Head Master's Blog Archive2012/13

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Summer Term 2013

The summer is here and I think that we are all pretty happy about that. Temperatures are set to rocket and even remain high for a few weeks so there is much to look forward to when faced with 8 weeks away from school.

DazzleOn Friday lunchtime we said goodbye to the 240 children for the holidays and also to 4 fantastic colleagues and friends who move on to new adventures in September. There were lots of tears from our Year 6 leavers and you can understand why when you consider that many of them have been at Blundell’s Prep since they were 3 years old, some even younger. The school has been a big part of their lives and they have enjoyed their time here. They have had a staggering amount to involve themselves in over their final year in the Prep School and the pinnacle of these opportunities must be the Year 6 play, ‘Dazzle’. On Wednesday and Thursday nights we were treated to two superb performances in Ondaatje, with all 41 children giving their very best. You have never seen more stage make-up, glitter and hairspray in your life and it is a miracle that the children returned to school on Friday morning looking remarkably ‘normal’ albeit rather exhausted. They put an enormous amount of energy into the many months leading up to the two evenings and deserved the standing ovation that they received on Thursday night. Congratulations must go to the cast and the team of staff who supported the children throughout, especially Musical Director, Mrs Cracknell and Director, Mrs Charlesworth.

DazzleBefore we got to Friday there were one or two other events going on, including our re-scheduled Prep Sports Day. Thankfully the weather was kinder to us and allowed the children to run, jump and throw with great success. Several school records were broken and in the end it was Grenville who ran out worthy winners. It was a super afternoon and one that allowed all of the children to compete for their house. The following day saw Rebecca Hamilton compete in the National Athletics Finals in Birmingham and she came a very impressive 10th in the 100m finals. We certainly have some talented athletes at BPS and this translates to all of the sporting activities that our children enjoy. On Sunday I joined Judokas from the Pre-Prep and Prep as they took part in the Devon Judo Championships in Exeter, an event organised and run by John and Ruth Goldman, our fantastic judo instructor or Sensei, as she is known to her pupils. Everyone gave their very best to their bouts and a number of trophies were won. William Honey and Harry Southgate won Bronze, James Dawkins won Silver and Alex Smart and Honor Tobin won Gold. Isabella Smart, William Luxton and Alexander Fewtrell were also competing and did very well indeed. Our Judo team is strong and we are fortunate to have such a brilliant coach in Ruth Goldman so my hope is that we will develop this club more next year.

So the time has come for me to sign off for this year and thank anyone and everyone who has taken an interest in my weekly ramblings. It is a great privilege to be a Head Master and to be able to be part of such a busy and vibrant school as Blundell’s Prep. My hope is that this Blog has given you a taste of what life is like behind the scenes and perhaps you will decide to look here again in September when the new school year begins again. Have a great summer and let’s hope that it is as fantastic as this weekend has been – wins for the Lions and Andy Murray – well I couldn’t sign off without mentioning them now could I?

Mon 8th July 2013, 10:25

The penultimate week of the term has now passed and we draw breath and ready ourselves for the final 5 days of term. As I sat on the stage on Friday afternoon, listening to the Chairman welcome everyone to Speech Day I could not believe quite how quickly the last 12 months have passed by. So much has happened and indeed, much of it is recorded in this “very long” (thank you, Bev and Gloria!) Blog. It was a super afternoon and my thanks to everyone who joined us to celebrate all that the children have achieved over the course of the year. Ancient GreekOur guest speaker, Ralph Heimans was superb and all who heard him speak were impressed with his humility and the honesty with which he spoke. His story was fascinating and we are grateful that he took the time to share it with us.

On Monday we were invaded by some characters from history as our Year 3 immersed themselves in all things Ancient Greek. The bed sheets and tin foil had been well used in preparing some super costumes and the boys dutifully left their swords by the door before coming into assembly. They learnt all about Ancient Greece and particularly enjoyed the marching and battle re-enactments. A great deal of fun was had by all.

On Tuesday our Year 1 children performed their summer play, ‘Tattybogle’ to an appreciative audience and all of the children delighted in taking to the stage. PlayGrace and Will sang their solos beautifully and Fraser was a very convincing, albeit rather stern, farmer.There were the customary quota of tutus and lots of smiling, excited and confident children, enjoying the opportunity to perform.

In midweek I was delighted to welcome so many parents, grandparents and friends to our Summer Concert. All who attended were treated to a musical extravaganza with everything from our Year 2 Brass Group through to our talented ‘Scholarettes’ trio who performed with such remarkable confidence. It was a super occasion and a highlight of our school calendar. Rather shamefully I did not sing with the staff choir this year and that was down to the fact that I was unable to attend rehearsals and most importantly, I am an enthusiastic but tuneless singer. I was made to feel suitably guilty and so I have promised Mrs Bruce that I will be part of it next year. Mr Mildren suggested that we form a recorder trio with Mr Kerr so that could lower the tone quite considerably.

One week to go but much to do before everyone heads off for the summer break. Sports Day is set fair (my sources at the Met Office have guaranteed sunshine) and the finishing touches are being put to our Year 6 play, Dazzle in readiness for performances on Wednesday and Thursday evening. I look forward to seeing many of you during this busy final week.

Mon 1st July 2013, 10:30

Pre-Prep Sports DayThe week got off to a rather soggy start and we had to make the decision to postpone our Prep School Sports Day. It was a great shame but at 10am it was drizzling and the forecast did not look good. In true Tiverton fashion, the rain cleared and the sun came out which made it all the more frustrating but we do have a reserve date and so look forward to welcoming parents to the Prep School on Monday 1st July. The weather was kinder to us on Friday as we hosted lots of parents and grandparents for our Pre-Prep Sports Day. It was a lovely event and saw a wide variety of races, from traditional sprints to hockey dribbling and teddy bear relays. Thank you to the Pre-Prep staff and our team of Year 6 helpers for all that they did to bring the event together.

On Tuesday some of our Year 5 pupils headed off to Westonbirt School in Bristol for a day of science, DT, chemistry and physics workshops. They made dream catchers, dissected owl pellets, discussed the gases that were around 3000 years ago and looked at how light is absorbed by different filters – it was an action-packed and challenging day as can be seen in this picture! Chemistry workshop at Westonbirt School in BristolThe children were a credit to the school and got a great deal from the experience.

On Wednesday our children had the opportunity to spend time with the Form teachers who will be looking after them next year. Our ‘Move-Up Morning’ was perhaps most exciting for our current Year 2 pupils who got to venture across the car-park and spend time in the Year 3 classrooms. They felt very grown up and really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time in the 'Big School' (rather confusing as our Year 6 pupils call the senior school, 'Big School' but I’m sure you'll follow!) What was the highlight of the day? Playtime was a common answer. Lunch was another, but what all 28 of our Year 2 children delighted in was that feeling of being grown up and the excitement of new opportunities and expectations. They are ready to move up to the Prep School and that is a positive thing for all.

Last week we welcomed touring cricket side, Claire’s Court to BPS for their annual tour match. In a closely contested 25 over match our guests scored 189 which was always going to be tough to chase. CricketOur talented Under 11 team gave it their best effort and got to within 15 runs, with half centuries from Joe Hancock and Jasper Pring. It was a wonderful way to end what has been a very successful season for the team. I must confess that my afternoons on the games field with these players has been a real highlight of the term so my thanks to all of the boys for their hard work and total commitment to their cricket.

On Thursday our Year 6 pupils had the chance to host their parents at our Leavers' Evening. They are ready to move on to their senior school years and that should be celebrated. The trick with any senior year in a Prep School is to keep your top year fully engaged in school life for the whole year and that can be quite challenging, especially when the major academic focus is in January. Our Year 6 pupils could not have been busier and have had a huge number of opportunities as can be seen in previous Blog entries. Thursday afternoon was also an opportunity to recognise the childrens’ achievements in Blundell's Adventure, Leadership and Service Award. I was delighted to present every one of our 41 Year 6 pupils with a Shackleton Award, but there were a number who had put in a great deal of extra effort in order to go well beyond those elements worked on within school. Ten pupils received their Scott Award and two managed to gain the Fiennes Award, a truly remarkable achievement and one that was only made possible through their own efforts. I will talk more on this later in the week.

Speaking of Speech Day, we are looking forward to welcoming parents, grandparents, friends and family to Blundell's Prep on Friday for our annual Speech Day. Before that we have our Summer Concert to look forward to and the weather is set fair. I look forward to seeing many of you during the week.

Mon 24th June 2013, 13:25

If you were watching Spotlight on BBC news during Wednesday evening then you would have seen our pupils in action during their Speed Watch initiative. Having recorded the story over a week before, we thought that something more newsworthy had come along and we had been consigned to the Editor’s floor. It was therefore all the more exciting to see our pupils appear, speed guns in hand and questions ready for any speeding motorists. What struck me was the confidence with which they spoke whilst on camera, how articulate they were in their questions and how engaged they were with the project itself. Outdoor workshopsThey are impressive young people and that really came across strongly on the television. As you might imagine, it caused some considerable excitement in school.

On Monday we welcomed Andy and Pete from SoUL to BPS for a day of outdoor workshops. Year 3 children and staff enjoyed taking part in science experiments involving plenty of water and laughter. Year 4 had their sense of direction tested as they took part in some orienteering, Year 5 built shelters and Year 6 were put through their paces as they were presented with several rather challenging team work exercises. I took the session entitled ‘The Maze’ and this demanded that the group of 10 work as a team to navigate their way across a grid, avoiding the no-go squares and, through trial and error, learn where to step and where not to. Outdoor workshopsIt was a bit like a version of ‘The Adventure Game’, for those who remember it, without the need to shout ‘Gronda! Gronda! to a roaring aspidistra! It was fascinating to see the children work their way through the ‘I’ll do it myself’ stage, then on to the ‘let’s all speak at once’ stage until they realised that working as a team, listening to one another and formulating a mutually agreed plan was the best way to accomplish the task. “How do we do this, sir?” was answered with “How could you do it?” and it prompted the children to think for themselves. The most powerful learning takes place, not when we are told, but when we find the answers ourselves and this was clear to see during Monday’s sessions.

Our Nursery, Kindergarten and Year 2 children got to spend plenty of time outdoors this week as they took trips to St. Paul’s Church and West Exe Park, The World of Country Life and Escot Park respectively. Outdoor workshopsThe Year 2 children braved the elements and The Swamp Walk – I hope that the parents of our Year 2 children have been able to remove the mud from clothes and the children themselves. Well done to Mrs Kimber, Mr Richards, Miss Howlett, Mrs Barfoot and our extreme photographer, Mrs Southgate, all of whom immersed themselves (literally) in the activity! On Friday our Pre-Prep children headed out into the school grounds to enjoy ‘Music in the Forest’ with Mervyn Bird. The children had a great time learning about nature through music, as is clear to see in these pictures.

Slightly more sedate but also messy activities took place in the Prep School this week as Year 6 pupils enjoyed a morning of large scale artwork based on the works of Pollock and Kandinsky. They were joined by Jan Brades-Payne and all delighted in the opportunity to use plenty of paint, some of which found its way on to the canvas! The finished works of art will be displayed on Thursday evening at our Year 6 Leavers’ Evening. I also joined the rehearsals for ‘Dazzle’ this week and was amazed by the quality of sound that hit me as I walked into Ondaatje. Outdoor workshopsIt promises to be a spectacular production so do get your tickets from the school office as they are running out fast.

On Friday our senior athletics squad headed to Millfield for the National Athletics Qualifier. There were some notable performances, including Alex Curtis in the 200m, Jo Hancock was 3rd in the Discus, Milly Curtis was 2nd in High Jump and Alex Venner came 2nd in the 800m. Congratulations to all who took part but special congratulations to Rebecca Hamilton who came 1st in the 100m and therefore qualifies for the National Finals at in Birmingham in a few weeks’ time – what an achievement!

Let’s hope that Summer makes a return this week.

Mon 17th June 2013, 09:20

On Monday we welcomed Radio Devon and Spotlight to Blundell’s Prep as they were keen to see how the School Speed watch project was being used to help children to better understand the dangers of excessive speed on our local roads. School Speed WatchAs I have mentioned in previous postings, our children have the opportunity to use the police speed guns to identify those drivers who are found to be exceeding the limit as they enter the 30mph zone on Blundell’s Road. The drivers are then interviewed by the children and are asked some challenging questions, the most challenging perhaps being ‘How would you feel if you knocked me or one of my friends over?’ It would be difficult not to feel a pang of guilt and it is hoped that this will help to reduce speed outside schools across the region. It was the turn of 6MO this week and they enjoyed sharing their thoughts with representatives from Radio Devon and Spotlight, the local news programme.

Year 6 also welcomed Cath Candish who works for ‘Tearfund’, Tearfund Talka leading relief and development charity working in partnership with Christian agencies and churches worldwide. Cath had been invited to BPS by our Head of French, Mrs Fitz-Herbert and the children had the opportunity to learn about the invaluable work that the charity is doing in Mali. The had prepared a variety of questions for our guest and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to put their French speaking skills to the test.

On Tuesday the weather was kind to us for our annual school photo. The children and staff looked resplendent in their uniforms and all were infinitely patient as they were moved into place for the all-important ‘perfect shot’. As ever, the Nursery children were impeccably behaved and everyone responded to the photographers request for cheesy grins!

School Photo

Thank you to all of the parents who visited the Creative Arts Week Exhibition this week. Mrs Aldridge, Mrs Willder and Miss Bennett spent many hours preparing the children’s fantastic artwork for display so if you have the opportunity to pop into the Prep School Atrium over the next few weeks then please do so as much of the artwork will remain in place for the rest of the term.

On Wednesday afternoon I stood in the School Office when in walked our Nursery One children bearing delicious gifts. Bulwark TripThey had been to Halberton Farm Shop and had spent the morning picking strawberries. They presented me with a punnet of tasty fruit and then explained that they had been eating lots and lots of strawberries as could be seen by their strawberry stained hands, mouths and shirts!

On Thursday, Year 6 had the opportunity to spend the day on-board HMS Bulwark, the flagship of the Royal Navy. This was an incredible opportunity and one that children and staff will not forget in a hurry. We were met by Lieutenant Ed Raymont and were introduced to Captain Andrew Burns before heading through various different ‘stances’ which gave the children a chance to learn all about the workings of this ‘floating town’. No part of the ship was left unexplored and during the tour the children had the chance to use a fire hose, dress up in all manner of naval attire, explore the key equipment of a Royal Marine Commando and then sit inside a variety of military vehicles. The highlight for all was the trip around Devonport dock on board a landing craft, launched from the back of HMS Bulwark itself. We were given the VIP treatment and our thanks go to Captain Burns and to Mr Rees for giving us this opportunity.

Bulwark Trip Group Shot

On Friday afternoon our athletes were in action on Amory Field in the Blundell’s Prep School Athletics competition. There were some outstanding individual performances, including Sam Olive in the U9 75m and 200m sprints, both of which he won. Anna Maunder won the U9 75m and 800m, Honor Hugget won the 200m, Rebecca Hamilton won the 100m and Long jump, as did Finn Muirhead in his age group. Eliza Lloyd and Zebedee Winzer both won the cricket ball throw in their respective age groups and Dominic Wielenga won the Long Jump. Alex Venner won the 800m and Joshua Withey won the Minis 75m. The Mini and the Minor teams also won the relay. Suffice to say that there was a lot of silverware on display during the afternoon! Congratulations to all of those who compete for the school, including those who did not win a medal but who gave their very best to support the team. This sporting success continued on Saturday - our Under 9 Rounders team were in action in the Millfield Tournament and they played very well indeed to progress through the group stages with wins against Taunton and Millfield B and a draw against Clifton. They then beat All Hallows by 6 to 1 ½ to progress to the final and a clash against hosts, Millfield A. Our girls played very well indeed but Millfield proved to be just too strong on this occasion.

There is much to look forward to this week including an Outdoor Learning Workshop Day in the Prep School on Monday. Planning consent for ‘The Hub’ has arrived and so building will take place over the summer in time for a September grand opening! Our Kindergarten children are heading off to the World of Country Life and Year 2 are heading to Escot Park. At the end of the week our Pre-Prep children will enjoy a day of making music in the forest with guest musician, Mervyn Bedford and some of our senior athletes will head off to Millfield to take part in the regional qualifier for the National Athletics Competition. There is plenty going on this coming week and parents are welcome to join us on Friday for our Coffee Morning and Awards Assembly in the Prep School. Please do come along.

Mon 10th June 2013, 09:30

Noah's ArkAt 3pm on Friday afternoon you could easily have believed that the entire Prep school had been abducted by aliens. All year groups were out on trips and there was an eerie silence about the place. Year 3 were pond-dipping at the canal, and Years 4, 5 and 6 were making their way back to school from their respective trips. The only sounds that could be heard were the Pre-Prep children enjoying their play time and the sound of the staple-gun as Mrs Aldridge and Mrs Willder put together the huge amount of wonderful art work in readiness for our Creative Arts Week Exhibition during the week after half-term. The atrium has been transformed so please do take the time to join us next week as you will be amazed by the quality of artwork that our children produced during those 5 days during the Spring Term.

As the afternoon went on, all year groups returned safely from their adventures. The Year 3 children returned from the canal with tales of “millions of creatures” and thankfully no-one fell in. Noah's ArkYear 5 then arrived back from their 4 days on Dartmoor looking rather weary but keen to share tales of capsized kayaks and high rope terrors! Next to arrive back at base camp were the children in Year 4 and they had clearly decided to camouflage themselves in preparation for their return. They had spent their two days ‘immersed in the wilderness’ and had the chance to study badgers at night, staying up until 10.30pm in the process! They made Mammal Motels and cooked bread over an open fire. It was an action-packed two days and all 38 children had a great time. The last group to arrive home were Year 6 who had to navigate their way through Bank Holiday traffic on their way back from London. They finally arrived a little later than planned but having had as action-packed a 72 hours as one could wish for. Reports from all of the teachers were unanimous in their praise for the children and the manner in which they conducted themselves on these trips. A huge thank must go to our teachers who spend many hours planning, risk-assessing and then supervising these invaluable experiences for our pupils. It is exhausting for them all but the gratitude shown by pupils and parents made it worthwhile. If you would like to see what everyone got up to during their time away then look at the blog entries which may be accessed through the front page of the Prep website – they are certainly worth a look.

The GardenIt may have been a quiet week in the Prep School but the same could not be said for the Pre-Prep. On Wednesday the Kindergarten children were in action as they performed their summer play, ‘Noah’s Ark’ to a very receptive audience. The singing, acting and dancing was fantastic and the children did themselves proud. As one parent commented on Twitter, the teachers deserve a great deal of credit for helping the children to get so much enjoyment from their performance and to instil such confidence in ones so young. On Friday afternoon we witnessed what must be considered a miracle – how do you get 32 children aged 3 and 4 to perform on a stage in front of an audience of well over 100? I cannot imagine how they did it but Mrs McDowell, Mrs Pym and the very talented and infinitely resourceful teaching assistants in our Nursery clearly have the secret to achieving the seemingly impossible. Those parents and grandparents who were fortunate to join us for the Nursery play, ‘The Garden’ were very impressed with what they saw and this speaks volumes for the supportive, loving and safe environment in which these children start on their journey into education. These early years are very special and have to be cherished. The volume of filming equipment on show took care of that!

The Garden

Half term beckons and the opportunity for everyone to have a rest and gather themselves for the final 5 weeks of the summer term. To say that there is a lot to look forward to is rather stating the obvious but I will say it all the same. Have a good week.

Tues 28th May 2013, 09:10

It was great to see so many people at the Devon County Show this week. The sun did shine (for the most part) and this pulled in the crowds, especially on Saturday when we were joined in the Blundell’s marquee by many OBs, current parents and those interested in finding out more about what is on offer at Blundell’s. We had a prime location, directly in front of the entrance to the food tent so temptation was never far away, especially when there was a steady stream of people emerging with delicious looking produce. It was a foodie paradise and I was delighted to have the opportunity to sample some of the finest wares on offer in the south west. Croyde tripI do hope that the show was a success for the traders as they put a huge amount of hard work into preparing for and then working through those 3 days. There are a few more shows before the year is out and we will be present at the Mid Devon Show where Pre-Prep staff will be running the crèche. Let’s hope that we get some sunshine.

I have been away at a conference for a few days so sadly missed a few events this week. On Wednesday and Thursday the musicians in the Prep School had the opportunity to perform for their parents as they played at the Junior and Senior Tea-Time concerts. Both events were very well supported and showcased the huge wealth of talent that we have at the Prep School. My sources tell me that the children were in fine form with highlights too numerous to mention. Our Summer Concert in June is the musical highlight of the term and I hope that many of you will be able to join us.

Congratulations to Kata Lee and Oliver Leyshon who took part in the National Fencing Championships at Millfield over the weekend. They both did very well indeed and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of competing alongside the top fencers from independent schools across the country. Kata managed a wonderful 3rd place in her pool of 15 and Ollie did well also.

Croyde tripThe week ahead will be as action packed as it can get. Years 4, 5 and 6 all head out for their annual residential trips so there will be a great many excited children, all counting the ‘sleeps’ until the day comes to venture off with their friends. As promised we will be writing blogs for each of these trips so do take a look at the front page of our website over the coming days for links to see what is going on.

Our Year 6 children have even more to look forward to this week as they travel up to the north coast for a day of challenges as part of their BALSA award. They will be coast-steering, surfing and enjoying some team challenges on the beach at Croyde, all in an effort to gain points for their Blundell’s Adventure, Leadership and Service Award. They will be joined by the Year 6 Form teachers and I thought that I would go along to see how they get on. Let’s hope that this sunshine continues. On Tuesday they will swap their wetsuits and the beach for props and Ondaatje as they have the first opportunity to rehearse in our senior school theatre. Rehearsals for ‘Dazzle’ are going very well indeed and it promises to be a spectacular performance at the end of June.

Update

As I didn’t manage to post my blog on time (my fault entirely!) I thought that I would share the events of today’s trip to Croyde with you. It was great! Mr Mildren wanted to put together a day that was fun but was also challenging for the Year 6 boys and girls and he managed to achieve just that, ably assisted by ‘Go Coasteering’ and ‘Surfing Croyde Bay’ who were outstanding in their level of instruction and the care that they showed to the children. Croyde tripDoes hurling yourself off rocks into the sea appeal? Does braving the chilly seas on a surf board fill you with excitement? Well it appears it does to our children as can be seen from these photos. It was lovely to see the way that the children rallied to support one another, cheering each other on as they ‘stood up’ and helping each other to climb the rocks in order to leap in once again. Some fears were conquered today and some wonderful qualities were shown by our 41 Year 6 children. They certainly impressed their instructors who were quick to congratulate them on their courage, teamwork and positive approach. Back to the day job now!

Mon 20th May 2013
(posted Tues 21st May 2013, 08:55)

I am sure that many of you will have read of the furore over a letter written to a parent of a child at The Castle School in Tiverton, suggesting that a party the night before the Year 6 SATs exams was possibly not the best preparation for the children. It has been interesting to read of the public response to this letter and the differing views as to what Mrs Noble requested, as well as the manner in which she requested it. I can’t imagine that Mrs Noble thought for a second that this letter would spark such a reaction and the involvement of the national press but it has clearly pushed a few buttons with people across the country. I have to question what message the parents are giving their children when they consider it acceptable to party until 9.30pm on a Sunday night, let alone the one before their assessments. Whatever you think of SATs, the fact is that they are valued by the school and therefore the parents should support the school in sending the children in on Monday morning, well rested and ready to perform to the best of their abilities. Sometimes as a Head teacher you have to be willing to stick your neck out and say what you think and I am certain that Mrs Noble was motivated by only one thing and that was giving the children the best chance to perform well in their SATs. I hope that those parents who have vilified her in the press will take a moment to consider this.

No national media coverage for us this week but plenty of Blogging and Tweeting! If you could take a picture that defines ‘excitement’ then 9am on Thursday morning would have given you the perfect opportunity, as our Year 3 children got ready to leave for their residential trip to Beaford Arts Centre. Beaford residential tripThey were raring to go and as can be seen in their Blog (there is a link from the front page of the website) they have been having a great time. In fact, all of our residential trips will have their own Blogs which I would urge you to follow. During the week before half term, Year 4 will head to Folly Farm in Bristol, Year 5 will head off to the Dartmoor Adventure Centre and Year 6 will travel to London, so do follow their progress. We have also been tweeting a great deal and I am grateful to Miss Stone who has got the twitter bug and has tweeted on tennis, cooking and even the new Mayor of Tiverton. We have 129 followers and would love to have many more so please do look us up @blundellsprep.

As you know, we have held our Open Week over the last 5 days and I am pleased to say that we have had plenty of interest. As always the children and the staff have welcomed our guests and all of them have been very impressed with what they have seen. On Tuesday I enlisted the help of some of our Year 6 pupils to take tours and this is something that they relish and excel at. One comment from a family who had toured with me just two weeks ago was that they got a completely different perspective from the pupils. Rather nervously I asked if this was a good thing and whether the two tallied, to which I got a resounding “yes”. I tend not to go into huge detail about every machine in the DT room or the location of our fire extinguishers but these were hot topics for some of our Year 6 guides! What stood out, I am told, was the genuine pride in their school and that is something that we all share.

The purpose of this Blog is to keep you informed of things that are going on at school and often this will include events that are not in the calendar. I try to provide an insight beyond the published events and into some of the things that go on behind the scenes. One such event took place on Tuesday as we hosted representatives from IAPS schools within Cornwall, Devon and Somerset for a workshop on the subject of ‘Critical Thinking’. We were joined by Mark Haward from Mind Kind UK who focused on strategies to complement and enhance children’s independence, confidence and self-esteem. The day was hosted by our Academic Leaders, Lee Moore and Diane Kimber and they will shortly cascade these ideas back to the staff at BPS. We are constantly looking for new ideas and ways to bring the best out of our children and days like this enable us to do just that.

We have a new Mayor of Tiverton and we were delighted to be invited to attend the inauguration on Tuesday. Head Boy, George Gibbs and Head Girl, Luli Mountbatten joined pupils from local schools in order to wish the new mayor well for the year ahead. Mayor of Tiverton inaugurationTuesday also saw the Pre-Prep Maths Day and this was thoroughly enjoyed by all of the children as they immersed themselves in a whole variety of maths related activities. Our thanks to Mr Richards for organizing this fun and challenging day.

Next week is going to be a busy one as we are interviewing for a new Nursery One teacher. Having narrowed down the many applicants to a short-list of 3, we are looking forward to meeting these highly qualified practitioners. This role is a crucial one in our school as they care for our very youngest pupils and having spent some time in our Nursery I can tell you that they need to have the most remarkable skill set. We also have the Devon Show to look forward to and I hope that the sun will shine for the 3 days. I will be there on Friday and on Saturday so if you are passing the Blundell’s marquee you would be welcome to stop by for a coffee and a chat. I hope to see you there.

Mon 13th May 2013, 10:05

What a weekend it has been. I have just said goodbye to lots of family members having spent the day together celebrating my son’s birthday. I hope that like us, you have enjoyed the beautiful sunshine and the warm weather – what a difference it makes! The BBQ comes out and the annual cremating of meat begins (is that just me?) and the sun cream makes a reappearance, normally several hours too late (again, just me?). Tiverton MuseumWhat the sun does allow is for cricket to be played and after a rather damp start to Saturday morning we were able to get going with the U11A vs Blundell’s Prep Old Boys match. The older boys did come out winners but it was a keenly contested match with excellent performances from a number of our talented cricketers. I have come to realise that cricket is huge at Blundell’s over the last two seasons. It is popular with boys, girls and staff alike and I joined the latter for a match against Uffculme School on Thursday evening. There can be fewer venues more attractive to play in than Blundell’s Big Field on a sunny evening and a wonderful reminder of how fortunate we are to be surrounded by such beautiful buildings and countryside. If you are wondering who won, you will be delighted to hear that the senior school staff were in fine form and ran out convincing winners. A talented bunch those teachers at Big School!

Week 3 of the summer term has flown by but has been as action packed as ever. It started for me with a trip to London to undertake training to become a School Inspector with ISI. It was a fascinating day and an opportunity to discuss what ISI look for in their inspections and their lesson observations. It was also very challenging and I even had to take a test so I had plenty in common with the children back at BPS who were working hard in their own summer assessments. Tiverton CastleMy hope is that I will get the opportunity to join the ISI team as it is a huge privilege to be given access to schools across the country.

One school that our best swimmers had access to on Monday afternoon was Millfield, as they took part in the National Primary Schools swimming competition. There was some stiff competition with 21 schools competing but our two teams of 4 boys and 4 girls did very well indeed and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. On Tuesday our Year 1 children headed off to Tiverton Museum and on Wednesday our Year 2 children visited Tiverton Castle. We have a wealth of local history to explore and the children learnt a great deal from doing just that. They even had a chance to dress up, an opportunity taken by pupils and by Mrs Kimber and Mr Richards! On Thursday evening our Year 6 children were invited to attend a LAMDA presentation evening in Ondaatje Hall and I was delighted that some of our pupils were able to be there. The popularity of Speech and Drama at Blundell’s Prep is on the increase and with Mr Rochfort at the helm it is sure to stay that way.

Tiverton Castle - Mrs Kimber and Mr Richards join in the fun!Friday was a busy day in the Prep School with a coffee morning, the 2nd of our cooking workshops for parents and the whole school in home clothes in aid of Save the Children. The day was then finished off with a wonderful concert from The Mamas and Papas, our talented group of prep school parents who meet every week on a Monday between 4.45 and 5.30pm in order to sing. They entertained the assembled guests with a whole variety of songs and even managed to get the audience involved with one or two of them! The event was organised in order to raise much needed funds for the South-west based charity Shelterbox and thanks must go to all members of the group and especially Rosie Bruce and Greta Tucker for masterminding the performance. A warm welcome awaits anyone who would like to join the group so if you are interested, please contact the school office.

The 5 days ahead include our Open Week and the much anticipated Year 3 residential trip to Beaford Arts Centre. As you might imagine, there will be one or two very excited 8 year olds with bags packed ready to head off on Thursday morning. Let’s hope that the sun continues to shine for them.

Mon 6th May 2013, 08:15

We got the week off to a lively start as we welcomed Ollie Uffindale from Activate Sports to the Prep School. He came to talk to the children about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle and at the same time promoted the Andrew Flintoff Cricket Course which is taking place at the Prep School during the week of the 22nd July. If you haven’t signed up then please do look at the Activate Sports website for more details – flyers came home in bags on Friday. Guinea PigI hope that many of our girls will sign up as there is a great deal of interest in cricket at the moment and our Year 5 and 6 girls are taking the opportunity to join in with some excellent coaching at the Senior School on Thursday evenings. The standard of women’s’ cricket has taken huge strides forward over the last few years and with interest growing at school level is appears that future success is highly likely.

It has been an animal themed week in the Pre-Prep and as you might imagine, that caused some degree of excitement. I decided to take a special guest to my Wednesday assembly so enlisted the help of my ‘Wild animal handler’ (Sarah) in order to bring our much loved guinea pig, Ella to meet the Pre-Prep children. My daughter was a little concerned that the rather elderly pet would not make it through but she survived the attention of 100 animal loving children and helped me to illustrate the importance of caring for our animals however old, worn out and past their prime they might be - I thought I might take the opportunity to remind the children to do the same for their parents but thought better of it! On Friday my guinea pig was well and truly trumped as Miss Howlett brought in her lambs for the Nursery children to meet. They got to make up the feed, poured the milk in to the bottles and then they fed the hungry lambs which as you might imagine, caused a huge amount of excitement. It was certainly the highlight of the week for the children and a wonderful hands-on experience.

Speaking of hands-on, 6MA spent Tuesday morning at Exmouth beach in order to take part in the Big Beach Clean-up. Inspired by the film Midway Island, the children asked Mrs May if they could do something to help reduce the volume of rubbish on our beaches and so this national initiative was the perfect opportunity. Big Beach Clean-UpA number of unusual items were found, including this tyre, which was renamed after its discoverer, Kata. Thank you to Mrs Lee and Mrs Mackay who joined the children for the morning.

The weather was kind to us again this week and we enjoyed a full fixture list on Wednesday and Thursday with the first matches for all teams. The U11 A and B Rounders teams made good starts with convincing wins over Queen’s. Mrs Garcia and Mrs Cracknell were delighted that all the girls played incredibly well. The U10 Rounders teams found it tougher going but showed some promise, and they will build on this in readiness for the matches on Wednesday. The U11 A cricket team came up against a Taunton Prep side who had already played a few games and this was the difference between the sides. Chasing 135 to win, the BPS boys managed to get to 103 for 1 at close, a good effort and one that showed a lot of promise. The U11 B team had a great win with Joe Horsey, Henry Dyke and Theo Rees performing well with the bat. The U11 C team had a handsome win with Tom Reynolds scoring 53no and taking 3 wickets – a fine afternoon’s work! On Thursday afternoon our U9 teams were in action and there were convincing wins for the rounders teams against Exeter Cathedral. The Under 9 boys also played well and won both games.

Another busy week lies ahead and we look forward to the concert with The Mamas and Papas on Friday evening. I hope to see many of you there.

Mon 29th Apr 2013, 10:55

The Summer Term has begun and we have even had some sun! I know that by saying this I am tempting fate but I am going to go out on a limb and say that summer is on its way. We have already had the opportunity to get out onto the cricket and rounders pitches and the children have delighted in enjoying their play times, exploring our beautiful grounds. A highlight for our Year 2 children is the summer term privilege of using the pitches at break time and the dry weather has allowed them to make the most of this. Being able to get outside in order to fully utilise the wonderful grounds that surround our school should not be underestimated in terms of how it benefits everyone at BPS, including its Head Master! On Friday afternoon I tore myself away from my desk to spend some time enjoying the sun during 'Privilege Time' and sharing in the games of football, cricket, hand stands (I gave it a go, much to the Year 6 girls' amusement) and I tried and failed to infiltrate the 4HI game of 'Kick Rounders'. There were so many fun activities going on for all to enjoy.

I mentioned in a previous Blog that we were in the process of putting together plans for Outdoor learning at BPS and this continued in our staff training at the start of term. We were joined by Andy and Pete from the School Outdoor Learning Company or SOUL as they are known and enjoyed a day of planning, discussion and hands-on experiences to help us towards introducing OL to all year groups in September. In a few weeks time we will be having a day of workshops, giving staff and children the chance to see how the learning in all subjects may be enhanced through taking the lesson outside. I will report back through the Blog as to how our OL plans develop but with planning permission for our 'Hub' due to be confirmed in early June we are excited at the prospect of having this facility in place for our return in September.

We've been back a week and already a great deal has happened. On Thursday our Year 6 choristers joined 120 singers and a full orchestra to be part of the Senior School Choral Concert, singing Carl Orff's, Carmina Burana. Anyone who was lucky enough to be there will tell you that it was spectacular event and I was very proud of the contribution made my our children who had to sing in German and Latin. They were wonderful and deserve a great deal of credit for the way that they contributed to the success of the evening.

This week we have also seen the return of 'Speed Watch' as 6MA donned their hi-vi jackets and helped members of our local constabulary to check the speed of drivers travelling along Blundell's Road. speed-watchA number of drivers were pulled over and our children then had the opportunity to discuss the potential impact of speeding with the red-faced motorists. This is a very worthwhile event and one that the children greatly enjoy.

On Saturday morning the Prep School staff joined members of the Senior School Common Room for a tour of the Senior School and the opportunity to hear about plans for the future of Blundell's from Academic Deputy Head, Clare Sherwood, Second Master, Bart Wielenga and The Head, Nicola Huggett. It was a fascinating chance to have a good look around the newly renovated School House and to explore some of the facilities. With Saturday morning school in session there was the opportunity to see some lessons and talk to many of the staff, a rare thing when we are all immersed in our own work throughout the term. The desire to further enhance the already strong connections between the different educational stages at Blundell's was at the forefront of Mrs Huggett's talk and will provide more opportunities for collaboration. Just this week we had peer observations taking place across the Prep and Senior School and our intention is for this to grow over the coming months. There are a great many exciting plans being developed and Mrs Huggett and I share the view that we should shout about them with all members of the Blundell's community.

There is plenty going on over the next five days but I think that my highlight could well be the visit of some Spring lambs to our Nursery on Friday. I can only imagine just how much excitement this will generate.

Mon 22nd Apr 2013, 16:15

As I walked around the Prep School on the last day of term there was an unmistakable aroma – chocolate! I must confess to being a big fan of chocolate so I was delighted to visit every classroom in the hope of sharing in the end of term celebrations. The children were as generous as ever! The school term is a busy one and it is important to end with a smile and celebration of all that has been achieved. This was the theme of my whole school assembly during the final week as the children and staff enjoyed a slideshow of the many events that have taken place since January, all set to the ‘Rule the World’ by Take That. cross-countryI also decided to include chocolate (not for me I hasten to add) and asked Joe and Amber to help me show the importance of recognising people for their qualities rather than what we see on the outside. I think that the message was understood and Joe and Amber certainly enjoyed their sweet treats!

There was a great deal to do before the end of term parties could be enjoyed. On Monday the Prep School children took part in the much anticipated House Cross-Country and it was as closely contested as ever. In their red, blue and green t-shirts, the children braved the muddy conditions to gain valuable points for their House totals. On Tuesday our boys and girls in Years 1 and 2 welcomed local primary schools to our annual Tag Rugby Tournament. tag rugbyWell over 100 children enjoyed an afternoon of rugby and the visiting spectators were provided with some fantastic entertainment. The progress that our children have made on the sports field has been wonderful to see this year and has certainly been aided by the incredibly popular Games and Sports Clubs which take place after school on 3 days a week. Our children get a big head start on the games field and derive so much enjoyment from it, as seen on the faces of our 52 Year 1 and 2 children during the rugby tournament.

tag rugbyFrom sport to music as our choristers and instrumentalists joined Senior School Director of Music, Mr Barlow for a Joint Concert at Big School. The assembled audience thoroughly enjoyed the wide range of musical offerings and it was great to see our youngest and our most senior musicians performing together. A real highlight for me was the performance by our ‘Boys Aloud’ choir and I was so impressed with their enthusiasm and quality of singing that I asked them to perform in our whole school assembly on Wednesday morning. Mrs Cracknell and Mrs Bruce are keen to encourage more boys to join this choir so if you are a parent of a boy at Blundell’s Prep I would ask that you encourage your son to join up this term – why wait?

Year 2 thoroughly enjoyed their trip to Exeter Cathedral and behaved beautifully, listening intently to all that they were told and asking some wonderfully thoughtful questions. With Easter firmly in their thoughts it was lovely to hear that the true meaning was not lost through a haze of chocolate eggs and I mentioned this at our Easter service which took place in the Blundell’s Chapel. ChoirWe were joined again this year by our Pre-Prep children and I was pleased to welcome a good number of parents. Our Prefects shared the ‘Easter words’ which had been gathered from all members of Year 6 and our Head Boy, Dominic and Head Girl, Frances, read beautifully to the congregation in what was a very fitting end to a hugely enjoyable term.

So will we get the summer that we all hope for this year? Initial signs are not great but I am the eternal optimist.

Mon 15th Apr 2013
(posted Weds 10th Apr 2013, 11:45)

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Spring Term 2013

Anyone who arrived at Blundell’s Prep on Friday at about 10.30 am would have been surprised with what they saw. Over 200 people, in their pyjamas, many wearing red noses, all doing aerobics. It was a sight to behold. In between the rain showers we were able to gather on the playground with all of the children and staff invited to strut their stuff, and strut they did. Special mention should go to Mr Mildren and Mr Kerr who the children nominated as the star performers! The morning actually began with our Awards Assembly and I was delighted to welcome so many parents to the Prep School. Our usual hymn was substituted with the Comic Relief Song and this was sung with great gusto by the children. As I gazed out into the assembled ranks of Onesie-clad children it was clear that there was a great deal of excitement for what the day had in store. Plenty of awards were given out for a wide variety of achievements. Several Yogis of the week, a Head Master’s Award for Rachel after her presentation on Austria, a large number of hand-writing certificates and more HM Awards for the very best Creative Arts Week books, were all included.

HM's blog     HM's blog

Year 2 have had an exciting week, the highlight for them being their play, Hansel and Gretel. The children had a great many lines to learn but they worked very hard indeed during rehearsals and the final performance was enjoyed by visiting parents and grandparents. Earlier in the week we welcomed Kelly College Prep Under 7 netball and football teams to BPS for some keenly contested matches. In what felt like sub-arctic conditions the boys ran out convincing winners in the football and the girls also played brilliantly to win 4-0 in the netball. These matches are just a taste of what the children in Year 2 can look forward to next year when the fixture list starts in earnest. Early signs suggest that they are going to be a very competitive cohort.

HM's blog     HM's blog

The sporting success continued this week with our U9 Netball team gaining victory in the Exeter Tournament. They won all of their matches, scoring 17 goals and conceding 0, which was a remarkable achievement. Our U11 girls came very close to victory in their Exeter Tournament, losing narrowly in the final but performing well. Our Under 10 boys hockey team showed just how much they have improved in just a week by defeating St. Peter’s on Wednesday. Overall it has been a very successful week on the sporting front.

As part of Science Week our Year 5 and 6 pupils headed to the Pre-Prep to work with the Kindergarten and Year One children in making a whole variety of flying objects out of paper. They then had great fun testing their creations. We try to find as many opportunities as we can to have our different age groups working together and this was a perfect example as to just how effective that can be.

HM's blog     HM's blog

I do like to mention Food Technology in my Blog (had you noticed?) and this week I enlisted the assistance of Mrs Watson to help me bring FT to my Year 6 History lessons. This caused a huge amount of excitement until the children realised that we were to be studying World War 2 rationing! A number of different options were looked at but in the end we went for a 1943 Carrot bun recipe which, rather surprisingly, produced some tasty results. It was also a lot of fun and just another example of how powerful a learning tool food can be!

Just one week to go until the Easter holidays but a few events to look forward to before we head off for the 3 week break. The House Cross-Country on Monday is followed by our U6 and U7 Tag Rugby tournament on Wednesday and then the week culminates in our Friday Easter Service in Blundell’s Chapel. I hope to see many of you over the next 5 days.

Mon 18th Mar 2013, 08:40

For those of you who have followed my Blog since the very start (I know of one or two kind souls!) you may recall that I promised (was coerced into) running The Russell this year so after some mental preparation and a bit of training I joined the ranks during Saturday’s race. I must confess to being rather nervous, as cross-country running has never, and will never, be my thing. In fact I am pretty sure that the 6 mile course was the furthest I have ever run, apart from on the perfectly flat treadmill in the nice, warm, dry, mud-free gym. The Russell Course is something to be believed. “Why have you gaffer-taped your shoes to your legs?” I asked several people at the start line. “You’ll see” they replied, and sure enough there were runners with one shoe missing and one lad who decided that he was better off in bare feet! It was an incredible experience and one that I can honestly say I enjoyed. I wasn’t fast but I wasn’t last and I got round with some dignity still intact. The support around the course from the Blundell’s staff and volunteers was wonderful and kept us all going. Leigh Menheneott’s words of wisdom prevented me from plunging into 2 feet of slurry and for that I will be eternally grateful! I’m going to have another go next year and Sarah has said that she will join me. Now that it is written here she will have to do it! Congratulations to all of those who ran yesterday and a special well done to the Prep School parents and children who took part. I think that I am right in saying that Mr Stagg was our highest placed parent with Mr Clough just behind. Mrs Nugent did brilliantly, as did a great many other Prep school mums and the children in the Fun Run worked their socks off and clearly enjoyed the experience. I think that The Russell is such a powerful illustration of the Blundell’s community at its very best. Hundreds of people gathered on our Prep School fields to run, to see friends old and new and to support the children in their endeavours. It is a lovely atmosphere to be part of and I would recommend that you put the date in the diary for next year and start the hill training now!

HM's blog, 11th March 2013     HM's blog, 11th March 2013

There have been a number of highlights to mention from the past week. It included World Literacy Day on Tuesday, World Maths Day on Wednesday and World Science Day on Thursday, all of which we have recognised in various ways. On top of that we have enjoyed another wonderful Teatime concert with superb performances from over 50 children. HM's blog, 11th March 2013Highlights were Laura’s assured solo violin piece – such talent from one so young – and Jessica’s confident and utterly charming rendition of ‘My Favourite things’.

Our Junior Scholarship took place this week and it was a wonderful day for our Year 2 children. Throughout the day they took part in a variety of activities, including Music, Drama, Sport, Art and of course, Food Tech. As one might expect, it was the prospect of taking some food home that provided the most excitement. During the previous afternoon I had the opportunity to meet with every child in Year 2 for a short interview and I can honestly say that it was 2 and a half hours that I thoroughly enjoyed and I am pretty sure that the children did too. We talked about sharks and steam engines, skiing and sheep farming, the variety was incredible, as was the way that the children spoke to me. None of them were shy and all of them, bar none, were confident, articulate and interesting. When one considers that they are 6 and 7 years old it makes it all the more remarkable. They are a talented year group and have an exciting future ahead of them.

Our Cross-Country team finished the season in style this week as they were crowned champions at the Stover event. HM's blog, 11th March 2013Blundell’s Prep has a long tradition of cross-country success and it has been lovely to see the children performing so well in competitions across the county. The House races will certainly be hotly contested on March 18th.

The week finished with the Pre-Prep party with Professor Fumble, and as you can see in some of these photographs, the children had a great time. Thank you to our FoBP committee and the Pre-Prep teachers who gave their time so generously to put on this hugely popular event. The Friends do a huge amount for the school and next weekend we look forward to the Casino Night. It promises to be an entertaining evening and I would encourage you to get your tickets from the school office during the week.

I hear it is going to snow this week. That could be fun!

Mon 11th Mar 2013, 08:55

I do hope that everyone enjoyed the half-term break. I noticed one or two rather tanned children and parents on Monday so I imagine that many people headed off to warmer climes, not that I am at all jealous of course! For me half term was a chance to catch up on one or two things, both at school and at home. We headed off to Haytor and braved the climb in what felt like gale force winds. I must confess that I didn’t quite make it to the very top. The rest of the week involved muddy walks and lunch with friends who are moving to Devon but most importantly it was a chance to spend time with my family and that was most welcome.

This first week back has been all action. On Tuesday we welcomed Andy Carley from SOUL to Blundell’s Prep in order to launch our plans to bring Outdoor Learning to Blundell’s Prep. He met with the School Council and put them through their paces on a series of outdoor challenges before spending time talking about what they would want from an outdoor learning programme. Andy was very impressed with how quickly they responded to the challenges placed in front of them and commented on how well they worked together. It was then the turn of our staff Outdoor Learning Team to face a task or two, and after some deliberation, consultation, careful reflection and a small amount of rule manipulation (!) the task was accomplished (nearly). The meeting that followed gave our team of 9 teachers from across Pre-Prep and Prep he opportunity to shape plans for our staff training in April, the design of our central ‘Hub’ and the details of the programme itself which will span both parts of the school. There is huge scope within the outdoor learning framework and so much to be gained by using the wonderful space that we have at our disposal. As you might imagine, there is a great deal to do before we launch in September but there will be regular updates in my Blog as plans develop.

On Thursday our Quiz Team headed off to Millfield for the regional heats and this first venture into the ‘Quiz Club’ world proved to be challenging and fun in equal measure. Dominic, Amelia, Ben and Sophia were escorted by team coach, Mr Moore and they got off to a strong start only to be pegged back in the final rounds. It was a steep learning curve but one that they certainly enjoyed and we will be looking to enter more teams next year. Well done to our team of 4 and the supporting parents who travelled to Millfield.

It has been a very busy week on the sports fields, the netball courts and the astro-turf with all of our teams in action. On Wednesday we entertained Millfield for Under 11 football and Exeter College for U10 netball and boys hockey. The U11 B team played particularly well and won 9-4 with Todd, Sammy and Alex all standing out for their efforts. Our Under 11 girls were on the road but were victorious against The Maynard in what were two excellent performances. The next day we hosted West Buckland for U9 netball and U9 football and in chilly conditions we managed to win all four games. On Friday our Under 11 7’s squad were in action at the Plymouth 7’s and got stronger as the tournament went on. This bodes well for their trip to Millfield on Saturday. Our Under 10 hockey team were in action again and this time they travelled to Millfield to play in a tournament. They came up against some strong opposition but played with great heart. The star performers of the week were our U10 netball players who competed in the Queen’s tournament on Saturday and came back with the winner’s trophy. They were in great form and worked incredibly hard to defeat St. Peter’s, Queen’s, The Downs, Wells, and Exeter Junior School on their way to an overall victory.

World Book DayOn Friday the Pre-Prep embraced World Book Day with the children dressing up as characters from their favourite books, the children in Year 2 using Roald Dahl for inspiration. They spent the day immersed in all things literary with visits from local author Amy Sparkes, a performance of the BFG and some special story time where the Pre-Prep staff shared their favourite books. The day culminated with ‘Book at Bedtime’, a wonderful opportunity for the children to enjoy some classic stories by candle-light with hot chocolate and cookies. My experience of the day was somewhat different and perhaps gives the clearest idea as to life as a Prep School Head Master. From 9 to 5 I was in a variety of Governors’ Meetings, from Prep School Committee, to Education, to F&GP. It is always good to see our Governors as they are tremendously supportive and very engaged in the life of the school but I must confess that the highlight of my day was reading the book ‘Calm down, Boris’ to our Nursery children during our ‘Book at Bedtime’ event. It was the perfect way to end a busy day and an even busier week.

Mon 4th Mar 2013, 11:00

Last year’s Creative Arts Week was one of the highlights of the school year and this year it proved to be even better with all of the children in Years 3 to 6 immersing themselves in all things creative for 5 full days. Rarely do we have the opportunity to focus on an artistic project for more than one lesson a week and so to have the whole day to plan, design and then create is something very special indeed. Throughout the week the children, ably assisted by the teachers and a host of guest artists and very willing parent volunteers, were covered in glue, paint and ink (some more than others!) and the results were truly remarkable. The hundreds of photographs taken over the last 5 days will shortly be on the Image Gallery so please take a look. We will be having an exhibition later this term and I hope that many of you will be able to join us. More on that to follow.

Creativity is something that causes a great deal of discussion when it comes to considering what education is really all about. Many of you may well have of heard of creativity expert, Sir Ken Robinson and if you click on the link you will be able to listen to his TED talk on ‘Changing education paradigms’ and particularly the part where he discusses creativity in children (about 7 minutes and 45 seconds in). Pancake racesI am intrigued by the idea of an essential capacity for creativity and the power of divergent thinking, and put this to the test by challenging the children to come up with different uses for paper clips. I was amazed at the variety of answers that the children came up with when given this tiny piece of metal and the more ideas that they came up with the more the other children were sparked with new and even more innovative suggestions. Another wonderful by-product of this sort of ‘experiment’ is that the children are all involved in risk-free answering – they cannot be wrong and the more peculiar the answer the better. It is safe and it is fun and, as Sir Ken suggests, it is an ability that is shared by all of us. Give it a go with your own children. Give them an object and come up with as many different ways in which that object may be used. They will amaze you with their ideas and you might come up with a few yourselves in the process.

On Tuesday afternoon we welcomed a considerable number of parents to the school for our Pancake Races. This is always a highlight of the calendar and is as competitive as the sport, music or even Merits! The judges were as eagle-eyed as ever but in the end it was Grenville who battered (!) the opposition into submission.

House MusicThe House Music competition on Thursday afternoon was hotly contested and this year it was Grenville who won by a slender 0.2 margin. Mr Barlow, Blundell’s Director of Music was our judge and he complemented all of the children on the quality of their performances, both in the two House songs and in the variety of ensembles pieces that were performed. He did pick out Polly and Zoe who entertained everyone with their duet, complete with dance moves and some rather fetching hair-dos!

To end the week we hosted the Larkman Cup and were once again joined by 12 schools to compete in Under 9, 11 and 13 Cross-Country races. In rather muddy conditions the children performed brilliantly and all of our teams won first place in their respective races. Some very weary and rather muddy children returned to the Prep School to conclude what was a superb week and then headed off for a richly-deserved half term break. We wish our 33 Year 6 tourists well as they head off to Jersey to play rugby, netball and hockey and look forward to hearing all about it on their return.

Have a great half-term.

Mon 18th Feb 2013, 12:15

As I sat at my desk on Thursday afternoon I looked up to see our Year 3 and 4 girls heading out to their Games lesson and was struck by two things. The first was how smart they looked in their Kukri Games kit and the second was the way that they all moved. Every one of the 30 girls was skipping. It started at the front and then rippled back like a Mexican skipping wave, quite unintentionally I am sure but they all joined in. Some were holding hands and others continued chatting through the skipping, in fact it was only Mrs May and Mr Mildren who were not skipping – they must be immune! Grandparents' MorningIt was quite a sight and I was struck by how happy they all looked. Interestingly I have seen a number of parents who are looking to send their children to BPS and they all comment on how happy the school feels as we move from class to class. This is not something that can be faked. It comes from the staff and the children and is perhaps the thing that I am most proud of. Surely it has to be the most important element of a successful school?

On Friday we welcomed over 90 guests to the school for our annual Grandparents’ Morning. This event is a highlight of the calendar and the children were very excited to welcome their grandparents into their classrooms for painting, French, creative writing and cooking, to name but a few of the activities that were going on across Pre-Prep and Prep Schools. Grandparents' MorningThere is something very special about seeing the interaction between the young and the (how can I put this?) ‘young-at-heart’, and there was a great deal of laughter throughout the school. The customary volume of scones were enjoyed and many contrasts between educational experiences past and present were discussed. The comment that I heard more than any other was how happy the children are in school, how confident and articulate they are and how much the grandparents wished that they had had a similar experience when they were at school. Many asked if they could join us every day! Included in this Blog are a few pictures from the day but there are many more in the Image Gallery to view and to download.

Grandparents' MorningOur Cross-country teams were in action on Friday as they travelled to Bude for the St. Petroc’s competition. BPS has a strong tradition of cross-country running and this looks likely to continue with our Under 11 boys collecting a trophy for 3rd place and our Under 9 girls picking up 1st prize. There were strong performances from all 6 of the Year 4 girls including 3 in the top ten. Well done to everyone.

I was delighted to receive news that 4 of our Year 6 children were awarded Music Exhibition Awards at the Senior School. Not only does this bear testimony to the talented musicians that we have at BPS but it also highlights the tremendous tuition and support that they get from our hard-working peripatetic teachers. Congratulations to all who have helped these children to reach such a high standard of musical performance.

This week we put our normal timetable to one side and immerse ourselves in all things creative. Art, Music and Drama will dominate the week and year groups will work side-by-side to design, make, perform and create, all with the support of our teaching staff and a willing group of volunteer parent helpers. As I think back, I have to say that Creative Arts Week was one of the highlights of last year and there are a whole variety of reasons why that was the case. Firstly, there are precious few opportunities to truly immerse yourself in a single project for a prolonged period of time. We are very fortunate at BPS to have stand-alone lessons in Art, Music, Drama, DT, ICT and of course FT every week so our children get a great many opportunities to flex their creative muscles. During Creative Arts Week they get to do this for the whole day so can discuss, plan, design, make, reflect, adapt and present their work without the restriction of a next lesson to go to. Secondly, there is something very special about the atmosphere during CAW. Perhaps it is the subject matter, perhaps it is the reduction of movement from lesson to lesson or perhaps it is the organisation of staff, pupils and parents into working groups for the week? Whatever the case may be, it makes for a purposeful and potent mix. I look forward to welcoming our helpers to the school and seeing all that is created over the next 5 days.

Mon 11th Feb 2013, 08:45

I was very fortunate to have a pair of tickets for the England match at Twickenham on Saturday so Sarah and I jumped on the train and headed up to London for a chilly but fantastic day. With the last England performance being the victory against the All Blacks, the atmosphere around the ground was one of high expectation and the sound of 82,000 people cheering was quite spine-tingling. I am always impressed with the relationship between rival fans and even more impressed by the number of kilt-wearing Scots who braved the icy temperatures. Definitely a day for the thermal undies!

The 3 hour train ride gave me the chance to read a few articles in The Times, one of which I then retweeted, as it provides some thought-provoking advice on homework. I am sure that all parents have tried numerous tactics to motivate and cajole their children through what can often be a challenging but important part of the children’s lives. In the aforementioned article, parenting expert Noel Janis-Norton suggests that children need the discipline of completing homework on 6 days of the week in order to make progress in line with their peers. She makes some fascinating comments, not all of which I agree with, but there are certain ‘good practices’ that form a vital part in creating the right conditions for children to reach their potential. Like it or not, homework is here to stay and does, as Janis-Norton suggests, help to teach ‘self-reliance, problem-solving and tapping into inner resources’. Being able to work independently is also a vital life skill and her advice points strongly to the importance of routine and the self-discipline that this helps create. Sure, the article is focused on those children whose school days are somewhat shorter but that does not mean that homework becomes any less important for our children. We all want children who are keen to learn and who want to achieve their full potential. We also want our children to be happy and to have a balance in their lives at such a young age. Getting this balance right remains our highest priority.

What I certainly agree with is that homework should be limited to the 30 minutes set. What we as parents have to do is create the ideal environment in which to use that 30 minutes effectively and so the removal of distractions; TV, games, I-Pods (the list goes on!) is critical. It is not always easy, and our lives are busy, but homework is here to stay and if we are to ‘future proof’ our children then establishing these good habits must be paramount. My top tips for managing homework and everything that comes with it are:

  1. Have a routine for the evening so that your child knows what to expect. Many families have long distances to travel to and from school so the routine must fit your life, but it is important to stick to it.
  2. Create the right environment to work in – no distractions and no delaying tactics allowed!
  3. Get involved, but not too involved. Take an interest and make sure that your child knows what they are doing but let them do it. Let them make errors and discuss them at the end in a positive way. If you can help them to see the errors for themselves then that is far more likely to help them avoid making the same mistakes in the future.
  4. Do not let homework become a drain on your family life – make it part of your family life.

Cooking WorkshopWe will be looking at our homework policy over the next two terms as it is a subject that creates a great deal of debate amongst staff, parents and of course, children! One recent suggestion from a Year 6 pupil looking to reduce our Carbon footprint was to get rid of all homework as it saves paper. Nice try, Jack! Homework has to have purpose and that purpose must be clearly understood if children are to develop good habits to equip them for life.

Four weeks of the term have passed and there has been a lot going on. The Year 1 parents’ tours of the Prep School were very well received and I am delighted that so many people were able to join us. Cooking WorkshopOnce again there were some tasty treats on offer, courtesy of our budding 5 and 6 year old cooks! On Wednesday the Senior School Music Scholarships took place and 7 of our children took part and performed very well indeed. We shall find out who has been successful in their scholarship attempt this week but all of the children deserve great credit for the way that they behaved during the day. The first of our Cooking Workshops for parents took place on Friday and much fun was had by all who took part. We were joined by 16 mums (we’re making a plan to allow dads to join us next time) who cooked a three course meal of Twice-Baked Goat’s Cheese soufflés, Crispy Chicken with Pancetta and Chocolate and Pear Pudding with Chocolate Sauce. Once again it fell to me to taste the finished offerings – it’s tough being a Head Master sometimes. It was a super morning and I am grateful to our fantastic Food Technology teachers, Julie and Sarah who planned every detail and ensured that everyone went home with some new skills and some tasty treats.

Another exciting week ahead and over 80 grandparents due to join us on Friday. They can be assured of the warmest of welcomes.

Mon 4th Feb 2013, 08:10

A visit from Henry VIII is surely the best way to start the week and so it was for our Year 5 children who enjoyed their day with the notorious king. Everyone joined in with the theme of the day and looked resplendent in their Tudor garb. Dressing up!My particular favourite was John Bishop’s executioner outfit complete with 5 o’clock shadow. You will be pleased to hear that his skills were not called upon during the day, much to John’s disgust! It was a great occasion, thoroughly enjoyed by all who took part.

After the snow at the end of last week we hoped for a rather more settled few days – the weather had other ideas. The light snow forecast for Tuesday became heavy snow and a white blanket once again covered the school, much to everyone’s (well perhaps not everyone’s) delight. Many parents and staff braved the conditions to get into school and I would like to thank everyone who helped to keep things as normal as possible. I hope that the snow has now disappeared where you are and that the melt has not caused further problems.

The week continued to be as busy as ever with Year 1 enjoying their trip to St. Nicholas Priory on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning I was treated to a fabulous French themed assembly in the Pre-Prep with every child from Nursery to Year 2 showcasing their linguistic skills through songs and actions. Those children who have been working very hard during French lessons were then rewarded with a certificate. There is much debate as to the merits of starting French lessons at such a young age with some opinion suggesting that by the time the children get to secondary age they are ‘bored’ of the subject. Well I would suggest that boredom only comes from poor teaching and we are fortunate to have an outstanding French teacher at BPS, hence our children love French. Year 1 at St Nicholas PrioryI wish that I had been so fortunate when I was at school as my children are already more proficient in the language than I am!

Thursday saw the first Tea-Time concert of the year and this was a high-class affair with a short but top-quality programme for our guests to enjoy. Our seven potential music scholars were in action in preparation for their 11+ Scholarship attempts on Wednesday and we wish them well for what promises to be a challenging morning. Thursday also saw our Year 2 children visit the Food Technology room to cook up some delicious Malteser cakes for their parents to enjoy the following day. Having sampled them myself, I have to say that how any managed to get saved for the parents is beyond me! These budding cooks then returned to the Prep School on Friday morning to serve their wares to our guests and this they did with great excitement. It is hard to refuse the kind offerings of an expectant 6 year old so suffice to say that our calorific intake on Friday morning was a little on the high side. I must also mention our Year 6 pupils who conducted tours of the Prep School as they were outstanding. All received points towards their BALSA award and demonstrated the levels of confidence that we would wish to see from our most senior pupils.

There’s plenty to look forward to this week along with several more opportunities for parents to join us in school, whether it be at Tuesday’s tours for Year 1 parents, our Friday Coffee Morning or the much anticipated Cooking Workshop. Rather unsurprisingly, the 16 available places were snapped up within days and Julie and Sarah are looking forward to what promises to be a fun-filled morning.

Mon 28th Jan 2013, 10:25

Fun in the snow!Love it or hate it, the snow that we had on Thursday night and throughout the day on Friday had quite an impact. Firstly, it prevented about 70 of our children from getting to school but it also meant that the 150 that we had in school could enjoy the customary snowball fights, snow fairies and snow man building – the Astros have a whole family in residence, courtesy of our Year 4 children! With the forecast suggesting that we may get a little bit more of the white stuff it may well be the case that it is here to stay for the time being. The snow does cause problems and I feel for those poor people for whom significant snowfall is a nightmare. Fun in the snow!That aside, I have to agree with India Knight who writes in The Sunday Times this week that ‘Snow that has the power – still, all these years later – to make fully grown men and women glue their noses to the window waiting – and then whooping when it starts.’ Well I’m not sure if I was whooping but it does make me smile and the same could be said for the very excited Pre-Prep and Prep children who made it in on Friday. I decided to venture home at break time to don my ski gear, hoping to join in with the various snow related activities that were going on. Little did I know what was to come as I stepped from my front door and into the Pre-Prep playground. My cheerful ‘Can I join in?’ was immediately followed with a joint cry of ‘Get Mr Southgate’ and a hail of what seemed like hundreds of snowballs – I never imagined that 5 year olds could throw so hard or so accurately! I sought sanctuary in the Prep playground, this time keeping very quiet but being dressed in ski gear was interpreted by the 80 children as ‘Pepper me with snowballs and chase me around the field until I run and hide across the bridge’ (the place where not even the most daring Prep pupil will venture!) Five minutes of negotiations followed but I managed to escape with my dignity intact – just! As you can see from these pictures (many more available in the gallery) the children had a great deal of fun and that is what snow days are all about – memories that will last for many years to come.

Charity donation to 'Unite – Kids Who Care'On Monday we were joined by Cathy Kingham from ‘Unite – Kids Who Care’ and were able to hand over a cheque for £3194.93 to support the on-going work of this wonderful local charity. Just before Christmas the charity used our Art and FT room to give 20 young carers the opportunity to enjoy art and cooking workshops and Cathy wanted to pass on just what a fantastic time they all had. Thank you to everyone who supported the many school events during the Autumn Term as the funds raised will make a big difference.

Our Kindergarten children had an experience to remember this week as they enjoyed a visit from The Really Wild Man and his ‘friends.’ Neil showed the children various creatures from Giant Land Snails to Bird-Eating Spiders. Why not read more on the PrePrep News page. It would fair to say that the children were far braver than I would have been!

Kindergarten children meet The Really Wild Man - and, in this case, a bird-eating spider!Our Year 6 children have received their Entrance Exam results and I am delighted to say that they have all been offered places at the Senior School. There were some outstanding individual performances and special mention should go to Olivia Rhodes, Tara Hayes-Pankhurst and Sophia Marr who gained Honours in both English and Maths. In total there were 8 Exhibition Awards made to our children but a great many more superb results to be proud of. As Head Master I am indebted to the staff for their hard work and to the parents for their unstinting support, as this combination has allowed the children to take on this hurdle with confidence and a healthy balance of nerves and excitement. Congratulations to all! New challenges lie ahead for Year 6 in the form of the ‘BALSA’ scheme and more on this will follow in the fortnightly newsletter and in this Blog.

We managed to squeeze some sports fixtures in before the snow arrived last week. On Wednesday our U10 and U11 netballers travelled to Millfield and played very well indeed in cold conditions and against tough opposition. The U11 A team won with an impressive performance but the U11 B, U10 A and U10 B teams all lost but played with a great deal of heart. Our U11 A Hockey boys played in a tournament at Sherbourne and performed very well indeed to come runners-up in the Plate Final. Our U11 B Hockey team played against Stockland and found it tough going but battled hard throughout. Plenty of practise lies ahead but some promising hockey was played. Our U10 A footballers ventured to Launceston to play St. Joseph’s and I must say that we received the warmest of welcomes – the school may be 75 minutes away but it is certainly worth the journey. Our boys managed to win by 4 goals to 1 but it was a closely contested match. On Thursday our U9 Girls Netball teams and our U9 boys football teams travelled to Kelly College and enjoyed mixed success while our U8/U9 football team hosted St. Joseph’s here at Blundell’s in a well-matched encounter which ended in a 2-2 draw.

This week there is plenty to look forward to. On Monday we welcome Henry VIII to the Prep School for our Year 5 Tudor Day and on Tuesday our Year 1 children will spend the day at St. Nicholas Priory learning about the Great Fire of London. On Thursday we have the first Tea Time Concert of 2013 and then on Friday we welcome Year 2 Parents to the Prep School for coffee and a tour with our Year 6 guides. All of our guests will be in for a treat as our Year 2 children will be visiting the Food Technology room to prepare some tasty treats for them to enjoy.

I hear that we have more snow on the way – I’ll keep the “whoop” to myself I think.

Mon 21st Jan 2013, 11:30

It seems like an age since we moved into 2013 but if I haven’t had the opportunity to say it to you in person – Happy New Year! I am sure that, like me, you enjoyed Christmas and all that it entails with excited children and a wide variety of excesses which I now intend to make amends for. When I look back at what 2012 included it is hard to imagine that 2013 can better what must be regarded as one of the greatest years in our nation’s history. That said, I am sure that everyone has something that they aim to achieve over the next 12 months and this was inevitably the topic of my first assembly of the term. With coloured leaves and 140 pens in tow I asked the Prep School children to finish the sentence, ‘In 2013 I will…’ and their responses were very revealing. If you get the chance to come into the Prep School Atrium then do take the time to look at ‘The Blundell’s Resolutions Tree’ which has been created to display the staff and children’s hopes for the year ahead. How long will these resolutions last? If anyone wanted to add their own resolution to our tree then you would be more than welcome although the children have delighted in seeing the staff resolutions and I can imagine that all will be held to them so be warned!

I was delighted to welcome the children back on Monday and to listen to the many stories that are always shared at the start of term. I was also pleased to receive so many completed Holiday Challenges and a few messages from parents expressing great pleasure at their child getting up at 7.01 on the dot on Christmas morning! Sprouts were eaten and offers of help were made without being asked. Elderly relatives were contacted and thank you cards were written. Holiday Reading ChallengeOn top of that, a great many children participated in the Holiday Reading Challenge and our Year 6 pupils worked incredibly hard to complete a number of practice papers in preparation for their Entrance Exams (more on that in a moment). I am acutely aware that it is not always easy to motivate children to do school work during the holidays and after a busy term they need a break (and so do the parents!) but these tasks do much more than keep the grey matter working. Reading is particularly important and should be part of the normal workings of the day for all of our children, whether during term time or not. The children read at school of course but it is at home that a love of reading may be nurtured further. I wonder, when was the last time that you sat and read a book of your own in front of the children? When was the last time that you sat and chatted to your son or daughter about the book that they are reading? Is your child’s final activity of the day an opportunity to sit quietly and read to themselves, to you, or for you to read to them? It’s not always easy but it is unquestionably one of the most important things that you can do with and for your child. If Dads are able to find time to read with their children then that is proven to have a profound effect on attitudes towards reading, particularly with boys, and this was just one of many ideas which were discussed during our staff Inset training before term began. I’ll climb down off my soap-box and finish by saying that this staff training, attended by many of our senior school colleagues as well as Heads of local primary schools, has generated a huge number of ideas for raising achievement in all of our children and has created quite a buzz at the start of what promises to be another action-packed term.

Have you noticed that there are some new events in the school calendar for this term? During the last week, we sent out invitations to Year 1 and Year 2 Coffee mornings and tours of the Prep School, to Grandparents’ Morning, to a Year 3 Parents’ Lunch, to a Parent Liaison and FoBP supper and to a cooking workshop for parents. Alongside these events there is also an open invitation for parents to work with us during Creative Arts Week, supporting the children in their artistic endeavours. I hope to welcome lots of parents, grandparents, friends and visitors to the Prep School over the Spring term so please do take advantage of these opportunities.

On Saturday morning our Year 6 children gathered at Big School to take their Entrance Exams. After many weeks of preparation the time arrived for our top year to show all that they had learnt and I must congratulate them all on the way that they conducted themselves during the build-up and on the day itself. I had a lovely e-mail from Head of School House, Mr Marshman who was full of praise for our Prep School cohort and he highlighted their kindness towards those children who joined us from other schools. In the next week we will find out their results but it is clear that all have given their best and demonstrated the many qualities that they possess. All 40 of our Year 6 will return to school tomorrow to face new challenges. Yes, the exam papers will be put away but that will not mark a downing of tools, far from it. The newly created, ‘Blundell’s Adventure, Leadership and Service Award’ or ‘BALSA’ will be launched and will afford all of our children the opportunity to develop their skills through a range of activities both inside and outside of school. We want them to have a new challenge and, most importantly, one that equips them for the move to secondary education. There will be fortnightly updates in the Newsletter so keep an eye out.

My best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy 2013.

Mon 14th Jan 2013, 09:35

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Autumn Term 2012

As I sit to write this Blog it is 12.12pm and the date is 12.12.12! I’m not quite sure what I am expecting to happen although I feel that we should be celebrating in some way.

Carol ServiceWhat a three days it has been. The highlight of course was our wonderful Christmas Carol Service on Monday and I am grateful that so many people took the time to attend. The beautiful candle-lit Chapel at Blundell’s was full to bursting and the congregation were in fine voice as many of our favourite carols were sung with great gusto. I certainly enjoyed ‘Good King Wenceslas’ although anyone Carol Servicewho had to endure my singing may not have felt the same way! Well done to all of the gentlemen who joined in. The children were in fine voice and managed to curtail the coughs long enough to sing and read with customary confidence. Milly’s flute solo was delightful and complemented the singing from our talented choir. The retiring collection for ‘Kids Who Care’ of £358 took our grand total so far to over £3200. This is a remarkable amount and will make a big difference to the children who are supported by this marvellous charity. Thank you to everyone who contributed.

On Tuesday we had our final Christmas Nativity and we saved the cutest to last! It was the turn of our Nursery children to perform ‘Whoops-a-Daisy Angel’ and perform they did, with singing and dancing aplenty. There were no tears and every one of our 20 Nursery children played their part in what was a delightful production. Nursery NativityIf this was the highlight of the morning then the Christmas lunch was most certainly the highlight of the afternoon. Mrs Moys and her team put on a huge spread with all the trimmings, including some delicious sprouts (not all agreed!) The puddings were truly sensational and 200 children and 40 staff devoured the offerings with great enthusiasm. The 3 cheers that they received nearly took the roof off and was the clearest indication of the appreciation felt by all. For me the afternoon was a little slower than normal as I am sure you can imagine! We are very fortunate to have a fantastic catering team at BPS and they take great delight in producing some delicious meals all year round. The food is so good that our Year 3 children will be inviting their parents for lunch next term so keep an eye out for that date in the calendar.

The final day of term was full of finishing off, tidying up, quizzes, parties and our end of term Awards Assembly – the perfect way to end what has been a busy but hugely rewarding term.

Sarah and I wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.

Weds 12th Dec 2012, 12:12

It has been a week packed full of wonderful performances in both Pre-Prep and Prep School. We started with the Year 1 Nativity, ‘A Tale of Two Birthdays’ and saw fantastic contributions from all of the cast. The three kings were suitably regal and their three queens made sure that their husbands knew where they should be and what they should be doing! The dancing during the songs was very impressive and every one of the children made their mark. For such young children the confidence of performance was quite remarkable – this may be a phrase that you hear again in this week’s Blog! Nativity playsPerhaps the most striking aspect was the enjoyment that the children clearly had while on stage. They took great delight in entertaining their parents and grand-parents and entertain them they did.

On Wednesday we had the first of the Prep School performances with Years 5 and 6 coming together in ‘Home for Christmas.’ This very touching and thought-provoking play brought the subject of homelessness to the children’s attention and certainly resonated with the appreciative audience. There were two performances of this play to allow for all friends and family to attend and two packed houses gave the children the rapturous applause that their efforts deserved. There were wonderful individual performances from a number of children who had to sing solo parts during the play. They were very ably supported by all of Year 5 as well as the Year 6 carol singers, making the whole production a team effort.

Thursday morning saw the Year 3 and 4 children have their opportunity to take to the stage to perform ‘The Christmas Jigsaw.’ The Year 3 children took the lead roles and they were hugely impressive with some of them managing 3 costume changes! They were all very excited to entertain the audience and sang their hearts out, supported by the Year 4 children who performed with customary gusto.

Nativity playsOn Friday it was the turn of our Kindergarten children to perform ‘Shine star, shine’ and if there was a visual definition of adorable then this performance would have been it. The eight, tutu-wearing stars delighted in entertaining the audience and all of the children spoke with such remarkable confidence. Next week we look forward to the Nursery Nativity, ‘Whoops-a-Daisy Angel’ and it promises to be very special indeed.

Friday afternoon saw one of the highlights of our Christmas calendar as we were joined by Two Moors, Tidcombe and St. John’s Primary schools for our Festival of Carols, held in the stunning Blundell’s Chapel. Every school choir was given the opportunity to contribute to the occasion with two songs and one reading and these were then interspersed with traditional Christmas carols sung by the enthusiastic congregation. Several hundred mince pies were then consumed by our hungry guests taking the grand total to well over 1000 for the week – that has to be a measure of how close to Christmas we are!

My thanks go to all who attended these performances as well as to all of the BPS staff who were involved in bringing the productions together. A huge amount of hard work goes into these events and I know how touched the staff were by the many words of thanks that they received.

The final Blog of this term will be a mid-week one so do take a look on Thursday morning to find out how the last 3 days of term went. They promise to be packed full of music, celebration and a few more mince pies of course!

Mon 10th Dec 2012, 11:20

At times like this it is very easy to wax lyrical with phrases such as "I can see this being maybe the greatest England victory, ever, at Twickenham.” I can well understand why Matt Dawson would say this and having watched yesterday’s magnificent performance I am still in a state of shock. Very few people gave England a chance and yet they ignored what was being said in the media and focused on doing everything right in the game. Every man showed total commitment in the way that they took on the World Champions and won with room to spare. They were inspirational. I spent yesterday with 17 of our Year 6 boys at the Exeter Chiefs Super Saturday and saw first-hand how they were inspired by the players around them. The Chiefs do an outstanding job at bringing children together to enjoy a 2 hour training session with their 1st team squad. Legends of the game such as Chris Budgen as well as current Argentina wing, Gonzalo Comacho gave their time and their expertise to a group of over 100 budding rugby stars and as you might imagine, the children hung on their every word. We then watched the international and to cap it off, the Chiefs beat Wasps by 30 points to 23. It was a great day and one to be remembered for some time to come. The children were inspired by these role models and wanted to know how often they trained, how much weight they could lift and how many tries they had scored. The consistent message that they received was that being a professional rugby player was hard work and took many years of dedication and sacrifice. Egypt DayThis message can of course be translated to a great many areas of our lives as well as the dreams and goals that the children have for the future. It is undoubtedly the case that the more exposure that they get to virtuous role models, the more chance there will be of them developing good habits for future success. Now this is the time when I should start quoting Aristotle but I will instead pose a question: who are children modelling their behaviour and attitudes after? I wonder if we would always be happy with the answer.

The importance of good role models is something that we explore every week in one way or another and across every area of school life. Celebrating the achievements of those who show great strength of character remains one of the most important things that we do at BPS and was highlighted this week as we congratulated Kata Lee on being awarded the Jim Perry Salver for sportsmanship and courtesy during last week’s Fencing Tournament at Perrott Hill. The organiser of the event took the time to write to me to say how impressed he had been and I shared this with the school during our assembly on Friday. We have many types of awards but it is the hard work and perseverance that it has taken to reach these heights that is most highly valued and what we want to see modelled in all of our children.

The Christmas season began in earnest this week as the Christmas trees were delivered and then decorated (thank you to Year 3). We also had the first of our Christmas performances in the form of Year 2’s ‘Christmas with the Aliens’ and what a performance it was. They retold the story of the Nativity through the eyes of four aliens who had been stranded on earth when their spaceship broke down. Very confident acting was coupled with wonderfully enthusiastic singing to entertain the audience.

Egypt DayAn assembled audience of over 100 enjoyed the rescheduled Teatime concert this week with solo and group performances from Prep School children. I am always amazed by the confidence shown by these young musicians, many of whom were performing for the first time. Well done to all.

On Friday the children in Year 3 were transported back to Ancient Egypt. They started by mummifying a willing volunteer (thank you, Zebedee) and learnt all about the various jobs that were involved in the process, a particular favourite being the Brain Hooker. They went on to build and test shadufs, engineered pyramids, played Egyptian music on their violins and even created Egyptian dances. It was an action packed day and so full of active learning to be remembered for many years to come. Thank you to Mrs Nicholls for organising the day.

As we move into the final full week of term we have Christmas plays aplenty to enjoy. I look forward to welcoming many of you to BPS this week.

Mon 3rd Dec 2012, 07:50

You may have noticed that I have not mentioned the weather for some time now and therefore (take note Mr Swain) cannot be blamed for the situation that we now find ourselves in. I have never seen anything quite like it and my thoughts go out to the poor people who have once again found their homes flooded and their lives disrupted. When will it stop? Soon I hope as we never want to cancel events at BPS but over the last week we have been given very little choice. One of the events that we have been able to reschedule is the Tea Time Concert and this will take place on Thursday in the Prep Hall. The fixtures on Wednesday and Thursday and then our own Under 9 rugby and hockey tournament fell victim to the rain but our brave choristers managed to get to Tiverton to sing for the assembled crowds on Saturday. They did a marvellous job all things considered and while they sang the rain actually stopped. Coincidence?

What was very striking as our children sang their hearts out was that the vast majority of those listening were mums, dads, grannies and grandpas, brothers, sisters and friends of those children who were performing. This support is very typical at BPS, not just from those who have children in the choir, but many of our parents who see the relationship between school and home as a vital partnership. As a Head and a parent I am acutely aware of the importance of this relationship if our children are to make the most of their formative years. It goes a great deal further than being the taxi service, braving the elements on the touchline or attending every school function. It is about high but realistic expectations coupled with plenty of encouragement and the understanding that school can only do so much. Supporting your child in their endeavours, not doing everything for them or letting them give up, even when the temptation may be to do just that, is a vital part of this process and one that becomes challenging as we attempt to juggle our busy lives. But it is a challenge that we must master if our children are to make the progress that we would all wish for them. We have to find the time to do the things that really make a difference. The 15 minutes to sit and read with our children, us to them and them to us. We have to find time to sit and eat together. We have to find the time to ask what was good about school, what was fun, what went well? We have to find time to say “Well done” but also to ask “Is that your best effort?” when it may just be easier to move on to the next job. I do not profess to be any great authority on parenting, or indeed Head mastering, as it is still very early days, but having spent many years in schools I have seen the difference that it makes when parents are able to provide these foundations. They mesh so readily with all that school provides and give the children the sense of safety, consistency and stability that leads to better learning, happier children and ergo, happier parents!

The Christmas trees go up in school this week and I am looking forward to recruiting some children to help decorate them. The first Christmas nativity takes place on Friday and the finishing touches are being made to the many performances that will be enjoyed by all over the next two weeks. Our Year 6 children have their Mock Exams this week but they have been well prepared and will do very well I am certain. It promises to be another busy week and hopefully a much drier one.

Mon 26th Nov 2012, 09:30

I tend to associate the start of Christmas with the first time that I hear my favourite seasonal tune, ‘Fairytale of New York’ on the radio. It was a mixture of joy and fear that greeted me when at 12.08 this afternoon, the 18th November, the dulcet tones of Shane McGowan and the slightly more tuneful, Kirsty MacColl rung out from Magic FM (Sarah’s choice!) Christmas had arrived. I am not about to embark on some ‘Christmas gets earlier every year’ type rant as I love the festive season and feel that the final 3 weeks of this term are the most enjoyable of the year, although they are certainly the busiest and most exhausting. There is a great deal to do over the coming weeks but a huge amount to look forward to at the same time.

Taunton Festival of MusicWe have had a very musical week in the Prep School. On Friday our Festival Choir competed in the Taunton Festival of Music and performed very well indeed to gain a Distinction in their class, losing out on first place by the narrowest of margins. There were excellent solo performances from Amber and Todd and a tremendous duet from Sparkle and Frances which gained them first place and a very impressive trophy. While our Festival Choir was in Taunton our Senior Choristers travelled to Exeter University to form part of the Children in Need National Choir, singing Bridge Over Troubled Water with choirs from around the country. If you follow this link you may see some familiar faces: www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0119z11. This was a tiring but very special experience for the children, all of whom did their school proud.

The choir were in action again on Saturday as they entertained the several hundred people who joined us for our Christmas Market. The event was a huge success, thanks to the considerable efforts of our FoBP Committee and invaluable contributions from parents, staff and pupils alike. SantaThe weather was kind to us and allowed for some of the stall holders to be outside, adding to the atmosphere and the variety of fun activities and tasty treats on offer. I felt it was my duty to sample all of these delicious treats and yes, my score on the reaction game was genuine (I had some practise before everyone arrived!) Father Christmas even paid us a visit and was very impressed by the number of children who replied “good” when asked if they had been bad or good this year. All of the children at BPS are good, Santa, as well you know!

Sunday morning saw us joined by Tiverton Rugby Club for Under 9, Under 10 and Under 11 fixtures. Our teams came out on top but some impressive rugby was played by all of the boys and then players and spectators were duly rewarded for the early start with some delicious bacon baps. If I were to highlight one slightly controversial aspect when bringing together school and club rugby it would be the difference in laws at Under 9 level and I spoke of my concern during our IAPS District 4 Heads Meeting on Thursday. How can we have children playing two very different games of rugby and expect them to adapt? One day they can tackle, ruck, maul and the next they cannot, depending on which ‘version’ of the game they are playing. If we all want children to stay in the game then this needs to be resolved. We will see what comes over the next few weeks as these issues are discussed.

I will finish this week’s Blog with a big thank you to everyone who has supported the children and the school this week. Without your help these events would simply not be possible.

Mon 19th Nov 2012, 10:20

A great deal has happened over the last 7 days and the challenge is where to start. Many of you may have noticed the large white mobile building that appeared in our car-park just over a week ago. Emblazoned on the side was a picture of a large giraffe by the name of Harold (not to be confused with Humphrey the ToysRUs giraffe, as I found to my cost!) along with the title ‘Life Education Centre.’ Life Education CentreThe children were intrigued as to what was inside this mysterious building and they got to find out on Monday morning as they enjoyed a variety of multi-sensory workshops on topics ranging from food chains to the process of digestion. They even got to have a go with a real Sonic Screwdriver! We look forward to welcoming Eddie and the Life Education Centre back to BPS again next year.

The Diet Committee, which includes representatives from both staff and pupils, met this week and looked closely at the current arrangements for break time snacks and lunch time menus. In recent times we have looked to provide ever more healthy options and I am sure that all of our parents will be well aware of the quality of food on offer. One of the requests from the children was that they could have a choice of roll fillings when they go on school trips and another was that more themed days could be held. As always, our wonderful kitchen staff were more than happy to oblige.

We are always looking for opportunities for the children to extend their musical knowledge and just such an opportunity came our way this week with an invitation to join the Exeter Music Group Symphony Orchestra during their rehearsals for their forthcoming concert on Saturday 24th November. It was a fascinating experience for the children, who delighted in seeing a full orchestra in action. We are grateful to Mrs Clare Smith who arranged for us to be part of the evening. Sadly I was not able to join the children as I had tickets to watch the Senior School production of Cabaret in Ondaatje Theatre. The last time that I was in Ondaatje I was watching our Year 6 children perform The Wind in the Willows so the subject matter was rather different on this occasion. The quality of performance, combined with fantastic staging made for an entertaining evening.

On Thursday afternoon we were joined by our new Senior School Head, Nicola Huggett. All of the staff in the Pre-Prep and the Prep had the opportunity to meet Nicola and our Senior Management Team also had some time to discuss her thoughts on the school as she prepares to take over in January. What was very clear throughout our conversations was Nicola’s desire to work closely with the Prep School and she was hugely impressed by all that she saw during her visit. This has been a bit of a theme over the last few weeks as we have had a number of visitors to the school. Last week I welcomed a couple who were relocating from Kuwait and in order to help them find the right school for their young son they enlisted the help of The Good Schools Guide. Our entry in the guide is a little out of date so I was invited to be interviewed this week in order for our entry to be updated. I faced a few challenging questions but my hope is that the report, which I will share with you over the next week or two, will truly reflect the huge number of positive comments about the school that I have received in recent weeks.

It has been another busy week of sport with many of our teams in action. Some close rugby matches against Queen’s resulted in two very narrow loses and one excellent win for the U11 B team. On Thursday the Under 9 rugby teams were in action against West Buckland and our A team were back to winning ways with a much improved performance. The Under 9 B squad all had the opportunity to take on West Buckland in a number of Tag matches and were narrowly beaten. On Friday our U11 hockey players were in action in the IAPS national qualifiers but were unable to make it through to the next stage, losing to Hazlegrove in the Plate. On Saturday our Under 10 A rugby players returned to Queen’s, this time to compete in their tournament alongside 15 other sides. In the group stages they beat Taunton, Sandroyd and Queen’s to progress to the quarter-final where they beat Wells Cathedral School. This set up a semi-final showdown with Millfield and having lost to them just before half term it was going to be a tough game. Our boys played brilliantly and came back from a try down to force Golden Try Extra Time! In spite of their very best efforts they were unable to keep Millfield at bay and conceded the crucial score to be knocked out. Although disappointed they had given their all and had played their best rugby of the season by quite some measure.

RemembranceThis week of Remembrance has been marked in a number of ways at both the Prep and the Senior School. The Prep School Service on Friday involved all pupils from Nursery 2 upwards and was a fitting tribute to all those who have given their lives in war. The children made their own poppies with messages of remembrance and 6 of our Year 2 children were extremely confident in their reading of the prayers at the end of the service. Our Prefects made their own contribution by reading a very thought-provoking poem called ‘Why wear a poppy?’. It was a moving service and I am very proud to say that all the children marked the 2 minute silence impeccably.

There is more to come this week: drama rehearsals for Christmas plays are well underway and I imagine that our Year 2 children are excited about their hockey and rugby sessions with Kelly College whilst Year 6 pupils will be looking forward to their visit to School House. On Friday a group of our older children our participating in the Taunton Music Festival whilst another group are joining a National Choir for some very special performances to be broadcast during Friday evenings Children in Need. On Saturday we have our FoBP Christmas Market to look forward to from 10am and this promises to be a wonderful event so please do join us for a mince pie and the chance to visit Santa’s grotto. I look forward to seeing you there.

Mon 12th Nov 2012, 10:15

With over a year's worth of HM Blogs having been written I thought that a change of author was long overdue. I invited our Head of Pre-Prep, Mrs Elaine Filmer-Bennett to share her thoughts on Pre-Prep education and I am delighted to say that she accepted. Enjoy.

One of the great joys of working in the Pre-Prep with very young children is seeing every child discover something for the very first time. Their sense of awe and wonder is immense as they show me a beautiful Autumn leaf or a dew- covered spiders web gleaming in the morning sunshine. It is a privilege to be a part of their journey of discovery in an increasingly hectic world. 'Young children grow up so quickly these days' is a cry often heard from older generations. 'They spend so much time on computers' they add. Naturally we want our children to have the best education available to them and technology plays an increasingly important part in all our lives today but we must try to retain a balance to ensure that our children develop as well- rounded individuals able to communicate not just through text speak and emails but through coherent conversation.

Children are increasingly starting school with a variety of speech and language difficulties not experienced in earlier generations. Their ability to concentrate for sustained periods of time is greatly diminished. Recent statistics state that 67% of children aged between 5 years and 11 years can operate a DVD player and 58% of them regularly engage in activity on the internet. One of our four year olds even managed to order a complete outfit for herself online whilst her mother was on the telephone!

These are indeed important skills to learn but conversely 91% of children of the same age can no longer identify three different types of butterfly, 81% cannot read a map and 71% cannot identify a robin, sparrow or blackbird. Let us not overlook those things in life which are in abundance in the world around us and cost absolutely nothing to enjoy.

Early years education is pivotal to all future learning. If children are taught excellent basic skills they will continue to thrive in later years. In the Pre-Prep we value the teaching of handwriting in a world where so many of us use word processors, we teach the rules of grammar and spelling because we cannot determine the accuracy of the grammar and spelling highlighted by spell checkers on our computers without this and we teach basic numeracy skills because without them we are unable to decide whether the answer on our calculator is a plausible one or not.

Teaching very young children is extremely rewarding such is their eagerness to learn. It is not without its challenges as was evident a few years ago at our Bonfire Party where two children were overheard discussing the relevance of Guy Fawkes. 'We put him on top of the bonfire' one said to the other with great certainty' because he burnt the cakes in the oven that set off the Great Fire of London! 'Young children are never afraid to challenge their teachers either as I found to my cost after I delivered an Assembly explaining the concept of Genes for Jeans day. Having talked about the genetic links between our parents and ourselves explaining that this determined certain physical characteristics I was then told in no uncertain terms that this was incorrect as the girl in question had blonde hair and her father had none!

From a very early age we guide children through the maze of social skills expected of us from the moment we begin to socialise with others. We teach the children to share, be considerate of others, to be honest and always to be kind. When I overheard the following comment I knew we had achieved at least a measure of success in this respect. One boy said to another (referring to one of his peers) 'Her bark is much worse than her bite but deep down she's really nice. 'This statement confirmed that this child had learnt honesty, acceptance, tolerance and the ability to search for the goodness in others. He won't go too far wrong in this world if he leaves school having developed nothing other than those qualities.

Mon 5th Nov 2012, 15:35

I hope that everyone has had a good week and managed to see friends, enjoy a trip overseas or simply catch up on family time. We managed two out of three with half term heralding the return of the woolly hat and gloves – Autumn has arrived! What does the next half of this Michaelmas term have in store? Plenty, with trips, performances and sporting events galore. There are two fantastic FoBP dates to look forward to over the next few weeks starting with Bonfire Night on Thursday and followed up with the Christmas Market on the 17th November. I hope that we will get plenty of visitors as an enormous amount goes into preparing for these events.

Half term may have started for the children on Wednesday but this was not the case for the staff who had a very hands-on training session on the Interactive Whiteboards to look forward to. Our trainer Ramsay put us through our paces and challenged us all to explore the full potential of these valuable teaching aids. Technology has such a pivotal role to play in teaching and I think it is vital that we explore the many ways that it can be used to stimulate learning, to reinforce concepts and to engage young minds. It has a habit of engaging slightly (!) older minds as I must confess to a purchase over half term of an I-Pad – for educational research purposes you understand. There are a staggering number of educational apps out there and I will be putting many to the test over the coming weeks.

Our equestrian team has been in action over the break and competed on consecutive Sundays, the first being at The Grange, Okehampton and today’s event being hosted by Wellington. With teams made up of pupils from the Prep and Senior School it is remarkable to see what they are able to do. I am delighted to say that Prep School pupils Mia Butterfield, Jasper Pring and Polly Muirhead performed superbly at both events, coming 3rd out of 26 teams last week and then 2nd in their class today. Well done to all involved and to the staff who supported them on both occasions.

The next stage of our programme of academic review begins this week with a comprehensive work scrutiny taking place. Exercise books are going to be closely examined by our Academic Leaders with a focus on how all children are supported and challenged in the classroom and the work that they complete. This process has many strands and will encompass not only the many different tasks that teachers use to support the children’s learning but will also look at the quality of marking and feedback. It promises to be a fascinating process and one that will help support our continuing desire to maintain outstanding levels of Teaching and Learning.

The much anticipated Junior and Senior House matches are on this week so do come along and support Drake, Raleigh and Grenville as they attempt to be crowned champions. As you might imagine, these trophies are hotly contested and our newest House members from the Pre-Prep are expecting big things from their older counterparts. These team competitions are an important part of school life but there are plenty of opportunities to show talents in other non-competitive fields. A prime example of this is our Speech and Drama Recital which takes place on Friday during our Awards Assembly. As we are also hosting a Coffee Morning for Pre-Prep and Prep parents on Friday morning it is a great opportunity to see these children perform so please do join us if you are able to.

I am going to finish this week with a request. Having spent many, many years in Prep School car-parks I am acutely aware of the frustrations that come with drop-off and pick-up times. That said, we are fortunate to have a large car-park and on most days there are spaces to park in as well as a clearly signed ‘drop-off’ lane to use as exactly that, a drop off lane. Please do make sure that you keep this area clear so that its benefit can be enjoyed by all and above all please keep a very close eye out for children as the evenings draw in. Thank you.

I hope to see many of you this week.

Mon 29th Oct 2012, 11:15

This has been a rather peculiar week. As I sit writing this blog, the sun is blazing outside and yet just a few days ago it was raining as hard as I have seen it in this country. The Prep playground was under water, the atrium ceiling sprung a leak and the children were stuck inside for the day. Now anyone who has spent a rainy weekend with their children at home or on holiday will know that if children do not get the chance to run around and let off steam then chaos can often ensue. Multiply that by a school of over 200 and you could be in for a lively day. In spite of being cooped up inside the children were fantastic and played together beautifully with not a murmur of the frustration that you might expect. This once again emphasises just how grown up our children are and how highly they value the freedoms and responsibilities that they are given. The more that we expect from them, the more they rise to those expectations. There are certainly high expectations during the run-up to the Entrance Exams and we discussed this at Monday evening’s ‘Year 6 and Beyond’ meeting. With past papers being completed, reviewed and learnt from, everyone will be well placed to show what they are capable of come January 12th. My hope is that the highest expectations come from the children themselves and early signs suggest that everyone is very focused on the challenges ahead.

This week has seen the usual variety of events at the Prep School. The individual photos went well on Tuesday thanks in no small part to the efforts of our two photographers who were ably assisted by Mrs Edge and Mrs Southgate who between them ensured that ties were straight, hair was brushed and smiles were beaming. I hope that this attention to detail, coupled with a selection of shots, will ensure that everyone is happy with the finished pictures. The first Tea Time Concert of the year was very well supported and the children performed with customary enthusiasm and no shortage of skill. This terrific display of the musical talent that exists at BPS is a highlight of the term and as always our thanks go to the Peripatetic music teachers and Director of Music, Bethan Cracknell.

Many of you will be aware of the school’s Development Office and the wonderful work that Amber Oliver and Emily Roffe-Silvester do to keep Blundellians past and present involved in the daily life of the school. Earlier this week we met to discuss how the Prep School could support the work that they do and I am delighted to say that Blundell’s historian, Mike Sampson will shortly be producing a concise history of St. Aubyn’s Prep to be included on the website. Further information will follow but if it is worth noting that the Development Office also offers free entry on to their Business Directory so if you are interested in advertising with them you can get in touch by contacting Emily at e.rs@blundells.org. Another group of people who spend a great deal of time promoting the school and raising valuable funds for the children is the Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee and I spent some time with them this week, hearing of the wonderful plans for forthcoming events. The Christmas Market is set to be our best yet with a wide variety of stalls selling high quality items and some perfect gifts for Christmas. Before that we have the Bonfire Party to look forward to so please do get your tickets from the school office this week.

There are only 3 days left until the half-term break and a well-deserved break for staff and pupils alike. When we return for the 2nd half of term and the build-up to (dare I say it?) Christmas, there are countless events to look forward to. A highlight for me will be to welcome my old school, Moulsford Prep to Blundell’s for an Under 11 rugby match. Some of our Year 6 parents have been kind enough to offer board and lodging for our guests on Friday night and I know that they will be very well looked after. Wherever you go on tour it is a very special experience and I keep my fingers crossed for a good result, not least because I have a small wager on it!

Whatever you plan to do over half-term I wish you a good break.

Mon 15th Oct 2012, 08:45

Is it really Week 6? The term has flown by and here we are with only a week and a half until a holiday. This last week was full of activities with the week to come promising much the same. A highlight was certainly the first House Assembly incorporating children from Kindergarten to Year 6. Drake, Grenville and Raleigh met in the Pre-Prep halls with the older children providing a full induction for their new housemates, including a potted history of the figure after which their house is named. There was also time for lots of cheering and a celebration of the contributions being made through House Points and Merits. There is a huge amount to be gained by this time spent together with the older children benefitting as much as the younger ones. Will this new union change the course of results this year? It has had an impact already with a Drake resurgence on the cards!

This week I met Cathy Kingham, a remarkable lady who is heavily involved with the charity 'Kids Who Care' one of the charities that we will be supporting this year. Cathy spoke of the incredible children who she works with in and around Tiverton and the opportunities that the charity provides for them. When you hear of a 5 year old child who has to get her mother out of bed, make and then tidy away breakfast, prepare and then tidy away lunch, all on her own with no support, day after day, it reminds us just how much these child carers do for their loved ones. I am delighted that we are going to be able to support Cathy with the use of our Art Room for a day in December and then the Food Technology room so that these children can learn to cook healthy meals for themselves. When you hear about children such as the ones Cathy supports it does bring some sense of perspective to the stresses and the strains that we experience on a daily basis.

The theme of charity was continued on Friday as we supported 'Jeans for Genes Day'. Not only did the children contribute a pound each in order to wear their jeans to school but some very generous quiz champions decided that their Friday evening winnings should also go to help this very worthy cause. Thank you for this thoughtful donation.

On the subject of the Quiz and Curry Night I would start by saying a huge thank you to the FoBP Committee who once again put on a fantastically entertaining evening for the assembled audience of parents and staff to enjoy. Our quizmaster, Adrian Byng, (affectionately known in Blundell's circles as 'The Pig Man') was in fine form and conducted proceedings with a potent combination of challenging questions and utter lunacy. There was a lot of laughter, some delicious curry prepared by Barbara and Janet from our catering team and some entertaining rounds, my favourite being the Byng's Bingo – what useless trivia we squirrel away in the darkest recesses of our minds. Not so useless on Friday night!

Have a good week.

Mon 8th Oct 2012, 09:15

Sunday afternoon is always the time when I sit down to write this blog but this weekend it has proved to be more challenging than ever before. There are a few reasons for this but the main one is an event that occurs every 2 years – The Ryder Cup. The last two days have not gone well for Team Europe but as I sit writing there is more blue on the leaderboard than red. Will this be the case in 4 hours’ time? It’s a distraction but please excuse the occasional lapse in concentration as I “whoop” and “hola” my support for Jose Maria and the boys. Now to more serious matters…

I spent the first three days of this week in Manchester at the IAPS Heads Conference and what a fascinating time it proved to be. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Learning from others’ and with a number of high profile speakers in attendance this theme was certainly translated into reality. Ian Livingstone spoke of the need to go from “geek to chic” when bringing the teaching of code into the curriculum. For many years this country has been an industry leader in the field of computer game design and this is in danger of being lost as children are not being taught the building blocks of code. We reminisced about our early experience of IT at school and the BBC computers which were cutting edge in the 80’s. How this has changed! Our children are remarkably adept at accessing technology but how good are they at building and shaping it? Food for thought.

Europe up in 5 of the first 6 matches – fingers crossed!

Any rugby fan would have enjoyed listening to ex-England winger and fast jet pilot, Rory Underwood. If I could choose my ideal occupations (besides being a Head Master of course!) then rugby and jets would have been very high on my list, and Rory spoke of the commonalities between leadership experiences in both areas of his life. This was then built on by Humphrey Walters, a man who has worked with Chelsea FC, the world speed land record team and, of course, England rugby. He has also competed in the BT Round the World Yacht race and talked with great authority about teams and how to get the best from them. Among the many stories, advice and observations that he shared with us, one that stands out is that “Getting better never stops” and that is something that I certainly subscribe to. It’s not always easy but therein lies the challenge.

On Friday we welcomed ‘Poetry Slam’ to BPS and all of the children had the opportunity to get involved in workshops where they enjoyed creating poems before sharing them with friends.Mr Richards, the Cranky Crab Children in the Pre-Prep went a step further and were invited to learn and then recite a poem of their choice from a wider variety of categories. From funniest to longest, the children showed remarkable confidence as they stood in front of children, teachers and guests from the senior school and shared their poems. The costumes added to the sense of fun with the prize for best-dressed going to Mr Richards who came as the Cranky Crab, much to the delight of the children.

The sun was shining on Saturday morning as we welcomed The Downs School to BPS for Under 11 rugby matches. The honours were shared in the home matches but the support from parents was remarkable. The Under 9 rugby players and the Under 10 hockey players were also in action and had mixed success in their respective tournaments, the boys playing at Millfield and the girls at Exeter School. On Sunday we hosted the ‘Ride to the Coast’ charity bike ride in aid of Hospiscare and with well over 100 cyclists heading out for either a 27 or 66 mile round trip we hoped that the weather would be kind to them. Some rather weary looking riders returned to the Prep School during the afternoon and will have undoubtedly raised vital funds for this very worthy cause.

A bit more blue on the scoreboard but it’s a big ask. It’s going to be a late night!

Mon 1st Oct 2012, 07:50

It would be fair to say that this has been a busy week at the Prep School. Term is well underway and with that comes the usual excitement that is generated by all that is new: the new after school clubs, new topics in lessons, the new season in sport or new musical instruments to be mastered. There is a lot that is new and one of the most exciting aspects of this is the fact that with a change of year group comes new opportunities. Our Kindergarten children wear full school uniform for the first time, our Year 2 children head upstairs to their new classrooms or ‘The Penthouse Suites’ as they are affectionately known. Year 3 head to The Big School (the Prep School, that is), Year 4 move to new classrooms for new subject teachers, Year 5 are split into 3 forms with new classmates and Year 6 become the leaders within the school and enjoy all of the new privileges that this brings. It is always an exciting time and I am delighted to say that everyone is in fine form as we move into Week 4.

On Wednesday the Under 11 hockey and rugby players were in action and got off to a good start. Although the results were rather a mixed bag, the quality of performance augers well for the weeks ahead. The U11 B rugby team managed to win convincingly at Stover with tries aplenty from Tom Reynolds and Alex Curtis, and Tom even managed to kick 7 conversions. The hockey players found it tough going but played with a great deal of spirit. There’s more to come from them I’m sure. Our Under 9 rugby and hockey players were in action for the first time this season and got off to an impressive start. The U9 B rugby team beat St. Joseph’s in an impressive display with a number of our Year 3 children in action. The A team was at St. Peter’s for their tournament and managed to win two and lose two during an exciting afternoon of rugby. The U9 A hockey players also played well, winning one, losing one and drawing three in what was a very impressive start to the season. More fixtures to come for everyone this week so we hope that you will be able to join us.

This week has seen the annual Harvest Festival assembly in the Pre-Prep and has also seen a Harvest assembly in the Prep School for the first time in a number of years. We were delighted to welcome parents to the Pre-Prep Hall to hear the thoughts of our Year 2 children who had prepared a fascinating insight into the distances that food travels to get to our supermarkets. The ‘Flying Pizza’ had travelled a remarkable 23,000 miles from countries around the world but I needed some help to put all of the ingredients together. I was ably assisted by The Nursery and Pre-Prep children and some of them were even brave enough to eat the finished and cooked pizza at lunch time. I’m not sure that the combination of tuna and pineapple is one that will catch on! Our Prep Harvest Assembly followed a similar theme with Year 5 and 6 pupils sharing their favourite foods in the form of some entertaining poems. Throughout the week a collection was held for CHAT, the local Church Housing Action Team and I am grateful to all of our families who donated so generously.

There is plenty more to look forward to over the next 7 days. Have a good week.

Mon 24th Sep 2012, 10:20

The first full week is over and what a week it has been. The highlight must surely have been Friday afternoon and the visit from GB Handball player and Olympian, Ciaran Williams. If he is anything to go by, the legacy of the 2012 London Olympics is in safe hands. As you might imagine, the children were so excited to ask him questions about Handball, the Olympic Village and of course, Usain Bolt. Ciaran gave his time so generously and in amongst the many coaching sessions that he took during the afternoon, he also demonstrated the incredible power with which he is able to shoot. Ciaran Williams with the childrenMr Mildren and I were ‘willing’ volunteers (coerced by chanting children) and I even managed to save one of the shots, although I may have had some help with this! The Olympic spirit is still so very strong and I was delighted that we were able to give the children the opportunity to try this fantastic new sport. My thanks also go to Global Games Sports and to Mr and Mrs Horan, who were instrumental in getting Ciaran to BPS and who are giving huge support to spreading the game of Handball across the country.

We talk a great deal about inspiring children to be their best selves and a visit from an Olympian is one very potent way to achieve this. I am sure that we all have a favourite moment from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and I would love to hear what yours is. Not every day can involve visits from Olympians but we are always looking for ways to show the children what can be achieved through dedication and hard work. If any of our parents have any friends of acquaintances who have an inspirational story to share with us at BPS then please do get in touch as I would be delighted to hear from you.

I do hope that you enjoyed the summer term Review which arrived with you on Thursday. You will notice that there have been a few changes to the design with more pictures being used to show all of the events that go on during the term. The intention with this latest edition was to show the many occasions in which parents and families are invited to be part of life at BPS, particularly when supporting the endeavours of the children. The invitation is not consigned to just the summer term and we look forward to welcoming parents and guests to the school over the coming months. In the spring Review we will be giving a behind the scenes look at a day in the life of pupils in the Pre-Prep and the Prep school. It should be a fascinating insight.

Clubs, music lessons, sports fixtures and day trips started this week and culminated with our Open Day. I was delighted to welcome a good number of parents to BPS and to receive such lovely comments from all who visited. Once again it was the warmth of the Year 6 children who acted as tour guides that proved to be so impressive. Their confidence, pride in the school and genuine desire to tell our guests about life at BPS was wonderful to see. Am I surprised? Not at all, as this Year 6 has quickly shown that they intend to make the very best of their final year.

My best wishes to all for the week ahead.

Mon 08th Oct 2012, 09:05

I realise that I sound like a broken record but why not start as I mean to go on. This weather is a nonsense. One of our teachers (not to be mentioned but he is Swedish and Head of Boys games) has accused me of causing the rain through my constant remonstrations about the weather. Now whilst I would dearly love to have the power to affect the elements, sadly this does not come with the job. We are on holiday – it rains. We go back to school – the sun comes out. Let's just be thankful that we have it to enjoy now and hope for a better summer in 2013.

The first 3 days back have run smoothly with lots of smiling children and lots of new faces to welcome to the Prep School. Our new members of staff have assimilated to life at BPS very quickly and I am grateful that Mr Richards and Miss Howlett have been so warmly welcomed by our parent body. They are receiving the same support that I was fortunate to experience a year ago and this once again emphasises the strength of community spirit that exists at the school. It is a lovely place to live and to work, even when it rains!

This was echoed by the many friends who over the holidays took the opportunity to drop into 'Tivvy Services' as we became affectionately known. Sitting as we do on the M5 and right next to the A361 to North Devon, Tiverton is the ideal stop-off on the way to the surf. We were delighted to see many old friends, most of whom work in the teaching profession themselves, as life has been pretty busy over the last year and therefore not ideally suited to maintaining a social life. When not entertaining I spent some time watching the Olympics. In fact, I spent a lot of time watching the Olympics! It was compulsive viewing and staggeringly accessible with the interactive coverage on offer from the BBC. With every event being shown live I found myself (along with my children) watching archery, canoeing, badminton, wrestling, the list goes on. What is it about the Olympics that makes us watch these scarcely viewed sports? One of the most exciting to watch was Handball and I was struck by the speed, skill and raw athleticism of this fast paced sport. This week we are very excited to be welcoming GB Handball player Ciaran Williams to BPS. He is going to speak to the children about his Olympic adventure and we hope to give everyone the chance to try Handball for themselves. There will be more to follow on this so keep an eye on Twitter for up to date info.

There is no question that Olympic fever has gripped the nation and as the Closing Ceremony for the Paralympic Games signals the end of a remarkable summer, we start thinking about the legacy – what will happen now? History tells us that this is not always the most successful aspect of hosting a games but we can try to do our small part to encourage the children to involve themselves in all sorts of physical activities. Clubs start again this week with new sports clubs in the Pre-Prep proving to be very popular indeed. Gymnastics, dance, girls football, judo and fencing are also available in the Prep School and perhaps will attract those children who so enjoyed seeing medals in these sports competed for on the global stage.

Next Saturday is our Open Afternoon and this goes hand-in-hand with the Senior School Open Morning. We look forward to welcoming lots of prospective Blundell's parents to the school and explaining just how many opportunities are available. Our Year 6 pupils are kindly giving up their time to be tour guides and I know that they will do an exceptional job. Have a good week.

Mon 10th Sep 2012, 14:50