Head Master's Blog Archive2014/15

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Summer Term 2014

Another school year comes to an end and 44 children prepare to move on to their Senior Schools. It is a big deal for them and a big deal for their parents who have to adjust to the fact that their children are not so little any more. The final year at Prep School is always a special time and this year’s cohort have made the most of the opportunities available to them. They have enjoyed their studies and have given their best on the games field. They have been prolific in their art work and have cooked and baked aplenty. They have also revelled in time spent with their friends and on Friday, their last day at the Prep School, we saw them expressing their appreciation of those friendships through a morning of hugging! Not even the teachers could escape, especially Mr Mildren who was the recipient of some mass cuddles from the appreciative Year 6 children. Every one of our leavers is ready to move on to new adventures and we wish them all well.

Our longest standing leaver also bid a very fond farewell to the school as Mr Mildren headed off for his next adventure. The school made sure that he had an appropriate send off and there were numerous “three cheers” as well as a super rendition of “for he’s a jolly good fellow” on Thursday evening in Ondaatje. Steve has been an exceptional school master and a great friend so we wish him well. He is adamant that we will not see him coaching junior rugby at Queen’s but I have a sneaking suspicion that his new employers will not see his talents go to waste. We shall see.

Around the World in 80 Days

On Wednesday and Thursday evening our Year 6 children performed their play ‘Around the World in 80 Days’ to two packed houses of family and friends. It was a spectacular production and one that showcased the acting talent in our senior year group. George was “splendid” as Sir Francis Cromerty and Christopher was the very essence of an English gentleman as our hero, Fogg. Lottie played the part of man-servant, Passepartout with energy and an unwavering French accent and Gabriel was simply superb as the enduring British long arm of the law – mark my words, this young man has a big future on the stage. The whole cast contributed to a wonderful two hours and credit must of course go to all of them as well as Mrs Cracknell and the Director, Mrs Charlesworth, who guided the children in their preparations. Well done to all involved.

Time for me to give it a rest for a couple of months. Thank you for taking the time to read the blog which finishes its fourth year (I know it feels a lot longer!). Have a great Summer and I’ll see you again in September.

Mon 6th July 2015, 21:20

Our Year 6 children took part in their Senior School induction Day on Monday and were given the chance to meet their new tutors and get a feel for what life will be like when they join the Big School in September. They may be a little disappointed if they think that every day will involve opportunities to take part in water-based team building activities but having seen the children on their return it is clear that they are very excited about the move, and so they should be.

Greek Day Greek Day

On Tuesday you could have been forgiven for thinking that the school was being over-run by raging hordes. There were helmet-clad and sword-wielding 8 year olds everywhere and at times I feared for my life. The bloodshed was contained thanks to the efforts of Mrs Nicholls and Mrs Shelbourne who had arranged a Greek Day for the children in Year 3 to enjoy. They were taken back to the days long before austerity and the debt crisis (good cross-curricular opportunity there) to a time of in-fighting and opulence from the ruling elite.

Our Year One children took to the stage for their performance of The Gingerbread Man and all of them were remarkably confident in the way that they delivered their lines. Harvey did a great job as the savvy biscuit-based hero and try as they might, the various characters could not get their teeth into him. The Gingerbread ManThere were laughs a plenty and the most laid back cow you could ever wish to meet. Who knew that the word “Moo” could be so entertaining. Well done to them all.

‘If Music be the food of love...’ On Wednesday evening we were given a musical treat as children from Years 1 to 6 came together to perform on the stage. We had a 54 piece string group, a choir of 85 and piano trios and quartets a plenty. The Pre-Prep brass group were wonderfully entertaining with their playing of their multi-coloured trombones and the children in Years 3 and 4 delighted in performing a Frozen Medley. I am sure that some of the audience were secretly joining in. The staff choir sang ‘Bad Guys’ from Bugsy Malone to rousing and generous applause and our parents choir, The Mamas and Papas, ensured that the only rain we would be getting would be that of the male variety with their version of The Weather Girls classic. Our final song, performed by all of the choir, was Gary Barlow’s ‘Sing’ and sing they most certainly did. A small group of Year 4 children started them going and then the full choir joined in to produce a wall of sound. It was a very fitting end to what was a lovely, sun drenched evening at the Prep School.

The Gingerbread Man

On Friday we welcomed guest to our annual Speech Day and Prize-giving, with guest speaker and poet, Matt Harvey. Matt read some of his poetry with the highlight for the children being the one entitled ‘My doggy don’t go to the toilet’. After listening to me for an hour there were several sleeping children but the mention of “poop” was enough to bring every one of the 200 children back to life and they howled with laughter as Matt gave a recital to remember. In fairness, the parents and grand-parents also joined in the spirit of the occasion and made for a most memorable afternoon.

We move in to the final week of the academic year and the much anticipated Year 6 Play. It promises to be spectacular and I look forward to seeing you there.

Mon 29th June 2015, 08:55

The week began with glorious sunshine and the prospect of a rain free Prep Sports Day, much to the relief of Miss Edwards and Mr Swain who had spent many hours preparing the event. As parents started to gather around the track, armed with tasty picnics, the excitement was growing. Who would lift the house trophy this year? Every child had the chance to take part and to contribute, whether it was on the track or in the field, and they did so with enormous enthusiasm. Records were broken, some of which had stood for over 10 years, and medals were presented to those who performed particularly well. Some of the children resembled Mr T by the end of the afternoon although when I mentioned this they looked blankly at me. “Who is Mr T?” I’m getting old.

Group photo at the World Of Country Life

On Tuesday our Kindergarten children enjoyed a trip to the World Of Country Life and met all manner of creatures from lambs to llamas. Everyone enjoyed themselves and returned to school with many exciting stories from their day away.

On Thursday our Nursery children headed off to Combe Martin Dinosaur Park to enjoy a day of exploration and dinosaur hunting. Thankfully everyone returned in one piece and there were no Jurassic World style dramas although I did come across Casper who was wearing his dinosaur mask. I joined in as he started to roar at me and then he proceeded to chase me down the Atrium. Jurassic World comes to Blundell’s Prep after all!

Combe Martin Dinosaur Park plate of treats

awardOn Thursday evening we welcomed the parents of our Year 6 children to an evening of celebration. The afternoon had been spent preparing menus, drinks and platters of delicious treats and the children then entertained their guests with music and excellent presentations about their time at school. They also showcased just some of the things that they have done as part of their Blundell’s Adventure, Leadership and Service Award before we heard from guest speaker, Pen Farthing, the founder of the dogs charity, Nowzad. It was a tremendous celebration of all that our senior pupils have achieved.

entertaining guests with music entertaining guests with a presentation

presentationFinally not to be outdone by their younger counterparts, our Year 2 children headed to Escot for the annual swamp walk on Friday. As ever, the children were keen to take on the challenge and all came back with big smiles and plenty of swamp still on their bodies!

As I look out of my window I can see the marquee going up, the sure sign that we are coming into the last two weeks of term and a raft of school events for everyone to enjoy. On Wednesday we will gather for the Summer Concert before Speech Day on Friday and then the much anticipated Ball on Saturday night. As always, I would extend the warmest of welcomes to families and friends of the school to join us this week so that you can see the children being recognised for the exceptional young people that they are.

This point of the term is one of the busiest of the year so to throw an ISI inspection into the mix has put a lot of strain on an already hard-working team here at the Prep School. They have been absolutely incredible in their efforts and deserve our highest praise. I look forward to sharing the report when we return to school in September so until then we are just going to have to be patient. Not a virtue that comes easily to me!

Mon 22nd June 2016, 10:00

In my weekly Blog I talk about all of the wonderful things that go on here at Blundell's Prep and next week we are going to get the chance to prove it when we are joined by a team from the Independent school's Inspectorate. I received the call on Tuesday and since then it has been all hands to the pumps in order to make sure that the team of 5 inspectors are able to see just what a remarkable school this is. The school was last inspected in June 2011 and since then a great deal has happened. The Prep and Senior Schools have new Heads and there have been significant developments in just about every aspect of the school but next week affords us the opportunity to really show what we do well here and I for one am looking forward to it. It goes without saying that the staff here have been incredible since I broke the news to them on Tuesday. Initial shock was followed by focused preparations and, dare I say it, a tinge of excitement. They are a remarkable group of people and I am sure that you would all join me in supporting them next week.

There was also the small matter of the day job to consider as this week has been packed to the rafters with events. On Monday we held our Move Up Day and it was great to see so many new faces alongside our own pupils who were very excited to get a taste of life in their new classes. We will be welcoming lots of new children to BPS in September and it was lovely to have so many of them join us on Monday. They were certainly made to feel very welcome indeed and appeared very much at home.

On Tuesday an old tradition of the Boys Vs Parents cricket match was reborn thanks to the efforts of Kit Barnes, one of our Year 6 cricketers. As part of his BALSA plans he organised the event and managed to raise £1,000 for the Nepal Earthquake fund in the process. As I sat at my desk I could hear the animated appeals and howls of laughter emanating from the cricket pitch so I ventured out and was talked into (forced) to bowl two dreadful overs of spin (I blamed the suit and tie, of course!) I think that the rules were rather stretched during the evening as dads were tackled to the ground in between runs, and balls were blasted into various bushes, but there was a great spirit and everyone had fun. In the end the boys managed to gain victory, to their very obvious delight, and to their father's eternal shame.

On Wednesday the sun shone as the Pre-Prep children ventured outside for a day of Outdoor Learning activities and what fun they had. They made fires, whittled sticks to toast marshmallows, foraged for wild plants to combine with vegetables from the school garden to make soup, made bread and built shelters. According to Archie in Year 1, it was the best day of his life. It certainly looked like a lot of fun!

Pre-Prep Outdoor Learning Pre-Prep Outdoor Learning

Our athletes travelled to Millfield on Friday for their annual meet and there was great success for Thomas Labdon who won the shot put with a mighty throw, utilising his power to full effect. He now heads to the Nationals along with Anna Maunder who ran very well and came 2nd in her 800m race, and Eve Nugent who had a great run and came 2nd in her 1500m race. Well done to all the competitors who took part.

Athletics at Millfield

Pre-Prep Parents Sports DayStill on an athletics theme but with slightly different races, on Friday we welcomed our Pre-Prep parents to Sports Day which had to be held in the sports hall as the weather was unkind to us. This did not dampen spirits and our parents were treated to an assortment of races from the traditional sprints through to the less traditional teddy bear races, with prams and silly hats. The children, some as young as 3, had a wonderful time and did their very best in every event. As tradition dictates, the final two races required fathers to ‘bunny hop’ across the hall and our winners were Mr Winchester and Mr Horan, although Mr Horan’s technique was more than a little questionable! The mums then took on the potato and spoon race and the winners were Mrs Lane and Mrs Cox, although some called for a photo finish. Such competitiveness – where do the children get it from?

Pre-Prep parents Sports Day

Fingers crossed for sunshine tomorrow as it is the Prep School's turn to have their Sports Day. The forecast looks good so bring your picnics, marquees, candelabra, etc for what promises to be a great afternoon. See you there.

Mon 15th June 2015, 12:45

As we move into the final four weeks of the academic year the thoughts of our 44 Year 6 children turn to next year and the prospect of a move to Senior School. It is a seminal moment in every child’s life and a not insignificant one for their parents who have to come to terms with the fact that their little boy or girl is not so little any more. Who will keep an eye on them? Will they get lost? Will they cope with the work? Athletics MeetAll questions that will be asked by parents across the country as the new year approaches but interestingly it is less of a concern for the children who, in my experience, tend to cope a little better than their parents when it comes to starting the next stage in their education. Prep Schools are the ideal environments in which to prepare for the move into senior education and when your Prep School happens to be attached to a senior school, all the better. Over the last 3 terms we have been able to introduce our Year 6 children to the ‘Big School’ and to the teachers and the environment in which they will be spending much of their time over the coming years. Our children are familiar with the Senior School Head, they know Mr Marshman our Head of School House and they have visited the classrooms and, most importantly of course, the dining hall! This term they have also spent time in Ondaatje Theatre in preparation for their end of year play and what a performance that promises to be. Over the last five days we have seen this built on again as all of our Year 6 pupils were invited to a morning full of Design and Technology. They met the outstanding team of DT teachers and were tasked with designing a maze, through which a small ball-bearing could pass. It was pretty tricky but I know that every one of the children enjoyed the opportunity to be at the Senior School and to get a taste of what lies ahead for them.

As the year has progressed, so our senior pupils have become increasingly ready to move on and that is exactly what one would hope for. Many of our children have been at the school since they were in Nursery so the final few weeks will be a time for celebration of all that they have accomplished. It will also be a time to think about the future and all of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead. Like all of the parents with children in Year 6, I will be coming to terms with my little girl moving on. She on the other hand will be delighted! I shall try not to be too upset.

Athletics MeetTeddy Bears Picnic

On Thursday of this week, some of our pupils were invited to attend a Writing Day which was run through the Tiverton Literary Festival and hosted by Rebecca Isdell-Carpenter, our Head of English at the Senior school. They were taught all manner of techniques to use in their story writing and produced some wonderful ideas whilst working alongside other children from schools in the local area. On Friday there was an opportunity to head over to the Amory Athletics track to join other local Prep Schools for the annual Blundell’s Athletics Meet which is run by the Senior School Head of PE, Vicki Gill and her team of staff and students. Our children performed with customary enthusiasm and came away with certificates and a large shield as winners of the Junior Competition. As the children came back through the school gate I was regaled with stories of sprinting, jumping and throwing success by a group of very excited children, all of whom had clearly had a fantastic afternoon with our Senior School hosts.

Thankfully the sun put in an appearance for the latter half of the week just in time for our first Teddy Bears Picnic for the families of our Nursery and Kindergarten children which also took place on Friday afternoon. The children and their parents all enjoyed some games in the school grounds as well as a Teddy Bear Hunt in the Nursery playground before tucking into a delicious afternoon tea provided by our catering team. A wonderful way to finish the week!

Teddy Bears Picnic Teddy Bears Picnic Teddy Bears Picnic

The careful management of the transition between phases of education is something that we are always mindful of and this coming week we will be giving our Year 2 children the opportunity to experience what lies ahead for them as they move into Year 3 for their ‘Move Up Morning’. I know that Mrs Shelbourne and Mrs Nicholls have lots of fun things planned and I am certain that all of the children will be ready and raring to head across the car-park in September. All of the children will have time with their new teachers and new classmates, many of whom will be new to the school so we look forward to welcoming them all on Monday morning.

Mon 8th June 2015, 10:10

If you haven’t been hooked on our residential blogs this week then you have certainly missed out. From the home page of our website you can access the Twitter feeds from Years 3 to 6 and see exactly what the children have been up to on their trips to Paignton Zoo, Folly Farm, Dartmoor Adventure Centre and The Ultimate High in North Devon. They have had a great time and have certainly made the most of the opportunity to spend time away from school with their friends. As you might imagine, excitement levels have been reaching fever pitch in the run up to this week and I have been told of some early starts in the days leading up to boarding the buses to head off. I think that the teachers who have spent this week with the children would empathise as they have had one or two early starts as well. At 4.30pm on Friday afternoon we welcomed many of our weary travellers back to BPS, complete with bags full of dirty clothes and a head full of memories to share with families. They all looked very happy, if not rather grubby, and were ready for a week to recharge the batteries. The children also looked quite tired and slightly less grubby.

The value in doing these residential trips is huge. I still remember my first time away from home with friends and in fact we still talk about it when we meet up now, several years (decades) later. Nursery playTravelling together on the bus, the excitement of sharing rooms with mates, seeing how quickly you can cover the floor in your room with clothing, brushing teeth without being asked, wearing the same pair of pants for 4 days, eating packed lunches whilst over-looking fantastic scenery and sitting around a camp fire, singing songs and telling jokes. Forgive my nostalgia but these are very special times for children and infinitely more valuable than time spent in front of a screen (I promise I will not get on my soap box again). Over the last five days our children have climbed Tors, made mouse traps, fashioned boats from oil drums, held newts, waited for badgers (in the rain), learnt about monkeys, pretended to be monkeys and have attempted to bounce across two giant inflatable balls. Nursery playThey have also learnt a great deal about habitats, nature, animals, the coast, our woodland, the list goes on and on. Most importantly they will have learnt a lot about themselves and will have been challenged to try new things that perhaps they would not have done had they not been with friends in that environment. For some of these children it may have been quite tough and they may have felt homesick but that is also part of the learning experience and one that is very sensitively managed by the staff who have given their time and energies so willingly this week.

I must say a very big thank you, not only to all of the teachers who have accompanied the trips and taken the pictures, but also to Bev for her sterling work with the blogs, the Twitter feed and the Facebook page. She is driving our use of social media forward at a pace and I know that this has been greatly appreciated by those who have so enjoyed seeing what the children have been up to. If you haven’t taken a look at the blogs then please do so by clicking on these links: Year 3, Year 4, Year 5, Year 6.

Nursery play

This week has also seen our Kindergarten and Nursery children take to the stage for their summer productions. Our Kindergarten class performed ‘Hooray for the Little Red Hen’ and sang their hearts out for the audience. Our Nursery children were the essence of cute in their performance of ‘Commotion in the Ocean’ and showed an awful lot of composure when faced with a packed hall of expectant parents and grand-parents. It never ceases to amaze me when I watch our 2 and 3 year olds on the stage and is testimony to the confidence that they are given at school. In both productions the costumes and face paint were amazing as you can see from the photos below. As always, a special thank you must go to our teachers and also to our team of Teaching Assistants who play such an important part in caring for the children.

Nursery play   Nursery play

I have also spent time observing lessons in our Pre-Prep over the last few weeks and have had the privilege to witness some exceptional practice. Listening to 7 year old children discussing the concepts of freedom and democracy whilst also considering the mindsets of both conquerors and the conquered is humbling and requires some very skilful facilitating by the teacher. I also saw a model of differentiation in our Kindergarten with every child supported and challenged with perfect pace and endless opportunities for extension. It also gave me the opportunity to join in with finding 3D shapes in the sandpit so I was very happy to oblige. Our Pre-Prep is buzzing with excitement, so the many potential new Blundell’s families who are visiting after half term are in for a real treat.

It has been a super five weeks, full of activity and opportunity, but the time has come to draw breath before we start the 2nd half of term and all of the excitement that it brings. Happy holidays to you all.

Tue 26th May 2015, 10:20

If I had to pick one of the hot topics in schools I would suggest that homework would be right up at the top of that list. Homework divides opinion like no other subject. This was very evident at a Welcome Meeting during the Autumn Term when one parent asked if homework could be set over the weekend when more support could be given, as the working week can often be very busy and completing homework is a challenge. There were nods of agreement from some, but others disagreed, suggesting that during the week was better as they wanted the weekends free to explore other activities and have some down time. Others felt that a combination of both was appropriate and a consensus could not be found. My response to the assembled group of parents was to highlight the challenges that we face in trying to get it right for everyone. It is simply impossible. However, that would not stop us trying and so we set about asking our parents, children and staff what they thought about homework and the response was fascinating.

You might think that the children would say one thing and one thing alone – “No Homework!” Indeed, if you had been in our General Election themed assembly last week you would have seen Carsten elected as MP for Year 6 on this very manifesto pledge. Yet the results from the survey undertaken by all Prep School children suggested otherwise. Only one child said there should be no homework, the lowest in all 3 focus groups, even the teachers! The more cynical viewpoint may suggest that the children are used to homework, institutionalised even, or that they were fearful of expressing their true feelings. Anyone who has spent time in the company of our children will know that they are always keen to express their opinions and rarely hold back from saying what they think so you can be certain that this data is pretty robust. It is clear that the children understand the value of homework and see the reason for completing it, a view that was unanimously shared with parents and teachers. What became very clear when looking at the data across all year groups and from all stakeholders was that there should be a level of flexibility given to children, particularly our youngest pupils, with a clear pathway of progression that allows the children to enjoy our outstanding extra-curricular programme, quality family time, and purposeful and relevant homework which reinforces topics learnt in class whilst also developing the children’s skills of independent learning. Reading should be a fundamental part of what is supported at home, as should assignments designed to reinforce and consolidate the excellent teaching across core subjects, with the foundation subjects also included as the children move through the Prep School and benefit from an ever broader curriculum.

In many ways, the survey has shown that we are doing a lot of things right but we feel that it could be better still. To that end we are going to make some changes to the way that homework is organised across the school and this will be shared more fully in Friday's iLetter but key themes will include no homework at half terms and greater flexibility during the working week, with the opportunity to utilise week days and weekends to support the younger children. We are also going to provide a definitive guide to the homework pathway that children will travel as they move through the school so that parents can know that to expect. This will show the clear progression that children will make as they prepare to move into senior education. We will not be setting more homework but we will be looking more closely at what we set and ensuring that consolidation and reinforcement are at the heart of every homework task. We will also offer children in Year 4 the chance to complete homework at school during afternoon Prep sessions, leaving evenings at home free to enjoy family time together. It is from this solid framework that we will continue to support all of the children in their learning, whilst tailoring the homework to individual needs.

As a parent of Prep School children I see first-hand the impact of homework but I also see the importance. Our children lead lives that are full of exciting opportunities but they are also given the time to play and to enjoy childhood, something that I know BPS parents value very highly, and rightly so. We want to support this balance and therefore will always look to ensure that homework is fit for purpose. Homework must enrich the children's lives, not act as something to be endured. I realise that this is not always the day to day experience that many parents face, but helping our children to master the discipline of sitting and completing homework is an essential part of a Preparatory School education and one that we shall continue to monitor and evaluate over the coming months.

This week is Trips Week in the Prep School and Years 3 to 6 will head out on various residential excursions and expeditions. Do keep an eye on the various Blogs that may be accessed through the Home page of our website as they will provide news and photos from these exciting trips. I am looking forward to joining Year 6 at the Ultimate Adventure Centre in North Devon and I might even have a go on the ‘Total Wipeout’ style course. I think I may get a little wet!

Mon 18th May 2015, 11:45

Our School motto is ‘Non Sibi’ which for those people who did not study Latin at school (me included) translates as Not for Oneself. The idea that we actively look for opportunities to help others, putting their needs before our own, is something that permeates every part of school life. The children take it very seriously and you only have to tour the school to see this in action. Over the last week we have invited families to join us for a 5 day open event, during which time they have seen the children in action. Girls' cricketWithout fail, my guests have been welcomed into every classroom and as we have walked the corridors, children have held doors and taken great care to ensure that our visitors have been well looked after. In truth, you would get the same experience if even if it was not an Open Week. Our children are very thoughtful of others and this has been evidenced through the efforts of the Year 6 children in particular. Our senior year group are fully immersed in their BALSA (Blundell’s Adventure, Leadership and Service Award) and have demonstrated their understanding on Non Sibi through their focus on the Service element of the award. What has been remarkable is the creativity, industry and initiative that has gone into all sorts of charitable and fund-raising events. There have been countless charities supported, including Macmillan, Marie Curie, Help for Heroes and Parkinsons to name some of the larger ones but some smaller, local charities and churches have also been the focus for our budding fund-raisers. They have organised plant sales, swimathons, concerts, bake sales and plenty of other engaging enterprises involving Smartie tubes and helium balloons. Hundreds of pounds have been raised but alongside this has been something just as worthwhile. The children have understood how they can have a positive impact on other people’s lives and this makes me very proud of them all.

Take Joseph as an example. He decided to bake some delicious brownies for the people in a local care home and spent several hours chatting to the elderly residents, some of whom suffer from dementia. As one might imagine, this is far from easy for an 11 year old and yet he wanted to do it and when discussing his experience with Mr Mildren, commented that he had never realised what dementia was until now. Joseph’s kindness towards others had made a real difference to these people and he had also learnt a great deal in the process. There are many similar stories throughout the experiences being enjoyed by Year 6 pupils this term and a shining example of our school ethos at its best.

Rounders   More rounders!

In Monday morning’s assembly we talked about the election and it was impressive to see how knowledgeable the children were on the electoral process. We held our own election with four party leaders and their potential MPs from each year group to represent the school’s constituencies. It was hotly contested but in the end it was Carsten’s manifesto promise/pledge/vow of ‘No homework’ which won through and ensured that he was duly elected to represent Year 6, with party leader Kit moving in to Number 10. The election had clearly captured the imagination of the children as later in the week I sat at lunch with some Year 3 children who were keen to share who their parents were going to vote for. BALSAIt sounded like there were some healthy debates going on at home and the children had taken a great interest in this as their rationales for who they would choose were remarkably thoughtful.

Other events this week have included the baking of ‘delicious’ Carrot buns as part of the History teaching of Rationing in Year 6. They seemed to go down well so that could be an alternative to some of sweet treats enjoyed at home – take note parents! Our Pre-Prep children enjoyed music outdoors on Friday afternoon with guest musician Mervyn Bedford bringing his own brand of musicianship to Blundell’s Prep. We had trains and hula hoops, all used to bring music to life in our lovely school grounds.

Our Girls cricket team was also in action on Friday and had a super game against Wellington, batting, bowling and fielding with great skill to win by 30 runs. We have a very talented group of girls in Year 6 and all of them were in action on Saturday but with a Rounders bat this time. Pyjama and Movie NightBoth teams played in the Millfield tournament with Miss Edwards’s team playing brilliantly before being narrowly beaten in the semi-final and Mrs Baily’s team managing to bring home the winner’s trophy, defeating The Downs in the final. Well done to all of the girls.

The highlight of this week for many has been the Pyjama and Movie night. Votes were cast during the week and movies were selected. The vast array of onesies on show was something to behold. Hotdog sausages a plenty were prepared and duly devoured. It was a super evening and our thanks go to the FoBP Committee for all of their hard work and to the teachers for helping to supervise.

The last 3 weeks have simply flown by but there is plenty more going on this week and then trips week to look forward to. Excitement in certainly building.

Mon 11th May 2015, 10:40

How well do you know your local history? We live in a ‘Global Village’ where connections can be made across the world in seconds and yet many people may not be aware of what is happening just a mile away. I think that it is important for children to have an understanding of their local community as well as those in other countries across the world and this week at BPS we have seen our youngest children out and about, in and around Tiverton. On Monday, our Year 3 children embarked on a trek from Halberton to the Tiverton Basin, 3 miles in total and taking in the splendour of one of Tiverton’s most significant landmarks, the Grand Western Canal. They combined some local history with awareness of the rich wildlife that inhabits the canal, enjoying some pond-dipping after lunch.

Canal trek, Year 3 Canal trek, Year 3

Canal trek, Year 3 Tiverton Museum, Year 1 Tiverton Museum, Year 1 Tiverton Museum, Year 1 Tiverton Museum, Year 1 Tiverton Museum, Year 1 Tiverton Castle, Year 2

Our Pre-Prep children have also been on their travels this week, again focusing on the local area. Tiverton Castle, Year 2Year One visited Tiverton Museum as part of their History curriculum and were very well looked after, although I think they were slightly shocked by how strict the teachers were in Victorian times. Certainly nothing like our wonderful Mrs Nash! Even closer to home is our Chapel at Blundell’s and on Thursday the Year One children were on the move once again. Pecorama trip for the NurseryHaving spent time in our school chapel during our Christmas and Easter Services it was lovely for the children to take a closer look at this beautiful building and they were well looked after by our School Chaplain, The Reverend Hunt. Our Year Two children were not going to miss out and they headed to Tiverton Castle for a guided tour with Mrs Gordon. As one might expect, the children were fascinated by the history, especially the toilets! On Friday it was the turn of our Nursery to head to Pecorama which for many of these children was their first ever school trip. There were many highlights, from investigating the model train exhibition, exploring the moon and sun gardens, to a ride a on a miniature steam train, but I am reliably informed by Mrs Southgate that the adventure play area was the biggest hit and not just with the children! The journey home was considerably quieter than the one to get there with most of the children enjoying a little snooze.

Pecorama trip for the Nursery Pecorama trip for the Nursery

Pecorama trip for the Nursery

Our News sections on the website are updated throughout the week so do keep an eye on what is going on during this action-packed term.

We look forward to welcoming guests to our Open Week over the coming 5 days with a number of families already signed up to come and see the school and meet the children.

Mon 4th May 2015, 08:10

HMS Bounty is launched!As the children returned to school in glorious sunshine on Monday, excitement levels in the Pre-Prep were higher than usual in anticipation of a new arrival. The wonderful galleon 'Bounty' had docked in the playground over the holidays and what a spectacular sight she was! Thanks to a very generous donation by our Friends of Blundell's Prep Committee, we have been able to build this super resource and over the last 5 days it has been thoroughly explored. It has been particularly striking to see the many different kinds of games that are played both on and around the ship, and not all are pirate themed. Encouraging imaginative play is something that we look to build into what we do every day and this is not exclusive to our younger years. During our recent holiday club, FAB, I saw children in Year 6 and above, making up games and enjoying the freedom to use their creativity on the HMS Bounty. It was lovely to see and a fundamental part of childhood. As I mentioned, it was the efforts of our FoBP Committee that allowed us to purchase the ship and on Wednesday morning we held our official launch to bless her and all who sail on her, and I was delighted to welcome the Chair of the committee, Helen Williams, to do just that. We decided that the customary breaking of a bottle of champagne was perhaps inappropriate so instead we cut a ribbon and then released a helium filled bottle of bubbly into the sky to great delight and excitement from our youngest children. HMS BountyWe watched it disappear over the Senior School and into the distance before heading into classes to start the day.

At the start of this summer term I would like to mention the many events that are taking place over the next 10 weeks and the endless opportunities to be part of the school community. The children are already looking forward to the Pyjama and Movie night on the 8th May but before that we have the Mamas and Papas concert to enjoy next Friday, an event to which all are invited. On 15th May we will be joined by Majestic Wine for an evening of wine tasting and having seen what will be on offer I am sure that a great time will had by all. Looking further ahead we have the summer ball to look forward to and tickets are on sale now and are selling fast. Tickets for all these events can be purchased from the School Office.

The musical extravaganza that is the summer concert, as well as teatime concerts, will be an opportunity to see the children show their musical abilities on the big stage. The creative arts week exhibition will showcase the children's prolific efforts during the spring term with the school's Atrium transformed into an art gallery for the week. We also have the usual array of sporting events with the sports days being the obvious highlight. As is always the case with events at BPS, a warm welcome in the form of a spectacular tea will be on offer to all.

Our school community is a very special place and that is always brought home when we welcome people to the school. Just this week I have spent time with half a dozen guests, all of whom have commented on the sense of warmth that emanates from the school. It is a fundamental part of our ethos and I encourage everyone to be part of it. Have a super term.

Mon 27th Apr 2015, 09:10

Spring Term 2015

The Easter holidays have arrived and are much needed at the end of this busy term. The calendar has offered a huge number of opportunities for the children to learn new things and they have grabbed every moment with customary enthusiasm. House Cross-CountryEven during this last week they have been as keen as ever to stretch themselves both physically and mentally. On Monday the Prep School children headed down to ‘Ten Acre Field’ for the House Cross country and every one of them gave their best in chilly conditions. Aside from some sparkling individual performances, the thing that really stood out was the camaraderie between all children, irrespective of House. There were big cheers for the front runners but there were even bigger cheers for those children who had to battle their way around the course. It was lovely to see and was noticed by many of our parent spectators, some of whom were reminiscing to their own cross-country experiences, both good and bad!

Not satisfied with running on Monday, our Year 5 and Year 6 children headed to Exmoor for their end of term expeditions and braved the elements to walk over 5 kilometres, Exmoor walkersguided by Exmoor Ranger, Dave. They looked at how the landscape had been shaped and heard all about the ancient history of the area. They looked at the geology and had a great time breaking quartz in search of crystals. They asked questions and were fascinated by all that they saw – a great way to end a term that has been packed full of chances to get outside to explore our local environment.

On Tuesday we welcomed local primary schools to the Prep School to take part in our annual Under 7 Tag Rugby Festival. The children ran, dodged, passed and tagged their hearts out and had a great time in the process.

On Wednesday the sun was shining again and just in time to welcome ‘Yarak Birds’ to BPS. They brought with them the most beautiful birds of prey and the children heard all about these magnificent creatures, with every child having the opportunity to hold one if they wished to. As the birds swooped down just above their heads the children were captivated although the Rooks which inhabit the trees around the Prep School were less than impressed.

Birds of Prey   Birds of Prey

The term finished with the Easter Service in Chapel and we were delighted to welcome Reverend Steph Jeffs who told the Easter story with the help of the enthusiastic and noisy congregation. She also included some members of staff through their balloon ‘look-alikes’, much to the delight of the children. It was a very fitting way to say goodbye to the Spring Term and to look forward to the Summer and all that it brings.

Happy holidays everyone.

Mon 30th Mar 2015, 13:35

It appears that Spring has arrived and we have all enjoyed some much needed sunshine this week. Anyone who was on ‘Ten acre field’ at Blundell’s on Friday afternoon may have needed some sun cream as several hundred young athletes gathered to take part in the Larkman Cup. The Larkman CupThis much loved Cross-country race has been taking place at Blundell’s for many years now having been rescued by Steve Mildren, and his contribution to the event was recognised on Friday afternoon to great applause from the assembled runners and supporters. In terms of community events, it doesn’t get much better than a warm afternoon of supporting children from the region, ranging in age from 7 to 13, and giving their all for their respective teams. It was the embodiment of a sporting culture that we would all seek to create – one of inclusion alongside the recognition of individual success – children giving their best, being physically active and having fun. It is all too easy to make winning the priority but sport is so much more than that. Our A teams have enjoyed considerable success this term but so have our B teams and on Monday we will be recognising their achievements in our Awards assembly. Our Under 9 B Netball team have had a fantastic season, as have our U11 B team. Our U9 footballers have made huge strides forward and as I watched them play on Thursday afternoon I was struck by the confidence and the skill with which they played. Our U10 netball players have not always found their matches easy but they give their best and had a thrilling game against Wellington on Wednesday, drawing 4-4 in the process. Our Under 8 netball and football teams have shown the great strength in depth that we have in Year 3 and have performed with relentless enthusiasm. There is a busy sporting programme on offer and one in which all of the children play an active part.

QuizOn Monday our Quiz Team headed off to the regional qualifier, keen to show their knowledge in a wide range of areas. After the first few rounds they were right at the top but fell away a little at the end. Having heard some of the questions I am not surprised! It was tough going but they all enjoyed the experience and were keen to have another go next year. This year, Mr Moore decided to extend Quiz Club to include a House Competition so on Friday the Prep School gathered to see who would be crowned champions. It was a tough competition but in the end it was Raleigh who were victorious as they correctly answered the tie-breaker question. The whole event was great fun and something that we will certainly repeat next year.

On Wednesday our children joined musicians from the Senior School in the inaugural Spring Concert and what a wonderful event it was. Our young instrumentalists had the opportunity to be part of the orchestra and to sit alongside their older counterparts, something that I imagine will inspire them onto even greater musical feats. Our choristers were in fine voice and sang with customary enthusiasm under Mrs Cracknell’s expert conducting before the first part of the concert was brought to a close with ‘The best day of my life’ complete with military drummers. After the interval we moved to the School Chapel in order to enjoy Faure’s Requiem, with beautiful solo performances from a number of ex-Prep School students. The whole evening was a celebration of Music at Blundell’s and congratulations must go to Senior School Director of Music, Dr Leaman for his efforts in bringing everyone together.

Concert

On Friday our Year 2 children took to the stage to perform ‘The Moon Thieves’. As I watched them perform I was struck by how quickly the last 4 years have passed – I remember many of these children take to the stage when they were in the Nursery! I think that it was quite an emotional moment for some of the mums and dads who were there to watch as this was the last time that the children will be on stage in the Pre-Prep. The children did a super job and looked great in their costumes and face paint.

The Moon Thieves

Solar eclipse watchersOf course, Friday did also include the small matter of a solar eclipse. With safety glasses available for all, and following a very serious H&S talk, we headed outside to gaze up at this celestial event. The children were amazed and were also struck by the grey-metallic hue that filled the sky alongside the significant dip in temperature. Another fascinating experience for the children at the end of a week that was packed full of excitement.

With only five days of the term remaining, there is plenty more excitement ahead.

Mon 23rd Mar 2015, 08:05

We returned last night from a whistle-stop trip to Brighton for the U11 girls National Netball Finals. Having qualified in 2nd place at the Regional Heats at Millfield, the girls faced a pool of nine teams, and the prospect of eight tough matches in rather chilly conditions. Netball squadThe beautiful setting of Roedean School saw hundreds of top class junior netball players gather together to compete for national honours and our squad of 10 girls gave their very best. There were some very close matches between schools who could only be separated by one or two goals and sadly our girls found the going to be very tough. They finished with two wins, one draw and five defeats but in the final game they came from behind to score the winning point as the hooter sounded. They had won that game but had not managed to qualify for the latter stages of the competition. They were understandably disappointed. They had failed to do what they had set out to do but the experience was far from a failure. The girls held their heads high, congratulated one another and shared in the experience of getting to these final stages. As a learning experience it was hugely valuable, even though it was painful for the girls who had hoped for so much more.

The word ‘failure’ is one that should be handled with great care as the negativity associated with it can be terribly destructive in a young child, indeed, in all people. It is therefore all the more important that children experience failure, understand it and, most importantly, learn to use it to their advantage. This is difficult, very difficult, and some people struggle their whole lives to master it, many often failing to do so. I remember well the feeling of utter disappointment at losing matches or not managing to get full marks in a test (a regular experience of failure for me!). It would hurt and that feeling would often linger for some time. As a parent it is also hard to see your child disappointed and our natural response is to protect them from these feelings but this is not always the best approach. The simple fact of the matter is that we all experience disappointment – it is inevitable and therefore having the tools to deal with it becomes so very important.

This week I had the privilege to deliver a lecture on ‘Dealing with Disappointment and Failure’ to the Year 8 children as part of their School House Diploma. It was something that I was delighted to do as it is a topic that I have some experience of and one that I feel strongly that children should learn about. I was slightly anxious about standing in front of Year 8 children again as I haven’t done that for a few years now and I had to consider if my usual methods to foster engagement were going to work. Thankfully the promise of Fruit Pastilles for success in the ‘Million Dollar Catch’ was enough to keep most of them interested. We looked at typical times when they had felt disappointed and then went on to explore how they felt and how this led to a subsequent reaction. Through the medium of jigsaw puzzles, we then explored strategies for future situations in which failure and disappointment might be felt. The SH Diploma has a very strong component based on the explicit teaching of ‘Character Education’ and I provided the children with a toolkit to use in the future. It included four key tools:

  • Decide what success is for YOU success and failure are subjective so do not be bound by rigid measures.
  • Learn something POSITIVE from your failure – there is always something to learn from failure so look for it.
  • It’s NOT PERSONAL! – Sometimes, even if you work incredibly hard and do everything right, you will fail. Don’t take it personally.
  • Make your own LUCK – if you stay positive and look for future opportunities to succeed you are more likely to find them – keep your chin up!

The responses that I received were very varied but one thing that stood out was the children’s willingness to be open and honest, and to reflect on their experiences. They showed remarkable maturity and an impressive understanding. Cooking for Red Nose DayObviously their answers will be put to the test in the weeks to come but I got a strong sense that these young people are well equipped to face the many challenges that are presented to them. I plan to talk to the Prep School children on this subject this week so we shall see what they have to say on the topic. I am sure they will be equally willing to share their ideas – they usually are!

This week sees our Quiz team heading off for the Regional qualifiers of ‘Quiz Club’ a national competition. We wish them well as they take on other Prep School children. At the end of the week we will have our inaugural House Quiz Competition and I look forward to seeing how the children get on. We also have the Spring Concert to look forward to on Wednesday evening as our orchestra and choir join the Senior School musicians to put on a treat for the Blundell’s community. Tickets are available from the Senior School office so please do join us if you can. We will then finish to the week with the solar eclipse that will take place at 9.26am on Friday. We have the glasses ready so fingers crossed for a cloud-free morning. Clear skies would also help the runners in the Larkman Cup as we welcome hundreds of young athletes to Blundell’s. Some of them will experience success whilst other will feel disappointed but all will learn from taking part and that is the most important thing.

Cooking for Red Nose Day Red Nose Day

I thought I would include a few photos from Friday’s Red Nose Day fund-raising efforts. Lots of money raised and plenty of fun was had in the process.

Mon 16th Mar 2015, 07:55

Every week at the Prep School is packed full of sport and this week has been no exception. Not only have the children had the chance to represent the school at Netball, football and cross-country, but they have also used sport as a medium for learning more about Maths. Yes, our Year 6 children headed to Exeter Racecourse on Tuesday to take part in a Maths Day. Now when I heard about this I put numbers and horses together and thought that we were giving the children an early introduction to the ‘Gee-Gees’ but this was certainly not the case. The children were shown around the course and learnt about everything that goes on at this busy racing venue with tasks linked to a whole variety of mathematical challenges. They had a great day and whilst the Prep School was being pelted with hail the racecourse was bathed in sunshine. Outdoor Learning for Year 6Thankfully the weather improved in time for Year 6 to enjoy an outdoor learning workshop on Wednesday morning but had the weather been inclement it would not have been a problem as the theme of the morning was shelter building. The children, ably assisted by the teachers, managed to build some remarkable structures which even included a toilet, and a mezzanine level – the benefits of being in Mr Mildren’s group! Everyone had a great time and further developed their skills of teamwork and communication, such an important part of their preparations for life beyond the Prep School. It is interesting to see our Year 6 children, our senior pupils, change with every week as they move ever closer towards the teenage years. That may fill some parents with a sense of dread at what is to come but what I am seeing is a group of children who are growing in maturity with every day. At this age it is very noticeable and it has been lovely to see the way that their relationships with one another have developed and strengthened with the enormous array of co-curricular activities in which they are involved. This is unique time in their education, free from the pressures of examinations, and in the ideal environment to develop so many social skills.

Netball   Netball

In Year 6 we expect the children to show greater independence, both in thought and deed, and one way to encourage and strengthen this is to spend time away from home. In the summer our Year 6 children will head to North Devon for their residential and during half term they had 4 days in Jersey. Next weekend the U11 Netballers will head to Brighton for the National Netball Finals, having qualified as Regional runners-up at Millfield on Thursday and we wish them well for every success. Another opportunity that many of the children have enjoyed in recent weeks has been the chance to head to SH for an overnight stay and a taste of what boarding can offer. They all had a super time but they also got a glimpse of the next stage in their lives and an environment in which more will be expected of them. Our leaver’s programme built around the Blundell’s Adventure, Leadership and Service Award certainly supports the transition to senior school but we must all expect more of the children if this next step is to be a smooth one.

RugbyOur school teams have had a lot to cheer about this week. I mentioned our National Netball finalists and our cross country runners who brought home the winner’s trophy from the Stover competition on Friday. We enjoyed mixed success at Mount Kelly on Wednesday with wins for the Under 11 hockey players but narrow defeats for our ever improving under 10 teams. The U11 and U10 girls played some superb netball to win three from four matches against King’s Hall and our Under 9’s performed well with wins against Exeter, Wellington and St. John’s. On Saturday our Under 9 footballers were in action at the Millfield Tournament and they played with great spirit to be runners-up. Our Under 9 netballers were in sparkling form in the Queen’s Tournament and were able to come home with the winners shield.

RugbyOn Thursday afternoon I spent 2½ hours talking to all of our Year 2 children and it was, as it always is, a highlight of the year for me. Having the opportunity as Head Master to spend 1:1 time with the children is rare but as part of their transition from Year 2 to 3, I have 5 minute ‘chats’ with them all and it always provides an interesting insight into the world of the 6 year old! I heard about family holidays, favourite authors and sporting achievements. I also learnt how pearls are formed, the wonders of Lego Mixels and how to play a Harmonica! The children were, without exception, confident, articulate and a delight to talk to.

There is lots to look forward to over the week to come, the highlight of which may well be Red Nose Day and the opportunity for the children to make their faces ‘funny for money.’ I can only imagine what they are going to look like!

Mon 9th Mar 2015, 07:55

Pancake racesSo this has been a busy week. Now, I often say this and it is indeed true of most weeks, but this week has been jam-packed full of events. Aside from the number, it is also the variety that is most striking. We started the week with the much loved annual pancake races and after some ‘robust’ pancakes were made, the children then ran and flipped their way around the playground to the delight of watching parents. This is one of the most hotly contested house competitions and it was the turn of Raleigh to win, much to Mr Mildren’s delight – he was heard to say “This was the competition I really wanted to win in my final year”. Running around with a frying pan in your hands would not have been advised by our guests from the Fire Service who spoke to children in Years 2 and 5 about safety in the home. This invaluable workshop was hugely informative and greatly enjoyed by the children. The day ended with the Speech and Drama Recital in which 27 of our children performed for an appreciative audience. Some of our Year 3 children were performing for the first time and they were remarkably composed. Many of these children headed to the Senior School on Thursday and Friday for their LAMDA exams so we wish them well for some excellent results in a few weeks’ time.

Speech and Drama recitals   Speech and Drama recitals   House football

On Tuesday, our Junior children enjoyed their football and netball house matches and these were as competitive as ever. In wet and rather muddy conditions the children gave their all as you can see in these pictures. NetballWednesday morning saw the children enjoy much warmer and drier conditions as they joined Years 7 and 8 in Ondaatje Theatre to enjoy a production from Onatti, a French theatre company. Several children were recruited to help and everyone enjoyed themselves and learnt a great deal in the process. The teachers are always looking for opportunities to bring different year groups together and this was the case in Computing lessons this week as Year 6 children had the chance to teach children in Years 1 and 2. Our oldest pupils have been making computer games and they invited some of our younger pupils to play them and to hear about how they were made. It was a lovely example of the power of collaboration across age groups and our senior pupils relished the opportunity to share their creations.

DramaOn Wednesday evening we saw a number of our Year 6 pupils enjoy a Taster Boarding night in School House. With the introduction of boarding for all children in Years 5 and 6 this year we are keen to give our children the chance to experience boarding and I have been delighted with the take-up. They all had a great time and there will be seven more children having a taste of the boarding life when they head to SH next week.

On Friday our Year 5 children headed to the woods for a morning of outdoor activities. Our own woodland school is really taking shape and we are lucky to have the woodland and the dedication of the teachers to make this exciting project work. They made charcoal pictures using charcoal that had been made during previous workshops. They then had a number of investigations to complete before the mandatory outdoor cooking over a fire took place, and what delicious fare they created.

In amongst the workshops, theatre trips, boarding nights and pancake races, there was also plenty of sport. Our usual Wednesday and Thursday fixtures brought lots of competitive matches and a good spread of wins. On Friday our senior sevens team were in action at the Plymouth Sevens and returned with medals, much to their delight. Disco dancing!We hope that our equestrian team and our Under 10 netball players will do the same as they are in action over the weekend in competitions at Bicton and Queen’s College respectively.

Disco

It would be remiss of me not to mention what was, for many, the highlight of the week – the school disco. With One Direction and The Vamps (a Blundell’s favourite) blaring out at high volume, the children danced the night away, consuming large quantities of candy floss on the way. A big thank you as always to our FoBP Committee for their hard work in organising this for the children to enjoy.

Mon 2nd Mar 2015, 08:05

When I first joined Blundell’s Prep I heard about a very special week that took place every year during the spring term. I was told that it was an opportunity to collapse the timetable in order to do lots of creative art and it was for the whole week. Little did I know just how wonderful a week it would turn out to be and 4 years later I would pick it out as a highlight of the school year and perhaps the best example of what our school offers the children. Creative Arts Week - paintingBeing an Independent school is a great privilege as it allows us to determine what is best for the children in our care and Creative Arts Week is the perfect illustration of that independence in action. To have the opportunity to focus on a series of major projects, be they art, music or drama based, is hugely satisfying and you only had to spend time with the children and teachers to see, and indeed feel, the energy and purpose that was ever-present over the last 5 days. As I visited classes from Nursery to Year 6, I was struck not only by the variety of activities but also by the atmosphere that emanated from the 225 young artists. They were captivated by what they were doing, utterly focused on their work, although they would freely tell you that this was “not work”. We had clay bird feeders being made in Year 3, a herd of willow deer and colourful dream catchers in the Pre-Prep, totems and tie dye t-shirts in Year 4, milk bottle birds in Year 5 and finger knitting in Year 6 – and this was just the first day! Throughout the week the children were given the chance to experience a wide variety of art mediums and they made the most of every opportunity. It is difficult to capture in the blog the sheer scale of what has been achieved this week (hopefully the photos will help) but none of this would have been possible without the contribution of our hard working teachers, willing volunteers, guest artists and the two ladies who masterminded the whole programme, Mrs Aldridge and Miss Brook. These photos provide a taste of what went on but we also have the exhibition to look forward to later in the school year.

Creative Arts Week - music   Creative Arts Week - music

Creative Arts Week - music   Creative Arts Week   Creative Arts Week

Creative Arts Week - painting   Creative Arts Week - painting

Creative Arts WeekSo half term is upon us and everyone is ready to have a week off, hopefully to enjoy a good rest before returning for the 2nd half of the term. Creative Arts Week - wickerOur Year 6 children are going to need to set their alarm clocks for 3am as they head to Jersey for their annual sports tour. Good luck to them all, and thank you to Mr Swain, Miss Edwards, Mrs Watson and Mr Morris who will be accompanying them.

It is always good to try new things as you may find that they hold a previously unknown attraction. This week I have discovered a love for finger knitting and along with all of our male cohort in Year 6, have discovered the cathartic effect of working with colourful wool. It has been a revelation. They tell me that their knitting will be used to do some ‘Yarn bombing’. Sounds interesting! Happy half term to everyone.

wicker reindeer

Mon 16th Feb 2015, 08:15

We often talk about challenging the children to be their best selves, to make the most of the opportunities in front of them and to achieve all that they can. This takes various forms and crosses all aspects of school life. For some children it may be as seemingly simple as putting their hand up to answer questions in class or coming into their classrooms on their own. It could be trying hard to overcome difficulties with hand-writing or taking extra time to learn weekly spellings. Often these challenges require the children to overcome a psychological hurdle and that is where the role of the teacher becomes so crucial. This struck me this week as I was chatting to teachers across both Pre-Prep and Prep school. I have been out of school for a couple of days at various meetings so catching up on all that has been going on in the school has been a priority. As I listened to the teachers talk of their pupils I was struck by the sheer volume of knowledge that they have when it comes to the daily lives of the children in their care. The subject matter can vary greatly but what is abundantly clear is the time, effort and attention to detail that is put into ensuring that all of their charges are given the support that they need to meet the challenges that we set them. The teachers are the children's advocates and they are relentless in their efforts.

Teaching is a remarkable privilege and the role of the form teacher is ever so important. I think that this is perfectly summarised by the words of Haim Ginott with a quotation that has stuck with me for many years.

I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming. (Haim G. Ginott)

In the news today it has been said that there is a shortfall of 35,000 teachers a year with demand far outstripping supply. The reasons for this are many and not for me to tackle here but perhaps one reason is that many teachers feel that they are not allowed to do the job that they entered teaching to do, namely spending their time helping children to become their best selves. Although paperwork is important it should not be to the detriment of excellent teaching and outstanding pastoral care and how fortunate we are in our school to be able to make those two areas our priority. It is therefore unsurprising that our recent advert for a new teacher has received a huge amount of interest. People want to work in our school and much of this comes down to being able to support highly motivated children and work alongside highly motivated teachers.

The importance of the teacher in helping children to overcome a significant personal challenge was illustrated on Friday when our cross-country team headed to the coast to run in the St. Petroc's race. This took in the beautiful Cornish coast but also required the children, some as young as 7, to run in strong Arctic winds. The thought alone makes me reach for the thermals but our runners took on the challenge and ran out winners in three of four age groups, coming 2nd in the fourth. They were remarkable in the courage and determination that they showed, brilliantly supported by Mr Mildren and Miss Edwards as well as some very hardy parents!

The week ahead will see the children focus on exploring their creative sides with a full immersion in all things art, music and drama based. Creative Arts Week is a highlight of the calendar and we look forward to welcoming our guest artists and willing volunteers. Once again it will be the teachers, led this coming week by our Prep Head of Art, Mrs Aldridge and Pre-Prep Head of Art, Miss Brook, who will ensure that the children get the very best opportunities to explore their creative sides. It certainly promises to be a huge amount of fun and the teachers will be on hand to help the children make the most of every opportunity.

Mon 9th Feb 2015, 08:10

This week I have invited our Director of Music, Bethan Cracknell, to share her thoughts on Music at Blundell’s Prep. We are fortunate to have a wealth of musical opportunities for the children to enjoy and a team of experienced and talented teachers to guide the children in their musical endeavours. In this Blog, Bethan shares her passion for music and her advice on how to promote good habits for practising. Happy reading.

"Ah music," he said, wiping his eyes. "A magic beyond all we do here." (J.K. Rowling, 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone')

This quote has got me reflecting on the past few weeks and music within the Prep School. Our trip to Birmingham for the Young Voices Concert was an experience that I have never had before and certainly one I will never forget. To be amongst 6000 children singing and dancing in an arena lit by thousands of mini torches was the complete essence of a magical experience. As I looked around at our children singing, dancing, smiling and laughing I couldn’t help but be moved and immensely proud of all of them. “A great song should lift your heart, warm the soul and make you feel good” (Colbie Caillat). I think that anyone that was part of the concert will certainly agree that everyone left the arena feeling very good!

A question that I get asked a lot is “Do you enjoy your job?” I consider myself to be extremely lucky. I get to teach a subject that I am absolutely passionate about to children who are keen to engage and enthuse. Whether it is singing or looking at the theoretical side of music, the children at Blundell’s Prep never cease to amaze me with the energy and enthusiasm that fill our lessons every week.

Last week I took six of our Year 6 girls down to the Senior School for their Music Scholarships. There were a few nerves beforehand but, one by one, as they came out of their auditions, the absolute delight on their faces and genuine enthusiasm and enjoyment that they showed from being able to perform on their instruments brought home to me exactly why I love my job so much.

Another question that I get asked a lot concerns practice and how often it should be done. Practice is such a simple word, but one which in a musical sense conjures up many different emotions from different people. For some, it represents being ‘forced’ to do something (I remember it well!); for others, it is the name given to the time when they lay the foundations for future success and fulfilment. The majority fall some way between these two extremes.

There is no doubt that one has to be a disciplined and determined individual to make the best of themselves as a musician, and regular, individual practice is fundamental to musical success. So, how should we practise? There are different approaches and rightly so as we are all different, but the general principle is that little and often is best so that your child can break their practice down into small, manageable bits. Find somewhere quiet to practise to reduce any distractions and have a goal for each practice session. Just playing through your music isn’t the same thing as practising. If your child is not sure what to focus on, ask them to ask their teacher for a few goals to work towards before the next lesson. Write them down so that you can refer to them during the week.

As I look ahead to the next few weeks, House Music dominates my thoughts. This provides the opportunity for every child from Kindergarten up to Year 6 to perform. Excitement is already building and the staff are brushing up on their dance moves! There is something magical about House Music too. It is a real celebration of all the music that takes place within the school and the atmosphere that is created during the actual competition is infectious; you can’t help but smile and join in. I am sure that many of you at home are already word perfect in singing Happy and Counting Stars!

Mon 2nd Feb 2015, 08:20

StocksAs the week began you could have been forgiven for thinking that we had slipped back 500 years to a time when men wore hose and women were in danger of losing their heads. A time when rotten vegetables were hurled at unfortunate souls locked in the pillory or the stocks and the bravest knights jousted in the hope of winning a ladies favor. A time when court jesters entertained their masters with foolish revelry and the king of England had a liking for wild boar and the executioner’s blade. Thankfully we were not appearing in a scene from Wolf Hall and instead our Year 5 children were experiencing what life was like for those living in Tudor England. Our guest monarch was King Hal himself and he regaled the children with stories, many of which involved toilet humour of some kind. As you might imagine, they were transfixed. What was so nice to see was the way that the children embraced the opportunity to actively engage in every session and this form of ‘hands-on learning’ has been a feature of a great many lessons and events this week.

Henry VIII

Our Pre-Prep children were delighted to welcome Neil from The Really Wild Man Show and he had brought his ‘friends’ with him, including a tarantula, giant hissing Madagascan cockroaches and a skink. The children were absolutely engrossed and desperate to get their hands on these creatures. Neil’s new saying of ‘stroke don’t poke’ was good advice, and you can only imagine what must have been going through the minds of these creatures as fifty 5 and 6 year olds waited patiently for their turn to hold, stroke or be licked by their guests. But they had nothing to fear as they were very well looked after. The whole morning was enormous fun.

Tarantula     Skink

Our Year One children had the chance to go back in time on Tuesday as they welcomed staff from St. Nicholas’s Priory to Blundell’s for a Fire of London Day. Due to renovations taking place at the priory, the artefacts were brought to Blundell’s and the children had a super day, learning about life in the 17th century as well as the events leading to the great fire in 1666. Our Year 6 children skipped forward some 200+ years when they visited Powderham Castle last week in order to learn more about life in Victorian times, the highlight being the opportunity to scrub the stone floors by hand – puts tidying bedrooms into perspective I think!

Victorian     Victorian

It is stating the obvious that children learn best when they are actively engaged in what they are doing and hands on experiences are key to getting their attention and keeping it. An experience that can target many of the senses is sure to support every type of learner whilst also fulfilling every child’s answer as to what all lessons should be – fun! They also like a challenge and when you bring problem solving to a lesson it can be very powerful. Take a Year 4 Science lesson this week in which our 8 year olds learnt to re-wire a plug – developing their understanding of circuits whilst also improving fine motor skills. The next time a fuse goes in a plug you know who to turn to! The Year 3 children enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about magnetism as they explored various parts of the school armed with their large magnets. Our Year 5 children enjoyed still life drawing and our Year 6 children worked on making their solar-powered fans. These hands-on experiences are not confined to the classrooms as our Outdoor Otters would testify to. They made the most of the weather to make mud pies and what a great time they had.

Thanks to the generosity of our Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee, this week we took possession of four table tennis tables and they have already caused quite a stir, not least with the staff. Mr Mildren and Miss Edwards kindly tested them out on Monday before Mr Hirst and Miss Butt joined in for a quick game. I of course, felt obliged to join in as well. The children have enjoyed playing table tennis at break times, after school and during Privilege Time with plans already in place for a House Competition and a staff ladder. The hot money is on Mrs Fitzherbert as she has a table at home!

It wouldn’t be right to finish this week’s Blog without mentioning our Year 6 children as they received their Entrance Exam results this week and all have been offered places at Blundell’s. We are very proud of all of them.

Mon 26th Jan 2015, 10:50

Friday 16th January 2015

1.00pm

sdbv

As I write, I am sitting in an enormous arena, surrounded by thousands of very excited, loud, sugar-fuelled children and they have just started to intersperse chanting with Mexican waving. BannersThis may sound the stuff of nightmares but I am very much awake! We have come to the Birmingham Genting Arena to be part of the Young Voices Choir and what a spectacular event it promises to be. We set off from school at 8.30 and after a quick stop at Gloucester Services (very nice by the way – it got Mrs Bruce’s seal of approval!) we drove straight to the NEC and then armed our children with copious amounts of food which they dutifully feasted on before taking their seats, ready for the rehearsing to begin. Our 50 choristers have spent many months learning the 20 songs and various dance moves that they will shortly perform to an expectant audience. It is a rare opportunity and one that the children have greatly enjoyed being part of. The rehearsals begin. 6 hours until lights up.

5.00pm

Rehearsals have finished and the children need to be fed and watered – a mere 6000 of them! It has been an incredible experience so far and our children have sung their hearts out – I hope they have enough energy for the performance at 7pm. As we eat our sausage rolls, the children have burst into bouts of screaming as the dance coach and choreographer ‘Andy’ walks past. wkibvdThis man has hero status with the children as he also heads up the ‘Urban Strides’ dance group – you haven’t heard of them? I am surprised. The call has come through to return to our seats and as we do we watch as the parents’ seats start to fill up. The more eagle-eyed among our group are able to spot their folks as they wave away. Excitement is at fever pitch. I sense that there will soon be more screaming.

7.00pm

Lights up and we are off. A Lloyd Webber Medley to begin and the challenge of remembering every colour on Joseph’s coat – I confuse ‘russet’ and ‘chocolate’- easily done. The children are in fine voice and I am envious of the audience who are clearly enjoying the wall of sound that is emanating from the 6000 young voices. As Robbie Williams’ ‘Let me Entertain You’ belts out I take a video of our children and record the raw enthusiasm on display, as well as some funky dance moves from our Director of Music. Experiences like this are few and far between. My sentimentality is brought to an abrupt halt with another bought of screaming as Andy comes on stage once again, this time to get the audience involved. I am sure that I can hear an audible ‘groan’ from thousands of parents as they realise that they are going to have to join in, although I think I also hear the “whoops” of delight from one or two BPS parents (you know who you are!). Cue an arena full of dancing children and parents and a cacophony of sound. And then 9pm comes and it is all over. My ears are ringing but we have 50 children to marshal through the throngs of over-tired/over-excited 10 year olds. Mrs S strides ahead and the search for the coach begins. We track it down to be greeted by our parents who made the trip and their reaction told us all we needed to know about the quality of performance- spectacular!

concert   concert

12.35am

We arrive back at BPS to -3°C and some weary looking parents. Emerging from the coach you would expect the children to be slightly bleary eyed, but no. Perhaps the Lucozade had something to do with that or maybe it was the buzz from the experience that was still resonating long after the lights went down. I certainly had one or two of the songs going around my head as I went to bed – now was it ‘russet and grey’ or ‘chocolate and mauve’? I can never remember.

A huge thank you to all of the children for contributing so much to a superb day – they gave it everything. Also to the supporting parents who made the trip to Brum or who braved sub-Arctic Tiverton to collect their children. To Mrs Bruce, Mrs Harrison and Mrs Southgate who expertly guided the children through the day, and of course to Mrs Cracknell who masterminded our involvement from day one. What an experience!

Mon 19th Jan 2015, 08:05

Happy New Year! What will 2015 have in store for us all? Hopefully plenty of sunshine and less rain (there goes my New Year’s resolution again!) I do hope that you had a great Christmas with friends and family. The children certainly seemed to have enjoyed their 3 week break and Santa has clearly been very generous again this year... for some anyway. I appealed for sympathy from the children when I explained that I had only received some Fruit Pastilles (lovely as they are) to which one particularly bright spark asked, “Have you not been very good this year, Mr Southgate?” “Clearly not” my reply. I hope that Father Christmas brought you all that you hoped for, even it was just a bit of peace and quiet.

At the end of term, once the school has closed down and the teachers have headed home, arms laden with chocolates, flowers and other lovely treats from generous pupils, the school is quiet and I find myself reflecting on the term and all that has taken place. My thoughts then turn very quickly to the new year and the new opportunities that will present themselves as well as those that have been in the planning for some time. We never stand still, physically or mentally, and that is such a feature of Blundell’s and the people who work here. This is perhaps best emphasised by the return to work on 2nd January for a staff Inset on ‘Supporting Positive Behaviours’. We are fortunate to teach very motivated, polite and generally well behaved children (there are very occasional exceptions but how boring would it be if everyone was an angel all the time?!) but the staff are determined to look more closely at their practice and how to make it even better for every child. As our guest speaker, Mr Rob Long explained “Behaviour is a collegiate responsibility” and this was very much the opinion last Friday. We are all looking to improve, even if it is only by the smallest of margins, and that is perhaps our greatest school mantra for the year ahead. In truth I have never really been one for New Year’s Resolutions, as they so often involve giving up something at a time when it is dark, cold and you are facing the aftermath of an indulgent Christmas. So instead I like to think about a more positive resolution, or mantra for the next 12 months, and this year it will be to try to always be a little bit better in everything we do.

This week we have welcomed 224 children back to the Nursery, Pre-Prep and Prep School and as always we have been joined by some new faces. I know that those people who have been part of Blundell’s for some time will make our newest arrivals feel very welcome indeed. There has been great excitement about seeing friends again, sharing stories from the holidays and playing matches of netball and football. There has also been a lot of hard work, with our Year 6 children preparing to sit their Entrance Exams to the Senior School. They have spent many months preparing and deserve to be very proud of their efforts, and it is this group of young people who perhaps best exemplify the determination to be a little bit better in everything they do, such has been their commitment to their studies. We wish them the very best of luck.

Next week sees Year 6 head to Powderham Castle for a Victorian day and then on Friday the choir will be boarding coaches and heading to the Birmingham LG Arena to join the National Young Voices Choir for what I am sure will be an amazing concert. They have learnt a huge number of songs and even some dance moves which, I am told, I will also need to know as I am on the stage with the children. Not sure any amount of additional effort will make my dancing any better - wish me luck!

Mon 12th Jan 2015, 10:10

Autumn Term 2014

As I sit writing this short Blog to mark the end of term I am listening to Slade sing ‘I wish it could be Christmas every day.’ Would I share that sentiment I wonder? I know several hundred children who would love to celebrate Christmas every day but I think that the teachers may think otherwise. It has been a fun few days this week which have included some of the highlights of the term. On Monday we welcomed friends and families to Blundell’s Chapel for our candlelit Carol Service and it was as lovely as ever. The children were in fine voice (as was our parent choir) and the readers were confident and clear as they retold the Christmas story. While the school prepared for the service, our Year One children were at Killerton House, dressed in their finest Victorian garb. They had a super day and returned full of stories.

Killerton House   Christmas lunch   Christmas lunch

Tuesday saw the whole school come together for an assembly with a football theme so I enlisted the help of Emma in Kindergarten to help me out. She was very skilful and got a big round of applause from the assembled audience as she stopped the ball dead and then kicked it across the hall straight to me. ChapelSadly, I was not so accurate! We then went on to talk about a game of football that happened 100 years ago on the battlefields of The Great War and how important it is to recognise and celebrate the power of the human spirit which prevails even at the darkest of times. The children then enjoyed the traditional end of term slideshow, full of pictures from the term and kindly prepared by Mrs Southgate. Sadly, the Nursery children could not join us for the assembly as they were preparing for far more important matters - their ‘Noisy Nativity’. Nativity playOur very youngest children, some of them still 2 years old, stood on stage to deliver their lines and to sing and dance. It was hugely entertaining and created many precious memories. Congratulations must go to Mrs Allen and Mrs Pym for their expert direction and infinite resourcefulness. After such exertions, everyone was ready for lunch and what a lunch it was. Mrs Moys and her team had produced a fantastic spread which was duly devoured by a grateful school. Delicious! Having enjoyed their ‘Christmas Brunch’ the children in the Pre-Prep headed to the Northcott Theatre to watch ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ and not only did they have a super time but they also behaved impeccably.

And then it was Wednesday and time for form parties, awards assemblies and lots of tidying up, before everyone headed off for a much needed rest. I wish you all a very happy Christmas. See you in 2015.

Thurs 11th Dec 2014, 08:25

I was chatting to a Head Master of another local Prep School on the subject of this time of year and I described it as “Nativitytastic”. I think it sums up the final few weeks of term and he agreed, so much so that he tweeted this to his many followers. We have no fewer than eight Nativities/Christmas plays and every one of them has been fantastic to watch. They showcase the progress that the children make over the term with confident performances from our youngest to our most seasoned actors and actresses. Watching a four year old sing a solo in such a self-assured manner provides all the indication you need that these opportunities to stand on a stage are of great value. Over the last week we have had a grumpy sheep, a sneezing angel and a wandering cat to help retell the Nativity story. We have also had a character well known to all of us I’m sure, Mr Scrooge, to retell the story of ‘A Christmas Carol’. The lead role was brilliantly played by Lochy who had well over 200 lines to learn and along with all of our Year 5 children, put together a production to remember. All of the children gave their very best to the plays and they have been given wonderful support from their teachers.

Nativity   Nativity

Nativity   Nativity   Nativity

On Friday afternoon it was the opportunity for our choir to perform again as they joined children from Tidcombe, Two Moors and St. John’s Primary Schools for a Festival of Carols. This took place in the school Chapel at Blundell’s and there was standing room only as children, parents and teachers gathered to enjoy a very seasonal offering. It was a super occasion and one that everyone seemed to enjoy. The mountain of cookies and mince pies on offer afterwards could well have played their part in that!

Food always features heavily in our daily lives at BPS and this week has been no different. Earlier in the week our Year 2 children enjoyed the chance to make some Christmas themed treats and they even managed to share a few with me. Christmas food with Year 2We will certainly be looking for more opportunities for our youngest children to cook as it promotes so many skills which can then benefit them back in the classroom, not least the need to be organised and independent, as this is always evident whenever it is time to wash up in FT lessons. I wonder if the children are so willing to do this at home?! This week we have also appointed our new Food Tech teacher, Mrs Lampard, who takes over from Mrs Edge on Monday afternoons. Mrs Lampard was instrumental in the design of our fantastic FT room so it is great to have her back with us, although we shall certainly miss Mrs Edge. Plans are also underway for the next Parents’ Cooking Workshop which will take place next term and will be a ‘Fine Dining’ themed event with support from our Senior School Executive Chef, Craig Sampson. More on that will follow in January but there will only be 16 places available so please do get your name down early.

Friday was a particularly action-packed day and saw us welcome Moulsford Prep School for a rugby match against our Under 11 boys. Sadly we came off 2nd best but that did not deter the players from both sides from enjoying a tea together before our guests headed off with our host families for a fun evening. There is something very special about going on tour and our Year 6 children will learn more of this when they head to Jersey in February. Our Nursery children were also out and about on Friday as they headed to Pennywell Farm. As the bus drove back into school I am not sure if any of the children were still awake, such was the excitement of the day.

Rugby vs Moulsford

Three days of term to go before the children and teachers head off for Christmas. We have our Carol Service to look forward to on Monday evening and our Nursery Nativity followed by Christmas Lunch on Tuesday and then the Kindergarten, Year One and Year Two children will go to watch ‘George’s Marvellous Medicine’ at the Northcott Theatre. Wednesday will mark the end of term and what a term it has been. I am always staggered by the volume of events that take place between September and December and all credit must go to the staff who work tirelessly for the children and to the parents who offer such unfailing support to the school. It is a great partnership and one that is at the very heart of our school’s success.

Mon 8th Dec 2014, 08:10

I was delighted to receive a lovely e-mail this week in which a Prep parent expressed how much they enjoyed the Blog. In the 3½ years that I have been sharing my weekly thoughts, observations and general witterings, I have never received such a compliment. The fact that the Blog in question was not written by me and was in fact written by a colleague only spurs me on to greater heights *weeps into Saturday morning coffee*. I see an opportunity to freshen up my weekly offering so more to come on that in the new year.

As I walked through the Prep School on Monday morning a door was held open by a couple of grinning Year 5 children (not unusual) and as I thanked them they complimented me on my “lovely tie”. I thanked them and continued to walk through the building, only to receive further compliments from several other children. Our children are always very polite but something was going on. I went into the staffroom to find several teachers preparing for the day and as Mrs Willder walked in she complimented Mr Mildren on his smart suit. Now our teachers are a lovely bunch and it is not unusual to hear such nice things being said but this was Monday morning. All became clear during assembly when the children reminded us that it was ‘Compliments Day’ as determined last week when the Monitors joined us to discuss the impact of Random Acts of Kindness. Every day had a theme and my particular favourite was ‘Smile Day’ on Friday. My hope is that Prep parents have seen the impact at home as Saturday is ‘Help your Mum’ day. If my house is anything to go by, the children may need some reminding! I feel very strongly that the children at BPS are delightful and I see acts of kindness every day, some of them random but most of them a result of a culture of ‘kindness and tolerance’ that permeates all parts of our community.

Nativity play

We still have the matter of 8 Christmas performances to enjoy before everyone heads off for a much anticipated Christmas break. It was the job of Year 2 to get the festivities under way with their superb performance of ‘The Landlord’s Cat’ on Friday afternoon. Every one of our budding thespians gave a performance to remember and sang and danced with great enthusiasm. In the week ahead we have Kindergarten, Year One and then 2 performances from Years 3 and 4 and then 5 and 6 combined, before the grand finale, the Nursery nativity. As always, a mountain of mince pies awaits all those who will be joining us.

The plays are an annual marker to the run up to Christmas as is the arrival of our Christmas trees. As always, Mrs Filmer-Bennett and I enlisted the help of the children to decorate them. The Pre-Prep trees are resplendent in tinsel and a wide range of colours, all lovingly placed with great delight by our youngest pupils. Singing at KnightshayesThe prep tree looks a picture and I asked the Year 3 children to assist in putting on the many purple and silver decorations. As one might imagine, this was done with great enthusiasm even though most of the decorations did tend to gather in one particular part of the tree. Thankfully, Miss Butt was on hand to climb the ladder in order to reach the top branches (Miss Stone and I were less keen!).

These Christmas traditions are a lovely part of school life at this time of year. It has been a busy term and the children (and parents) are tiring but the final few weeks provide such excitement that we are all carried along until the sprouts appear on the penultimate day of the term. We have the Festival of Carols, the turning on of the Christmas lights in Tiverton, our own Carol Service and then singing at Knightshayes, all of which bring a great deal of joy to our school and to our local community.

Getting into the Christmas spirit   Getting into the Christmas spirit   U11 hockey champs!

In amongst the rehearsals and the mock exams, our U11 girls hockey team managed to win the Devon Mini Hockey Championships! It capped a very successful week of sport with wins in rugby and hockey against Wellington, Exeter Cathedral and King’s Hall. Another action-packed week ahead and remember that we need your help with the mince pies so please do join us over the coming days.

Mon 1st Dec 2014, 11:00

From time to time I ask different people to contribute to my weekly blog and this week I have asked our newest recruit, Mr Dan Morris to share his thoughts on his first term here at Blundell's Prep. He was very happy to oblige and what follows are his musings on his move to BPS along with some photos from the week just gone, including the marvellous pirate singers, Maya and Arabella, and our brave volunteer, Flynn who helped the West Midlands Theatre Company. We also have our young cellists, Reuben, Alfie, Jesse and Nathan and our Senior Wind Group of Phoebe, Scarlett, Megan, Honor, Freya and Christian. And finally our victorious Under 9 rugby players who won the Blundell's Tournament on Saturday morning. Another busy week ahead.

Pirate Singers   West Midlands Theatre Company

Young Cellists   Senior Wind Group

Under 9 Rugby Team

“How many children will be there in your classes?!”  “What will you do with all of those lovely long holidays?!”  “Will you have to wear a robe and mortarboard?!”

When I told friends about my job offer at Blundell’s earlier this year, it was interesting to hear their predictions and queries regarding my new working environment. To be honest, I had so many questions and misconceptions myself, and even now, twelve weeks into my new role, I am still pestering my colleagues with almost constant questions about the routines and systems in place here. Having worked in a local primary school for the past five years I was not entirely sure about what to expect when I arrived for my first day at the start of September. My interview day in March contained a tour of the school during which time I was blown away by the facilities and opportunities that seemed to be on offer for the children. Similarly, when I came in for a day towards the end of the Summer Term I remember commenting to Mr Swain that it almost felt like an Open Day; things just felt ‘right’ in every classroom that I went into. But did these two days show the ‘real’ Blundell’s?

Three months down the line I can honestly say that they did. Things seem to be ‘right’ here pretty much all of the time; it has been an absolute whirlwind of a term, but one that I have loved immensely. I have been made to feel incredibly welcome by the staff, children and parents here and there is a genuine ‘buzz’ around the school, not just when tours for prospective pupils are taking place, but on a daily basis.

During my short time at Blundell’s I have had the pleasure of teaching nearly every child in the school. I really enjoy chatting with them over lunch (and what delicious lunches they are, my bathroom scales can confirm that I feel that way!) and I have been amazed to see all of the wonderful activities that the pupils take part in each week. I have been ‘wowed’ by their determination and teamwork during sports matches, been mightily impressed by their musical skills at the Tea Time Concert, felt extremely festive at the brilliant Christmas Market, acquired new ‘bushcraft’ skills alongside Year 4 during their outdoor learning morning at the local woods and felt incredibly proud of my Maths set during the recent ‘Primary Mathematics Challenge’. Within Computing lessons I have loved watching children learning how to code their own computer games and am excited about getting younger children in the school to test them out for us very soon. Maths lessons have seen some real ‘breakthrough’ moments in learning and confidence, whilst in Games it has been lovely to watch the Year 3 boys develop as a team when playing against visiting schools, rather than just being a collection of individuals. The Spring and Summer Terms look equally exciting; I am looking forward to visiting Jersey with Year 6 at Half-Term and going on residential to ‘Folly Farm’ with Year 4 amongst other things. All we need now is an annual ski trip?!

I would be lying if said that amount of caffeine consumed by myself and other staff hadn’t increased in line with every passing week. But that is because there are so many exciting things going on in all departments, especially with the upcoming Christmas productions. It would also be wrong of me not to admit here that I do miss my previous school an awful lot, I really do think about everyone there all the time and have very fond memories of my time there. I still see former colleagues regularly and am planning on visiting my previous class sometime before Christmas. But seeing the Year 13 students from Blundell’s ‘Big School’ delivering an assembly to the Prep School children at the end of last week confirmed in my mind what I have felt for quite a while; that I have joined something very special here, something that I feel very proud to be a part of. The journey that the pupils go on from Pre-Prep to Year 13 is incredible; they really can be whoever they want to be here and the ‘Blundell’s Way’ of ‘Non Sibi’ genuinely is ingrained into everything that takes place across the three schools. Even those that have recently joined the Prep have quickly picked up on this ethos and, to be honest, if those ‘new’ pupils had not been pointed out to me I would have thought that they had been here from the start – the latest arrivals have settled in with such ease. I know how they feel. I have said to many of my new colleagues that it ‘feels like I have been here for ages’. And I mean that in a very, very good way.

So as we approach the end of term, and as I sit here drinking my second coffee of the day, my response to those questions at the top of the blog would probably have to be “enough”, “sleep” and “not that I know of... yet?!”

Mon 24th Nov 2014, 11:30

I have just read back over last week’s blog and I feel that I need to set the record straight as I may have painted a negative picture of our climate here in Tiverton. Christmas MarketIt does rain here but it rains all over the UK at one time or another. The reason I say this is because I have recently met some people who are bringing their children to Blundell’s and they did ask me if it rained a lot as they had read my Blog and felt that the move from Dubai may be a bit of a shock. Thankfully the sun was shining during our tour of the school so all was well. My weather obsession must stop!

As I write this first part of my blog the Christmas Market is coming together with stall holders bringing in some lovely looking wares. Anja’s sweet stall is packed with tasty treats (that will not last) and the bouncy castle is inflated and ready to be put to good use. Sian and Sarah have waded through piles of shredded paper in preparation for the Lucky Dip. Coffee is being distributed liberally by Bev and Gloria. Teoni is welcoming and running the show whilst Santa’s helpers, Helen, Karen, Victoria, Nikkolay and Sarah are preparing the grotto for the arrival of the man himself. The teachers are arriving to put the finishing touches to their stalls and to ready the delicious mince pies for the arrival of some keen Christmas shoppers. Christmas MarketDays like this are very special and an important part of what makes us such a close and friendly community. An enormous amount of hard work goes into preparing for the day and that brings together a great many members of our school. It is what our school is all about. Our Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee are an outstanding group of people who give their time so generously. Helen, our new Chair, has had a baptism of fire with the weather conspiring to delay our Bonfire Night on two occasions but we are hopeful that Tuesday will be clear. Teoni has masterminded the Market and has spent many hours preparing for the big day. Both ladies, along with many other Blundell’s parents, have given their time so generously and for that we are very grateful.

Christmas Market     Christmas Market

On Friday the children and teachers dressed in their finest stripy clothes in order to raise funds for Children in Need. We had stripy hats, socks, trousers and jumpers, and some brave souls came in their pyjamas. With a little help from their parents, our Year 5 children had baked hundreds of cakes which went on sale this week so everyone enjoyed a tasty treat on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday break times – lucky things! In total we raised over £300 for Children in Need to add to the remarkable total of over £32 million.

Stripy clothes for Children in Need     Stripy clothes for Children in Need

Next week is ‘Kindness and Tolerance Week’ at Blundell’s Prep and I think that these two words are hugely important within our community. It is ‘National Anti-Bullying Week’ and we intend to recognise this through a very positive message, encouraging children to act with generosity and consideration towards one another. Anyone who spends time at Blundell’s Prep will know that these words are very important to all of us as they are a fundamental part of our ethos. Our school motto of ‘Non Sibi’ (not for oneself) encourages every individual to act with kindness and tolerance so the coming week will see this at the forefront of our thinking. We look forward to welcoming our Senior School Monitors to our Thursday assembly as they assist Mr Kerr and the children in writing a School Charter, setting out our continuing determination to promote these core values.

Lots to look forward to during the week ahead. Third time lucky for our Bonfire Party on Tuesday. There are Junior and Senior Tea Time Concerts and the much anticipated Under 9 Rugby and Hockey tournaments at the weekend. My best wishes to all.

Mon 17th Nov 2014, 08:00

I hope that you enjoyed a restful half term even though it does seem like a distant memory. The unseasonably warm weather has well and truly left us and it has been a return to type for the Tiverton climate – cue monsoon on Thursday and the postponement of the Bonfire Night. As I sit writing this the sun is shining once again but that was not the case yesterday – more on that in a moment.

Outdoor learning for Year 3   Outdoor learning for Year 3

So what has happened over the last 5 days? Plenty is the answer, including a Nursery Trip to Halberton Farm Shop and a whole morning of outdoor learning for all of the Year 3 children. It has also been a week in which the importance of remembering has been emphasised to all of the children. We started the week with an assembly on just this subject and I presented the children with 10 images to memorise. I then asked them to close their eyes before I took one away and this continued until all 10 vanished and a volunteer then had to recall all 10. Congratulations to Izzy who did it with ease. Remembering what happened just yesterday can be a challenge (for me certainly) so remembering events of 100 years ago may appear all the more difficult so when I asked the children what event started 100 years ago, every hand in the hall was raised. The centenary of the start of The Great War is something that is getting a great deal of media coverage and rightly so. It is also a subject that the children are fascinated by. Year 6 have been studying the war in their History lessons this term and on Wednesday they had the chance to visit our very own replica trench. Our Head of Maintenance, Tony Addison also happens to be an expert on the war and is known to spend his holidays conducting tours of the battlefields so who better to build our trench, complete with dugout, sandbags, original boots, shell fragments, shrapnel and barbed wire. The weather had also provided some authenticity although I did reassure some anxious children that they would not get trench foot during the lesson. Tony was on hand to bring the trench to life as he explained how the men would have lived in these conditions, the duties that they would have performed and the constant threat to their lives that they would have faced. The children were captivated and asked question after question, wanting to know every detail, so much so that the lesson was over in a flash. Tony talked the children through the moments when they were sent Over the Top and used his authentic whistle, found at the Somme, to send our Year 6 troops into No Man's Land. The realisation that very few of the walking troops would have made it anywhere near the enemy trenches was a chilling detail that certainly made the children think.

The Great War - life in the trenches with Tony Addison   The Great War - life in the trenches with Tony Addison

Remembrance serviceOn Friday we held our first Prep School Remembrance Service in Blundell's Chapel. Children in Years 1 to 6 joined staff and parents to pay our respects to those who have died in conflicts around the world but it was the soldiers of The First World War, and one young man in particular who was the focus of our service. Phillip Perkin was at Blundell's between 1905 and 1910 and he fought alongside his pals in the Sheffield Battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. Our Year 6 children told of his life, his family in Tiverton and the details of his heroism on 1st July 1916. It was a very poignant service and one that reminded us all of the sacrifices made by so many. We gathered at the school war memorial and the children placed home-made poppies as a symbol of remembrance before The Last Post was played and a minute's silence impeccably observed. Thank you to all of the parents who took the time to join us.

Remembrance service   Remembrance service

There has been some sporting success this week. Our U11 Girls Hockey team were runners-up in the Exeter Tournament, losing by one goal in the dying moments. They played very well indeed to win every game on the way to the final, including victories against The Maynard, Exeter, Mount Kelly and Wellington. On Saturday our Under 10 rugby players battled through the elements to win the Queen's Tournament. Sixteen of the strongest rugby playing Prep Schools in the South West met to contest the trophy and after victories against Port Regis, Millfield, Exeter Junior, Exeter Cathedral and Hazlegrove they met Sandroyd in the final. It came down to golden try extra time and after some outstanding handling and recycling, Josh found some space and dived in for the decisive score, much to the delight of the parents and Head Master! Well done to all of our successful sports sides this week. Our Under 7 rugby and hockey players welcome Mount Kelly this week and I know that they will be very excited about the prospect of their first inter-school matches – good luck to them all.

U10 rugby   U10 rugby

This week we also look forward to our re-arranged Fireworks Party and then the wonderful Christmas Market on Saturday from 10am-1pm. Father Christmas will be joining us and I hope that you will too. See you there.

Mon 10th Nov 2014, 09:05

The last 7 weeks have simply flown by and so much has been packed in to every day. When I look back at all that has been achieved it is clear that the children do not need a great deal of reminding to make the most of every moment. That said, I thought that I would make this this the topic of my Monday assembly as I announced a prize draw in which the winner would receive £86,400 every day. This did raise the excitement levels somewhat as the children decided what they would do with every pound. When I revealed that every one of them was a prize winner and that the pounds were in fact seconds in every day, there was a small amount of disappointment (some big plans to spend that money were firmly in place!) but then the realisation as to the message behind the assembly hit home and ideas were shared as to how those seconds could be ‘spent’. Looking at what we have been up to over the last 5 days would suggest that the message has been taken very seriously indeed.

On Tuesday our Year 3 children headed off for their Geography Field Trip, exploring the local area and then heading to Knightshayes whilst attempting to dodge the odd rain shower. Big DrawAs well as learning all about our town and its surroundings, the children also came in to contact with members of the public and I was delighted to hear that there were numerous comments made as to the lovely manners and excellent behaviour demonstrated by our youngest Prep pupils. Big DrawWell done to all of them. While our 7 year olds were out and about, our Pre-prep children were exploring the school grounds on a Maths Challenge Trail as part of World Maths Day. Small groups had to solve the clues which were dotted around the site and a great deal of thought had gone into how to include all ages. The prize of a choccie bar for the winners was certainly a powerful draw. On the subject of drawing (!) you may have seen that the outside of the Drama Studio has been ‘decorated’ as part of this year’s Big Draw project – chalk based graffiti now adorns this wooden building and the children have loved it. Disclaimer – all children have been told that they MUST NOT do this to the walls at home, unless parents let them of course!

Knightshayes Tea Time Concert Tea Time Concert

This week we had our first Tea Time Concert of the year and once again we were wonderfully entertained by a huge number of musicians. There were opportunities for many children to experience performing in front of an audience for the first time and once again I was struck by the confidence that they showed as well as the range of musical instruments being played. Well done to all.

outdoor workshops: pumpkin decorating

On Thursday our Year 5 children had a morning that was rather appropriately described by a young man in that year group as ‘Awesome!’ outdoor workshops: cooking on an open fireIt was their time to enjoy a selection of outdoor workshops including pumpkin decorating, carving, hollowing, cooking and finally soup making on an open fire by The Hub. I think that there is something rather magic about cooking on an open fire but what also makes it special is the way that the children contribute to every part of the process. “What else could we include in the soup to add to the flavour?” asked Mrs Watson. “How about a leek?” was the reply before the children then went to the veggie garden to find, wash, cut and then add a couple of leeks to the cooking pot. Pumpkins played a key role in the morning but so did other natural ingredients that can be found in our school grounds and the children made paints from these natural resources. There was also a foreign flavour to proceedings as Mrs Fitz-Herbert led a group singing of ‘Frere Jacques’ in French around the camp fire, ably assisted by her guitar. It was a super morning, masterminded once again by a team of teachers who have embraced the outdoors as a vital learning tool. Our programme just keeps going from strength to strength and that is solely down to their efforts.

Mon 20th Oct 2014, 11:55

There have been a lot of creative things going on in school over the last five days. Our Year 3 archaeologists were in action this week. Equipped with pin hammers to break through the 'rocks' in order to uncover their dinosaur fossils, the children hunted, discovered and then revealed fossils that were thousands of years old – the plastic figures have been safely returned to Mrs Pym in our Nursery! I happened to be going through the door as the children came back inside the building and the excitement and desire to share what they had done and what they had found was overwhelming. That 'awe and wonder' moment is lovely to see and so important in capturing their imaginations. This was very evident in an English lesson that I joined this week in which I saw how the children focused on the 5 senses of sight, taste, smell, touch and hearing in order to describe what happened after they had gone through an imaginary door. The use of language was astonishing and in order to fuel the creativity in every child we had a huge variety of scenes from under water caverns, to snake infested jungles (complete with very tasty looking jelly snakes) and even a haunted house, complete with spooky ghost sound effects (I think some parents had enjoyed helping their children with this particular project!). It was also great fun and that was very evident as the children delighted in telling me all about their wonderful dioramas.

Jungle Mirrors   Jungle Mirrors

NatureIn a Science lesson I observed this week the children were developing their skills of researching, selecting, discussing, collaborating and sharing, and this was all combined within a lesson on the negative human impacts on animal species. To see children of 8 years old skilfully navigate their way through selected websites to then identify relevant material, discuss this with a partner, collaborate in order to answer key questions and then share this confidently with a wider audience was most impressive. As I may have mentioned in one or two previous blogs, these skills are so very important and are being encouraged and developed across all subject areas. Slightly different but equally important (well, certainly as enjoyable) were the fire-lighting skills learnt by Year 4 in their Outdoor Learning Workshops on Friday. They discovered how to create a fire from scratch and then cooked marshmallows and bananas with chocolate – delicious! They also extended the work that they had been doing on habitats during their Science lessons by building nests for Freddy the Field Mouse and then testing how suitable and how waterproof they were. Thankfully, Freddy remained pretty dry.

Preparing Bananas

Making Fire   Cooking  Enjoying the food

Nursery CreativityOur Nursery children were also getting creative as they made some funky glasses with various coloured paper, gems and even some feathers.Not a day passes without our youngest children getting creative and often this involves copious amounts of glue and paint, as well as a fair dollop of fun. Our older Pre-Prep children were also recognised for their efforts in a story writing competition, again encouraging every child to take part in activities which stretch their imaginations. I attempted to do just that in my Pre-Prep assembly this week as we all went for a walk on the moon! In amongst the excitement and what some might consider to be chaos, there were budding Neil Armstrongs ready to blast off and then go for a walk on the moon's surface. We even had a 6 year old explain that there is less gravitational force on the moon than on Earth – very impressive indeed!

What creative adventures will we have this week? Who knows, but there are sure to be many.

Mon 13th Oct 2014, 09:45

On Monday I spoke to the Prep School about the various ways in which we get to school. Who had the longest journey? Who had the shortest? Who travelled by car, by bus, by van, by bike or by foot? It was all pretty straightforward really but answers ranged from 30 seconds to over an hour and I had to question the one child who suggested that they came by helicopter! I then showed the children some pictures of alternative ways to get to school, ranging from perilous treks across narrow mountain passes through to terrifying river crossings on an inflatable rubber ring. These children had a very different experience of the ‘school commute’ and it did rather put what we face into perspective. The message was certainly not lost on the Prep children who had questions and were amazed that over 60 million children worldwide do not have access to an education. What really caught their attention was my final slide showing children getting to their school on the other side of the Rio Negro River in Colombia via a 800 metre zip wire. A universal “Wow” rang out as I put up the picture of a young girl of not more than 10 years old, hurtling at break neck speed down a wire, suspended 400 metres above the ground. Once the general excitement had subsided, the children began to think of the realities of that method of travel. They noticed the expression on the girl’s face, the wooden, V-shaped stick that she was using to maintain balance, the way that she was clutching her school bag close to her, the rather aged looking cradle in which she sat. All of a sudden it didn’t look quite so appealing. And then a question that I had feared/expected/hoped for – the hand went up - “Sir, how do they get back up?” Faced with this situation there really is only one answer: “How do YOU think they got back?” to which I had a sea of hands, all ready to provide ever more creative methods of return journey. We managed to finish assembly on time (ish) and off they went to their classrooms, still planning how they could have a zip-wire to school, to each classroom, to lunch but also with the knowledge that their lives are very different to those faced by millions of children throughout the world.

Year 6 outdoors   Year 6 outdoors

On Tuesday our Year 6 children headed to the woods for a morning of outdoor workshops. We are very fortunate to have acres of woodland just a short walk away and so the morning was full of activities designed to fire their creativity. Rugby - the King's Hall FestivalOne activity involved using mirrors to explore the canopy and then to mirror that image on the ground, utilising the materials available around them. Another required the children to record sounds using their tablets and then mesh them together into one stream of woodland music, so we had the sound of breaking branches, logs plunging into the river and the crackling of leaves to name but a few. The combination of the natural and the technological made for a great experience for the children. There was also the mandatory cooking over a fire and the baking of bread twirls. Our children are now quite adept at making fires and so a stone circle was formed, seats were gathered from the surroundings and dough was twirled around sticks before being ‘gently cooked’ over the fire. When I headed over to see what was going on I found 43 children and 6 staff who were thoroughly enjoying the experience and learning so much at the same time. Year 4 will be heading to the woods at the end of this week and I certain that they will have just as much fun.

Hockey team   Hockey team

A few sporting successes to mention this week. Our Under 9 B team were in imperious form as they won all 6 of their matches at the King’s Hall Festival with every player contributing to the victories. We recognised their success in our Friday Awards Assembly and wished them well for the rest of the season – they are going to be tough to beat. Our Under 8 and Under 9 girls were also in action, both winning against Wellington in two competitive encounters. Our Under 11 girls hockey team performed brilliantly in the Queen’s Tournament, ending as runners-up and our U10 girls went one better, winning the tournament at Millfield in style. Well done to everyone who represented the school this week.

Mon 6th Oct 2014, 15:10

You may have noticed that I was away from school for a few days this week as I was attending the IAPS Conference in Brighton. The theme for this year’s Conference was ‘Challenge, Change, Adapt, Succeed’ as this has been at the heart of all IAPS development over the last 12 months and is also at the heart of what we are aiming to achieve at Blundell’s Prep. It was a fascinating few days which focused on our core business of education and raised a number of interesting questions regarding what we want children to learn to enable them to succeed beyond the confines of the classroom. A great deal has been theorised, researched, written and shared about the skills that children will need to have in order to compete in the future jobs market, especially when one considers the incredible pace at which that jobs market is evolving. It seems incomprehensible to consider that many of our children will go on to do jobs that haven’t been invented as yet. For our young children the prospect of preparing now for their future employment seems a little premature but the foundations can and should be put in place during their primary years so that they become life-long learners. So what are these all important skills? Being skilled at working with others is crucial, as is being able to question and select accurate information in an age when answers are at the ends of our digital fingertips. But it is the need to be self-reliant that I am most interested in and it is the ‘soft skill’ that employers find most difficult to find in those emerging from universities with good degrees but little ability to face multiple streams of information or to think on their feet. The phrase used by Professor Guy Claxton was to ‘flounder intelligently’ and this is an ability that we should look to encourage in all of our children. I think that for us as parents and educators this can be difficult; we want to support the children and to see them succeed but we must be mindful that success is as much in the journey as the outcome. We are looking closely at how we are developing these skills in the Blundell’s Prep children and I will no doubt have more to say on this throughout the year as we develop our TLC programme.

bear hunt   Julia Jarman

Julia JarmanDuring my time in Brighton I also had the privilege of meeting Bob the Builder. Ok, so he isn’t an actual person but his creator, the brilliant Curtis Jobling was on hand to bring Bob and his other creations to life with a healthy dose of irreverence and good humour. Curtis had the audience in stitches as he told the story of his ‘Life in Crayon’ and how he now uses his experiences to encourage children to draw, to read and to write. He was wonderful to listen to and showed why having authors speak to children is so important. How fitting then that we should have Julia Jarman join us on Friday in order to share her experiences and to encourage the children to share her love of writing. During workshops with all the children from Nursery to Year 6, she talked about the recipe for a good story with the key ingredients being an element of real life and a great dollop of imagination. Our budding authors were inspired. Perhaps one of them will go on to write a best-seller, who knows. The wonderful costumes on show were lovely to see and reflected the children’s favourite characters from books. As always the teachers joined in and there was even a real-life bear hunt with a very realistic looking bear! The children then swapped their costumes for pyjamas as they snuggled into sleeping bags to listen to stories by candlelight for Book at Bedtime. Thank you to all of the teachers who gave their time for this super event.

Stories by candlelight for Book at Bedtime   Stories by candlelight for Book at Bedtime

Another action-packed week ahead with the highlight for Year 6 being their Outdoor Learning workshops on Tuesday. They are heading to the woods so let’s hope they don’t run into any bears!

Have a good week.

Mon 29th Sept 2014, 09:15

How do you judge a school? What makes it special? Difficult questions to answer as answers will always be so very subjective and determined by the individual to whom the question is being asked. Often it is just a feeling that one naturally gets from spending time in the buildings, on the games fields or most importantly, with the pupils. I have always believed that the best barometer for judging a school is the children who spend their days there, after all they are the embodiment of what the school stands for. Do they engage you in conversation? Do they look you in the eye? Do they look happy to be at school? If the answer to these questions is “yes” then you can be pretty sure that you are on to a good thing. Head Master with a pupil at the HubThe reason I mention this is because we welcomed families to our Open Day this weekend and they made these observations of our Year 6 children who gave them guided tours of the school. I wonder if your 10 year old self would have been totally at ease guiding a family of four around their school, highlighting the different lessons, teachers and activities that they enjoy. I’m pretty sure that I would have run a mile! Giving our children the confidence and the opportunity to take on all that life has to throw at them is central to what we do here at BPS and I am always immensely proud to see how our children rise to every challenge that confronts them. It is not always straightforward and success may not always arrive as quickly as one would like but if the building blocks are in place, then success will come. A wonderful example of this came to my attention on Saturday morning as I toured the Senior School with Sarah and my own children (lovely to be on the other side of the fence for a few hours!). I was chatting to a parent whose eldest son had just secured the lead role in the school play. Why is this so remarkable you may ask? Well this young man had battled through some challenging times at the start of his Prep School career but through sheer determination on his part and relentless support from those around him at home and at school, he has been able to blossom. As his parents told me of their son’s success, their pride rightly evident, I was once again reminded of what schools like ours can do for children. If you judge a school by the positive difference it makes to children’s lives then there can be no better example.

This week we welcomed many current BPS parents to the school to share in our Harvest Festivals. On Wednesday we braved the elements and headed out to The Hub for our Pre-Prep Harvest Festival. This alone was enough to get excitement levels to fever pitch but the children were delightful and helped to identify the mystery vegetables with clues from our Year 2 children. FoodThey then had to tell me if the veggies grew overground (thumbs up) or underground (thumbs down) before a box was lifted up to reveal the answer. Some willing volunteers were recruited to dig up carrots, potatoes and beetroots – it is amazing what you can find growing around our outdoor classroom! On Friday it was the turn of our Prep children to create a menu using the plentiful ingredients enjoyed by the many creatures which inhabit our planet so mashed ants and boiled ducks feet were on offer before the children heard how 842 million people go hungry every day. The message of the need to share what we have was made clear through the medium of digestive biscuits and not a crumb was wasted. Our thanks to everyone who donated various foods to our collection for CHAT as these items will make a very big difference to many people in our local community.

In other news... our Year 6 children headed to the canal with camping chairs, paper and pencils in order to sketch rural and urban landscapes in preparation for their watercolour paintings. A very civilised way to spend an afternoon in sunny Devon. I must confess to being rather envious.

Rosanna Smart, parent of a pupil, enjoying a bite to eatThe children have been cooking up a storm in FT this term with all sorts of tasty treats on the menu but on Friday it was the turn of our parents to join a Dinner Party Cooking workshop. The starter was a delicate Smoked Salmon Terine, then followed a North African Tagine with Jewelled Cous Cous and a Lemon and Limoncello Posset with lavender shortbread for dessert. Sounds delicious doesn’t it? Well I have great pleasure in telling you that it was – not one of the tougher parts of my job! If you haven’t joined us for a cooking workshop then please keep an eye out for the next one as by popular request it will be themed around vegetarian food.

Our choir has seen an increase in numbers this year and this could well be due in part to the prospect of a trip to Birmingham to perform in the Young Voices Concert alongside thousands of other children. Mrs Cracknell has been using materials for the concert with all of the children in their music lessons, including ‘Happy’ by Pharell Williams, and this may well have prompted them to break into spontaneous singing of this fantastic tune during Thursdays assembly. There is something very special about 140 children singing these lyrics and it even influenced a few teachers to dance their way into assembly! Not something you see every day!

Mon 22nd Sept 2014, 09:25

What to write about this week? So much has happened over the last 7 days that I am spoilt for choice. For children in Years 2 and 3 the trips to the beach must have been a highlight. Year 2 at the beachOur Year 2’s headed south to Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth (how fortunate that the Tour of Britain was passing through at the same time!) and our Year 3’s headed north to Saunton Sands, having spent the morning at Broomhill Sculpture Park. If only every week could end with a trip to the beach! This was the perfect way to end the first full week back, especially as returning to school after a 2 month break is often challenging for children. It can be quite a shock to the system so we must manage that carefully but at the same time get back into good habits as quickly as possible. This started in my assembly on Monday when once again we looked at Mindfulness and thinking about the here and now. Some of the children were so taken with the relaxation exercises that they were seen meditating at break time – I think the clip from King-Fu Panda may have had an impact! This coming week I will ask the children to focus on an area of school life that does have a tendency to slip a little over the summer holidays – table manners. I am not suggesting for a second that every child should have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Debrett’s Guide but there are a few basic rules that we will be talking through this week. As ever I would ask for some help from home and between us we will reduce the frequency with which food is sprayed across the table through conversations taking place with mouths full, the times that forks are used like lollipop sticks or the number of elbows on tables. I am sure that together we will crack it.

Year 2 at the beach   Year 2 at the beach

Sports matches for our senior pupils began this week and there were some very convincing wins in hockey for the Under 10 and Under 11 girls against Mount Kelly. There were also wins in rugby for our Under 10 boys and they then followed this up on Saturday with a wonderful victory in the Millfield Tournament. The medals were presented by England captain, Chris Robshaw so excitement levels were pretty high, and not just from the children! Chris Robshaw presents medalsOur Under 11 boys performed well at Port Regis and beat Millfield on their route to the Plate Final. Our Under 9’s start their seasons this week so we wish them the best of luck in their matches.

On Monday of this week we will be hosting our ‘Year 6 and Beyond’ meeting for parents and I am delighted that Blundell’s Head, Mrs Nicola Huggett will be joining us to share the exciting plans for the School House Diploma as well as the Senior School in Years 9 and above. I do hope that all current Year 6 parents will be able to join us. Next Saturday affords all parents the opportunity to visit the Senior School for an Open Morning and then in the afternoon we will be hosting our Prep School Open Afternoon with our children in Years 4 to 6 giving their time so generously to help bring the school to life for our guests. If you would like to join us in school this week then there is an open invitation to be part of Harvest Festivals on Wednesday (Pre-Prep) and Friday (Prep), the former being held outside by The Hub so do wrap up warm. There are still some places left for our Dinner Party Cooking Workshop on Friday morning and this promises to be another lovely occasion.

Mon 15th Sept 2014, 09:25

Welcome back and thank you for taking the time to read my weekly musings once again after the 2 month summer break. I hope that you managed to enjoy some family time over recent weeks, whether overseas or on a ‘staycation’, an option that I would recommend when you get months like we had in July. Wasn’t it wonderful? We explored much of the South West and had a great time in Cornwall, especially in St. Ives although poor Arabella G in Year 3 had the misfortune to meet her Head Master as she walked down the street, minding her own business. Sorry Arabella! Since they returned on Wednesday, the children have delighted in sharing tales of their holiday adventures with me and I was so pleased to see everyone return looking so fit and well. Along with those children who were with us last year we also had 35 children who were new to the school. There were a few first day nerves but it was lovely to see those disappear very quickly and new friendships start to be forged. Having caught up with most parents I think the general consensus was that they were delighted to be bringing their children back to school – 8 weeks is a long time, however much we love our own children! With an Indian Summer promised I am sure that we can all look forward to a great start to the new academic year.

So what has happened over the last week? On Monday the children took part in pre-season sessions of hockey and rugby, and certainly impressed Mr Swain, Mr Mildren, Miss Edwards and Mrs Baily with their skills and enthusiasm. There is a packed fixture list lined-up for the term ahead and a lot of sport for all of the children to enjoy. Then on Tuesday the staff were involved in a morning of development planning with a focus on how we will enhance every aspect of what is on offer here at BPS. With so much having been achieved over the last 2 years we are now planning the next 3 and the staff continue to play the most significant part in the process. They certainly had plenty of excellent ideas and the morning simply flew by. The afternoon was given over to planning for the use of the outdoors in every subject area and on the workshop days that feature throughout the term. Mr Richards and Mrs Shelbourne are leading our intrepid group of ‘Outdoor Champions’ along with Mrs Aldridge, Mrs Willder, Mrs Watson, Mrs Kimber and Miss Brook, and they spent a number of days over the holidays working with Shevek Pring from Exeter Forest School in order to improve their skills, develop our site and explore further ways to utilise the outdoors. They planned our afternoon of OL development and it also gave us the opportunity to explore the new TLC equipment which was built over the holidays in an area next to The Hub to be known as The Hollow. The teachers took on challenges such as The Ring of Confidence, Mordor’s Maze and Amazon and if the children enjoy these activities even half as much as the teachers did then I will be delighted!

Over the next few weeks we have Welcome Meetings for every year group and a whole variety of events to which you are warmly invited. The new iLetter will have arrived with you on Friday via e-mail and that will keep you up to speed with all that is planned for the term. One event that I would highlight is the Parents’ Fair which is taking place at the Senior School next Saturday. With internationally renowned speakers it is certain to be a fascinating morning so please do make every effort to attend if you can.

I look forward to seeing you soon.

Mon 8th Sept 2014, 08:50