something they haven't done before or something that takes them outside of their comfort zone. I look forward to hearing all about it. I imagine that a great many people will be heading to the Devon County Show at the end of the week and I look forward to seeing you there. Do drop in to the Blundell's marquee to say hello if you are able.

Mon 14th May 2012, 09:05

We were delighted to welcome over 80 grandparents to the school on Monday morning. Children throughout both Pre-Prep and Prep departments were very excited to be able to show their grandparents what they get up to in lessons and I was put through my paces at a Head Master’s Q&A session. As I sat contemplating what I would be asked in an effort to prepare I had not expected to be challenged over the use of Kindles and I-Pads, the merits of Apple Vs Windows, the dangers of electro-magnetic smog. Perhaps I was caught up in the idea that we would sit contemplating how school was so very different in the past but what is abundantly clear is that grandparents are very much in tune with the world today. Grandparents MorningI shouldn’t have been surprised as my father (‘Grandpa’, as he will be referred to in this context) is gadget mad and far more IT savvy than the majority of the ‘younger generation’. Our guests were very forward thinking, very engaged in their grandchildren’s education and very appreciative of the opportunities that the children have to explore these new technologies. There was also a strong feeling that the traditional skills of writing as well as the preservation of books should remain high on the agenda and so we embarked on a discussion that I, rather naively, had not expected to have. It was a fascinating debate to have and one that just demonstrates how important education is to our grandparents, many of whom are heavily involved in the lives of their grandchildren. Next year’s event will have a slightly different format (there will still be an HM Q&A!) and I hope that we will get an equally positive response. Thank you to everyone who supported this very worthwhile morning.

We are going to have another push on uniform this term as the summer brings new challenges! The ‘Trainer-Sock’ has invaded (for the uninitiated, this is the sock that hides below the shoe – I have become a sock expert of late). The girls have been reminded that these cannot be worn with the lovely summer dresses so gentle reminders from home would be appreciated. Another world that I am also becoming more experienced in is the world of hair slides. There are some lovely designs appearing in school but I would suggest that these should be saved for home – again, all help gratefully received. I know that many parents are keen to get their hands on the new tracksuits and these will be with us at half term. We are putting some plans in place to organise times when the children can be fitted for them so more news on that to follow. As you will be very aware of by now, I am rather keen on the children presenting themselves in the right way, both in and out of school, and I certainly appreciate the fantastic support that I have received from staff and parents alike. And finally, an apology to all parents who are responsible for washing cricket whites. Who came up with that colour choice? Apparently it will stop raining in June so until then the whites may struggle to stay white!

This week we are looking forward to welcoming guests to the school once again, with our Open Morning running for all 5 days of the week, including the Bank Holiday Monday. What they will find is a school full of happy children, immaculately dressed, writing, reading books, exploring technology and, most importantly of all, enjoying learning. The best advertisement for Blundell’s Prep is the children and I know that our visitors will be impressed.

All good wishes for the week ahead.

Mon 7th May 2012, 12:45

I woke this morning to find our garden trampoline heading towards our neighbour’s house with bits of metal and netting strewn across the lawn, vegetable patch and Mayfield. After some brute force (me) and some considered planning (Sarah) we managed to get the rather sorry looking trampoline out of the hedge and flat on the ground, out of the winds that have been causing havoc across the country. I do hope that you have remained unscathed and have managed to enjoy the weekend, in spite of the weather.

I was delighted to welcome the children and staff back to school on Monday and we started with an assembly on the Marathon and the idea that a great deal of perseverance may be needed in order to achieve our goals. I imagine that this was relevant for many of the children who took on my holiday challenge! 3 weeks of ensuring that rooms are tidy was hard work for many who took on the challenge and received House Points as a result. Interestingly, I asked those who visited my study this week if they would normally help with laying the table, if they would put their dirty clothes in the wash or if they would ever polish their shoes. The answers were mixed but if they have taken a step towards being more independent then the challenge was worthwhile. There will be another challenge in the summer so parents can send in their requests – never arguing with siblings or completing homework without being asked/reminded/nagged will not be included, much as we may all want it to be!

The rain put pay to any chance of rounders or cricket this week but there was some sporting action as our Under 11 girls Hockey team played in the regional finals of the English Hockey Championships at Millfield. They made a slow start but were soon back in the swing of things and managed to get to the semi-final before being knocked out on penalty flicks. The squad once again showed their qualities and determination to succeed and although disappointed, they knew that they had given their best.

Tomorrow we will be welcoming over 70 grandparents to BPS for our 5th annual Grandparents’ Morning. There will be opportunities to visit assemblies and lessons in both Pre-Prep and Prep, as well as the chance to enjoy some delicious homemade cakes made by our talented catering team. Our guests will need to have their wits about them as many of them will join us for Maths lessons, hopefully not evoking terrible reminders of long division and algebra! I know that the children are very excited to have this opportunity to show off their school.

Many parents and friends of Blundell’s Prep may be delighted to hear that we are now ‘Tweeting’. If you would like to follow us please search for @blundellsprep or follow the link on the side of the HM Blog page. Another busy week ahead. Year 6 will be working with the police to remind motorists of the dangers of speeding, Year 1 will be visiting Tiverton Museum and Year 3 will be heading off to Beaford for their residential. These are just a few of the events to look forward to over the next 7 days.

Have a good week.

Mon 30th Apr 2012, 13:00

I am always in awe of the thousands of people who run in the London Marathon each year and as I sit in comfort watching the runners make their way over the 26 miles I feel humbled by the efforts of those who are pushing themselves to the very limits of human endurance in order to achieve personal goals or to raise thousands of pounds for charity. I should do it. I would like to do it. Maybe next year? I am going to be talking about the marathon in my first assembly of the term and will be trying to demonstrate the huge physical demands that are placed on those who take part, be they competing as an elite runner, a costume-clad fundraiser or a wheel-chair athlete. We will look at the essential ingredients needed to take part in this gruelling event and consider how these ingredients relate to our own intentions for the term ahead. Having promised the children that I would do The Russell next year I am going to be very careful what I say regarding next year’s marathon!

On Friday the staff were in school to take part in a thought-provoking Inset on Teaching and Learning and discussed a wide range of topics ranging from ‘The Teacher as a Storyteller’ through to Da Vincian principles and the importance of building a ‘Thinking School’. We were fortunate to have with us Andrew Hammond, key author of the Independent Curriculum and soon to be head of Daneshill School in Hampshire. His insightful, controversial and reflective presentations provoked some interesting debates and the opportunity to critically evaluate our own practice. In essence, what are we doing as teachers to bring the very best out of each of the children whom we teach? Working in a busy school, where days are packed full of opportunities, it is vital that we take stock of what we are trying to achieve and that comes back to the real reason why teachers become teachers – to help children be the best that they can be. The fact that there are hundreds of ways in which you can achieve this makes the task all the more challenging and rewarding in equal measure! It was fascinating to consider the ways in which we measure intelligence with one of the most revealing comments coming from Alfred Binet, the man who created the IQ tests, when he said that ‘Intelligence, like beauty or love, is immeasurable.’ Sadly, the education system remains very exam based, with assessments used to define children with alarming frequency. While these assessments provide a valuable strand of the whole educational experience, they are not the defining factor of success and failure and neither are they the sum total of what we want for our children. School has to be about learning, not assessment, and it never hurts for us all to be reminded of that fact.

The last 3 weeks have flown by and we return to a short summer term and the prospect of a plethora of exciting events. I have to say that I am delighted that our Year 6 play this term will be The Wind in the Willows and we wish the entire cast the very best of luck as they embark on rehearsals. Putting together productions of this scale during a 10 week term is challenging to say the least but I am certain that the final performance will be something very special indeed. A glance at the calendar will reveal Grandparents morning, Open Week, residential trips for all children in Years 3 to 6, as well as sport, music, drama and art aplenty. We also look forward to a visit from 815 squadron, our Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the FoBP ‘It’s a knockout Family Day’. As always, an invitation to attend many of these events is extended to all parents and friends of the school. I look forward to seeing you all throughout the course of the term.

Mon 23rd Apr 2012, 10:55

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Spring Term 2012

When I look back at the week just gone the word ‘change’ springs to mind. We experience some elements of change every week but this one has seen more than most. The Year 2 play gave us a very valuable lesson in how we should change the way that we eat, avoiding those foods that are high in fat and taking the time to exercise. There have been a number of changes to the Prep School website, with the Curriculum pages getting an overhaul. As I said to the children in my Pre-Prep assembly this Wednesday, with Spring arriving there are a huge number of changes going on in the world around them. They were very enthusiastic when I asked them to assist me in waking up some of our hibernating animals and gave me some great answers when I asked about the changes that we see taking place in the countryside in which we are so fortunate to live. These are all fairly typical examples but another that was perhaps less expected was the announcement that we would be having a change of Senior School Head Master next year. After 8 years, Ian has decided that it is time for a change and that is brave and exciting in equal measure. Although many people are unnerved by change, in many cases it offers new opportunities and new insights, especially when you are building on something that is already strong, successful and thriving.

During the early part of the week I spent two days at an IAPS New Heads training course in Stratford Upon Avon. I am never very keen to be away from school for too long at this stage of the term but it was an invaluable opportunity to speak to other Heads, all very new to the role, and all experiencing a wide variety of challenges along the way. What was very clear in many of our discussions was the warmth with which we have all been received in to our new schools, as parents, children and staff across the country embrace change.

And now for the weather...

What a weekend we have enjoyed and what a change from just a few weeks ago. Record breaking temperatures recorded in Scotland and most of you heading for the beach, the moors or simply the garden I imagine. How many people got the BBQ out for the first time since last summer? Well I decided to give it a wipe down and lifted the lid, only to utter the words that I utter every year, “Why didn’t I clean it when I put it away for the winter?” Some things never change!

Have a lovely Easter break.

Mon 26th Mar 2012, 10:00

This was a very special week for our children in Year 2 as they travelled to Kelly College Prep School to take part in their first ever school fixtures. To say that they were excited would be somewhat of an understatement and I think that school work was not high on the agenda during the morning’s build-up to the games of football and netball. The girls played very well indeed and came back from two goals down to draw 2-2. The boys were on top form and managed to win 4-0. What a start to their BPS sporting careers! On Friday, the Year 2 children and parents joined us for assembly and we were able to give the players a round of applause in front of the Prep School, as well as some certificates to commemorate their debuts – all very exciting as you might imagine.

We were also joined in our Friday assembly by some of the performers from Thursday night’s Tea-Time Concert. The evening was a great success with a huge array of musical talent on display, brilliantly co-ordinated by Director of Music, Mrs Cracknell. Seeing children stand up in front of an audience and perform, whether it be with saxophone, piano or simply their own voice, it reminds us of the importance of instilling self confidence in our children. This comes from providing opportunities to perform, to share their talents or the products of their endeavours. The bedrock of this self-confidence comes not from the performance itself but from the wide variety of experiences and challenges that they have faced before taking to the stage. I am convinced that this begins with teaching children to be independent within an environment that is both safe and supportive. If our expectations are that they will get themselves from A to B, that they will look after their possessions, that they will use their diaries to record their prep, hand it in on time, know where to be and when to be there, then a hundred people listening to you perform at the front of the hall will not seem as daunting as it might. So, you may ask, why am I jumping on my soap box at this stage of the term? I do question whether we are all doing our bit outside of school to prepare our children for the challenges that they will face in their lives, and I include myself in that. It is all too easy to do things for children as we lead busy lives and sometimes just want things done so that we can move on to the next thing. In the long run this may not be for the best and so over the holidays I would ask that we all make an effort to challenge the children to do things for themselves, whether it be putting dirty clothes away, loading or unloading the dishwasher or simply tidying their bedrooms. This will be the holiday challenge that I will be setting for all of the children in the Prep School with House Points on offer for all of those who take it on. Please encourage them to take on the challenge!

Rocket-launchingThis week has seen a variety of scientific events going on at both Prep and Pre-Prep to recognise National Science Week. It began with a rather small scale ‘eggsperiment’ (groan) in my Monday assembly which impressed a few but the really impressive science was enjoyed by the children in the Pre-Prep as they had a visit from Mr Mead, a science teacher from the Senior School. He was fantastic with the children and filled the room with exploding balloons and lots of loud bangs, much to their delight. I am certain that no-one will forget that assembly and I am sure that it will inspire our budding scientists of the future. Any of the children who like rockets would have enjoyed the opportunity to build and then launch their own rockets on Monday as we also had a visit from the Hands-On Science Company. The assembly of the key components was not easy but come ‘Zero Hour’ and there were plenty of volunteers, ready to launch their creations in to space – well across the hall, but it was very exciting as can be seen in the picture. Thank you to Miss Harrison and Miss Purvis for organising such exciting events for everyone to enjoy.

Rocket-launching     Rocket-launching
(Click the images for larger versions)

The last two weeks of the Spring Term promise to be action packed. We have the Speech and Drama Recital at the Prep School today followed by the Joint Music Concert at the Senior School next Tuesday. On that same day we welcome local Primary Schools to BPS for our annual Tag Rugby Competition, an event that is already generating much excitement amongst the children in Years 1 and 2. Then to finish the term, I do hope that many of you will be able to join us for the Easter Service in the Chapel as it promises to be a lovely event.

Mon 19th Mar 2012, 08:00

It’s official – I am a netball convert. In glorious sunshine, over-looking the sea, high up on the hill at Roedean School in Brighton our Under 11 girls competed against the very best players from across the country. They were fantastic and flew through the group stages, winning 7 of their 8 games and scoring more goals than any other side in the competition. It was therefore all the more devastating when they were narrowly beaten in the quarter final by Twyford School in a 12-10 thriller. U11 Netball TeamIn spite of their very best efforts, they could not find the answer to their opponent’s prowess in front of the goal. All 10 members of the squad were outstanding and should feel very proud with being in the top 8 IAPS teams in the country. They were given great support from fantastic travelling parents and the inspirational Mrs May who kept the girls going with a variety of energy drinks, sugary snacks and boundless enthusiasm! I was charged with looking after water and making sure that the base camp was set up. Sadly we were rather lacking in the ‘enormous school gazebo’ stakes but I think that our tiny green and white pop up tent made a powerful statement, sandwiched between the skyscraper like canopies of our opposition schools! The 4 hour drive back gave us all a chance to reflect on what might have been but also the huge pride that we felt for these talented netballers.

With the sun making an appearance there are going to be opportunities to take some learning outside and this has been made even easier with the work that Head Gardener William and his assistant Ben have put in to the Wildlife Area. They have worked tirelessly over recent weeks to create steps down to a low level walkway so that the children will be able to get to the water’s edge when pond-dipping. They will also be able to venture out to ‘The Island’ to replenish the new bird feeders and get down and into the undergrowth to build Mini Beast houses. This wonderful area will be used by all of our children and will bring a huge amount of excitement, whether they be bug hunting, story reading or bird watching. More news on the Wildlife Area to follow over the next few weeks.

At the start of the week, 6MO spent the morning assisting the local police in their ‘Speed Watch’ project. They used a number of speed measuring devices and some of the children had the opportunity to pose some rather direct and challenging questions to speeding members of the public. It is a great initiative and one that is certainly needed outside our school as the 30 mph limit is so often ignored.

We will all be enjoying Science Week over the next 5 days and it starts with some ‘explosive’ workshops in both Pre-Prep and Prep. I will attempt to get things under way in assembly with a science experiment of my own, but fear that it would go horribly wrong, hence I am hard boiling some spares, just in case. In theory it should all work perfectly...

I hope that everyone enjoyed the sunshine yesterday. It just shows that sometimes you get what you wish for when you blow the candles out on a birthday cake!

Mon 12th Mar 2012, 09:55

It’s been a bit of a foody week again at the Prep School with the much anticipated Masterchef event taking place on Tuesday. 56 children, including 40 from four local primary schools, came to BPS to bake bread rolls of various shapes and sizes in an effort to win the much coveted BPS Masterchef 2012 apron! A worthy winner from each school was chosen but in fact all 56 managed to produce some delicious looking rolls with designs ranging from snowmen to hedgehogs. After 10 minutes of mixing the ingredients with the first 28 children it looked like the whole room had been dusted with flour but thanks to the efforts of Mrs Edge and Mrs Watson, ably assisted by a group of very brave staff and some Year 6 helpers, the ingredients came together and the smell of baking bread emanated throughout the school. But Tuesday was not the end of the culinary themed week, as Year 4 produced some delicious marmalade. I know it’s delicious because I had it on my toast this morning and I have to say that it trumps even my father’s recipe. Year 6 are putting plans together for their entry in to the Duchess of Cornwall’s, Diamond Jubilee competition so I was called upon again to taste their produce – it’s a tough life for us Head Masters you know! The BPS version of the sausage roll, the ‘Chunky Devon Roll’ was spectacular, as was their version of the Devon Cream Tea – yes, I had to sample those as well. Two of them in fact, just to make sure that they were up to scratch!

Now the perfect way to counterbalance the intake of vast quantities of delicious Devon fare would be to run ‘The Russell’ and as I look out of my window I can see the crowds of runners amassing. Will I be joining them? Not this year for various reasons, the main one being my total lack of fitness, bad back (I have a doctor’s note!) and desire not to humiliate myself so early on in my time at Blundell’s. I’ll run it next year, well that’s the promise I have made my daughter who is very disappointed that her father can’t manage it. Combine this with my dancing efforts at the disco next week and you’ll understand the pressure I am under. I’m sure these things were not in the job description!

The Prep School sports teams have had a mixed week with our Year 6 Netball team qualifying for the National Finals at Rodean next weekend with a thrilling display at the regionals in Stonar. They scored over 80 goals and conceded only 20 on route to being runners-up on the day. We wish them the very best of luck for next weekend. We also congratulate our U11 rugby 7’s team who won the South West 7’s at Plymouth yesterday. They stormed to victory with some huge wins, including a 34-15 victory over Mount House in the final. The junior sides were not so successful this week but numbers have been decimated by a lot of illness. I hope that you are spared it as the children have been suffering. Let’s hope for a healthier week to come.

A highlight of last week was certainly the Pre-Prep Poetry Day. The children had all been asked to write and/or recite a poem to fit into one of several categories and then all had the chance to perform in front of their friends, before a lucky few were selected to perform in front of the whole Pre-Prep and guests from the Senior School, including our esteemed judge, Mrs Winsley. The confidence shown by these very young children was absolutely remarkable and the show was stolen by Ophelia in our Nursery 2 class with her recital of ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ whilst dressed in the most wonderful home-made star outfit. The literary theme was also continued in the Prep School as World Book Day was celebrated in Thursday’s assembly with 10 willing volunteers sharing excerpts from their favourite books. Mr Moore also launched a competition to write a story in a sentence – not as easy as it may first appear to be. Over the last few weeks I have heard and read about the general trend for children to read less. That is something that we do not see at BPS and long may this continue.

On Monday I asked the children about ‘The Blundell’s Way’ and invited them to come up with a poster design to be used around the school and on the website. I also asked them to bring their House Points to me so that I can get the opportunity to congratulate them for the huge amount of kindness that is shown towards others on a daily basis. We are working on a system to rival the much coveted Merit badges, with ideas ranging from bookmarks to wrist bands of various colours to be worked towards. It is vital that we give thoughtfulness and generosity of spirit the same credence as academic achievement and the School Council are being tasked with driving forward plans to do just that.

Looks like it’s about to rain. The Russell is about to start. I am with them in spirit if not in person! Good luck to all.

Mon 5th Mar 2012, 10:30

I decided that it would be better to enlist the help of one of our talented Year 6 chefs rather than subject the school to my cooking so Archie was recruited and a great job he did. He also joined me in the Pre-Prep assembly on Wednesday and cooked an even better pancake, smothering it in strawberry jam at the request of the very enthusiastic (and hungry!) audience. The pancake theme continued as the Prep School enjoyed the annual Pancake Races. Pancake racesHaving witnessed the passion that goes into House events I was not surprised to see each of the three Houses cheering their racers on with great gusto. Mr Hirst did a marvellous job as Master of Ceremonies and Grenville were the worthy winners. Sadly, a number of pancakes were harmed during the event.

The food theme continues this week as we welcome 56, Year 2 children to Blundell’s Prep for a Masterchef event. We are combining the much loved format with the more recent Great British Bake off, so the children will be mixing, kneading and shaping their ingredients into a variety of designs before their efforts are judged by guest chef, JC Le Grand. JC will then put on a master class for visiting parents to enjoy, with scallops and truffle oil on the menu I believe – sounds delicious!

Our cross country runners were in fine form again this week as Blundell’s played host to schools from across the region at the Larkman Cup. With over 100 runners at Under 9, Under 11 and Under 13 age groups, it was a very competitive event and superbly organised by Mr Swain. Now the mere mention of Cross-Country may send shivers down your spine (or is it just me?) but we are fortunate to have some talented athletes at the Prep School. In spite of their best efforts the team were unable to take the title this year but there were some strong performances from a number of runners. Special mention should go to Mia who came in 3rd in the Under 9 girls race. Well done to all who braved the course.

Friday night saw the much anticipated Prep School disco so suffice to say that it occupied the thoughts of the majority of children during the day. With DJ Ollie in excellent form, children in Years 3 to 6 danced the evening away, with Matthew, Imogen and Mrs Charlesworth winning medals for the quality of their moves. The Head Master’s dancing was less than impressive. The event was brilliantly supported by the FoBP, the Prep School staff and a number of Year 6 pupils who put together some delicious fruit cocktails for everyone to enjoy. Some of the children ate their bodyweight in sweets but a huge amount of fun was had by all.

This week we will be focusing on ‘The Blundell’s Way’ which is a code of conduct for how we treat other people. The School’s motto is Non Sibi and this pervades all areas of school life with children encouraged to think of others before themselves. My assembly on Monday will look at how we can all think in this way and come up with some practical examples, as well as a challenge or two for the week ahead. I am certainly looking forward to the children coming to see me with House Points earned through acts of kindness to others.

At last the sun came out over the weekend! I hope that you enjoyed it.

Mon 27th Feb 2012, 08:15

I hope that everyone has enjoyed a good half term break. Whether you headed for the slopes, the beach or just a bit of time in sunny Devon, I am sure that you made the most of the week away from school. There is a great deal to look forward to over the next 6 weeks. Pancake races, poetry days, book weeks and sports fixtures for our Year 1 and 2 children, to name but a few of the events that will fill the second half of the term.

After the extraordinary efforts seen during Creative Arts Week I am sure that the staff, pupils and parent helpers needed a chance to put their feet up and reflect on what was a spectacular success. For me, the events of Creative Arts Week are a perfect illustration of the importance of bringing creativity into the curriculum. A collapsed timetable over 5 days allowed for total immersion in projects that simply would not be possible during a ‘normal’ school week. Creative Arts weekActivities were too numerous to mention but the highlights included the Year 4 ‘Play in a Day’ with marauding pirates led by Captain Matthew and Captain Grace. Year 3 delighted in heading to the woods to make music with instruments made from all that they could find whilst Year 5 painstakingly worked on their batik pictures over all 5 days. The Owl Tree that was created by Year 6 with the help of guest artist, Rory Nugent will take pride of place in the school and will be something to be enjoyed for many years to come. What was most striking throughout the week was the sense of purpose around the school. We were fortunate to welcome 30 parent volunteers to assist in creating cane birds, making paper and designing jester sticks – there was a lot to do and the help was greatly appreciated.

Over half term 35 children and 3 staff headed over to the Channel Islands for a whistle-stop 4 day tour. Victories against Jersey and Guernsey for the girls and a victory against Jersey for the boys were highlights of the tour, along with the swimming, museums, disco, bowling, the list goes on.

I may live to regret this but in assembly today I am going to cook pancakes. Now Sarah will tell you that my efforts at the weekend were less than impressive so to attempt this in front of 140 children and staff may be ill advised. The message will be about Lent and a recipe for a happy and successful life but I fear that more time may be spent discussing the ultimate pancake filling – I’d go for the traditional sugar and lemon but I imagine that chocolate may feature heavily today. Not sure that I’ll manage to prepare 140 pancakes so one lucky (or not, if my usual culinary efforts are anything to go by) winner will get to sample the assembly pancake. They’ll need a strong constitution!

Looks like it’s getting warmer at the end of the week – my weather obsession continues!

Mon 20th Feb 2012, 09:15

Saturday night saw the Prep School welcome Adrian and his seven racing pigs! I must confess to some degree of uncertainty when I was told how the evening worked but I have to say that it was a wonderful event. Adrian was hilarious and everyone joined in with the spirit of the occasion, standing and cheering their chosen pig on with great gusto. My thanks to the Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee who worked so hard to put the event together.

I spent some time with a group of Year 6 children on Friday afternoon during their Form Period and Privilege Time. We went through Merits for the week, looked at who had managed to get their next badge and then did a kit check to see who had everything named correctly. We tidied trays, collected kit from the changing rooms and then checked every Prep Diary to see that prep had been written down and that the diaries were signed. I am not going to ‘Name and Shame’ but….there were very few parents’ signatures evident! You may well find that your children start to ask a little more often for you to take a look at their diaries and with a new and vastly improved Diary Planner on the way for the summer term, this is going to be ever more important. Thank you for your support.

The snow never really arrived and I have to say that I was glad of that. I may well have been in the minority but when you hear of the chaos that it is causing in the east of the country I think that we are better off without it. That said, when I spoke to a friend in Oxfordshire who was heading for the hills with a sledge in tow I did have a few pangs of jealousy! It may not have snowed but the end of the week was bitterly cold so the achievements of our Cross Country runners are all the more impressive. They performed superbly at St. Petroc’s on Friday with our Under 9 boys and girls and our Under 11 girls managing to win in cold conditions.

The TV screen has been full of interesting rules this week with some which I promised to follow. Immy and Anna decided that teachers should not be allowed to jump the queue at lunch and reminded me of that when I tried to push in on Tuesday. My explanation just didn’t cut it so I dutifully joined the back of the queue, much to their delight!

This week sees the Prep school focus on the creative arts with 5 days of music, drama and art to enjoy. We have visiting artists, musicians and even a drama group coming in to work with the children, along with a group of parents who are giving their time so generously to support the school. I can’t wait to see what happens. Parents are very welcome to join us for coffee in the Atrium on Friday morning as some of the children’s creative efforts will be on display. I look forward to seeing many of you there.

Mon 6th Feb 2012, 10:35

In my Monday assembly this week I will be talking about 'Rules' (cue loud groan from the children). Actually, the school rules are pretty straightforward and are more of a philosophy rather than a hard and fast list of what you cannot do. Being kind to one another and finding ways to make other people feel good about themselves are certainly expectations that we have of everyone at BPS rather than rules, and they are philosophies that the children are, for the most part, very good at following. I have asked everyone to come up with some suggestions as to what some good school rules might be and I will post them on the TV screen for all to discuss, although I am fully expecting 'No Prep to be set' to feature strongly! Newsflash! Suggestions this morning included 'Cake at every break', 'Doughnuts for lunch every day' and 'There should be no rules' – I am hopeful that we may get some more realistic suggestions during the week although the doughnut one sounds promising!

And what of last week…

We were delighted to welcome students from School House to our Prep assembly on Wednesday morning. They talked about their hopes and aspirations for 2012 and gave our Year 6 a valuable insight into life beyond the Prep School. When I asked some of our Year 6 how they felt about moving on in September they were excited but also slightly wary of the unknown. Although still very much part of the Blundell's family, the move along the road also means a change of uniform, a change of teachers and a change of routine, all of which can be quite unsettling when you have known who everyone is and how everything works. The more time that you spend around children the more you realise the importance of routine and the feeling of safety that it evokes. Now I'm not about to extol the virtues of Gina Ford, far from it, but at times our lives are very hectic. We place considerable demands on ourselves and our children to be in the right place at the right time, with the right equipment and the right attitude – this is not always easy when you are a grown adult, let alone an 8 year old! It is therefore all the more important to equip these children with the skills that they need to thrive when faced with the challenges of a busy school day. I am hearing very positive things about the Form Period at the end of the day and it is clearly helping the children to develop their organisational skills. I am also hearing that it is reducing the stress levels for parents and that has to be a good thing. We are getting ever closer to developing the versatile and confident learners of the future!

It was lovely to see the excitement as Year 2 visited the FT room for a Science lesson this week. I was delighted to be presented with a warm sultana cake as well as a very enthusiastic explanation as to what they had learnt during their lesson. I wonder how many lessons could be taught through the medium of cooking – quite a lot if the children had their way! With our Year 2 Masterchef event now only a month away the plans are in full swing. We have 55 children involved in what promises to be a great event and a guest chef preparing a menu that will tantalise the taste buds.

Year 5 enjoyed their Tudor Day on Monday and made a huge amount of effort to dress appropriately. King Hal was in great form and regaled the children with stories of hunting and heraldry, eating and executions. Bringing learning to life is a so very important and such a powerful tool to get pupils interested in every subject, not just History. Year 1 also had a very hands-on experience during their visit to St. Nicholas Priory with opportunities to learn a huge amount about the Great Fire of London and what life was like for people living in the 1600's. A great deal of fun was had by all.

On Wednesday I asked Imogen and Byron to help me in my Wednesday Pre-Prep assembly and it was lovely to be able to introduce our younger children to their Head Girl and Head Boy. A willing group of volunteers then helped to bring the story of 'The Wise Man and the Foolish Man' to life through the use of Jenga blocks. For the house built by Byron and his team it was a not a happy ending but they didn't seem to mind as they got to help with the demolition!

What will this week have in store? More snow? Well if 230 children get their way there will be!

Mon 30th Jan 2012, 11:49

Wednesday morning saw me step into unknown territory as I was invited to take Chapel at the Senior School. The prospect of an audience of several hundred teenagers filled me with some trepidation but thankfully I survived. The theme of my 5 minute talk (it turned out to be 11!) followed on from assemblies that I had done with the Prep and Pre-Prep children during the previous week. I shared some observations on the way that we make and then keep to New Year’s Resolutions, or not as turned out to be the case at the senior school. What really struck me was the sense of fun that emanated from the older members of the Blundell’s community, especially one member of the Sixth Form who came to my rescue when a request for volunteers saw a distinct lack of offers! I wonder – when does the desire to answer every question diminish? You only have to ask a question in a Pre-Prep assembly to see a deluge of enthusiastic children raising their hands, almost ready to dislocate their shoulders or simply not breathe, in an effort to be noticed. Perhaps it is a fear of being wrong or simply of being noticed that acts as the deterrent but what is clear to me is that a major role of any school should be to give their children the confidence and the bravery to take a risk.

One of the ways to develop this is to pose questions to which there are no wrong answers and this is when Ian Gilbert’s ‘Thunks’ are so powerful. Since we relocated the TV screen to outside the dining hall it has allowed us the opportunity to pose a weekly ‘Thunk’ for all to consider and I have had some wonderful answers from children in Years 3 to 6. This week’s question asked ‘Is a computer clever?’ and it uncovered some interesting ideas as to how computers work. If you want to challenge your children with some thought–provoking questions, and perhaps even exercise your own grey matter at the same time, then ‘Thunks’ are a great way to do that.

The Entrance exam results arrived this weekend and it was an emotional time for pupils and parents alike. I am delighted to say that all of the Prep School pupils gained places at the Senior School and there were 9 Awards made to those who excelled. Congratulations to all 40 of this year’s cohort who worked so hard to prepare for the exams. For the staff, many of whom have been supporting these children since they were 3 years old (some even younger!) it is a wonderful recognition of the enthusiasm and quality teaching that they have given. It has certainly been a team effort and one to be celebrated by all.

This week we have a very special visitor – King Henry VIII. Do take a look at our News section later in the week to see how Year 5 got on during their Tudor Day. Now to assembly with safety goggles, industrial gloves and a cool box in hand – wish me luck!

Mon 23rd Jan 2012, 07:50

I wonder how many people have included ‘be more organised’ as one of their New Year’s Resolutions. Well in an effort to help our children in Years 3 to 6 to improve their own organisation we have introduced a 10 minute form period at the end of the day. The opportunity to check prep, recover lost items of uniform and have a final chat with their form teacher before the end of the day is proving to be really helpful for pupils and staff alike. We hope this simple change will help the children to be more organised and reduce the regularity of “I forgot my prep” moments, just as you arrive home! The form teachers are also on hand to chat to parents, as they will be bringing the children to the gate at 4.30pm.

In the first Award’s Assembly of the term I gave out 10 Head Master’s Certificates for outstanding work in Art and Science. As you look around the school it is clear that there are some talented artists about, with examples of work displayed throughout the Prep and the Pre-Prep. Creative Arts Week is scheduled for the beginning of February and this will allow all of the children in Years 3 to 6 to immerse themselves in a wide variety of Creative pursuits. Those parents who receive our fortnightly newsletter will see the invitation to come and join in so if you would like to offer your expertise or simply an enthusiastic pair of hands, you will be most welcome.

It was a busy week of sporting fixtures with football and hockey for the boys and netball for the girls. Victories for all three under 9 girls netball teams in their first matches of the season were perhaps the highlight although the U10 and U11 teams also got off to an encouraging start. Things were a little tougher for the Under 9 boys football teams but it is early days and there will be plenty of opportunities to improve.

Year 6 have had a busy time of late but the exams are now over. I was delighted with the manner in which they prepared, particularly over the last week, and I look forward to seeing the results of their considerable efforts in a week’s time. I was also delighted to hear that the Blundell’s Prep School children had welcomed pupils from other schools with such warmth. To take the time to think of others when in the midst of exams is certainly impressive and I will be congratulating all 40 of the children in Monday’s assembly.

I hope that you have enjoyed some of the brighter weather this weekend. I paid my first visit to Westward Ho! and was treated to some glorious sunshine and a walk along the beach. I must confess that I did not realise that Westward Ho! was the only town in British Isles to have an exclamation mark at the end of its name. A useful bit of information to store away in preparation for future Trivial Pursuit success? Wishing you all a good week ahead.

Mon 16th Jan 2012, 09:25

Happy New Year! I do hope that you have enjoyed the Christmas break and that resolutions made just 9 days ago are still intact! For me there are the standard aims rather than resolutions: eat less, exercise more, although these do tend to be aims that I am forced to reaffirm at various points during the year, usually with limited success. Whatever your New Year’s Resolutions may be I wish you well in sticking to them.

The holiday has also given me the opportunity to reflect on my first term in the role. Last term flew by with a constant stream of information needing to be assimilated in quick time. When you have been very used to a particular routine it becomes quite a challenge to get to grips with a new one but I have been guided by a great many supportive members of staff. I am hoping to lean on them a little less during this term but am grateful for their relentless support and infinite patience. There is a great sense of purpose about the place and that was evident in our Staff Meeting and Marketing Inset on Friday. It certainly bodes well for the coming term, with a calendar full of events to enjoy and the prospect of better weather – I’m getting used to the volume of rain here in Devon!

Many of you will have heard the sad news of the closure of St. Michael’s School in Tawstock. There has always been a strong link between our two schools and we will miss the fixtures that we enjoy throughout the year. Having been at St. Michael’s when the parent body met for the first time after hearing the news it was clear that there was a tremendous sadness that came from a deep affection for the school and all that it has done for the hundreds of children who have been educated there. It brings it home to us all just how important it is to make the most of the opportunities that are afforded to us through being part of such a privileged environment.

The on-going development of the buildings and site at the Prep school has continued over the break. The Pre-Prep hall has been completely redecorated and this has given it a much needed lift for the new year. There has also been some redecoration at the Prep school as well as two new changing facilities, doubling the space that the children have access to. The day-to-day use of the changing rooms will be transformed and in addition we will be able to offer our guests their own changing facilities without having to compromise on what our children have available to them. The netball courts have been remarked and new posts installed, leading to queues of children practising their shooting. Sadly my shooting skills were not up to scratch!

In my first assembly of the year I will be asking the children to reflect on their successes from 2011 and their aims for 2012. I am sure that they will all have targets and will look to reach them in a wide variety of fields. It is highly likely that things will not always go to plan and this is something to be embraced rather than feared. All of Year 6 will be hoping that everything will go to plan on Saturday when they sit their Entrance Exams for the Senior School. Good luck to them all.

Mon 9th Jan 2012, 14:05

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Autumn Term 2011

The final week of term is over and we are just three days away from the Christmas holiday. Suffice to say that the school is full of very excited children, and a few staff of course!

Visiting parents and grandparents enjoyed the Year 1 and Kindergarten Christmas plays this week. The confidence with which these 4, 5 and 6 year olds performed was a joy to see and with plenty of video cameras in use there were some classic moments to remember. The sleepy shepherds were determined not to be woken and the kings were not always so keen to give up their gifts but these moments just added to the productions. Thank you to the dedicated and talented staff who worked so hard to put these performances together. This week we look forward to the Nursery play and then the Prep School productions on Wednesday. Good luck to all of the performers.

The choir have been very busy indeed over the last week with performances at our Festival of Carols and at the Tiverton Town Hall on Saturday afternoon. They will be in fine voice again when we meet as a school on Monday evening for our own Carol Service. I look forward to welcoming many of you to this wonderful event. It was lovely to see so many children involved in our Festival of Carols on Friday afternoon, welcoming Tidcombe, St. John’s and Two Moors Primary schools to the beautiful, candle-lit Blundell’s Chapel. Some talented choirs sung their hearts out, much to the delight of the many parents who supported the event. My thanks go to those teachers who inspire these children to perform with such confidence.

The whole school enjoyed their Christmas lunch on Thursday and what a party it turned out to be. Mrs Moys does like to spoil the children and so she had 6 different desserts on offer following a traditional lunch with all the trimmings. Sprouts were compulsory (they always were when I was a child!) and with some Christmas classics blasting out of the hall speakers the occasion was full of excitement as well as the occasional Mexican Wave! The staff had their work cut out that afternoon I can tell you!

I do hope that everyone gets the chance to have a well-earned rest over the Christmas period. It has been a long and busy term and it is vital that we all have a chance to recharge the batteries ready for the challenges of the new year. This is particularly important for the Year 6 children who have had a very intensive period of exam preparation over recent weeks. They must enjoy a break from their studies so that they can return refreshed and ready for a final week’s revision before they then go to Big School to sit their Entrance exams. I have every confidence that they will perform very well indeed.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2012.

Mon 12th Dec 2011, 08:25

I have an apology to make to Byron, my cooking partner in last week's FT lesson. He and I combined our efforts to make some delicious Smoked Mackerel Pate and I had promised to mention him in the Blog, even though he would only agree to one table spoon of horseradish! A future Jamie Oliver? Could well be.

The Year 2 Christmas production of 'Witnesses' was a wonderful event in which all of the children were able to perform. The singing, the costumes and the sheer volume of lines that they learnt were remarkable, reflecting the confidence that performing on stage from an early age has on these 6 year old boys and girls. Thank you to the parents and grandparents who offered such fantastic support.

'Super Saturday' at the Exeter Chiefs was enjoyed by the 31 children who attended. The day started with a two-hour training session with those members of the Exeter squad who were not selected for the Worcester match. They took the children through a variety of different drills and practices and even gave them a tour of the facilities, including the icy cold immersion pool. After a lunch in the stands the children then had a chance to form a tunnel through which both sides ran as they came on to the pitch. At half time the Blundell's boys took to the pitch to do a lap of honour before settling down to enjoy a nail-biting 2nd half of rugby. It was a fantastic day and thanks must go to all at Exeter Chiefs for their superb hospitality and to Mr Swain for his hard work in organising the day.

In the National Schoolgirls U11 Hockey regional Qualifiers at Exeter School our side stormed through, winning every match and qualifying for the South West final at Millfield in the new year. They are an outstanding side and we have high hopes that they will do very well in the latter stages of this competition.

As we look ahead to our final full week of term there are rehearsals aplenty, House matches, performances from Kindergarten and Year 1 and the much anticipated Christmas lunch – ear defenders a must I am told! The Festival of Carols on Friday will certainly be a highlight and we look forward to welcoming a number of local schools to our chapel. With only eight days of term remaining there is still a great deal to look forward to.

Mon 5th Dec 2011, 15:00

I have just returned from our Under 9 Hockey and Rugby Tournaments, both of which were superbly run by Louiza May and Simon Swain. They were ably supported by the Blundell's Prep and Senior School staff and we are very grateful for their combined efforts. It is at times like this that the importance of team work is clear. Sarah and I were delighted to welcome so many visiting parents and the encouragement that they gave from the touchlines was remarkable to see and to hear! These children are very fortunate to have such support as it will play such an important part in their development, not just on the games field but in everything that they do. The hours spent reading books, practising spellings, reciting times tables, encouraging exploration and simply talking around the dinner table will have a profound effect on their progress and should never be underestimated.

Yr

Earlier this week I spent some time with Mrs Pym and the children in our Nursery 2 class. We started with some PE and the children helped me to improve my throwing and catching skills. We also had a chance to choose a game to play and the unanimous decision was for 'What's the time Mr Wolf?' which caused a huge amount of laughter as a class full of screaming 3 and 4 year olds ran away from their ham-acting Head Master! When we had all recovered and had gone back to the classroom the children were asked to investigate the effect of a large magnet on a wide variety of materials. The sheer delight and the 'awe and wonder' that could be seen as the paper clips leapt from the table was a joy to witness. It was an experience that was repeated over and over again to fits of laughter from both Joshua and the inspirational, Mrs Pym. I also had the chance to work with some of our Kindergarten children as I helped them to choose and then wrap Christmas presents. At times the wrapping paper to sellotape ratio was around 1:10 but we had a huge amount of fun and they all showed remarkable tenacity and dexterity. Thank you to Mrs Hulse for entrusting me with such an important Christmas job!

A great many children produced inspirational performances this week. The Speech and Drama Recital on Monday saw brilliant solo efforts from children throughout the school. This was followed on Thursday by the Tea Time Concert in which over 40 children entertained an audience of 100 parents with solo and ensemble pieces. There was certainly a Christmas theme to some of the performances, highlighting how we are now well in to the run up to the festive season. Rehearsals are in full swing throughout both Pre-Prep and Prep Schools and we are looking forward to welcoming many of you to the school over the next few weeks.

Mon 28th Nov 2011, 10:25

It was lovely to welcome so many parents to our Friday morning Awards Assembly this week, especially as it marked the awarding of only the third Prep Badge in the history of the Merit System. Emily Mettam has amassed over 500 merits which is an amazing achievement and I was delighted to see the way in which the school celebrated and congratulated her on her success.

You may remember that this week we have been focusing on table manners so in assembly we also recognised those children who the staff had identified as showing excellent manners at lunchtimes. It was clear that they had all learnt from Joe Horsey's excellent demonstration, particularly the Pre-Prep children who found his example of why it is important not to talk with your mouth full, absolutely hilarious. Thank you Joe for helping me to reinforce this important message!

I was very sorry to miss the Christmas Bazaar on Saturday but have heard from a number of sources that it was a huge success raising over £2000 for Balloons. A big thank you to all the staff, the children, FoBP, the stall-holders and you as parents for your combined efforts for such a worthy cause.

This week is National Road Safety Week and the importance of wearing seat-belts and paying attention around roads and in car parks will be the focus of my Monday assembly in the Prep and the Wednesday assembly in the Pre-Prep. I will be emphasising the importance of wearing a seat belt, even on the shortest journey and how at this time of year, when it's dark in the mornings and afternoons, to be especially careful crossing roads and navigating car parks. Please do reinforce these important points at home.

There is a great deal to look forward to in the coming weeks. This evening we host the first of our Speech and Drama recitals and then on Thursday we have the 2nd of our Teatime Concerts. As always, parents are very welcome to attend.

I look forward to seeing many of you during the week.

Mon 21st Nov 2011, 13:40

Thursday morning was a very special time for our school community as we all came together for our Remembrance Service. The children and staff had worked very hard to make individual poppies and everyone had the opportunity to place their poppy into a commemorative wreath. Remembrance DayIf you are popping in to the Pre-Prep or Prep School then please do take a look – they are spectacular. We were joined by Yan Yates, the Head of Blundell’s CCF, and his senior CCF cadets who looked magnificent in their uniforms and made quite an impression on our younger children. We were also joined by Chris Taylor, a peripatetic music teacher with members of his Wind Band and as our service came to an end they played ‘The Last Post’ and ‘Reveille.’ This was a very moving moment and a fitting tribute to all of those people who have been affected by war.

And so to the week ahead…

Some of the most interesting conversations that I have with the children are over lunch. It is lovely to be able to sit and just chat about what has been going on at school as well as what has been going on in their lives outside of school. It is an important social time for the staff and the children and helps to build an understanding of one another beyond the classroom. Remembrance DayIt is also a time when good habits can be reinforced. This week we will be focusing on good table manners and this is also my topic for assembly on Monday so watch those elbows on the table at tea time!

Year 6 are looking forward to visiting Big School and School House on Tuesday where Mr Marshman will be talking them through what to expect and the children will have the opportunity to get some advice from the current Year 7 students. I am looking forward to seeing how they get on.

Finally don’t forget that on Friday the school will be awash with spots and stripes as we fundraise for Comic Relief and then on Saturday you can start your Christmas shopping at the school’s Christmas Bazaar.

Another busy week ahead!

Mon 14th Nov 2011, 09:30

During this term I am visiting every class in the school, seeing every teacher in action and looking at the great variety of ways in which the children here learn. There are some innovative and exciting things going on. Seeing children learn something new is great, seeing them excited about learning something new is better and seeing them want to learn more is better still. I saw an example of this in FT last week where a group of 13 children and one Head Master learnt to make Eccles cakes. From start to finish they were engaged, excited, focused, creative and highly motivated. It would also be fair to say that 13 of them were highly skilled with just one letting the side down! Mr Kerr’s verdict on my Eccles cakes – “Good try, Head Master”. One failed attempt does not a failure make – I will try again.

I woke on Saturday morning to hear the dreadful news of the crash at Junction 25 of the M5. Having been at the Old Blundellians’ London Dinner on Friday night I was unaware as to what had happened and thoughts suddenly turned to those who were caught up in the horrific scenes being shown on television. It is at times like this that we are reminded of the dangers that we face every day on the roads. As the week goes on our thoughts will turn to those who gave their lives in conflicts around the world and we will be holding our own Service of Remembrance on Thursday morning. This will include all of the children and staff in Pre-Prep and Prep, with everyone having the opportunity to ‘plant’ a poppy that they have made in our own Garden of Remembrance. Senior members of the CCF will join us for the service, along with the school Chaplain and a trumpeter who will play The Last Post. It promises to be a very fitting tribute in which all members of the school community can play a part.

A huge thank you must go to all who put together the fantastic Bonfire Night on Thursday. Bonfire NightThe fireworks were spectacular, the food was delicious, the sweets were popular and the mulled wine even more so! I am sure that all who attended will agree that the Friends of Blundell’s Prep did an outstanding job.

I have just returned from a day spent watching some superb rugby, courtesy of the finest Under 11 and Under 13 players in the South West of England. The Prep School Barbarians once again took place at Blundell’s and with the weather set fair it was a chance to see some high quality action. We had 5 representatives involved and they all gave their best in what were 3 very physical matches. Well done to Archie, Jack, Oliver, Greg and Ralph who took part. Well done as well to our girls Under 11 Hockey players who battled through torrential rain and the ‘group of death’ to eventually run out plate winners at Millfield in the IAPS Regional event.

Another busy week ahead with Year 3 and Year 4 Parent’s Evenings, sports fixtures and rehearsals a plenty. My best wishes to all.

Mon 7th Nov 2011, 08:15

I do hope that everyone has had a good break over half term. With batteries recharged it provides an opportunity for staff and pupils alike to spring back in to action and I am keen to see what will be achieved during the 2nd half of this term.

You'll be pleased to hear that there has been a lot going on at the school over half term. As you drive in you will see that there is a new path to follow from the front of the school around to the entrance to the Pre-Prep. This should make life a little easier! A new fence has improved security and the intention is to continue with the wonderful planting that gives such a lovely feel to the school. The Pre-Prep has also had a fresh coat of vibrant yellow paint and a new carpet in the Nursery. They also have a classroom full of new computers to come back to and I know that the Pre-Prep teachers have big plans for them. The steps that the children use to get on to the Prep playground have been widened and changed in to a ramp so less likely to flood in the coming weeks. The children now have a digital display screen outside the dining hall which they will have access to on a daily basis. This will allow messages to be displayed, achievements to be recognised and challenges to be set. There will also be opportunities for the children to contribute to what goes on the screen and I am sure that they will be full of interesting ideas! These screens are used at the Senior School and are an excellent way of encouraging greater independence in the children.

I wanted to say a very big thank you to everyone who took the time to reply to the questionnaire. The responses have been fascinating to read and will play a major part in putting together plans for the next stage in the school's development. These are exciting times and when reading all of the thoughts it was clear that there is huge affection for the school and a strong sense of engagement with all that is going on. As you might imagine there were some wonderful comments and some inspired ideas from the children. 'It is very, very, very kind' was a comment from one of the children. 'It is the best thing in the world, it is wonderful and beautiful. I love it when I wake up and go to school'. You can't say much more than that really. Of course there is room for improvement and as a school we are always looking to provide the very best for all of the children.

There are a huge number of events to look forward to in the run up to (yes, I am going to mention it) Christmas and we start this week with Bonfire Night. Obviously this causes a huge amount of excitement at school and we are going to be talking about why we celebrate this famous date in history. There may also be an opportunity for some of the children to put on an early sparkler display! I look forward to seeing many of you on Thursday evening at what promises to be another superb FoBP event.

Mon 31st Oct 2011, 12:05

Half term is very nearly upon us and for many it will be the chance to recharge the batteries before the run up to Christmas. I am sure that many of you have exciting plans for getting away for a bit of sunshine although I can vouch for the fact that it was 20°C at Saunton Sands this weekend! The chance to have a week off will certainly bring happiness to the children and the staff alike. I would imagine that your children, like mine, will be enjoying the chance to 'chill out' and this comes in a wide variety of forms! It is important to enjoy these moments but long term happiness will not be found in a chocolate bar or in hours on the PS3. As I sit reading a list of things that we should all be doing in order to be truly happy I wonder; how many do we actually do? This is the question that I will be posing to all of the children in Monday’s assembly this week. I will also be showing them a short clip of the work done by Operation Christmas Child and asking them to find some time over their half-term break to put together a gift-filled shoebox in order to bring happiness to disadvantaged children around the world.

In Friday’s Awards Assembly we recognised success but we also highlighted those activities that the children take part in that make them happy. Leo was very happy to receive a huge trophy for his performances on his motocross bike. Henry was also recognised for winning a BMX race and it was clear from the beaming smile on his face that it made him very happy. Year 6 were very happy to perform a song from Glee, much to the delight of the school.

A great time was had by all at the Fashion Show on Tuesday. I learnt some valuable information about how to accessorize, what colours not to wear and I now know that I am long-waisted! The Teatime Concert on Thursday was a chance for many of the children to perform in front of parents and I was struck by the confidence that they showed as well as the quality of their performances - it was great to see and they clearly had a lot of fun. Year 3 will be excited to be visiting Knightshayes today and I am hopeful that all teams will be happy after their matches against the touring teams from St. Edward’s also today.

Whatever your plans are for next week, I hope that you have a fantastic half term break.

Mon 17th Oct 2011, 15:20

I recently read Ian Gilbert’s book ‘Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?’ and as the title suggests it poses some questions about the role of the teacher in a world where information is instantaneously accessible and seemingly endless. You want to find the answer to a question? Google it! Some may suggest that this renders the teacher unnecessary and yet nothing could be further from the truth. In the information rich society in which we live, the teacher plays a pivotal role in guiding children through the maze, helping them to find direction and helping them develop the skill of discernment. We all recognise that in the end it will fall to the individual to decide how they want to learn and how hard they want to work but our intention is to inspire every child to be their BEST self: to have Belief in their own abilities, to make every Effort to keep going in the face of adversity, to have Strength to continue when things are difficult, and to commit Time to their endeavours. These are big requests but ones which I believe are fundamental to making the most of these pivotal years in their lives.

The week has been full of people giving their best and this was exemplified in the efforts of the Under 11 girls hockey team who had to dig deep to win the tournament at Queen’s. They gave their very best and were worthy winners. Friday’s Awards Assembly epitomised the continued efforts of a highly motivated group of children. The sheer delight of those receiving their White badge for gaining 20 Merits was just as wonderful to see as Rebecca getting her richly deserved Purple badge for 350. They may have been at very different stages but all of them had given their best to gain the awards. The children in the Yoga class certainly did their best to help me get to grips with all that they had learnt over the last 4 weeks, with success limited only by the ineptitude of the Head Master!

I hope that you all have a good week.

Mon 10th Oct 2011, 09:05

October has arrived and true to form, we are experiencing clear blue skies and soaring temperatures although I have been reliably informed that within a few weeks it will be snowing! Certainly the sunshine is a welcome treat and one that I hope you have had the opportunity to enjoy this weekend. There has been plenty for all to enjoy over the last 7 days at Blundell's Prep. The Author Day on Friday was a huge success and much enjoyed by the children. Our budding writers were encouraged to create their own stories based on characters from the books by Jon Blake, our visiting author. Head Master with pre-prep childrenChildren in the Pre-Prep had the opportunity to choose their favourite book to listen to and this was thoroughly enjoyed by all. I was delighted to be able to share a selection of my favourite stories with some of the children including the rather disgusting but understandably popular 'Dirty Bertie.' The highlight of the day for most of the children was 'Book at Bedtime' which for weeks now has been talked about as a sleepover at school - how exciting! The huge range of pyjamas, teddy bears, pillows and sleeping bags transformed both Pre-Prep halls into the cosiest of bedrooms and a few children did struggle to keep their eyes open. The efforts of the staff were remarkable and epitomise the creativity and dedication that goes into making these events so successful.

Last week we spoke a great deal about choosing to 'have a go' and in assembly on Friday we recognised those who had done just that. Imogen, Anna, Tabby and Grace entertained us with their ‘Blundell's Remix’, another example of those who choose to step outside of their comfort zone to try something new. This week has also seen the positions of Head Boy and Head Girl introduced to the school. All Prep school children and staff had the opportunity to vote and these results were scrutinised and debated at length before Jack Klinkenberg and Jasmine Mackay were chosen to represent the school for the Autumn Term. They will be joined by three Prefects: Ralph Morris, Imogen Hamilton-Green and Byron Knowles. They are all outstanding role models and we wish them every success over the coming term.

We start the week with a demonstration of high class guitar playing from Dave Cottam and I will be asking all of the children to ask themselves ‘What am I good at?’ Recognising that we all have talents is vital and we will be celebrating this throughout the week.

What else does the week ahead have in store? More sunshine I hope!

Mon 3rd Oct 2011, 08:25

Over the last few weeks I have talked a great deal about the values that we ask the children to aspire to. We present the children with choices to make every day and this is a fundamental part of their education. Of course, the choices they make will not always be the right ones but the willingness and the confidence to take a chance, to risk failure, is a huge part of growing up. For some children the choice to put their hand up in class is one that evokes fears of failure, of getting something wrong and the risk of others laughing. This week we will be focusing on that very moment and encouraging all children to ‘have a go’ to choose to take a chance and to have confidence that their answer, whether right or wrong, will be listened to and valued.

At the end of the week we will find out who the school has chosen to represent them as Head Boy and Head Girl – I imagine that all of Year 6 are hoping that they will be the first choice. We have a visit from authors Amy Sparkes and Jon Blake to look forward to on Friday and the children in the Pre-Prep will get to choose their favourite story to listen to before enjoying ‘Book at Bedtime’ as a wonderful way to end the week.

It seems that the sun has chosen to make an appearance this week! I hope that you get the chance to enjoy it.

Mon 26th Sept 2011, 08:20

I was chatting to our guests at Saturday's Open Afternoon and they were sharing their thoughts on the school. They were hugely impressed with the facilities, the bright classrooms, the beautiful outside space and the opportunities that are clearly offered at Blundell's Prep. Headmaster talks to pupilsHowever, the overwhelming message from our visitors was that the Year 6 tour guides were outstanding. They spoke with confidence, knowledge and passion about being at school and I was delighted to hear these visitors give such a genuine appraisal of the boys and girls who gave their time on Saturday afternoon. I am sure that you as parents are very proud of them and rightly so. 

When asked what life was like at Blundell's Prep there were various descriptions. One of my favourites was that school was 'Lots of fun, but also serious' and I think that the young lady who highlighted this was absolutely right. We want the children to work hard and to play hard and it seems that is exactly what they do.

Not only were our Year 6 outstanding in their efforts on Saturday afternoon but the staff played a crucial part in sharing their knowledge of the school with those who took the time to visit us. Headmaster talks to pupilsThis combined team effort is what brings such quality to a school, and this has been evident throughout the first full week of term. When the totals for House Points were announced in assembly there was great excitement and a loud cheer from all of those children in Raleigh. When the School Council met for the first time this week they brought their ideas together for a lively group discussion and a unified plan as to what they wanted to achieve together this term. When the Year 2 children emerged in their wonderful yellow 'Playground Friend' hats at break time they demonstrated their desire to bring others together. On top of this the many teams that represented the school during the first week of fixtures did so with a single intention - to work together to achieve a common goal. 

During my assembly on Monday I will be stressing the importance of working together and showing the children how strong they are when they combine their efforts. The children and staff who helped at Open Day were a clear representation of how effective the Blundell's Prep team can be and I am grateful to all for their efforts.

My best wishes to all for the week ahead.

Mon 19th Sept 2011, 10:45

Since Sarah, Lottie, Harry and I arrived in early August our feet have hardly touched the ground. Having waded through the hundreds of boxes we are now very settled and have been overwhelmed by the welcome that we have received. Thank you to everyone who has helped to make this big move for our family such an easy one.

The first 3 days of term are over and as I sit reflecting on the week just gone, I wonder at how much has happened in such a short space of time. The first day nerves experienced by all who were new to the school (HM included!) are a distant memory and normal service has now resumed. Children are rekindling friendships, building new ones and getting the grey matter working again after the long break. For staff I imagine that the same applies!

When we met at the first full staff meeting of term I talked about my initial thoughts about the school, congratulated the staff on the outstanding ISI report and highlighted the core values which I believe are fundamental to all great Prep Schools. Mutual respect is crucial and should pervade all people at all times. It is the bedrock of the school and staff were unanimous in their desire to emphasise this important value. To this effect I have asked the children to stand up when adults come into their classrooms and to look all guests in the eye, something they do very well at home time. We have formalised arrangements for coming into and leaving assemblies, whilst also retaining the sense of inclusion and celebration that is such a fundamental part of the 'Blundell's Way.'

I also emphasised the importance of creating an environment in which everyone can be their best selves. As a preparatory school it is our duty to send these children forward with the tools to adapt in an ever changing world. Kindness, humility and selflessness are key, as are adaptability, resilience and discernment. Who knows how the world will look in 10 years’ time and our children need to be ready. The superb pastoral arrangements that are already in place will be built on with changes coming to the House System and positions of office that are available for the children to aspire to. The positions of Head Boy and Head Girl will return to the school with children afforded the opportunity to vote for those who they believe show those qualities needed to take on such important roles. These positions will be passed over at the end of every term, allowing all of Year 6 to strive to be their best selves throughout the year.

My previous Head and great mentor, Mike Higham always talked about how being a Head Master was a 'great privilege' and he was spot on. You quickly become aware of the role that you play in the life of the school and it is daunting and exciting in equal measure. Blundell's Prep is a great school. I knew it before I started the application process back in January and every experience to date has cemented that opinion. The staff and I intend to build on all of the strengths and the coming months and years are guaranteed to be exciting times.

During next week I will be talking about appearance with the children, the importance of school uniform and the role that they play in how people view the school. With this in mind I have asked that whenever possible, we travel to and return from matches in uniform. We all want the children to look their very best and take pride in wearing their striking uniforms. I know that they will rise to this challenge.

Year 6 have very kindly agreed to help at Open Afternoon next week and I will be asking them to take our guests on tours of the school. I believe strongly that the children are our greatest asset and the most visual representation of what Blundell's Prep has to offer.

So this is what the new Headmaster thinks of Blundell's, but what does Blundell's think of him? "He smiles a lot" was one comment I heard. "He's quite strict" was another. I think I'll take that for starters. Wishing you all a good week.

Mon 12th Sept 2011, 11:00