Head Master's Blog Archive2013/14
Do you believe in fairies? It may seem like a strange question to begin my final Blog of the year with but if you were in Ondaatje Theatre on Wednesday and Thursday of last week you will know exactly to what I am referring. Our Year 6 children performed ‘Peter Pan’ to two packed houses and rightly enjoyed rapturous applause from a very appreciative audience. When I said a few words of thanks at the end of the final evening I commented on the many hours of hard work that had gone into planning, preparing and then performing this two hour production. From the costumes, to the staging, the props, the dance routines, the songs and the fight scenes, every element had been thoroughly rehearsed, allowing these 37, 11 year old children to excel. The final term has been action-packed for our senior pupils but they have responded to every challenge with customary enthusiasm. I am very proud of each and every one of them.
Our youngest children have been out an' about this week with the Nursery trip to The Seashore Centre in Paignton. They had a super time and were captivated by the many animals that they saw, as you can see in these pictures. Year One also got on the road this week with their annual trip to Babbacombe Model Village and Kent’s Cavern. In glorious sunshine the children explored the village and then ventured into the caves before enjoying an ice-lolly. Sounds like my kind of trip.
On Thursday morning we headed to Leavers’ Service in Blundell’s Chapel. This was a chance to say a final goodbye to our Year 6 children before they head off to new adventures, new schools and new challenges. They spent some time reflecting on what they had experienced over their time at Blundell’s Prep and the memories that they would take with them. Their time at school has been very special and in my final assembly of the year I expressed my hope that they would all look back at their time here with great fondness. Yes, they are ‘ready’ to move on and rightly so. Many of the children shared their excitement at what lies ahead but many also asked if they could come back and see us again next year. A great many connections are made at school if it is as happy and nurturing a place as it should be and memories are created which will grow fonder with time. If you think that I am getting all sentimental this week then you are right and that is because I spent the weekend at the school where I taught for 13 years. I was there to celebrate the retirement of the Head Master of 20 years, Mike Higham, a man who I have mentioned before as he was my mentor and greatest supporter – a truly lovely man. He was joined by over a hundred ‘Old Moles’, boys who went to Moulsford and who had returned to celebrate Mike’s time at the school. They had so many happy memories of the place and lots of stories to share of their time at school, with mates, in lessons and on the games field. I had a wonderful time catching up with boys I had taught when they were 7 years old and they are now in their mid-twenties! I felt old, so very old, but it was great to see them all so pleased to be there and so successful in their lives. All of them spoke of the opportunities that they had enjoyed and how their Prep School years had been the happiest that they had known. I hope that our Year 6 leavers will return in the years to come, saying exactly the same thing. Good luck to them all.
Have a great holiday.
Mon 7th July 2014, 11:25
I have just watched the last person leave the school after our Speech Day and I am delighted to say that the weather was kind and after the floods of the morning we were treated to glorious sunshine for a few precious hours. The marquee looked a picture and I must thank William Lancelles who has spent months preparing the flowers for the day. What a talented man he is. The afternoon was a true celebration of the children’s achievements and they delighted in coming onto the stage to receive their prizes from our guest speaker, Alice Plunkett. The very strong theme running through the whole event was one of ‘opportunity’ and that really does provide the perfect summary for my penultimate Blog of the year. If you were to read back (please don’t) over the year’s entries you will see opportunity at every turn and today was suitable recognition of that. Well done to all of the children.
On Monday, many of our Year 6 children headed to the Senior School for their Induction day and they were given a real treat. Their new tutors were on hand to put them through their paces with a selection of team-building tasks and it was a great way to bond start the bond between the Blundell’s Prep children and those coming in from other schools.
A year group that know each other very well indeed are our Year 3 and on Tuesday they enjoyed a total immersion in all things Ancient Greek. As the children arrived for the day there were togas aplenty and warriors armed to the teeth, and that was just the teachers! I am uncertain as to the authenticity of some of the garb but it did not matter as the children learnt all about life in Ancient Greece and had great fun in the process.
On Tuesday our Year 1 Play took place and they shared with us the story of how the elephant got his trunk. It was full of fun and the children loved performing to a packed house. The costumes and make-up were remarkable and the children excelled. Confidence is something that I talk about a lot and it is in evidence at every turn. Our youngest children have it too and they showed their performing talents when they took to the stage for their play on Thursday, Rumble in the Jungle. It has to rank as a 10 out of 10 on the ‘cuteness’ scale and it was standing room only as the Nursery children sang and danced through the 40 minute production. What an achievement for 3 and 4 year olds!
On Wednesday evening we welcomed guests to our Summer Concert in the marquee to enjoy a feast of musical talent. We started with over 45 stringed instruments being played, predominantly by our Year 3 children who have been learning the violin all year. They were supported by additional guitars, cellos and more violins in order to produce a lovely sound and a sight to behold. What followed was a selection of small singing groups, wind group, brass group, piano trios and an accomplished duet from Will and Duncan, superbly accompanied by Laura. To finish we were treated to an Abba tribute with our very own, Mr Swain leading the way much to the delight of the audience. Comedy and music – is there no end to Mr Swain’s talents?
I will finish this week by mentioning the Summer Ball which was once again a huge success, thanks to the efforts of our FoBP team. I imagine that there were one or two sore heads on Sunday morning but a good night was had by all.
And so we head into the final week of the academic year and the much anticipated performances of Peter Pan. I do hope that many of you will be able to join us in Ondaatje theatre as it promises to be a wonderful event.
Have a good week.
Mon 30th June 2014, 07:55
I was enjoying a coffee with the teachers in the Pre-Prep staffroom recently and the discussion somehow came to the games that we used to play in the playground when we were children. I can just about cast my mind back to those days and recall lots of football, usually being kicked against a wall, and huge games of Bulldog. For others it was skipping with a rope that seemed to go on forever and nearly always managed to become embroiled in the football match that was trying to occupy the same space. I am pretty sure that Kiss Chase was mentioned but I wouldn’t want to embarrass the member of staff who mentioned it! Has much changed in 20 *cough* 30 years? Well, yes and no. Skipping prevails as does football. Bulldog is much loved but is certainly more gentle than I remember. What certainly remains is a love that children have for play. Getting outside, especially when the sun is shining, is cherished by all of our children and how fortunate we are to have the space and the facilities to make the most of it.
The fine weather has allowed us to have both Prep and Pre-Prep Sports Days outside this year and on the planned dates, and what a difference it made. The new format for the Prep Sports Day was very well supported and I am grateful to all parents for bringing picnics and their gazebos in order to line the track and help to create a very special atmosphere. The children performed brilliantly and got to their races on time and ready to do their best – a total of 10 new school records were set during the afternoon in track and field events alike. In equally glorious conditions, albeit with rather different races, the Pre-Prep sports day was also well supported and greatly enjoyed. There were some keen competitors in all of the races and you will be pleased to hear that all of our mums and dads managed to stay injury free after their potato and spoon / bunny hop races.
On Wednesday we welcomed many new children to the School for our Move-Up Day. All of the children had the chance to get a taste of what life in the year above will be like come September; they met their new teachers and spent time in their new classrooms – oh how the current Year 5 children are looking forward to getting use of the ‘Year 6 stairs!’
The Senior School Production of Cavalcade took place this week and included four Prep School children. Flossy, Oscar, Eve and George all took part and after many hours of rehearsals, their chance to take to the stage arrived. They were supremely confident and clearly enjoyed the opportunity. Congratulations to all four of them and also to Mr Rochfort, our Speech and Drama teacher, who directed this very moving play.
On Thursday evening, our Year 6 children welcomed their parents to their BALSA and Farewell evening. This was an opportunity for the children to thank their parents for their support, to reflect on the time that they have spent at the school and to receive their BALSA certificates. We were joined by explorer and adventurer, Oliver Shepard, a man who has been on numerous polar expeditions with the gentleman who gives his name to our top award, Sir Ranulph Fiennes. The children were captivated as they listened to Oliver’s wonderful stories and advice, and were delighted when Oliver read out a message from Sir Ranulph himself. It was a super evening and a worthy recognition of the success of this award scheme, created and run by Mr Mildren.
Earlier in the week our Year 6 children joined the Physics, Chemistry and Biology departments at the Senior School in order to enjoy a morning of hands-on Science. They had a super time, as you can see on YouTube. A big thank you to all of the teachers, technicians and students who gave their time so generously.
There is plenty to look forward to this week including the Summer Concert, the Year One Play, the Nursery Play and of course, Speech Day. Please do join us if you can.
Mon 23rd June 2014, 10:20
Has summer arrived? The BBC say that the sun is here for a while but it is the Prep Sports Day on Monday so who knows what might happen. On the subject of Sports Day, this year’s format is a little different and in an effort to make it an even more enjoyable afternoon for everyone, we have invited parents to bring their gazebos and picnic baskets (with picnics included of course) to enjoy the sunshine (fingers crossed) and to surround the track, creating an atmosphere not felt since London 2012. Those attending need not be alarmed. Although guests are being asked to bring provisions, Mrs Moys and her team will still be providing afternoon tea so all is not lost! I have shown uncharacteristic restraint during teas and have managed to resist the cream and jam covered scones all year, even after refereeing in torrential rain, but Wednesday proved too tempting and I succumbed. I feel better having confessed – thanks for listening. I look forward to welcoming parents, relatives and friends to Sports Day on Monday and don’t forget your running shoes.
This week began with the superb Speech and Drama recital. Mr and Mrs Rochfort continue to provide outstanding tuition for our 26 students, and parents were given a real treat as they listened to every one of them perform. I was amazed by what they produced, and as well as I think I know the children, I am always able to see a different side to their characters when they are on the stage. I have spoken to a number of parents over recent weeks on the subject of giving children the tools with which to communicate with their peers, their families and with those around them. Speech and Drama lessons are one way to develop the soft skills so essential for today’s world but there are a great many other vehicles through which we develop and encourage children to communicate effectively. On Thursday I met with Elizabeth in Year 6 who had booked to see me to discuss how we can become more environmentally friendly. Not only had she booked an appointment through Bev (she wanted to go through the proper channels!) but she then spent 20 minutes clearly explaining what the school could do, how much it would save and the rationale behind her advice. She spoke with confidence, authority, knowledge and all from the comfort of my chair! I was consigned to the sofa and I didn’t mind a bit. If a young lady of 11 is able to do this then really there is no stopping her – move aside Ban Ki-moon.
Children in our Pre-Prep have been out and about again this week. Our Kindergarten children headed off to the World of Country Life and they had a super time. I tried to sneak on the coach with them to no avail. When I asked what the favourite part of the trip was I got lots of different answers but the ice lollies were clearly a big hit. On Friday our intrepid Year 2 children (and teachers) headed to Escot Park for the day which included the much anticipated ‘Swamp Walk’. I am pleased to report that all survived.
Mon 16th June 2014, 09:15
We take health and safety very seriously here at Blundell’s Prep and during swimming lessons this is all the more important. The teachers provide clear instructions as to the ‘dos and don’ts’ when in and around the pool; “don’t run” would be an example, as would “no jumping in”. Another less used but equally important instruction to staff would be “don’t walk backwards whilst giving instructions and fully clothed”, as Mr Swain found to his cost on Thursday afternoon! The children were kind and didn’t laugh too much, the same cannot be said for Miss Edwards. Having dried out, Mr Swain decided that a wet suit would be suitable garb for his day on Friday, just in case!
Mr Swain wasn’t the only member of the Games staff to get wet this week as the elements conspired to impact on our games lessons and fixture list. The matches on Wednesday were cancelled but in amongst the showers there were pockets of sunshine, none more so than on Friday afternoon, allowing the Blundell’s Athletics Meet to take place. There were some super performances from the team of athletes from Years 3 to 8, including victories for Ollie Wright, Alex Curtis, Charlie Hutchinson, Mia Butterfield, Zoe Dare, Rachel Brown, Toby Low and William Maunder, as well as an overall win for the Blundell’s team. Congratulations to them all.
Our Otters club have been busy making wormeries during their afternoon sessions and they delighted in finding suitable materials to fill their plastic bottle homes, before then introducing the worms to their new accommodation. It was certainly a lot of fun, as was the Party Pieces Pirate Party during Busy Bees. Bandanas aplenty were needed and no-one was made to walk the plank!
Friday was a busy day at the school and actually started with the children wearing crazy ties, head bands and scarves in aid of Force Cancer charity. I could see that wardrobes had been raided in an effort to find the most dreadful tie (some had clearly not seen the light of day for some time) and there were a fine selection of homemade creations. The children certainly looked resplendent as I handed out awards during our Friday assembly. Well done to one and all.
After some rather challenging organisational difficulties, our U11 team were able to play their match against Millfield in Round 3 of the IAPS Rounders Competition. At the half way point our girls were a mere 1½ points behind but sadly they were unable to make up that ground, in spite of their superb performance. On Friday evening an assembled audience of friends and family enjoyed a Mamas and Papas concert in aid of CHAT. Our parent choir, led by choirmaster Rosie Bruce, entertained their audience with renditions of Penny Lane, New York, New York and Dream a Little Dream to name but a few. For me it was the perfect way to end what had been a super week.
Only a few more days until the football World Cup begins and excitement is building, not least at the Prep School where the draw has been made for our sweepstake. I don’t know who you would put your money on but I managed to draw Portugal which, in spite of their qualification through the playoffs, are still in the running for a top 4 spot?! As for England, well after their performance this weekend I think that there are some disappointing times ahead. Should I be more optimistic?
Next week we welcome all parents to join us for the Creative Arts Exhibition. The children’s artwork is spectacular and I would strongly urge you to come and see for yourselves. Mrs Aldridge and Miss Bennett have been hard at work to prepare the exhibition and I know that they would be delighted if you could spare the time to pop in between 4pm and 5pm on Thursday and Friday of this coming week. You could always join us for the Friday Coffee Morning in the Prep School and view the artwork at the same time. I hope to see many of you then.
Mon 9th June 2014, 11:40
Did you have a good half term break? I hope so, as the first half of the term has flown by and we now brace ourselves for the next 5 weeks. I have been looking through the calendar and there are so many events to enjoy so my message to anyone who is kind enough to read this is please do come and join us as often as you are able to. Whether it be for fixtures, sports day, the summer concert, the summer plays, the Year 6 BALSA evening, the Speech and Drama recital, Peter Pan, the Ball or Speech Day, you will be made to feel very welcome indeed.
I decided that I would not post my Blog on the first Monday of half term for a number of reasons. The first was that I thought you could all do with a break and the second is that we had a group of friends to stay and were somewhat indisposed. Our annual get-together with university friends usually involves hiring a house somewhere in the middle of the country but this year we decided that camping at Blundell’s would be a good idea, after all this is Devon, camping country, guaranteed to be warm and sunny. So we were slightly alarmed when the monsoon hit on Saturday morning and the front field at the Prep School became a lake once more. So our dear friends, having braved the delights of the M25 in Bank Holiday traffic, arrived slightly frazzled and with the prospect of pitching their tents in inches of water. After a night in our house, some slightly less frazzled but rather jaded parents managed to find some dry ground and pitched their tents. What followed was 24 hours of utter delight for the 10 children aged between 2 and 9 who explored the grounds, jumped in puddles (they had plenty to choose from) chased, chatted, and made the most of being outside. We made a camp fire and the children helped me to gather the wood and hay. They asked questions, they listened, they learnt – they had fun. There were very few squabbles, some tears but not many and lots and lots of laughter. These times are very precious and the children gain so much from the experience. Not a screen in sight, just good old fashioned play and something that the children will all remember for some time, as will the adults who are still scarred from the rather chilly night that they had!
I read an article recently in which the benefits of a ‘Swallows and Amazons’ childhood were being extolled. As psychologist, Jennie Lindon rightly pointed out, “Children need challenge and excitement. If their play environment is made safe and sanitised, they will either slump into uninspired and repetitive play or find some way to spice it up.” We have to find a balance and that is what we are aiming to do with our curriculum here at BPS. In September we will be gathering together as a staff in order to plan further opportunities for exploring the outside and we will be looking at how children learn and the ways in which the environment impacts on that learning. It is a fascinating topic and one that we look forward to exploring further.
During the final week before half term, our children in Years 3 to 6 had some memorable adventures of their own as they enjoyed their residential trips. If you haven’t taken the time to look at the Blogs that they posted during their time away then please do so by going to the front page of the Prep website. I am sure that you have heard every detail if your child was involved, whether it be the night walk at Paignton Zoo, the badger watching at Folly Farm, the high ropes course at Dartmoor Adventure Centre or the night on The Golden Hinde, sleeping on a thin camping mat! I hope that they had a good time and I also hope that they have taken the time to thank the teachers who spent many hours planning and then ensuring that the trips were as enjoyable as they could be. Hopefully all children and staff are now fully recovered! It wasn’t only residential trips that filled Week 5 but also the wonderful Kindergarten Play, ‘Billy No Buzz’. The children did a super job of telling the story of a bee who had no friends because he was different from all the other bees and they performed with huge confidence in front of a very appreciative audience. Year 6 enjoyed a day at the beach on Monday and spent their time leaping from rocks and trying to stay up on their surfboards. They made it look so easy – it was not! Year 3 ventured into Tiverton for their trip to Tesco and spent a day at Knightshayes building bug houses while Year 5 had the opportunity to put on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in just one day. It was an action-packed week and one that the children will remember for a long time.
That’ll do for now. I hope to see you soon.
Mon 2nd June 2014, 09:35
Is it really only one week until half term? The last four weeks have simply flown by and the most exciting week of the term is about to start. I call it the most exciting, for the reason that it is Trips Week. This is the first time that we have consolidated all residential trips into one week in an effort to minimise disruption to the academic curriculum during what is always an action-packed term. I will report back on the many exciting moments from the four different trips during next week’s blog but for now I would point you towards the trip blogs which may be accessed from the Home page of the website. We hope that they will give parents a sense of what their children are up to as well as how much fun they are having.
Our Trial boarding sessions have been a great success and on Tuesday of this week we had 14, Year 6 children enjoying a taste of what life is like in a junior boarding house. As I met the children at the gate on Wednesday morning they were full of stories of the fun that they had had. A number of these children have already chosen to flexi board when they join Year 7 in September and my hope is that more will feel that this is an option for them as they move through the school. It will not be for all and Blundell’s Prep will remain a day school at heart but with a boarding element which will offer those Years 5 and 6 children and families who need it, the chance to ‘go to school at the Prep and then sleep in School House.’ All signs so far suggest that this will be a very successful offering.
The sun has been very welcome this week, not least to our under 9 cricketers and rounders players. Their fixture list has been hardest hit by the rain and so they were all delighted to play matches against Wellington and The Maynard. The rounders players enjoyed a Festival so the players were mixed together and they all had a good experience of playing the game. The spectators certainly enjoyed the sunshine although they were disappointed that a cold glass of Pimms was not on offer – sadly all we could muster was prawn sandwiches and a cream tea. The cricketers travelled to Wellington and both teams had resounding victories, much to their delight. I am pleased to say that the sun has arrived just as our new caps have become available so Anya will be selling these from the Nearly New Shop. These can be worn in Games lessons and for matches, and are suitable for our boys and girls so please do pop in to buy one.
We have enjoyed a very musical week with Tea Time Concerts on both Wednesday and Thursday. The children performed with customary confidence and skill to entertain their audiences. Those audiences grew considerably on Friday evening as our choristers joined 10 other schools from the South West in a concert of ‘Songs for all Seasons’ at Exeter Cathedral. This event has been two years in the planning and is the brainchild of a group of very talented and committed music teachers, working alongside folk music legend, Steve Knightley and his group ‘Show of Hands.’ Anyone who attended the concert could not have failed to be impressed with what they heard – in short, it was spectacular. I am prone to a superlative or three but you would be hard pressed to find a higher quality performance from a group of children. All 150 of them sang their hearts out and played violins and flutes with remarkable confidence. As Steve Knightley commented in the concert programme it is ‘an experience which will remain with these students for as long as they sing.’ I am sure that he will be proved right.
Food related events continue to feature heavily as our Food Technology department look for ever more creative ways to teach the children about healthy eating. On Friday afternoon, our Year 3 children joined thousands of others across the country to cook with Jamie Oliver as part of ‘Food Revolution Day 2014’. They had a fantastic (and rather messy) time grating vegetables in an effort to make delicious Rainbow Wraps. Earlier in the week our Year 6 children had been set the task of feeding their entire year group with just £40 (£1 per head) so off to ‘a local supermarket’ they went with lists of what to buy. Groups were set and jobs were allocated including trolley pusher, list organiser and the prized job of scanner presser. They then returned to school to make a picnic before enjoying the fruits of their labours in The Hub. It was quite a challenge for the children and another example of the excellent work being done within the BALSA project.
Have a good week and if your children are away on residential trips, make the most of the peace and quiet – it will soon be half term!
Mon 19th May 2014, 07:45
It is always nice to get comments on this Blog, good or bad (I prefer the good) and so I was delighted to hear from a colleague at a school just a short distance up the M5 who has ‘enjoyed’ the challenge set in last week’s assemblies. I sense that vast quantities of paper have been sacrificed in the pursuit of cutting perfection and can only apologise to our Head of DT who was less than impressed with the mess and the cost.
This week we have welcomed a great many guests to the school for our Open Week and it has been lovely to meet new people and to have the opportunity to show them our school. As always, our Year 6 children have done a marvellous job as guides and have explored every inch of the grounds in order to give our visitors the most comprehensive of tours. They are certainly thorough! Over the coming weeks I am going to have the opportunity to talk about all of our children here at BPS, from our very youngest through to those who are soon to be heading off to exciting new chapters in their education. With the risk of repeating myself (I have a tendency to do that) they are remarkable and are the best advocates for our school. Sometimes I have to remind myself that they are still very young as they are such confident and articulate young people. My guests this week, indeed all visitors to the school, comment on the children and how happy they look. Why is this? Fundamentally, it comes down to feeling safe and this is a central to our ethos. Feeling safe is so much more than the physical aspects that one might immediately associate with the word. It is about feeling safe when asking and answering questions, when entering classrooms to be taught by different teachers, when travelling to schools for matches or when standing in front of an audience to perform. If a child feels that they are safe, they will overcome anxiety and will be well placed to develop as an individual to the best of their abilities. With Trips Week fast approaching and the prospect of nights away from home, I am sure that some children (although I think it may come more from the parents!) will be feeling a little anxious about what lies ahead. Having seen the children in action around school and on a wide variety of trips, I know that they will feel ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead and will have a great time whether heading to London, Dartmoor, Folly Farm or Paignton Zoo.
On Tuesday evening, 5 girls and 4 boys spent the night in School House as part of our Taster Boarding sessions and tomorrow we have 6 girls and 6 boys ready to enjoy an evening with Mr and Mrs Marshman and their team of House tutors. If last Tuesday is anything to go by then they are in for a treat. I have been delighted to see so many children choose to take up this offer as it will provide them with a feel for what boarding is like. As many of you will know, the children at Blundell’s are able to board on a flexi, weekly or full basis and numbers are growing with every year. This enables flexibility for many of our working parents whilst also providing a great environment for children to make the most of the opportunities available as they move through the school. Mrs Huggett and I feel strongly that the boarding provision on offer at Blundell’s is so good that our Prep School children should have the opportunity to benefit from it, so from September 2014, our intention is to open it up to children in Years 5 and 6. If you are interested in finding out more then please do let me know and I will be happy to talk through this exciting new venture.
This week our Head Boy and Head Girl attended the Inauguration of the new Mayor of Tiverton, Sue Griggs. This is an ancient ceremony that has been taking place since the first Mayor was elected in 1615. Boris and Holly did a fantastic job representing the school by presenting a bouquet and congratulating the new Mayor on her election.
It has been a busy week of sport although the rain is doing its best to dampen spirits. The poor Under 9’s have borne the brunt of the poor weather but this heat wave that we have been promised must be right around the corner. We managed to avoid the showers long enough to get in some Cricket and Rounders matches on Wednesday and there were wins for the U11 A Rounders, the U10 A cricket and the U11 A cricketers who produced several nerve-racking moments on their way to a hard fought 6 run victory. Having lost a match on the final ball of the game last week it was great for the boys to get a win – they were delighted. Then on Friday it was a first for Blundell’s Prep as our Girls’ Cricket team took on Wellington. It was a close game but in the end our girls were victorious by 4 runs. They all enjoyed the experience and the chance to put into practice all of the skills that they have worked hard on during their Thursday and Friday afternoon sessions.
We have a very musical week ahead with Junior and Senior Tea Time Concerts and then the IAPS ‘Songs for all Seasons’ Concert at Exeter Cathedral on Friday evening. I hope to see many of you at these events.
Mon 12th May 2014, 09:15
“I can’t do it...yet” was the theme of my assemblies in both Prep and Pre-Prep this week and they involved copious amounts of paper, scissors, ingenuity, and a fair amount of silliness. Following on from last week’s theme of ‘challenges’ I tasked a group of four willing volunteers (every hand went up when asked so the message from 7 days ago had gone in – there may have been some gentle nudging) to cut a hole in an A3 piece of paper and then get their body through that hole without tearing the paper. The rest of the children discussed how they would do it before offering sage advice to the four budding contortionists. Two of the four children were successful, in fact Toby made it all look rather too easy which prompted my next challenge – do the same but with an A4 piece of paper. “No way” came the comments from the school, “Impossible” cried others. “Let’s see shall we?” was my response as scissors were wielded with great skill to cut holes and then squeeze heads and arms carefully through. No-one in the Prep assembly managed this seemingly impossible task, although Amber in the Pre-Prep did manage it, much to the delight of the other children and teachers who could be seen thinking “How is he going to get out of this one then?” Well the final challenge stumped them all and that was to pass not just one but all four volunteers through a hole in the A4 paper. Similar cries of disbelief at any possibility that it could be done echoed but with the scissor skills of an aspiring Blue Peter presenter and after some considerable time on Sunday evening practising, failing, cursing and then practising again (the budgets for paper may have to be increased) I showed how by cutting differently one could create a huge circle of paper through which four people could pass. The message (yes, there was a message) was that the seemingly impossible may be possible if we persevere or if we look at every option before writing off any chance of success. The children provided me with examples of when they have felt that they simply cannot succeed, whether it be in the classroom, on the games field, or in their lives outside of school. I asked them to think of the phrase, “I can’t do it...yet” and I know that this has been repeated by teachers in classrooms across the country and nowhere more so than at Blundell’s Prep this week.
This week has seen a wide variety of trips, events, sports matches and shows. Our budding ballerinas performed for their parents on Thursday afternoon and it was lovely to see the enthusiasm that they all have for their dancing. The Prep School Dance Club were also in action as they entertained the Prep school children during Wednesday’s assembly. These are just two examples of the opportunities available to those who like to dance.
Many of our children have been out and about this week. Year 1 enjoyed their trip to Tiverton Museum and behaved beautifully as always. They thoroughly enjoyed the chance to experience what life would have been like in Victorian England, with dressing up and plenty of jobs for them to do. They also got the chance to experience life in a Victorian School – they don’t look too convinced in the picture, do they?
Year 4 went to Tesco this week and had the chance to explore behind the scenes as part of their ‘Farm to Fork’ project. They learnt about the bakery and some of the children were brave enough to try some of the fishy offerings, including pickled herring. Our Year 6 children will also be heading down the road to do some shopping of their own when they face a BALSA challenge. They will be tasked with planning, selecting, purchasing and preparing a picnic for their whole class with only a small budget. There will be certain nutritional requirements so a Haribo only option will not be allowed! I will report back as to how they get on.
On Friday our Nursery children and parents headed off to The Big Sheep for a day of fun. I waved goodbye as the coach departed with lots of excited children and smiling parents. When the coach pulled back in to school later that day, the children were sleeping soundly and the parents looked close to it as well!
The video from the Year 6 Jersey Tour is now available to watch (on the boys' and girls' sports pages) and shows what a wonderful time the children had during the Spring half term. There was plenty of sport of course, but also opportunities to spend time with friends as can clearly be seen. Our current Year 5 children will be pleased to see what lies in store for them next year.
To the week ahead. We are looking forward to welcoming guests to our Open Week which is taking place over all five days and start at 9.30am. The school looks a picture and much of this is down to our hard working grounds staff who brave all of the elements to keep our grounds looking so impressive. I caught them during Friday on a rare moment when they were all in one place at the same time. They assured me that they were not playing on the pirate ship!
If you haven’t purchased tickets for the PJ and Movie night then please do so, as it promises to be a fun evening for all our children. Tickets are available from the school office. Our FOBP Committee are also selling Ball tickets so if you haven’t purchased yours...yet, then please contact a member of the FOBP Committee.
Mon 5th May 2014, 07:50
Welcome back after what I hope was an enjoyable holiday. With Easter being so late this year it has been an immediate start to the term and this first week has simply flown by. It is always a bit of a shock to the system when the alarm goes off again after lying dormant for a few weeks but I am delighted to report that there were plenty of smiles as everyone returned to school on Tuesday morning. Having enjoyed some glorious sunshine in recent weeks we were then confronted by what can only be described as a monsoon on Tuesday afternoon – it must be the cricket season! I think that we all have our fingers crossed for some fine weather and plenty of time outside in the school grounds over this short but busy term.
On Tuesday morning I spoke to the Prep School children about the challenges that they will face this term and gave them some advice as to how to approach them. We talked about the Troll of self-doubt who appears on our shoulders from time to time, and then we came up with strategies to deal with him. There were some very creative ideas from the children, not all of which involved him coming to a sticky end, but what we did discuss was the need to ‘put on our armour’ and have a go at things, even if the troll is telling us that it could all go wrong. If we know it is right then we must have the strength and the courage to go for it. This is not always easy but I do think that our children at Blundell’s are naturally brave and determined to challenge themselves. This term will provide plenty of opportunities for that to be put to the test.
My courage was put to the test on Wednesday morning as I joined the Pre-Prep for a St. George’s Day assembly. Our weekly meetings do have a tendency to be lively affairs (I apologise on a regular basis to the Pre-Prep teachers) but this week I told the story of George and the Dragon with Olivia as the damsel in distress and Harry (middle name George) as the hero of the hour. For reasons still unknown, I played the dragon and complete with dragon (crocodile) costume I ventured into the hall only to be slain by St. George. I was delighted that our budding actor took the role so seriously and he certainly wielded the sword like a true knight – I am still nursing the bruises!
Even though this week has been only 4 days long, the children have still done a great deal. Year 6 rehearsals for Peter Pan have begun in earnest and our budding actors and actresses have clearly been working hard to learn lines over the holiday. On Friday afternoon, in glorious sunshine, our Pre-Prep children enjoyed an afternoon of music in the outdoors with Mervyn Bird and his Musikgarten. As I looked across from where our cricket session was taking place I could see that every child (and all of teachers) were enthralled and joining in ith the songs and the actions.
This week also saw the start of the our ‘Farm to Fork’ project in Food Technology. Children in Years 3 to 6 have been busily raking, digging and sowing in order to grow their produce for later in the term. One young man in Year 5 was so delighted and thanked Mrs Edge and Mrs Watson as he had never planted anything before. They also harvested some rhubarb and then rustled up a delectable crumble and yes, I did persuade them to share some with me. As part of the project, our children will be heading into Tiverton to do some shopping at Tesco (other supermarkets are available) so keep an eye out for them. I wonder if they will be as keen when you ask for their help with the shopping!?
All Blundell’s Prep parents will have received the first Newsletter of the term (thank you to Bev) and a personal invitation to an E-Safety afternoon on Monday 12th May from 4.30pm until 5.30pm. I really would encourage parents to attend if they can as it promises to be an enlightening and thought-provoking event. Less thought-provoking, but hopefully also of interest, is our Coffee Morning and Prep Assembly which takes place next Friday with all parents, Prep or Pre-Prep, welcome to join us.
Finally, I would point you towards the latest review of our Prep School in The Good Schools Guide – a link may be found here on the front page of our newly designed website.
On Monday morning we will see if the children can find a way to squeeze themselves through an A4 piece of paper – another challenge for them but one that I am sure they will be keen to have a go at.
Mon 28th Apr 2014, 13:45
The term has come to an end and the car-park is empty. As the children headed off, arms fully-laden with various items of kit and lots of Easter eggs, I thought back to the start of the term and all that has taken place over the last 12 weeks. My goodness, we have packed a lot in and this week was no exception.
The House Cross-Country on Monday was as competitive as ever and all of the children braved the elements in order to gain valuable points for the respective Houses. They were given tremendous support from some hardy parents who wrapped up warm and cheered the children on. In spite of the tough conditions, all of the children performed very well and gave their best. The overall winners on the day were Raleigh although it was a very close run thing. Thanks must go to Miss Edwards and Mr Swain for masterminding the event, and to Mr Mildren who headed off to the furthest reaches of the course with his blue tent to shelter in.
On Tuesday we welcomed 6 local Primary Schools to Blundell’s for our annual Under 7 Tag Rugby Festival. The children had a great time and all of the boys and girls enjoyed the opportunity to compete against one another. A special thank you must go to our referees, Mr Swain, Mr Kerr and the very talented Mr Richards who gave their time to bring the whole afternoon together.
On Tuesday evening I went to ‘Big School’ to watch our children perform alongside their Senior School counterparts in our annual Joint Concert. There were performances from String groups, Wind groups, Brass Groups and a number of choirs from the Prep and Senior School. It was lovely to see such an array of musical talent and the clear enjoyment that all of the children experienced through performing for a very appreciative audience.
There has been a great deal going on outside this week with Years 3 and 4 involved in workshops and our Nursery making the most of the moments of sunshine. As the Summer Term fast approaches I am certain that we will be utilising every one of our outdoor resources. As I toured the school with a guest on Friday afternoon, the children were out and about, following an Easter themed treasure hunt and making the most of the grounds. I am delighted with the way that our plans for taking learning outdoors have developed and this is set to continue after the holiday.
On Friday the school came together in Chapel for our Easter Service and it was lovely to welcome so many parents. Our Prefects presented their ‘Easter Words’ with huge confidence and the occasion was the ideal way to bring the term to an end.
In our final assembly of the term I asked the children if they could remember my message from 5 weeks before. I am delighted to say that they could, and the words “Turn a 3 into a 2 and a 2 into a 1” echoed throughout the hall. They were referring to their Effort and Attainment grades and it was the first part that I was most interested in. The message has certainly resonated with the children as I handed over a great many prizes for improved effort, and it was great to see the beaming smiles as they came to the front to shake my hand. Their capacity for challenging themselves never ceases to amaze me and the mantra “work hard and play hard” is certainly one that they all subscribe to. That emanates from the staff and I am grateful to the whole team at Blundell’s for the tireless way in which they go about making the school the special place that it is.
It is time for me to sign off for a few weeks (no need to cheer, Bev) and head for the snow. Have a super holiday.
Mon 31st Mar 2014, 08:50
It may be appropriate for me to start this week’s Blog with an apology. Some parents may have discovered a strange phenomenon appearing in their homes since Monday – a potato with a straw through it. I must confess that in my assembly on Monday I did challenge the children to have a go at this and judging by the number of children who then regaled me with stories of potato impaling, I can well imagine that my name was mud. In my defence, it was all in the name of science (well, that’s my excuse) as this week was National Science Week. I am delighted to say that the fantastic events organised by Miss Purvis and Mrs Aldridge were far more impressive as we welcomed The Cool Magic Science Show to Blundell’s. Throughout Tuesday, all of our children had the opportunity to join some workshops and were transfixed by the wonderful Lea Biddiss who brought science to life in a very wet and rather explosive way. I joined the Pre-Prep as balloons were being balanced by a hair-dryer and we then headed outside to launch a plastic bottle rocket into the car-park, narrowly missing Mrs Allen’s car. As you might imagine, this caused a great deal of excitement.
If you have been into either the Prep or Pre-Prep over recent weeks you will have seen the wonderful models which have been created by the children. Our Pre-Prep pupils were given the challenge of building boats and there were some remarkable vessels on display, many of which looked genuinely sea-worthy. The children in the Prep School were tasked with building a vehicle to carry an egg over the greatest distance without the egg breaking. Many of the models had Lego as their primary material but others had used cardboard, old CDs, Pringle tubes and even a roller skate in order to send the egg along the Atrium. The children (and some supportive parents!) have clearly been very busy so thank you for taking part with such enthusiasm.
This week we saw Junior and Senior Tea-Time Concerts taking place, with first-time performances for a number of children. The breadth of music on display was very impressive indeed and the sheer volume of children who are playing at least one musical instrument is such that the age groups have had to be separated. This Tuesday we will be heading to the Senior School for a joint concert where many of our musicians will have the chance to perform with their older counterparts. Do join us in Big School at 7pm for what promises to be a musical treat.
On Friday we got into the Sport Relief spirit by dressing in various sporting kits. A number of football teams were represented with Chelsea being the most commonly seen, much to my disgust. I tried to educate the boys as to a good football team but to no avail. On top of the dressing up we were joined by Mr and Mrs Horan and they brought something very exciting with them - an inflatable target practice game, and so the rugby balls, handballs and hockey balls came out and the children spent their break times trying to get on to the leaderboard. The promise of a signed Olly Barkley picture helped motivate some and for others it was the challenge of getting the ball through 'the 25 pointer'. A good group of children managed to achieve this but it was Thomas Labdon who was the superstar of the day. He managed to get it through the smallest target not just once but four times in a row - remarkable. A huge thank you to the Horans for giving their time so generously in order to raise some funds for Sport Relief. I must also mention Olivia Cowap who baked cakes to sell at break time. As expected, they proved to be very popular indeed.
The Larkman Cup took place on Friday and saw over 400 children from schools across the region taking part in an afternoon of cross-country races at Blundell’s. It is a highlight of the season and this year we were blessed with fine weather. There were some consistent performances from the Blundell’s teams at U9, U11 and U13 age groups and this proved to be just enough to secure the overall winner’s trophy again this year. Congratulations to all of the Blundell’s team and a special mention to Rachel Brown who came 1st in the U9 Girls race.
With only one week to go until we head off for the Easter break there is the small matter of the House Cross Country on Monday afternoon, the Under 7 Tag Festival on Tuesday, the Joint Concert at the Senior School, two Outdoor Learning workshops and Friday’s Easter Service to look forward to! Just another normal week at Blundell’s Prep School.
Mon 24th Mar 2014, 08:15
It is amazing the difference that the sunshine makes. Can we dare to hope that it will stay for a while? It has certainly raised our spirits and has allowed for a full week of sport and lessons taking place outdoors. On Wednesday it was Maths Day in our Pre-Prep and Mr Richards put together a programme of Maths challenges and trails for our youngest children to enjoy. He started with a Maths based assembly involving spaghetti and marshmallows (!) and then children in Years 2 to Nursery were separated into groups and headed out in to the school grounds on a quest to solve a series of challenging clues. Not only was it lovely to see the children and teachers exploring the grounds but it was wonderful to see the way that they worked together, with our eldest including our youngest in every decision. This kindness is very typical of our children and especially those in Year 2. Just the day before, they had travelled down to Tavistock in order to play netball and football against Kelly Prep and came back with two wins and one defeat. As always it was the journey by coach and the much anticipated team tea that were highlights but the matches themselves were greatly enjoyed by all.
On Thursday I was unable to resist the lure of an afternoon in the sunshine so I joined our Under 9 netball and football teams at the Exeter Junior School tournaments. There was some stiff competition as you would expect but our girls and our boys played very well indeed and both sides came away with victories and the winners trophies. Our Under 11 and Under 10 netballers did very well on Wednesday and managed to defeat St. Peter’s in convincing fashion. Our boys were also in action against St. Peter’s and our U10 A and B teams both managed to win some hard fought victories. The sporting programme wasn’t just limited to team ball sports this week as our Cross-Country team were in action again, this time at the re-arranged St. Petrocs event. They managed to pick up 4 trophies and performed very well indeed.
On Friday we were delighted to welcome a number of our Governors to the school for the chance to see the children and the staff in action. They are very supportive body of people who thoroughly enjoy spending time in the school so for them, Friday morning was a great opportunity to join lessons and have a lot of fun in the process. During a tour of the Pre-Prep with one of our Governors, there was a consistent theme to our conversations with the children – the Pre-Prep parties! Excitement levels were at fever-pitch so how the teachers managed to get through the day I do not know. These parties, organised by our Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee, are a great favourite with the children and my thanks go to all of the committee and to every one of the Pre-Prep teachers who helped during the evening.
It is a shorter Blog than normal this week (Bev will be delighted!) as I have been rather pre-occupied with the rugby. A Six Nations bonanza and then the LV Cup Final on Sunday to see Exeter Chiefs beat Northampton Saints – what a weekend!
We have our Tea-Time concert on Thursday to look forward to this week as well as Sport Relief activities on Friday. There are only two weeks to go until the Easter break but still much to look forward to.
Mon 17th Mar 2014, 08:50
On Saturday the Prep School fields were awash with people. Some were dressed to run whilst others had more sense! It was a highlight of the Blundell’s calendar - The Russell. For those who don’t know the race is named after the famous Blundellian and West Country parson, Jack Russell, a man whose name is famous for its association with a certain small terrier rather than a race that is now in its 134th year. With weather having been rather inclement of late the fields were the ideal blend of mud and sludge and so hundreds of enthusiastic, and some slightly less enthusiastic runners headed for the hills, well one hill to be exact – Heartbreak hill. Much like Ronseal Quick Drying Woodstain, ‘It does exactly what it says on the tin’ and I can confirm that several hearts were broken during Saturday afternoon. We were blessed with beautiful sunshine and this brought countless members of the Blundell’s community, past and present, together. It was great to see children and adults running in the variety of races that take place, and I was delighted to see so many Prep school children taking part and doing rather well. For me it is a highlight, if not THE highlight of the calendar as it brings together so many different people. It celebrates the excellence of the Blundell’s sporting elite as well as the less gifted cross-country runner (I am most certainly in that category) and allows everyone to feel part of the occasion. The occasion itself is fantastic, but it is the spirit behind it that is what makes it so special. Blundell’s is a community and a very welcoming one at that. The Russell embodies those values of community that we hold so dear and the fact that the sun was shining made it all the more enjoyable.
On Monday our Quiz Club team travelled to Millfield for the regional heats of this national competition. We sent two teams made up of children from Years 3 to 6 and they performed well, showing excellent knowledge in all categories. I think that our visiting supporters also found the questions to be pretty challenging and in the end our teams finished 7th and 10th. For some time our Blundell’s 2 Team were in the lead but they weren’t able to hold on during the later rounds. Last year we entered just one team and this year it has grown to two. Next year we will be looking to include Quiz Club in our House competitions so keep an eye out for that. On the subject of House competitions, on Tuesday the children took part in the Pancake Races, a long standing tradition here at BPS. Reigning champs for many years have been Grenville but this year it was Raleigh’s turn to triumph. Congratulations to all who took part.
The cross-country season began this week with a trip to Stover for our U9 and U11 teams. There were some notable individual performances from Josh Withey (3rd) and Anna Maunder (2nd) and a fantastic team win for the U11 girls. When the scores from all age groups were combined we came a very close 2nd and now look forward to heading off to St. Petroc’s next week for the next competition.
On Thursday afternoon I had the opportunity to spend some time chatting to all of our Year 2 children. I met with each of them in turn and we discussed everything from teddy bears to Siamese fighting fish, skiing trips to porcelain cats. It was a real treat for me to have this time to get to know our Year 2 children just that little bit better and they were brilliant company. One young gentleman decided to come into the library with a snorkel and mask in place whilst performing the perfect breast stroke! There were too many funny moments to mention here but most importantly, every single one of the children was confident and excited to share their stories with me.
I fear that I may tempt fate if I say this but it looks like we are going to get some sunshine this week. Whatever your plans for the week ahead, I hope that you get to enjoy it.
Mon 10th Mar 2014, 07:55
On Monday, in my first assembly of the 2nd half of the term, I spoke to the children about breaking records. As is quite the norm for my assemblies, I asked for volunteers to attempt a record breaking achievement. Their task was to break that well known and long standing world record for sticking post it notes to your face! As you might imagine I was not short on volunteers and so the sticking began. The rules were quite clear; no sticking notes on top of one another, no sticking above the hair line and of course no sticking to the ears. Alexander and Harry were poised and ready to go, post it notes on the desk in front of them and 120 cheering children to spur them on. The world record (for those who are genuinely interested) was (and still is) 22. The two boys used a variety of techniques but sadly they were not able to get near the 22 and the record remained unbroken. Were they down hearted? Not at all. Did they want to have another go? Absolutely. This was a big challenge and yet they responded with enthusiasm and the determination to try again, to do better next time, and that was a great relief as this was exactly the theme of my assembly. The assembly itself had actually started with a simple question displayed on the screen: ‘How do you turn a 3 into a 2?’ Following our unsuccessful record breaking attempt we went back to that question and I had a wide range of answers, all maths based, and all very creative and correct. “Could we answer this in a completely different way?” I asked and made the link to the prizes that had been awarded for those who had the most improved scores in their Effort and Attainment Grades, or EAGS, during the first half of term. The penny dropped and hands flew up to tell me the answers I was hoping for. “Listen more”, “Hand Prep in on time” and “Ask and answer questions” were three of the best and then Toby hit the jackpot – “Do the very best that YOU can do to break your own record” – bingo! The 3 for effort can become a 2 by doing YOUR best and I challenged the children to break their own EAGS record during these next 5 weeks. Knowing our children they are likely to rise to that challenge.
I think that I was a little post it obsessed last week as they also made an appearance in a History lesson. Not sure how David Lloyd George, Woodrow Wilson or Georges Clemenceau would have felt about this but perhaps this is how they decided what would become of Germany after the First World War? It certainly worked for Year 6!
Where have the last 7 days gone? A question I ask myself on a weekly basis and yet this last week has whizzed by. There have been Junior House Matches (well done Raleigh), Year 6 auditions for Peter Pan (ability to fly desirable but not essential) and the Prep Disco (a sugar fuelled frenzy of an occasion – no Gangnam style dancing for me this year). On Friday our Pre-Prep poetry day took place and it was a super event. All Pre-Prep children had been invited to learn and recite poems, with our youngest children learning nursery rhymes. There were a variety of categories from scariest to silliest, all performed in front of the other children and visiting judge, Mr James Rochfort who brought some budding actors from Year 8 with him. The standard was incredibly high and it was super to see the confidence and delight that the children took from performing. A big thank you to Mrs Nash for running the event - I hope that the purple dye has come out!
There was lots of sport going on this weekend. Our U10 boys travelled to Millfield on Saturday morning to play hockey and performed well in their matches. The U9 boys then passed them as they travelled up the M5 on their way to the Millfield football tournament. They returned with medals for 3rd place having played very well indeed. Our U10 girls were slightly closer to home as they were playing at Queen’s in their annual netball tournament. It was a very close affair with the top 3 teams separated by only the smallest of margins but our girls came out with a well-deserved 3rd place. Well done to one and all and a particular thank you to Mr Swain, Mr Hope, Mr Mildren, Mrs Cracknell and Mrs Baily for giving their time so generously to support the children.
We have our Quiz Club in action on Monday as they take part in the regional heats of the National Quiz Competition. They have been well prepared so we wish them good luck. The Prep Pancake Races take place at 3.45am on Tuesday and parents are very welcome to attend. Then on Saturday we welcome hundreds of people to the school for The Russell (is it that time already?). I am not sure that I’ll be breaking any records but I will do my best. Good luck to everyone who is taking part.
Mon 3rd Mar 2014, 08:05
What a week it has been at BPS. Never have I seen so much paint, glue and coloured paper used with such purpose and in such quantities. The school has been a cauldron of creativity and it has proven to be a potent environment for learning. We were delighted to welcome a good number of volunteers to the Prep School, all of whom immersed themselves in the activities and leant a hand wherever needed - thank you to all of them for giving their time so generously. We also had a number of guest artists including Tony Minion, Marion Beresford and her charming husband, Sarah from the Plough Theatre and of course our very own Rory Nugent, a gentleman who is responsible for inspiring the children to create a good deal of the stunning artwork that you see around the school. Add their collective talents to those of our own teachers and the children were surrounded by people who wanted to help them explore a wide variety of artistic tasks and challenges. Across the school, from Nursery to Year 6, the children worked very hard. If you venture into the Nursery foyer you will be forgiven for thinking that you have been transported into an underwater world – do take a look if you have a moment. I thought that I would ask one of the children to share their thoughts on the week so I hand over to a Year 5 pupil who certainly enjoyed herself over the 5 days...
This week I had loads of fun as it was Creative Arts Week. The reason this week is so fun is because I can step out of the usual timetable and use my imagination and be creative all week in school. My favourite thing was screen printing with a man named Tony Minion. I was with Estelle and we chose a picture of a dragonfly because the topic this week was the Canal and the Industrial Revolution. Tony showed us how to make a screen-print and I thought it was really cool. I also enjoyed Petri Dish art with Miss Edwards. I drew a picture of a factory and then copied it onto a petri dish. We then painted the dish and I used different shades of yellow. It looked really awesome. Some of the other things I enjoyed were Magic Lantern, a music workshop and a visit to the canal to take photos we could play around with using Photoshop in the ICT room. We were lucky when we visited the canal because all the other classes got soaked when they went and we were in the Visitors Centre when it started to rain and it passed over! The music workshop was really good fun as we were split into two groups and half went and did a music quiz whist the other half did some beats with drums. IT WAS REALLY LOUD WITH MR CARTWRIGHT AND THE DRUMS and really quiet with Mrs Cracknell!
The House Music competition took place on Thursday and the different houses (Raleigh, Drake and Grenville) competed against each other in music. Everyone in each house sang two songs and this year the three songs to choose from were Shine by Take That, Mamma Mia by Abba and I Gotta A Feelin by The Black Eyed Peas. Each house voted for two songs and spent endless amounts of time practicing. As well as the two songs there were String Groups, Wind Groups, Small Singing Groups, Piano trios, Guitar Ensembles and Brass Groups. This year the Pre-Prep were included in the competition and each house sang a lovely song with some really tricky words. I thought that they were very brave to sing in front of everyone. The overall winners were Drake although the other two houses did very well. The two judges were Mrs Tucker (the piano teacher) and Mrs McDowell (teacher of nursery who retired last year.) We would like to give our thanks to all the teachers but especially to Mrs Cracknell, Mrs Charlesworth and our heads of art, Mrs Aldridge in the Prep and Mrs Shelbourne in the Pre-Prep. The children would not have had any of this fun without them.
Weds 19th Feb 2014, 08:55
It has been a while since I had a good moan about the weather. The truth is that we have got off lightly compared with many hundreds of poor people just a stone’s throw from here who have had to endure relentless floods with no sign of them abating just yet. Let us hope that things improve soon for all those struggling in terrible conditions whether they be in Somerset or around our coasts. For many of us, the rain is a bore and an inconvenience. For others it is life changing and that is what we must all remember when faced with another day of endless precipitation. The rain may make us a little fed-up but we can cope. For the children it is altogether more difficult and this is why, when the sun finally put in an appearance on Friday, it was like animals emerging from the Ark. The playground was a playground once more (for much of the week it had been a lake and at one point there were waves) and the children made the most of it. There were chasing games and ball games, imagination games and games that involved hiding. It was lovely to see and just the tonic that everyone needed at the end of such a wet week.
We have had a busy week of tours with 6 families visiting us over the last 5 days and more due to join us before half term, and all of my guests, without exception, have commented on the children and the lovely atmosphere within the school. “Do all the children do that?” asked one of my guests as Jack held the door and said “good morning” with a big smile. “They do” I said confidently, hoping that I would not be proved wrong. But I wasn’t and I rarely am when it comes to the many qualities that our children show on a daily basis. “The children all look very happy” commented another mother of four who was visiting Blundell’s for the first time. These comments are very typical of those made by all visitors to the school and their observations are absolutely spot-on.
On Monday our Year 5 and 6 boys and girls battled against the elements - and each other - during the Senior House matches in football, hockey and netball and the overall winners were Drake and Raleigh who tied for top spot. Levels of excitement had also reached fever-pitch in the Pre-Prep as our Year 1 and 2 children prepared themselves for their first ever House matches on Tuesday. Fortunately the weather smiled on us and it stayed dry as all the boys and girls played their hearts out in pursuit of victory for their respective houses. It was Grenville who were victorious in the Netball and Drake on the football pitch but that really didn’t matter as everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to play against one another.
This week will see more happy children making the most of our annual Creative Arts Week. Mrs Aldridge, Mrs Cracknell and Mrs Charlesworth have been incredibly busy putting together a programme of events for all of our children to enjoy and this will be mirrored in the Pre-Prep with a variety of creative events going on over the next 5 days. I know that some of our parents have kindly volunteered some time to join us for a variety of activities which promise to bring out creative talents within all of our children here at BPS. It is certain to be a fantastic week before we all head off for half term.
Mon 10th Feb 2014, 08:10
This week my wife Sarah has kindly agreed to be a guest blogger as we are travelling up to Oxfordshire where I am attending the IAPS National Basketball Championships as part of my role as a member of the IAPS Sports Committee. As many of you will know, Sarah spends an enormous amount of time helping at the school so I asked her to share some thoughts on the week just gone. This is her take on a very busy 5 days at BPS.
I am incredibly lucky to be able spend lots of time behind the scenes at Blundell’s, usually with a camera in tow, and I get to see what a productive and happy place our school is. This week has seen a number of extra events, on top of the normal sports fixtures and coffee mornings, where both parents and grandparents have been able to see the school in action. The week began with over 80 grandparents joining us on Monday morning for assemblies in both the Prep and Pre-Prep and they also had the chance to take part in lessons on a wide variety of subjects including maths, science, and for a lucky few, Food Technology. Some were even brave enough to take part in some problem solving challenges in front of the whole Prep school (thank you Mr Pyne and Mr and Mrs Williams) and all entered into their visit with huge energy and enthusiasm. A special thanks should go to our Head Girl, Zoe Dare who became a surrogate grand-daughter to some of our Pre-Prep grandparents who were enjoying themselves so much that they decided to stay for the Prep element of the morning. I scooted around the school trying to capture some of the morning for the Image Gallery and it was lovely to see the interaction between the children and their grandparents. The children took a huge amount of pride in sharing what they do with them and this was also the case on Wednesday. This time I had my mummy hat on as I joined many of the other Year 3 parents for lunch with our children. The ladies in our kitchen prepare delicious food for the school and Year 3 loved showing us how lunch works and of course, how tasty it is!
Finally on Friday we were joined by 16 parents and grandparents for a Chinese Cookery Workshop, many of our Year 2 parents for a meeting to discuss Year 2 and beyond, and parents joining us for our regular coffee morning and Awards Assembly. Needless to say the Prep Hall was packed, especially as Year 2 also joined us and delighted in sharing all they had learnt in their Chinese New Year assembly with Mr Southgate on Wednesday. Top marks for Will who remembered that the baby panda was called ‘White Cloud’! They were then very excited to be able to serve their parents some of the delicious muffins they had made earlier in the week. Talking of delicious food, I used the excuse of taking photos to pop in and sample some of the Chinese food that had been rustled up in the cookery workshop later in the morning. I was not disappointed! I shall sign off by wishing you all Kung hei fat choi – may the Year of the Horse be a happy one for you all.
Mon 3rd Feb 2014, 07:50
As the smoke billowed across the playing fields I became concerned that all might not be well. Had a Food Technology lesson gone horribly wrong and Year Two’s ‘Perfect Pizza Pinwheels’ been burnt to a cinder? Had Mr Hurst’s volcano construction become a little more realistic than intended? Or, most importantly, had our fish and chip lunch been inadvertently cremated by Mrs Moys – not a bit of it. The smoke was coming from the fire that had been created in our Outdoor Learning area, a fire that was being carefully monitored by our adventurous ‘Outdoor Otters’ crew. Their task was to make charcoal which they would then use for an art project and so the fire was built, the sticks were collected, the tin furnace was fashioned and the excitement grew to fever pitch. Mrs Shelbourne, our very own Blundell’s Bear Grylls, was over-seeing the activity and 25 children were enthralled. This is just one way in which the outdoors has been used to enhance learning this week.
On Tuesday our Year 3 children spent the morning outside, making their names and completing self-portraits out of wood and rocks. They then ventured to Gornhay woods and made trails for others to follow. It was wet and muddy but that didn’t bother these hardy adventurers. It was lovely to hear the teachers talk of the excitement and the creativity that all of the children showed whilst engaged in these activities. On Friday I met with the staff in our Pre-Prep to discuss the many ways in which they have taken learning outside over recent weeks. With every week the opportunities to head outdoors are increasing with all staff asking themselves “would learning be enhanced through taking this lesson outside?” Sometimes the answer may be “no” but often it is “yes” and our outstanding teachers here at BPS have embraced that idea wholeheartedly.
Monday was a big day for our Year 6 children as they received their results from the Blundell’s Entrance Exams. I am delighted to report that all of our children passed and there were 8 Academic Awards made to those who performed particularly well. As Head Master of the school I am very proud of every one of them. Those who attained Honours in their papers deserve our congratulations, as do those for whom a Merit is just as great an achievement.
You will be pleased to hear that all of the Year 5 children kept their heads when Henry VIII visited on Monday. Sadly, Mrs Southgate was not so fortunate and incurred the king’s wrath and the sharp end of the executioner’s blade! As you can see there was a lot of fun and a big thank you must go to our Year 5 parents who helped the children to dress in Tudor garb. Thank goodness for Amazon and E-Bay! Our Year One children also had the chance to step back in time when they visited St. Nicholas Priory on Tuesday. Once again, the power of bringing History to life was clear to see.
On Monday we welcome Grandparents to BPS and I know that the children are very excited. We also wish our potential Music Scholars good luck for Wednesday when they will be heading to the Senior School to perform for Director of Music, Mr Barlow. I am sure that all of them will impress him with their musical talents.
Mon 27th Jan 2014, 08:05
It has been a busy week for our Year 6 children. Last Saturday morning they took their Blundell’s Entrance exams and 37 anxious BPS pupils joined 23 equally nervous boys and girls in ‘Big School.’ After months of hard work the time had finally come to show what they could do and later today the children will receive their results. My hope is that they will be pleased with all that they have achieved – more on this next week. Well it was a return to ‘normal’ lessons this week and a new focus for the next two terms – BALSA. Our Blundell’s Adventure, Leadership and Service Award enters its 2nd year and promises to provide opportunities for the Year 6 children to show plenty of character and initiative over the weeks to come. Both qualities were in high demand on Tuesday as they embarked on a morning of Outdoor Learning. The focus was on Teamwork, Leadership and Communication or ‘TLC’ skills and all of the children were put through their paces with a variety of team challenges. It was great fun, even if the elements conspired to soak everyone. The idea that ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing’ was certainly put to the test!
On Thursday our Year 6 children were required to wear very different attire as they travelled to Powderham Castle to enjoy a Victorian themed day. Mrs Edge and Miss Bennett, dressed as maids, looked very in keeping with the time, and were on hand to wait on our very own Lady Devon, Mrs Watson. As you can see from these pictures, the children set about performing their chores and all agreed that life in 2014 is considerably easier than life in 1850. Earlier in the week the children had prepared for their Victorian day by making sausage rolls and these were included as part of their Victorian themed picnics although I’m not sure that everyone stuck to the rules! I don’t think that Toblerones were available in 1850! Still, it was super day and one that was greatly enjoyed by all.
There was plenty of sport going on this week and some strong performances on the football field, the hockey pitch and the netball court. Our 11 B netballers beat Millfield and played with huge heart. Our U10 A and B teams had tough games against Millfield with both sides losing by the narrowest of margins. Our U11 hockey players had a tough day at the office, our A team playing in the Sherbourne tournament and our B team coming up against a very strong Stockland side. That said, it is early days and there will be plenty of opportunity to improve over the coming weeks. The U10 boys played well down at Launceston and started the season with a moral boosting victory. The U9 teams were rampant in their matches against Kelly Prep, winning convincingly in football and netball, and showing once again that they are a very talented group.
We welcome ‘Good King Hal’ to BPS this week and hope that all of our Year 5 children will survive the experience. Year 3 will be heading outdoors for OL workshops on Tuesday so fingers crossed for a dry morning. Also on Tuesday our Year 1 children are off to St. Nicholas Priory for the day and then on Thursday we welcome parents to our first Tea-Time Concert of 2014. As always, there is plenty going on at BPS.
Mon 20th Jan 2014, 08:10
Happy New Year! I do hope that you all enjoyed the festive season and are now refreshed and ready for all that 2014 has in store. On Monday morning we welcomed the children back to school and there were lots of smiles and plenty of stories from the 3 weeks away. Father Christmas had clearly been as generous as ever and I am sure that he has a good deal going with Apple, as the Mini I-Pad does appear to have been the present of choice! It was lovely to hear all the news from the children and to see them looking so well and clearly refreshed. They were all exhausted at the end of the term and needed a rest and this probably now mirrors the way that some parents feel after 3 weeks of having their children at home! Having time to rest and recharge was the theme of my assemblies to both Prep and Pre-Prep children this week and we explored how we can do this by looking at the brain and how it works. I couldn’t find a real one so I enlisted the help of my son to make one with sand, water and porridge oats (didn’t have porridge oats so used Ready Brek, which we discovered was not great for getting the right consistency for ‘brain’). This gooey mess was then presented to a blindfolded Ollie who had to identify what he was holding through a series of clues. He managed to identify it and wasn’t permanently scarred by the thought that he was holding a real brain. The children then came up with what we need in order to make our brains work well and along with food and water, they all agreed that rest was vital.
As we start this new term and look forward to the many exciting opportunities that lie ahead, it is worth us reflecting on this a little. Our lives are very busy and I wonder if we spend as much time resting as we should. More importantly perhaps, do our children? In her recent article in Attain magazine, Julie Robinson suggests that ‘quiet, reflective time is just as important as purposeful activity... youngsters are not well served by being forced into an exhausting stream of clubs and extra-curricular activities.’ It is a difficult balance to find sometimes as our natural propensity is often to fill children’s days. I think that Mrs Robinson makes an interesting point and one that I will certainly be considering as we move towards another busy term. My hope, for my own family as well as those who form our community here at Blundell’s, is that we all look to make some time when there is no activity to go to, work to finish, screen to watch or job to do. That would certainly be my New Year’s Resolution – what is yours?
Mon 13th Jan 2014, 10:25
The last assembly of the term has concluded and the final tidy-up has begun. In an hour’s time the children will leave for their Christmas break and judging by the amount of coughing that can be heard around the school, I think it has come at just the right time! It has been a busy term but one that has been packed full of exciting events, many of which I have mentioned in this blog. These final 3 days were no less busy and included one of the highlights of the year, the Carol Service. The candle-lit Chapel looked beautiful and the congregation were in fine voice, as were the children, especially those who had been asked to do a reading. I thought that they were superb and it once again highlighted the confidence our children have to speak in front of an audience. Thank you to everyone who joined us.
On Monday our Year One children headed to Killerton House for Christmas with the Victorians. They dressed themselves in their finest 19th century garb and heard all about a typical Victorian Christmas – not a touch-screen in sight! I am told that they had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to dress up and immerse themselves in some living history. The Year 3 and 6 ‘Buddies’ certainly enjoyed their lunchtime on Monday as they met up for another Buddy Lunch. Stories from the term were shared over pasta bolognaise and Christmas tree shaped choc-ices, and this was a lovely way to bring our oldest and youngest Prep School children together.
Tuesday saw the much anticipated Christmas lunch and it was as lively as ever. Mrs Moys and her team had prepared a sumptuous feast of turkey with all the trimmings. The ‘Pigs in Blankets’ were a sensation and my table even decided to have a communal sprout eating moment – Mia compared it to a Bush-tucker trial and swore that she would never eat another sprout, not even for a million pounds! A big thank you to all of our wonderful catering staff who keep us very well fed throughout the year. We did have some extra guests at lunch on Tuesday. Our senior school Art A level students had spent the morning working on a variety of outdoor art projects with all of our Year 5 pupils. They gathered materials from the school grounds before working in small groups to create collages. The children were then tasked with creating sculptures and the results were wonderful. Thank you to Mrs Aldridge and to Hebe Lanyon and her fellow artists for planning this super event.
My final mention of the term is for our Nursery Nativity. Quite how Mrs Pym and Mrs Allen manage to keep all of the children on the stage I will never know. To see them sing songs, deliver lines and in the case of Ava, sing a solo, was nothing short of remarkable. If anyone had failed to find some Christmas cheer then the Nursery Nativity was the perfect tonic!
Happy Christmas everyone!
Thurs 12th Dec 2013, 10:00
I think that I am going to let these wonderful photos do the talking for me this week as the 5 days of last week have included some of the most confident, entertaining and impressive performances that one could wish to see. There was chaos in Panto Land to deal with, a call for a midwife to attend a rather special birth, some stars to be caught and some young sheep who wanted to be treated like the older sheep – what a selection of storylines! These photos are just a small sample of those that were taken at our Nativities and hundreds more are available for Parents to download from the school website so please do take a look – I am told that they make excellent Christmas cards. All of the children had worked so hard to remember countless lines, dances and songs and they performed with huge smiles on their faces, smiles that were mirrored by the appreciative audiences. Hundreds of mince pies were consumed and many rapturous rounds of applause were received, making it the most festive of weeks. Thanks you to everyone who took the time to join us for one or more of these productions as the children enjoy nothing more than performing for parents, grandparents and friends. The final thank you should certainly go to the teachers who have spent many hours preparing these productions. I marvel at their ability to put these performances together whilst also teaching, planning, marking, the list goes on. It was a very theatrical week and one that brought Christmas to Blundell’s.
With Christmas comes Father Christmas and so it was that on Wednesday afternoon we welcomed Santa Claus to Blundell’s for the 2nd time in a month. He brought delight to our Toddler Group Party and handed out gifts to some very excited children.
We have our Nursery Nativity to look forward this coming Tuesday but last week they were focused on their much anticipated trip to Pennywell Farm. In between the plethora of toilet stops there was plenty of time to meet the animals, take part in the Pennywell Nativity (with real donkeys and lambs) and meet Father Christmas (he’s a busy chap). Let’s hope that he makes a return to this part of the world in just over 2 weeks’ time!
It has been a busy weekend for the U11 A rugby and hockey teams as they have spent two days in Oxfordshire, taking on some tough opposition. The girls travelled to The Dragon and played with huge spirit and skill to win 2-0. As The Dragon is a school of 700 children, the win is all the more impressive. The girls then whizzed over to Moulsford to see the final moments of the boys’ rugby match. Sadly our boys found it hard-going on the day but as always, they played with great spirit and made tackle after tackle. In the end their efforts paid off and they scored a try, much to the delight of the enthusiastic travelling support. The boys then headed off to enjoy an evening with their generous hosts and the girls stayed with us in the boarding house. When some rather bleary eyed boys returned to us on Sunday morning I was delighted to hear that they had been the perfect guests and wonderful ambassadors for our school. These experiences are so very important for the children and I know that they will have gained a huge amount from it.
Tonight we look forward to our Christmas Carol Service, a candle-lit treat which will bring festive cheer to the most hardened Ebenezer Scrooge. On Tuesday we will enjoy a sumptuous feast, prepared by our lovely catering team and then on Wednesday we will finish the term with parties and a celebration of all that has been achieved this term. I will post a short blog on Thursday morning to share a few pictures and a few thoughts on the final 3 days and, most importantly, to wish you all a happy Christmas.
Mon 9th Dec 2013, 09:00
Christmas has arrived at Blundell’s Prep in the form of one 12 ft tree and three slightly smaller ones, all decorated with twinkling lights, baubles and plenty of tinsel. With only a week and a half until the end of term we are ready for the celebrations. There is the small matter of six Christmas performances, two carol services and a good number of lessons to go before the customary Christmas feast is enjoyed and everyone can depart for a three week break. Last week began with the delivery of the trees and when the time came to decorate it I was delighted to receive some help from the Year 3 children. Bev, Gloria and I had already taken care of the area above 4ft and so we unleashed 32 purple bauble wielding 7 year olds and within minutes they had the tree looking resplendent in Prep School colours. The children in the Pre-Prep also helped out with the decorating of their trees and they too look very festive indeed.
On Monday we welcomed parents to the Prep School Speech and Drama Recital and what a super event it was. Our budding actors and actresses were in fine form as they performed for their parents. They shared their prepared pieces, many of which they had performed during their recent LAMDA examinations. Anyone who was at the recital would clearly see why these children received such marvellous results so congratulations must go to them all.
There is a strong performance theme to much of what is going on at Blundell’s at this time of year and on Wednesday our Year 6 children had the opportunity to see how our senior pupils do it when they joined them in Ondaatje for A Comedy of Errors. It was a hugely impressive performance and an insight into what lies in store for our pupils if they choose to take to the stage. With so many productions over the next 5 days I am sure that we are all going to see some performances to remember.
It was another very successful week of sport with wins against Wellington for our Under 11 and Under 10 rugby teams on Wednesday and wins against Wellington for our Under 9 teams on Thursday. Our Under 8 Tag rugby teams had two thrilling draws against St. Peter’s and showed lots of potential for the future. Our Under 11 and Under 10 A team Hockey players were in action against King’s Hall and both managed convincing victories. Our Under 11 and Under 10 B teams also played very well to draw with Wellington. Another full programme of fixtures lies ahead this week and then the much anticipated mini tour to Oxfordshire at the weekend as a grand finale to what has been a superb term of sport.
On Friday our Year 3 children were transported back to Ancient Egypt as they enjoyed a day of themed activities. They built pyramids, constructed shadufs, made head masks and even mummified someone! The willing volunteer was Constance who just about managed to survive the process! Friday also saw our Year 2 children take to the stage for their performance of ‘Prickly Hay’ a heart-warming nativity in which Sam the stable hand, brilliantly played by Valerie, replaces the horrid rough hay in the manger with beautifully soft hay. There were some super songs and the children showed a great deal of confidence.
At Blundell’s we are fortunate to have an incredibly supportive set of Governors. On Friday I joined senior pupils, staff and Governors past and present in Blundell’s Chapel to remember the life of Robert Breare who was a Governor of the school for many years. His contribution to the school has been immense and this was recognised by Mike Bull and ex-Head of Blundell’s, Jonathan Leigh. We also said a very fond farewell to Mike Bull, Brian Wills-Pope and Anne Mayes, all of whom retire from the Governing Body after a combined service of 71 years. These people have done a huge amount for the school and will be sorely missed.
To the week ahead...
The Christmas plays will be the highlight for many although for our Nursery children it will certainly be the trip to Pennywell Farm. We also have our Festival of Carols at the end of the week and look forward to welcoming local Primary Schools to a Christmas celebration in the Chapel. There is no doubt that by the end of the week we will be fully immersed in all things Christmas!
Mon 2nd Dec 2013, 10:25
What a day it was on Saturday! In glorious sunshine our Under 9 A and B teams in Rugby and Hockey joined many other schools from Devon and Somerset to compete for honours in the Blundell’s Prep U9 Tournaments and compete they most certainly did. Both A teams managed to make their way through the group stages before progressing into the finals of their respective competitions. The boys took on Plymouth College, the only team to have beaten them this season, and it was a battle royal with neither side giving an inch. It took a moment of brilliance from Josh Withey to break the deadlock and when he scored for a second time the game was won. There was universal excitement at winning, not least because Mr Mildren had promised the boys a MacDonald’s if they were successful. Having won all 5 tournaments in which they have played this year I think that they have earned that ‘treat’. Our girls have been in fine form this season and they saved some of their best hockey for our own tournament. They faced Queen’s in the final and when full time came the sides could not be separated so to Penalty Flicks they went. With nerves of steel, the girls managed to score their goals and were worthy winners. But it wasn’t just the As in action. Our B teams also took part and they were nothing short of superb in the way that they competed against more experienced opposition. The girls showed that they have huge potential and as many of them are still in Year 3, it was remarkable to see the confidence with which they played. All bodes well for next season! The boys showed an enormous amount of character as they also went up against more experienced opponents but they tackled and ran with such determination, even managing to beat the Wellington A team. The quality of sport in our Years 3 and 4 is very strong indeed and this weekend was the clearest indication of that. Well done to everyone who took part and to Miss Edwards, Mr Swain and all of the staff who helped make the day such a success.
This has been a very musical week in the school and our choir have been very busy indeed. On Monday they joined choirs from local schools in order to raise funds for the Philippines Typhoon Disaster Fund in an evening concert at St. Peter’s Church. It was a lovely occasion and one that brought the whole community together in order to help the poor people of the Philippines. On Thursday our musicians were in action again as they entertained a packed house in the 2nd of our Tea-Time Concerts. There were some super individual performances, particularly from some of our Year 3 musicians who were involved for the first time, and our more experienced musicians in Year 6 showed just what talented young people they are. On Saturday afternoon the choir were in action again as they took to the stage in the centre of Tiverton as part of the entertainment to mark the turning on of the Christmas Lights. The turnout from our choristers was another example of the commitment that they have to their music and for that I am very grateful.
This past week has been National Anti-Bullying Week and this has been discussed across the school over the last 5 days. In my Monday assembly we looked at what bullying is and, importantly with young children, what is not bullying. Most importantly, the message that we shared was one of kindness and consideration for all members of our school community and for everyone to be aware of people around them who may need their help and support. This message was reinforced on Thursday when our Senior School Head Boy, Head Girl and Monitors joined us to deliver their own assembly on this topic. Our children were full of good answers when faced with questions from the Senior pupils and I know that they all gained a great deal from their visit.
On Friday afternoon the West Midlands Theatre Company joined us and their performance of George and the Dragon went down a storm with the Nursery, Pre-Prep and Year 3 children. There was plenty of audience participation, with lots of dragon impersonations and marching, as well as some super acting from Flossy and Harry. We do have a great many budding actors and actresses in the school as many parents will see in just over a week’s time when the Christmas plays begin. Before that we have our Speech and Drama Recital to look forward to and judging by the recent results in the LAMDA exams, we are all in for a real treat.
Mon 25th Nov 2013, 10:05
When I was a child I thought that having a policeman for a dad was the best thing ever. He drove fast cars, rode on police motor bikes and was out catching the bad guys, or at least that was how I saw it when I was 6 years old. So what could be cooler than that I ask you? Well if my dad had been a helicopter pilot, that may well have trumped policeman. If he had been the pilot of a police helicopter then that would have been the pinnacle and that is how young Arthur in Kindergarten must have felt as his father flew in to BPS on Thursday. Twenty very excited young children had the opportunity to explore the helicopter, to ask lots of interesting questions and to hear all about its role within the community. It was certainly a wonderful experience and not one that happens every day at school. We are grateful to Mr Tate and his team for sparing the time to pay us a visit – the rest of the school are hopeful that they will return again soon.
The visit from a helicopter was certainly a highlight for our Nursery and Kindergarten children but it was the prospect of rugby and hockey matches against Kelly Prep in Tavistock that caused a great deal of excitement for our Year 2 children. They boarded the coach with boots and sticks at the ready and headed off to play their first matches for the school. The girls played very well in their two games, drawing the first 0-0 and winning the second, 1-0 with Meredith scoring the winning goal. The boys also played very well indeed and were convincing winners in both games. The post-match teas were enjoyed by all and we look forward to welcoming Kelly to BPS in the new year.
We have been getting outside again this week and this started on Tuesday with Year 3 who made semaphore flags and then sent messages to one another across the fields. They headed out to The Hub, coloured paper and Pritt Sticks in hand, and spent time constructing their flags before being set the challenge to communicate simple words to one another using only their flags. It was great to see them so animated and enthusiastic and another reminder as to what fun can be had when we step out of the classroom. Later that afternoon we were able to have our official opening of The Hub and to thank the team of people who had spent so many hours constructing our outdoor classroom. The loud cheer that went up for these gentleman from all of the children really shows just how highly valued a resource The Hub will be. Our Governors were certainly impressed as they joined a Year 2 outdoor literacy lesson on Friday morning, before our termly meeting. The children had to scratch their spellings in the sand and could then jump up and down on them to rub them out. I think that one or two of our Governing body were quite keen to have a go themselves!
Our Pre-Prep children enjoyed showing all they have been learning in their French lessons when they had the chance to take to the stage on Wednesday morning for their French assembly. Our Judo players also had the chance to impress visiting Sensai, John Goldman when they took part in their grading this week. Our Judo Club is more popular than ever and it was lovely to see boys and girls enjoying this wonderful sport and moving through their grades at speed, such is the quality of coaching on offer. Our talented actors and actresses were also in action as they took part in LAMDA examinations in Ondaatje Hall. Children from Years 3 to 6 had been prepared for these exams by our Speech and Drama coach, James Rochfort and they all performed with huge confidence. I am told that one of our children even managed to make the examiner cry, such was the quality of his performance!
This has been a week in which cake has been high on the agenda. In an effort to raise funds for Children in Need, our children decided to bake and then sell cakes, so on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday break times there were cakes for sale and it would fair to say that these were greatly enjoyed by pupils and staff. The mountain of cakes that appeared in time for our Christmas Market on Saturday suggests that our children and parents have spent some considerable time baking this week so my thanks to everyone who made such an effort to produce this delicious fare. This year’s Christmas Market was the best yet and was masterminded by our incredibly committed Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee, all of whom have been remarkably busy with the 3 major events of this term. Special mention should certainly go to Teoni who co-ordinated plans and helped to put together an event that was enjoyed by the hundreds of people who joined us on Saturday.
Next week will be just as busy as the one just gone and there is much to look forward to. On Monday evening our Choir will be performing at St. Peter’s Church in Tiverton in aid of the Philippines Typhoon Appeal and I would extend a warm welcome to anyone who would like to join us. After the excitement of all that has taken place in our own lives during the last week, we will come together to think of those people for whom the last 7 days have been unbearable.
Mon 18th Nov 2013, 11:25
I hope that everyone managed to enjoy some family time over the half-term break. It had been very busy first half to the Autumn Term and I think that everyone at BPS was ready for a chance to down tools for a brief moment and get the batteries recharged and ready for the run into Christmas. Yes, it is early November but the reality is that preparations for the festive season have begun in earnest and there is nothing that I can do about that. It’s not that I am trying to be Scrooge-like you understand, but there is much to do. There will be 6 Christmas plays across the school, all involving many hours of learning lines and singing songs. We have our musical events with our choir singing in Tiverton at the turning on of the Christmas lights and the delightful Festival of Carols which will once again be held in our Chapel. We also have our fantastic Christmas Market next weekend and this is going to be our most spectacular one yet so please do come along and bring friends and relatives with you. Our FOBP Committee have been rather busy of late and the Christmas market will be the third major event this term, following on from the circus and the spectacular Bonfire Night on Thursday. These ladies have given a huge amount of their time in order to organise and run these occasions and we are very fortunate to have them bringing the school community together and raising invaluable funds for the benefit of our children at the same time.
Every week at BPS is a busy, action-packed week but this last one has been more so than most. I was delighted to welcome our Prep School Chairman, Peter Johnson and Chairman of the Full Board, Cedric Clapp to the Prep School on Monday and Thursday respectively. They have been very keen to see the children in action and they received the warmest of welcomes from everyone at BPS. Both gentlemen spent the mornings touring the school, going into every classroom and saying hello to every teacher and child. We are fortunate to have a governing body who take a very active interest in our school and I think that it would be fair to say that they loved their time with us last week.
The Hub has been in regular use this week and on Tuesday it was the turn of Year 6 to enjoy a Science workshop. They had a variety of tasks to complete and there was great excitement as they headed off around the school to scavenge for a long list of natural items. These items were then put together to form collages of a tree in a landscape and a lovely job they did too. We have had some sporting success this week as our Under 9 rugby and our Under 9 hockey teams both won in the tournaments held at Plymouth College. They returned with gold medals and big smiles to match!
On Friday we gathered as a school to remember those who gave their lives in war and this occasion is always very moving and very important to share with our children, young as they may be. Some of our Year 6 pupils had prepared a short performance based on accounts taken from Forgotten Voices of the Great War by Max Arthur. In 1972 the Imperial War Museum set about interviewing hundreds of men and women who had lived through the war and Max Arthur had gathered many of these accounts together in order to give a lasting voice to these remarkable people. A selection of these accounts were then put together for our children to show how the prospect of 4 years of fighting were unknown in 1914, but soon became a reality. Our children, aged from 3 to 11, sat in silence and listened to every word, demonstrating exactly what Remembrance is all about.
Could this coming week top the last 7 days? Well with helicopters landing at BPS, LAMDA exams for our talented performers, rugby and hockey matches for our Year 2 children, the Taunton Music Festival for our budding musicians and the much anticipated cake sales for Children in Need, it certainly has every chance!
Mon 11th Nov 2013, 09:50
After many hours of hard work from Blundell’s Project Manager, Dick Clarke and master craftsman, Mike Criddle, The Hub is finished and is being used on a daily basis. Sadly we had to postpone our official opening as it was pouring with rain – I realise that learning outdoors is going to involve some soggy situations but this was torrential and big as it is, The Hub cannot accommodate 250 people! This week we have had our Nursery children exploring the outdoors, our Year 4 children enjoyed some Maths lessons in the open air and Year 5 had a pumpkin carving competition on Friday afternoon. Our Bushcraft Club have been making fires, as have our Outdoor Otters, and next week our Year 3 children will be heading to The Hub for some Science. With further training with specialists, Exeter Outdoors planned for the start of next term, there is a huge appetite for incorporating an ever increasing number of opportunities to take learning outside.
There has been a great deal going on this week including the much anticipated, Dad’s Curry Afternoon. Mrs Edge and Mrs Watson welcomed 10 budding chefs to the FT room for a culinary extravaganza which included Goan Chicken Curry, Sweet Potato and Squash Curry, Spiced rice, naan bread made from scratch and some Raita to top it all off – well, that’s not strictly true as the final essential element to any curry must be a chilled Cobra and I happened to be on hand to share a beer and to thank Julie and Sarah for a superb afternoon.
Earlier in the week we welcomed 6 local primary schools to BPS for our annual U11 Tag Festival and this was thoroughly enjoyed by all who attended. There was some scintillating play and some very talented male and female athletes on show, all of whom were very excited to be spending the afternoon playing sport. It is an on-going issue that these children and many thousands like them across the UK simply do not have the access to sport in school and that is a great shame. Just this week I was in Leamington Spa at an IAPS Sport Committee meeting and we were discussing the huge number of competitions that are available to our children. These ranged from rugby to table tennis and from karate to gymnastics - you name it and IAPS has a competition in it. The breadth of sporting opportunity in our schools is staggering and one can easily understand why there was such a significant representation in the Olympics from athletes who had been educated in the Independent sector. Is it right? No. Is it going to change? Let’s hope so, as participation in sport has a remarkable transformational power for so many children. It breeds confidence and this invariably benefits all subjects and ergo, all schools.
There are just 3 days to go until we finish for half term and my hope is that everyone gets the chance to have a good break. I will sign off for a couple of weeks but hope that you have enjoyed my ramblings over the last 7 weeks and would encourage you to e-mail me with any comments, questions or topics for discussion.
Have a good week.
Mon 21st Oct 2013, 13:19
On Friday the circus was in town and what a day we had! It started with all of the children in home clothes (always guaranteed to raise excitement levels) and during the day the children enjoyed circus skills workshops with Olly which involved juggling a wide variety of things, hula-hooping, plate-spinning, pedal-gos, diablos and teeter blocks (ask your children if you don’t know what they are!) It was a huge amount of fun and certainly helped to whet the appetite for the evening’s entertainment. With remarkable speed the circus Big Top was erected and then our wonderful FOBP Committee prepared a mountain of sugary and liquid treats for all to enjoy. As I looked around the audience of over 500, I saw a sea of smiling faces, from the oldest to the youngest – it really was a great evening. A big thank you must go to our dedicated FOBP Committee for organising such a wonderful evening.
Last week I asked anyone who is kind enough to read this blog to give me their answer to the question: ‘What is the most important thing for children to learn.’ I am delighted to say that I received a number of responses from readers and I am not sure if anyone will be surprised by their comments. Rather than a focus on academia; passing exams, getting to university or finding the perfect job, every comment related to ‘soft’ skills with one parent stating that these skills are ‘the vital elements to succeeding in life.’ One particular word was common to every e-mail I received and that was ‘respect’. Respect for other people, no matter who they are or where they come from and respect for what they own and what they have access to in the world around them. I have to say that I agree wholeheartedly and if one considers the workplace of today, as well as the rapidly depleting natural resources available to us, then a respectful, considerate and selfless society is going to be a necessity. So how do you help children to learn respect? I am sure that we would all have our views on this and a variety of methods to encourage respect in the lives of our children. To my mind, respect develops from a series of good habits and consistent messages which we share with our children throughout their early years. This may be saying “please” and “thank you”, looking people in the eye when you speak to them and holding doors open for others. It may be expecting children to ask to get down from the table, to help take plates to the dishwasher, or to make their bed. I would imagine that the true measure of successfully encouraging our children to be respectful is what they do when they are away from us. Do they say “please” and “thank you” when we are not there to remind them – the ultimate test!
As children grow older and are able to do more, the respect that they have for the immediate world around them will develop and a wider perspective may be encouraged. There is some interesting work going on in the Prep School world on ‘ESR’ or ‘Educating for Social Responsibility’ and at Blundell’s Prep we already incorporate many of these elements into our daily work. We share the desire of our parent body to encourage respect in all of our children and to give them the tools to make a significant difference in their own lives and the lives of others as they grow into young adults. As Head Master of Blundell’s Prep, I am entrusted with maintaining the ethos that has been such a fundamental part of the fabric of the school since St. Aubyn’s came into existence in 1929. The school’s motto, ‘Non Sibi’, translated to ‘Not for oneself’, is absolutely fundamental to the message of respect that we share on a daily basis and could well be the most important thing your child will ever learn.
As always, all comments are welcome and should be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final call for any dads who would like to join us for the Curry Workshop on Friday – there are still a couple of spaces available so pop into the office to secure your place.
Mon 14th Oct 2013, 12:25
Is it really Week 6? It is really October? (Not according to the weather – wasn’t it fantastic on Sunday!) So much has happened over the last 5 weeks that I could not hope to mention everything in one Blog and with the Chairman’s speech (heavily influenced by Bev and Gloria!) still ringing in my ears, I would not even try. What have the highlights been to date? Well if you asked the children they may well pick out sports fixtures, baking in Food Tech or non-uniform day to support Jeans for Genes. Others would say their trip to Budleigh Salterton, to Broomhill Sculpture Park or to Sandy Park with the Exeter Chiefs. Some would certainly say the visit from author and illustrator, Shoo Raynor and I am sure that many would say the lessons that they have had in The Hub. Judging by the volume at 12.45 on Monday, many of the children may well pick out the Buddy Lunch in which Year 3 and Year 6 children sat down to enjoy some time together. The conversations were fascinating to listen to although I am not certain who was advising whom!
A big highlight from this week was the morning of outdoor lessons that were enjoyed by our Year 5 children.English, Maths and Science lessons were all taken outside as the teachers came up with incredibly creative ways to use our surroundings to enhance their lessons. The children were transfixed and cannot wait until they venture outside again.The children in our Nursery and Pre-Prep are making good use of The Hub on a daily basis and our Otters Club win the ‘Braving the Elements Award’ as they head out in any and all conditions – Mrs Shelbourne is our very own Bear Grylls. With fire-making planned for this week we are hoping that the rain will stay away, although knowing our Otters Club they will find a way to overcome it. The Hub will become weather proof in a week’s time when the shutters are fitted, allowing us to keep it watertight during the rainy season and opened up completely when the sun shines – our most versatile classroom!
There is much to look forward to next week but the highlight will surely be our Circus Day on Friday. If you have not yet bought your tickets then please pop in to the office to secure your seats for what promises to be a wonderful evening. There are also a few places left for our Dad’s Curry workshop on Friday 18th so please do come and cook with Julie and Sarah and enjoy a curry and a Cobra.
I have had a few comments about my Blog of late and that has been very much appreciated. This week I thought I would ask a question and see what response I got so I’d like to know, what you consider to be the most important thing for children to learn? A big question to answer but one that I would like to hear your thoughts on as this will be the topic of next week’s Blog, so if you would like to share your thoughts with me then please e-mail email@example.com.
Mon 7th Oct 2013, 08:10
It has been suggested to me that last week’s Blog contained a number of inaccuracies as it suggested that people over 50 were not inclined to take part in road cycling. Of course that was never my intention and I can only apologise to any and all DT teachers who may have been upset by my remarks. It was also suggested to me (as I am a cycling novice) that 36 miles is a “warm up” and so begins plans for a Blundell’s sponsored, ‘Tour of Tiverton’ race. My money is on Mr Mildren!
Cycling is just one of the ways that people stay fit and access the beautiful countryside that we are fortunate to live in. You only have to look outside at break time to see children enjoying the outside space, playing with friends, running, chasing and generally ‘being children’. It would however be true to say that this is not the case for all children in this country and this was brought home to me earlier this week as I listened to a lecture given by Dr Aric Sigman. He has spent his professional career studying the lives of children across the world and he shared a frightening statistic with a room of over 500 Head teachers. The average time that a teenager spends looking at screens, outside of time spent at school, is in excess of 6 hours a day. I don’t know how you feel when you hear that figure but it sends a chill down my spine. He asked the assembled group how many screens they had at home and as I made the necessary calculations I realised that it was creeping up towards double figures. Dr Sigman suggests that children should be limited to no more than 2 hours of non-school based screen time a day as research suggests that there is a negative impact when this time moves beyond two hours. The chilling reality is that a child born today will have spent an entire year looking at screens by the time they reach seven. Not only does it encourage a more sedentary lifestyle but prolonged screen time increases dopamine levels which have a direct correlation to reduced attention and the likelihood of addiction. We heard from many speakers during the two day conference and the over-whelming message was that developing soft skills should be a priority in all schools. Excessive screen time literally damages the brain, reduces empathy and a child’s ability to communicate and it is these communication skills that must be protected and developed if they are to have the tools to thrive in our rapidly changing society. So perhaps we should all consider how many screens we have in our homes, how often we are looking at them and whether the TV or computer in the child’s room is a good idea. Time limits on screen time may cause a few arguments but research also tells us that firm discipline combined with warm care makes for better adjusted children and I think we would all agree that this is exactly what we are all aiming for.
You will have received an invitation for dads to join us for a Curry Cooking Workshop on Friday 18th October. Places are filling up fast so please do not delay with your reply. It promises to be a great event.
Mon 30th Sept 2013, 11:58
I have now lived in the South West for just over 2 years and in that time I have resisted the temptation to immerse myself in the craze that appears to have seduced every man (and many women) between the ages of 35 and 50 – road cycling. As you drive around the local roads at the weekend you cannot fail to see hundreds of lycra-clad riders, enjoying the beautiful countryside on their carbon-fibre contraptions. My general sense is that the lure of the open-road can become an obsession. One friend recently commented that he weighed every bike part and even removed a tissue from his pocket whilst out on a ride to “reduce weight.” The staff at BPS are not immune to this either and a number of them ride into work every day, including Mr Richards who cycles 36 miles a day on his round trip, to and from work. That’s pretty impressive by anyone’s standards. It is therefore unsurprising that there was huge excitement as the Tour of Britain cycle race passed by our school on Friday afternoon. With ‘Cav’ and ‘Wiggo’ in the race, the Prep School children were in fine voice and gave the riders, the support teams and the very enthusiastic police outriders the warmest of welcomes as they flew past the school with lights flashing and sirens wailing. It was very exciting and then the moment we were all waiting for – the cyclist themselves. As they whizzed past in a blur, just inches from one another, the children shouted encouragement and waved their Devon flags. A few lucky spectators got their hands on a water bottle or two which the riders felt were surplus to requirements – shedding some weight perhaps? It was quite an experience and one that we all enjoyed.
Thank you to everyone who joined us for the two Harvest Festivals this week. Both occasions were very well supported by parents and also involved a fair degree of audience participation. Special mention should go to the very brave, Arthur in Kindergarten who managed to pull a pickled onion out of the Harvest Lucky Dip and then proceeded to eat it in one go – not something he particularly enjoyed but he did it nonetheless.
Our outdoor classroom, ‘The Hub’, is nearing completion and is already being used across both Pre-Prep and Prep Schools. Our Busy Bees club headed out to use it on Tuesday and on Friday it was used for a Year 4 Science lesson on Habitats. As Friday went on it then became a sanctuary from Dragons as our Nursery children made up stories and ran in terror as their Head Master approached – I was the dragon, of course! The possibilities for learning outside the classroom are endless and every opportunity will be taken to use this super facility within our beautiful grounds over the coming weeks.
To finish as I started, on the theme of cycling, I would like to wish all involved in the charity cycle ride for the Devon Air Ambulance Trust this Tuesday the very best of luck. I hope that the rain stays away.
Mon 23rd Sept 2013, 10:20
I have had a few comments on my Blog of last week, not least from my mother who reminded me that my childhood was a very happy one! And she’s right, it was. Like the children here, I loved to spend time with friends, play sport, be outside, get homework done, play more sport, and like the children here I had loving parents who were willing to drive me the length and breadth of the country to pursue my passions. As my children reach the age where interests outside of school become ever more demanding the logistical nightmare of having to be in several different places at once has become a reality but this time I am the taxi (and Sarah of course, in fact, more Sarah)! Our children at BPS are busy people and ‘we’ (school and parents) need to balance everything that they do with great care. Yes, as a school we openly encourage children to ‘have a go at everything’ and find what they enjoy but my experience of young children tells me that they enjoy just about everything and therefore helping them to find a balance is crucial. You add to their busy school day those activities that they take part in outside of school (something that is hugely important for all of our children) and you could find yourself with a schedule that leaves little time for anything else. So it is a balancing act and one that we all perform on a daily basis. My advice is to find what works for you and your child. Some children can cope with after school activities every day and some cannot. Some get through their prep in minutes, others labour for longer. At the heart of this is a reminder that ‘we’ have a collective responsibility to guide, protect and nurture these children. We must find what works for them and it is through open communication between all parties that balance can be achieved.
You would be very welcome to join us later this week at our Pre-Prep Harvest Festival on Wednesday and at our Prep Harvest Festival on Friday. I hope to see you there.
I am always interested to hear your thoughts so if you would like to comment just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mon 16th Sept 2013, 09:55
Do you remember your first day back at school after the summer holidays? You’ve enjoyed weeks of late nights and haven’t had to turn the alarm clock on for what seems like an eternity. The holidays went on forever and were filled with camping trips, bike rides, and time with friends. Well that is how I remember it anyway, and the reason that I remember it so fondly is because I dreaded going back to school. I would count the days until I had to go back and as every day of August passed, I would be filled with an ever growing sense of impending doom. The reality was that my school was very nice, it was just down the road from my house and all of my friends were there. Mum walked me to school and collected me, my teachers were very kind but I just didn’t want to be there. On one or two occasions I decided that I wasn’t going to be there and took myself home to wait for my mum to return from dropping my brother and sister at Infant school. It was a very different time, when Health and Safety hadn’t been invented and Head teachers could dish out a good wallop when children broke the rules, as I found to my cost on one particular occasion. It would be fair to say that these experiences have influenced my chosen career.
That is perhaps why I was so delighted to see so many smiling faces returning to school on Wednesday morning as I know how it feels when your stomach is in knots and everything seems horribly confusing. The warmth of welcome that the children received from the teachers at the gate and, most importantly, the other children in their classes, has a big impact and sets the tone for the term. We had a few tears but they very quickly dissipated and were replaced with smiles and laughter, especially after our assembly when Mr Kerr and Mrs Charlesworth battled it out to see who knew more about the school. If the children were worried that they didn’t know every detail of the timetable then their fears were allayed by the realisation that even the teachers didn’t have all the answers!
We are all getting back into the swing of things and we all feel concerned and confused at times but the message to “Ask for help” and to “Give help when it is needed!” was one that came across very strongly in our first assembly. The first 3 days of term suggests that this message has been received loud and clear.
Mon 9th Sept 2013, 10:50