Head Master's Blog Archive2015/16
On Thursday evening, whilst watching the final Year 6 performance of ‘The Wizard of Oz’, a member of the audience leaned over and said “you must be so proud of these children”. As I sat and watched our 11 year olds bring this much loved classic story to life, I was full of pride but also admiration, as I have had the privilege of seeing these children grow in to the confident, talented and happy young people that they are, and that is what I am most proud of. How have they got to this point? It’s a question that I often mull over and the end of the school year is the perfect opportunity to do that once the busy term draws to an end. The formula is a simple one, and it is implicit in all that we do – opportunities, inclusivity, high expectations and a focus on the individual. The recipe works well and as I sat enjoying our 31 Year 6 children sing and perform with such gusto, the potency of that recipe was clear to see. When the final day of term rolled around once again, and it was time to bid our leavers a last farewell, emotions were very evident but so was the clear affection felt by staff towards children and vice-versa. So yes, I am very proud of the children, the staff and everyone who has contributed to the lives of these remarkable young people.
The importance of celebrating life was brought home to us all on Friday as we recognised the centenary of The Battle of the Somme. Earlier this year, our Year 6 children learnt about this most bloody of battles in our replica First World War trench and on Friday we took a moment to reflect on the sacrifice made by the thousands of men who gave their lives in such horrific circumstances. The manner in which the anniversary has been recognised nationally with the ‘We are here’ campaign has been incredibly moving and perhaps even more so at this time of political instability and uncertainty as to our country’s place in Europe and the wider world. What will the future hold for us, and more importantly those children who have had no say in the shaping of their futures, only time will tell but as we embark on the long summer break, my hope is that the new year in September brings national optimism to match our school’s aspirations for the lives of the children whose futures we are charged with shaping.
Have a great Summer and to those who have taken the time to read my blog this year, a heartfelt thank you. See you in 8 weeks!
Mon 4th July 2016, 09:20
What a week it has been! As I sit writing this penultimate Blog of the academic year (yes, there will be one more) I can hardly believe what we have managed to pack in to the last 6 days. The word ‘celebration’ would be best suited to sum up life at BPS this week as the different groups within our school community have gathered to recognise the contributions made to the school by parents, governors, staff and, most importantly, children. We began on Monday with the 10 year anniversary of Blundell’s Preparatory School officially coming in to existence and welcomed past parents and old boys and girls to the marquee for an evening of music, sport, delicious food and some entertaining speeches from pupils past and present. It was lovely to see so many familiar faces and to catch up with old friends, all of whom spoke with great affection of their time in the Pre-Prep and Prep school here at Blundell’s. As well as hearing from some of this year’s Heads of School, we also heard from Holly Nugent in Year 8 and Rory Clark in Year 13, who recounted his journey through the school whilst picking out key teachers who had helped him along the way. What came across very strongly was the genuine warmth of feeling that people have for this place and that continued to be celebrated throughout the week as we approached major event number 2 – the Summer Concert.
Bring together the budding musicians from Years 2 to 6, throw in our very talented parents choir, The Mamas and Papas, and sprinkle with the enthusiastic staff choir, and you get a feast of musicality. The evening saw every instrument being played, from string groups, to brass, to woodwind and even an inflatable air-guitar or two (thanks to Mrs Charlesworth and Miss Roberts). Picnics were enjoyed before the 2nd half saw all of the children come together for the grand finale. You would have thought that by 8.30 some of these children may have been flagging but no, they were full of beans and rightly so as they had put on quite a show.
Thursday saw us welcome over one hundred teddy bears to the school for the CHAT teddy bear sleep-out, organised by Emily in Year 6, ably assisted by Esme and Victoria. Thankfully all of the teddies behaved themselves, including my own rather moth-eaten ted, and there were no late night panics from parents of children who couldn’t sleep without their much loved friends. Well over £100 was raised for the Church Housing Association Team and this was greatly appreciated by the charities patron, Elizabeth d’Erlanger, who came to visit the teddies and to congratulate the girls on their efforts.
Friday was our biggest celebration of the year as we welcomed guests to the school for our annual Speech Day. Our guest speaker this year was our Senior School Head, Mrs Nicola Huggett and she spoke to our leavers, offering advice for the future and congratulating them on their many achievements. A significant amount of silverware was presented to our children (thank you to Gloria for spending many hours cleaning it all) and then our leavers were given their beautiful Yearbooks which were full of photos of their time at the school – a true celebration of all that they have achieved during their time at BPS. Then on to Friday evening which saw the staff gather in the marquee once again to celebrate the contributions made to the school by our leaving teachers. What do teachers do when they get together of an evening? They Quiz, and on Friday night it was the task of Quizmaster Nick from Torquay to stretch what little grey matter any of us had left after such a busy week. I am delighted to say (not that I am at all competitive you understand) that our team, named ‘Wendy’s Full House’ in honour of our team leader and retiring colleague, Mrs Wendy Nicholls, were crowned champions, much to the disgust of some of our younger staff who were calling for a recount!
Saturday saw our U9 rounders team in action at the Millfield Tournament and having braved Glastonbury traffic, the girls managed to win all of their games and returned with yet more medals, much to their delight. While this was going on, our wonderful Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee were setting up for the final event of the week – The Cocktail Party, transforming the marquee in to an Ibiza style venue, complete with sofas, fairy lights and even gold pineapples! It looked amazing and with a cocktail bar providing some delicious offerings the whole evening certainly had a celebratory feel to it.
Weeks such as the one that we have just had are simply not possible without the help of a great many very generous and highly committed people. It never ceases to amaze me just how giving our school community is and how willing people are to make a contribution, whether it be chairing committees, preparing food, organising events or simply tidying up the morning after the night before! I cannot thank everyone by name, but they know who they are and I send my heartfelt thanks to every single one of them.
Mon 27th June 2016, 08:40
On Thursday, our Year 6 children welcomed their parents to the Blundell’s Adventure, Leadership and Service Awards evening and what a super occasion it was. It began with delicious canapés which had been lovingly prepared during the afternoon. Succulent Sushi, delicate cucumber sandwiches and mustard infused sausages were washed down with Pimms before cakes and chocolate coated strawberries were enjoyed by all. Our guests were then invited in to the Hall to hear from all of our 31, Year 6 children who have spent the last two terms undertaking some quite remarkable initiatives. The award scheme is divided in to 3 parts: Adventure, Leadership and Service. There is often crossover between these elements but it is up to the children to decide how they wish to pursue points in order to gain either a Shackleton, Scott or Fiennes Award at the end. Some of these activities are arranged through the comprehensive Leavers’ Programme which has traditionally taken place after the January Entrance Exams and has included walks on Exmoor, sports tours and the much loved residential to the Ultimate Adventure Centre. However, the emphasis is on the children completing some self-initiated activities in all 3 areas and this is where we have seen such exceptional results from our senior cohort. On Thursday evening we heard from them all as they shared stories of 40 mile walks along the south west coastal path, volunteering in local care homes, beach clean-ups and many, many cakes sales. What struck me when I heard the children speak was just how proud I was of them all and as well as congratulating the children, I did take the opportunity to thank and congratulate their incredibly supportive parents, without whom so many of these wonderful initiatives would not have happened.
This year’s BALSA scheme has been led by Mr Morris and along with Mrs Aldridge and Mr Moore, they have provided tremendous guidance to allow the children to take ownership of their events and develop them fully. So what exactly did they achieve? Well aside from the quite staggering grand total of £11,681.42 raised for more than 20 different charities, the children have learnt that they can make a very big difference to the lives of others, even though they are only 11 years old. Many of our children were motivated by a cause that was very personal to them or a member of their family, and on Thursday we heard those stories and we saw how this drove them to take on some demanding situations, often being taken a long way out of their comfort zone - BALSA ‘s creator, Mr Mildren would certainly have approved! Our school motto is ‘Non Sibi’ and in our Year 6 boys and girls we see this motto brought to life, something that I hope will inspire those younger children in the school to challenge themselves to make a difference.
Looking to next week, we have one or two things going on (perhaps my biggest understatement to date). First up we have our 10 Year anniversary party to enjoy so I ask for your collective crossing of fingers for good weather. Wednesday will see our musicians come together for an evening of entertainment hosted, as always, by comedic genius, Mr Swain. Thursday sees our school invaded by teddies as we hold the annual Teddy Bear Sleep Out in aid of the Church Housing Action Team. This is being organised by Emily in Year 6 as part of her BALSA so we wish her well in looking after several hundred precious teddy bears – I hope they behave themselves! Then on Friday we welcome families to our Speech Day to celebrate all that has happened over the last 12 months and congratulate our Year 6 children on all that they have accomplished before transforming the marquee in readiness for our Cocktail Party on Saturday night. The next 7 days are going to be a week to remember so do join us as often as you can.
Mon 20th June 2016, 08:53
Before I begin on my weekly musings I think I need to apologise to one of our parents who ‘complained’ that I had not written anything for several weeks. It is lovely to hear that someone noticed! I hope you won’t be disappointed after such a long wait!
As I stare out of my office window at the rain pouring down I am basking in my new found app which told me that it was going to start raining in “exactly 10 minutes” and gave me the time I needed to quicken my pace with the dog and get inside. For obvious legal reasons I cannot provide the name of the app but it was given to me by the photographers who were at the school on Tuesday to take the whole school photo. My weather obsession is well documented within this blog which is approaching 5 years of age, so to discover this app is the stuff of dreams. On Friday afternoon it was put to good use after Mrs Filmer-Bennett’s weather watching vigil had determined that our Pre-Prep Sports Day could take place outside – a great decision it proved to be and as the drizzle started I could confidently state that it would clear up in 5 minutes and give a take a minute or two, it did. This meant that our youngest children and their families could enjoy an afternoon of events, from traditional sprints to potato and spoon, and sack races. There was coloured food dye used to give some House colouring to the water in the relay and some of it did go into the intended buckets, as well as all over our excellent Year 6 helpers! The afternoon was a great success and thanks must go to all of the teachers and especially to Miss Jellard who masterminded the afternoon.
On Monday of last week, we had glorious sunshine for the Prep School Sports Day and in scorching temperatures the children ran, jumped and threw with great gusto. School records were broken and medals were collected but it was Raleigh who were the overall winners, lifting the trophy to huge applause from the rest of their House. A big thank you to Mr Swain and Mrs Baily for all of their hard work in bringing the afternoon together for everyone to enjoy.
On Wednesday it was our Pre-Prep Outdoor Learning Day and as I headed in to their classrooms first thing in the morning it was clear that excitement levels were pretty high. Home clothes, den building and marshmallows over an open fire – could life get any better? Well not in the eyes of our children who had a wonderful day, thanks to the efforts of our teachers and the organiser of the day, Miss Brook.
Thursday and Friday also saw our Creative Arts Week Exhibition open with the opportunity for guests to see the spectacular artwork that the children in the Prep School produced during the Spring Term. Many hours went in to show-casing the children’s work and my thanks to Mrs Harrison, Miss Bennett, Mrs Carter and especially our Head of Art and DT, Mrs Aldridge for all of their hard work. If you couldn’t make it then do come along this week to take a look.
On Friday, our Year 3 children had the most wonderful Greek Day with Head of Classics at the Senior School, Mrs Milne and her team of Sixth Form students. Along with Mrs Shelbourne and Mrs Whitten, the children immersed themselves in Ancient Greece with food tasting, re-enactments and plenty of dressing up helping to bring History to life.
It's is only 3 weeks until the end of term and the end of another school year. It has rather flown by but there is much, much more still to come. On Monday we welcome lots of new children to the school for the Move-Up morning as children meet their new form teachers and get a sense of what life will be like when they return in September. It promises to be an exciting day, as does Tuesday when the Kindergarten children head to the World of Country Life, and Friday when Year 2 head to Escot Park for their annual swamp-walk – better them than me! We also have the BALSA evening, sports fixtures, music rehearsals and plenty of lessons, so there is much still to do.
Mon 13th June 2016, 08:05
One of the topics most frequently discussed with prospective BPS parents is class sizes and with numbers on the rise in primary schools one can understand why. In a recent article in The Independent it was noted that over half a million Primary age children are now being taught in ‘Super-size’ classes and there is no suggestion that this is about to change as numbers of children requiring primary school places is also on the rise. Combine this with a shortfall in teachers coming in to the profession and a worrying trend begins to emerge. Exeter University researchers highlighted the growing concern amongst Head teachers, parents and teachers that class sizes were now so big that the quality of teaching and learning is under threat. Whilst shiny facilities are an important part of any educational offering, it is the careful management of class sizes that really makes a difference. In a smaller class teachers are able to offer more detailed feedback, a key component in imbedding learning rather than a ‘surface’ approach with memorised knowledge taking priority over a deeper understanding. The 1:1 contact between teacher and pupil is a powerful part of the learning process and we see this on a daily basis in our classes across the school. We all want teachers to do what they do best – teach, and so time spent dealing with large numbers of children and the inevitable challenges over complex social dynamics is a distraction from this. To my mind there needs to be a balanced approach to class sizes and we are fortunate to be able to manage this within our setting for the benefit of the children. A small group of 5 children with a teacher on their phonological understanding is highly effective but combining groups to head outside for a Science based project allows for collaboration and the sharing of ideas. Having the flexibility to manage group sizes to create the biggest impact on learning is a fortunate position to be in as we plan for the 2016/17 academic year.
Our Pre-Prep has been alive with excitement this week as the Nursery and Kindergarten children have entertained family and friends with their summer plays. On Tuesday it was our Kindergarten children who took to the stage for their performance of ‘Noah.’ Everyone had a part to play, whether one of the lucky animals chosen to board The Ark, a member of Noah’s family or even God himself. The singing was packed full of enthusiasm and two of the girls even performed solos which when considers that they are only 5 years old is pretty impressive. A great deal of hard work goes in to supporting the children in these lovely productions and our thanks must go to Miss Brook and Miss Purvis for their efforts, wonderfully supported by Mrs Read and Mrs Norwell. Then on Friday it was time for our Nursery children to share their Nursery rhyme themed production with what could well have been the largest audience that we have ever had in the Pre-Prep Hall. It was standing room only as Jack and Jill introduced everyone to the Grand Old Duke of York and his men, Humpty Dumpty, 4 rather cheeky mice, Little Miss Muffet, Incy Wincey Spider, Polly who made a lovely cup of tea but had a rather poorly baby, Dr Foster, a pussy cat who protected the Queen, Bob the Builder and his team, raindrops, sunshine and the brolly children. This epic production saw all of our Nursery children take to the stage to sing, dance or recite nursery rhymes to the delight of their parents and families. Huge thanks must go to Mrs Allen who put the production together and to Mrs Pym, Mrs Mettam, Mrs Barfoot and Mrs Spencer for all of their hard work.
One of the things that our Prep children enjoy is the opportunity to spend time with children in the Pre-Prep and that feeling is certainly mutual. On Wednesday our Year 5 children invited their Year 2 Buddies to join them for a delicious lunch of pizza, lovingly made by the Year 5 children during the morning as part of their combined DT/FT project. Judging by the smiles and the volume of pizza consumed, it was greatly enjoyed by all.
Our Prep children also enjoy spending time with their Senior School counterparts and on Friday afternoon some of them had the chance to do just that as they took part in the Blundell’s Athletics Meet on Amory fields. Children from Years 3 to 8 were in action on the track and in the field, and gave their all to the events, resulting in some top performances including wins in sprints, long jump and the cricket ball throw. The relays were also very impressive with wins in five of the six races, helping Blundell’s to lift the trophy.
This week sees all of the children in the Prep School head off on their residential trips. On the front page of our website you will see Blogs for each one, keeping you up to speed with everything that they get up to. Please do take a look.
Mon 23rd May 2016, 07:55
We have enjoyed a particularly musical week at BPS with two Teatime concerts, a variety of play rehearsals and the wonderful Mamas and Papas concert on Friday evening. The school has most certainly been alive with the sound of music! Our final Teatime concerts of the year saw our junior and senior musicians perform with confidence for the assembled audience. Then on Friday our very own Mamas and Papas (minus the Papas) gave a super concert in aid of the local charity, ‘Singing to Remember’, a group who provide singing therapy for people with dementia. It was a lovely evening for a very worthy cause so thank you to all who attended.
In our awards assembly on Friday I had the opportunity to congratulate our children on all manner of achievements, ranging from swimming to computer coding and athletics to art. It is always an exciting time in the week, especially for those children who are recognised for all that they have accomplished and this was particularly so on Friday as we celebrated the success of our U11 B team for Rounders. Having been recruited to play rather late in the day, these girls headed off to Millfield with a few nerves but keen to enjoy the experience. Alongside the A team, they played with great spirit and managed to return with some well-deserved silverware. What makes this particularly impressive is that many of these girls had never played in a tournament like this before and for others it was their first ever medals. So you will not be surprised to hear that they were grinning widely as they came to shake my hand in assembly and to receive the applause of the school and understandably so. Congratulations to them all.
The cricket season is now well under way and as is typical for this time of year, the heavens opened and our games on Wednesday were called off. Thankfully things improved for the weekend which gave the girls team the chance to take on East Devon girls in their first match of the season. It was a close game and it all came down to the last over but in the end it was our team who came out victorious. I was very impressed with the quality of play from both sides and the speed at which they picked up on the intricacies of the game was noticeable. I am not sure that this was necessarily mirrored by some of supporters, a number of whom were needing some help to get to grips with the rules of the game. If you haven’t grown up watching or playing cricket it must seem like a very peculiar sport. As a non-cricket loving friend of mine once said, “How can you play for 5 days and end up with a draw?” I must confess that my days are now spent watching cricket rather than playing it, I can understand those who find it a little sedentary but it doesn’t have to be that way, as the advent of T20 cricket continues to prove. When our children play they certainly enjoy it and it has been wonderful to see the sport being played by boys and girls throughout the school whether it be at break time, during games lessons or in after school clubs. The love of cricket is alive and well at BPS.
I thought I would provide some top tips for the uninitiated to use when next watching a game of cricket – use these and you will be guaranteed (!) to sound like you know what you’re talking about...
- Clap a lot. In fact, clap at the start of the game, at the end of the game, after every ball, when every batsman is out, when a new batsman goes in, when a bowler finishes their over (the 6 balls that each bowler bowls at one time from one end – confused yet?) and at any other time that you feel like it – you can never clap at the wrong time, unless the bowler is bowling in which case do NOT clap.
- A phrase that you will hear a lot is “walking in” – it is the standard phrase of the fielder to encourage team mates to stay alert and ready to pounce, much like a lion hunting in the wild so if you want to move on from just clapping, this is the phrase to begin with. Again, NOT when the bowler is bowling.
- LBW – three letters which strike fear in to the non-cricketer. I would suggest that explaining the LBW law makes explaining the off-side rule in football as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. I attempted to explain it to someone just recently and after 15 minutes they had glazed over and looked ready to return to something far more interesting such as, well, anything. All you need to know is if your child is given out LBW they will always say that they were cheated – no-one is ever out LBW.
- During cricket matches you will hear a name banded about by the children. This child does not exist, he is not at our school, but he appears to be a key player in just about every team we play – his name is “Buddy”. “Well bowled, Buddy” “Unlucky, Buddy” “Walking in, Buddy!” Buddy is everywhere at cricket matches so keep an eye (and an ear) out for him.
- If your child plays cricket, they will need a big bag full of white things. Yes, white is a good colour to wear in the blistering heat of summer (so I am told) but it is singularly the worst colour to clothe children in. This is why we never have baked beans on cricket match days. If you haven’t spent an hour with the Vanish trying to scrub grass stains out of a pair of cricket trousers, you haven’t lived!
There you have it. Some top tips for those new to the game. Why not join us this week and put this new-found knowledge to the test. “Buddy” will be here and I can promise a delicious tea to help wile away the hours.
Mon 16th May 2016, 08:45
Weeks at Blundell’s are always jam packed but even by our standards this last week has been a very eventful one. We have held our Open Week so have welcomed lots of new faces to tour our school, we have played lots of sport in the glorious sunshine and we have enjoyed the spectacular Happy’s Circus – it’s not every day that you have a Big Top in the school grounds! On Thursday, over 500 people joined us for an evening of entertainment from Happy and Pip, as well as their entourage of Eastern European artists, and what an evening it was. A world record level of candy floss consumption during the interval ensured that noise levels rose even further in the second half and the introduction of a water gun by Happy and Pip brought near hysteria. Those of us who prefer our food to be slightly less sugar-charged were treated to a delicious hog roast or freshly cooked pizza, as well as the customary liquid refreshments. Our competition winners were Madeleine and Edward, both of whom created beautiful circus-themed pictures which were used for the programme. As always, these events would not be possible without the hard work and military style organisational skills of our FoBP Committee – thank you to them all.
The circus may well have offered inspiration for some of our children as they took part in the finals of ‘Blundell’s Got Talent’ on Friday afternoon. There were no hula-hoopers nor was anyone dressed as Spider-Man, but there were singers, gymnasts and dancers, all show-casing their talents before our esteemed panel of judges which included Miss Bennett, Mrs Whitten, Mr Moore and our very own Simon Cowell, Mr Gareth Richards. Ollie amazed the audience with his ability to solve puzzles in seconds, Amelia demonstrated her gymnastic abilities and ‘The Tractor Boys’ stunned the audience with their energetic rendition of ‘I’ve got a brand new combine harvester’ but it was Ophelia who lifted the trophy with her solo performance of ‘These are a few of my favourite things’. The whole event had been brilliantly organised by Lucie and Phoebe as part of their work towards BALSA and they also sold cakes to raise valuable funds for their chosen charity, CLIC Sergeant. Our Year 6 award scheme continues to inspire the children to come up with innovative ways to make a difference and on Wednesday of this coming week, they will all have the chance to share what they have been up to with the rest of the school.
This last week has felt like summer may well have arrived and we have made the most of the sunshine by enjoying plenty of cricket, rounders and athletics. Year 4 had the opportunity to compete against Taunton Prep in a Quad Athletics event with every member of the year group taking part and contributing towards a closely fought win. On Wednesday our boys’ cricket teams played very well against St. Peter’s with some convincing victories aided by strong individual performances with bat and ball including no less than three half centuries. Thursday saw us welcome The Duchy School to BPS for an afternoon of rounders which was greatly enjoyed by all. Finally, on Saturday our senior girls (ably supported by some of our less senior girls) travelled to Millfield for a rounders tournament with both teams returning to school with some silverware! Whilst wining is certainly not everything, there was no mistaking the delight on the girl’s faces, matched only by the beaming smiles from Mrs FitzHerbert and Mrs Baily!
It is hard to believe that Week 4 is about to begin. Let’s hope that the fine weather continues.
Mon 9th May 2016, 08:05
On Monday our children were transported in to space as they entered the Space Odyssey Dome for an exploration of our galaxy and beyond. After some structural adjustments were made to the Pre-Prep Hall to accommodate the dome, different groups of children were invited to enter to enjoy a multi-sensory experience. Judging by some of the comments from children and teachers it was an opportunity that they would be keen to repeat. Rather different in nature, but no less enjoyable, was the visit of our Year 3 children to the Buddhist Centre in Exeter. Having learnt about Buddhism as part of their RE curriculum they really enjoyed seeing the facts brought to life and came back to school refreshed and relaxed after finishing their trip with a meditation session. Our Year 5 children, meanwhile, were very happy to begin their combined Food Tech and Design Tech project this term with a visit to Pizza Express. They learned a great deal about how pizzas are made, the importance of seasoning and the packaging used to store them. Of course, they also needed to make their own pizzas before bringing them back to school to be shared (or not) with their families.
As always, there have been opportunities this week for children to ‘perform’ with the ballet recital for our Pre-Prep dancers being an excellent example. Our Year 6 children had the chance to show what they could do in this year’s UK Junior Maths Challenge. Having taken a moment to look at the question paper, the word ‘challenge’ would be most appropriate but thankfully the children were undaunted and we await their results in a few weeks’ time. On Friday afternoon we welcomed Taunton Prep for our first Quad Athletics event, a fantastic format that allows lots of children to take part in four disciplines: a sprint, a distance race, a jump and a throw. All of our senior pupils took part on a glorious sunny afternoon and performed with great enthusiasm to come out with a hard fought victory.
We are very proud of all that is on offer for the children at Blundell’s Prep and enjoy celebrating this with all who have an interest in the school. We are also ambitious for the future and constantly strive to provide what we would all recognise to be an excellent education. One way in which we can gain a better insight in to how best to take the school forwards is to enlist the help of industry experts and this week we invited experienced ISI reporting inspector, Paul Spillane to Blundell’s Prep. He spent two days watching lessons, advising on policy documentation and talking to staff, all aimed at providing an objective view of the school and guiding us to be even better. It was a fascinating few days and affirmation of all that has been done since last summer. His final words to me before he headed off were “this is a super school” and I may be biased, but I wholeheartedly agree!
Mon 2nd May 2016, 10:40
At times this week it has felt that summer is nearly here with much needed sunshine and the smell of freshly cut grass. At other times it has felt like mid-November. Many of our girls were brave enough to wear their summer dresses for the first time this year, although they were glad to have their jumpers to hand, and the boys came back to school with enormous cricket bags full of brand new white clothing – I wonder how long it will remain white? The staff also returned in fine form with some sporting rather impressive sun tans and all ready to embark on 11 weeks of school. The school grounds looked resplendent as ever and Milestones House was showing off twelve brand new windows. I know, not the most exciting of ‘news’ but Mrs Shelbourne was certainly delighted with the heat reducing glass, a quality that we are all hopeful will be much needed during the next few months!
There is a lot to come over the summer term and on Tuesday in our first assembly of the term I spoke to the children about the impact that they can have on those around them through the analogy of the Ripple Effect. They have a very strong understanding of their role in school life and this is perhaps seen at its best when we welcome new children to Blundell’s Prep. Moving to a new school can be very nerve-wracking so the kindness of those children who have been at the school for some time is all the more crucial. Just this week I have had the most glowing reports from the parents of our new children, all of whom have commented on the warmth of welcome received. As I said to the children in Tuesday’s assembly as they watched a small drop of water cause an ever growing ripple, their actions, however small, can have a profound effect and it seems that they have taken this very seriously – I am not surprised. Kindness is common place and the children are always keen to welcome new people, whichever year group they may be coming in to.
Wednesday and Thursday saw a successful start to the season for our Rounders teams with some impressive batting on display, plenty of enthusiastic support from the side lines and lots of smiles both on and off the pitches. I look forward to seeing how our cricket teams get on this week. Fingers crossed the sun continues to shine!
There is so much to look forward to over the next 10 weeks that I cannot possibly mention everything but I would draw your attention to Thursday 5th May, which is when Happy’s Circus will be visiting Blundell’s Prep. Some people may remember when they last joined us 3 years ago and the wonderful evening that was enjoyed by people of all ages. It is a super event and well worth coming to so look out for members of our FoBP Committee who will be ‘encouraging’ you to buy tickets and then pop in to the Office to secure your seats.
It promises to be a wonderful term and I hope to welcome you to the school over the coming weeks.
Mon 25th Apr 2016, 08:40
I often talk about the breadth of opportunities on offer here at BPS and this week has demonstrated that in all its glory. Just how much can you put in to 5 days? Well this week we have had all manner of events from cake decorating to space rockets and everything in between. The week began with our Year 6 pupils enjoying an outdoor learning day in our woodland here at Blundell’s with various tasks aimed at challenging their survival skills. The now familiar aroma of ‘eau de bonfire’ could clearly be identified on their return along with 31 smiling faces from a day filled with hands on learning. Year 5 also had their OL day and headed to Exmoor to learn about the local environment from Ranger Dave, who guided them across several miles of beautiful moorland. The sunshine that appears to have finally arrived with us in Devon ensured that children and staff returned to school with plenty of colour in their cheeks.
With Tim Peake bringing space travel to national interest, our Pre-Prep children have been joining in with their own creations. They were tasked with designing and creating a suitable vehicle to help Commander Peake to return home from his mission and having seen the results, I think he would be spoilt for choice. The children did get in touch with the International Space Station and Tim sent them a message of congratulations, much to their delight. On Tuesday the space theme continued as we welcomed Space Detectives to the Pre-Prep. The children had the most wonderful day, dressing up as astronauts and firing rockets in to the sky. Excitement levels were such that they may well have been heard in space!
As you know, we do like cake here at Blundell’s Prep and on Tuesday some of our Year 6 children had the opportunity to take part in a master class with Kate from ‘Cakeadoodledo’. Following on from the hotly contested House Bake Off earlier this term, the winners were rewarded with this workshop in which they learnt about the art of cake decoration, producing some spectacular (and delicious) results worthy of any Paris patisserie. Sticking with the French theme, on Tuesday afternoon our children in Years 5 and 6 joined School House for a performance of ‘Parlez Vous Francais?’ from travelling company, Onatti Productions. I am told that it was full of laughter and the children certainly enjoyed the experience.
There has been plenty of sport going on this week with children in Years 1 and 2 enjoying their House matches. Raleigh, Grenville and Drake were all in action, and they competed in football and netball with lots of support from parents on the side lines. The weather was kind to us and a super afternoon was enjoyed by all. Our Year 5 girls were in action at Millfield in their U10 Netball Tournament and they played very well indeed, reaching the final and returning to BPS with some silverware. On Friday our cross-country runners were in action in the Larkman Cup, a premier event on the cross-country circuit which sees schools from across the region taking on the course which has, until very recently, been under water. Thankfully the dry weather of the last week allowed for good conditions and the squad which included U9, U11 and U13 runners from Blundell’s came a very close second in what was an exciting, if rather chilly, afternoon of cross-country running.
On a more cultural note, our Year 2 children spent Thursday in Exeter at the Cathedral and Mosque as part of their RE curriculum. They behaved impeccably (as always) and were keen to ask lots of questions about all that they saw. The children even got to place a Lego brick on the model of the cathedral which is being used to generate vital funds.
On Friday it was our 2nd annual House Quiz competition and children from years 3 to 6 battled it out with questions from the world of geography, art and history to name but a few. It was very close but in the end it was Raleigh who were the worthy winners. Since the introduction of this competition there has been a noticeable improvement in the general knowledge of all of our children, something that quizmaster Mr Moore has been delighted to see.
Then on Friday afternoon we welcomed Nursery parents to our Easter themed Café event to enjoy bunny shaped cheese sandwiches (they taste better apparently) and entertainment from Musikgarten’s, Mervyn Bedford. It was the perfect way to end a remarkable week across the Prep School.
We have the House Cross-country, the Year 1 and 2 Tag Rugby Festival and the Easter Service in Chapel to look forward to next week before everyone heads off on Thursday for a richly deserved holiday.
Mon 21st Mar 2016, 09:05
This week I have asked our Deputy Head, Mr Kerr to share his thoughts on the week ahead. As he rightly points out, it certainly promises to be another action-packed five days.
As we bask in the after-glow of the most stunning weekend weather-wise, with faces glowing from a touch too much sun, the mind moves forward to the week ahead, and the amazing opportunities that have been made available for the children not only to interact with each other across the age ranges but also to interact with, and learn about, the world outside the classroom.
On Monday the children in Year 6 will spend the day exploring the woods and building shelters made from the materials available from the environment around them. They will learn how to build fires and keep them lit safely before cooking their lunch over the fire. The ingredients and utensils will be provided by the school, however I'm sure some foraged goodies, such as wood sorrell or the like may well appear as an embelishment or starter.
Later in the week the children in Year 5 will venture further afield and explore the beautiful Barle valley on Thursday. They will start on the top of Exmoor, braving or basking in the elements (personally I'm hoping for the latter) before yomping across the moor and descending into the northern end of the valley. The trek will take them along the valley floor where they will learn about the history and geology of the land around them and the people that used to populate the area before they finish at the stunning Tarr Steps. It promises to be the most wonderfully educational and adventure-filled day out and just the sort of event to really inspire the children and fuel their already highly-charged curiosity.
Sandwiched in between these events is the slightly simpler, yet equally valuable, whole school House meetings. These are wonderful opportunities to bring the children of all ages together to spend time celebrating their recent successes and looking forward to the opportunities ahead. Obviously the recent House music competition will be high on the agenda and as a member of Drake house we may well be celebrating a little louder than usual. However, these meetings are a wonderful opportunity for the children to spend time together not only as houses but also with their buddies. This wonderful arrangement links children in Year 2 with children in Year 5 so a bond and friendship is created across the two parts of the school which carries on into years 3 and 6. The buddies spend time together at lunchtimes where the younger children have a chance to meet their older friends and find out about life in the senior part of the school. We also try to arrange time together where the children can read to each other and the older children can be seen as positive role models to the younger children. They also come together during whole school events such as Sports Days, House Music competitions and the like. The sight of 'big' year 5 children cheering on their buddies at the tag rugby festival is a joyous highlight of the year and something to be celebrated by all of us. It is sights such as this that led the recent inspection team to judge our pastoral care with the top award of excellent and something we are constantly endeavouring to build upon.
Mon 14th Mar 2016, 15:05
You may be surprised to hear that there are parts of my role as Head Master that I enjoy more than others. Time spent sat in front of a computer dealing with the ever growing burden that is compliance vs time spent with the children. There is no contest. I don’t spend as much time with the children as I would like to and this is something that I have had to get used to over the last 4½ years. I have tried various strategies to block time in my calendar and Bev does all that she can to stop any infiltration in to that, but the nature of school life is such that I often have to attend to other matters. However, on Thursday afternoon I had 2½ hours to spend with Year 2 and it was, as it is every year, a highlight of the term for me. As part of the children’s preparation to move in to Year 3, I spend five minutes with each of them, hearing about a special interest, toy, artefact or experience that they have had. They chat and I listen, occasionally asking a question or asking for clarification as my knowledge of crystals, ponies and sheep farming are not as they should be! You might think that having a 1:1 ‘interview’ with the Head Master would be the stuff of nightmares, and I wouldn’t blame you, but these children are so confident, so comfortable in school and so keen to share their ideas that they all breezed in to the library, ready to talk and without a care in the world. Some began with a hearty “Good afternoon, Mr Southgate” whilst others simply grinned from ear to ear and launched straight into sharing all manner of information with me. I heard about Formula 1 racing, dinosaurs, geodes and inventions which could transform plastic pollution across the globe. I looked at beautiful artwork, signed rugby balls and Lego creations. In every five-minute chat there was a very real sense that the children had something to say and they said it with remarkable confidence and humour when one considers that they are only 6 and 7 years old.
So what is it that makes this possible for all of our boys and girls, all of whom are very different, to be so comfortable in this 1:1 situation? I think the answer lies in the adults who surround these children and who support them in their lives, both at home and at school. We are fortunate to have an incredibly supportive parent body who are engaged in their children’s lives and who recognise the importance of sharing a consistent message and one that aligns with that of the school. This allows our teachers to get the best from the children in their care and provide a safe environment in which children feel valued and able to be themselves. This is certainly what I saw on Thursday afternoon as the children, some of whom have been with us since they were just 2 years old, were able to lead a conversation, answer questions and explain their ideas. As parents we all want our children to make the best of their academic, creative and physical abilities but we also want them to be happy, confident and interesting people. My experience on Thursday afternoon would suggest that our Year 2 children are well on their way to mastering all of these qualities.
On Wednesday our musicians joined Senior School students for the Spring Concert which was greatly enjoyed by all who were there to see music at Blundell’s in all its glory. Children from Years 4 to 6 joined their senior counterparts and got a taste of what it is like to perform with a full orchestra, an experience I am sure they will remember for some time. Our choir entertained the audience with ‘Get Loud’ followed by ‘Money, Money, Money’ accompanied by the senior musicians and then our Year 6 Choristers headed to the Chapel to perform ‘Only in Sleep’. Thanks must go to Mrs Cracknell and Dr Leaman for all of their efforts.
Our Quiz team were in action at Exeter Cathedral School this week as they took part in the National Quiz Club Competition. They gave a very good account of themselves, answering questions on everything from Geography and History to Art and Science, and using all of their tactical knowledge to gain points. Later this term we will hold the House Quiz Competition and it is sure to be hotly contested.
Our Under 11 girls played very well at the National Netball qualifiers, eventually finishing 5th, just outside of the qualifying positions for the national finals. Perhaps all the most frustrating for them as they had already beaten 2 of the 4 qualifiers! Sometimes the draw plays its part but the girls were philosophical about it and Mrs Baily was delighted with the way that they had performed throughout the day.
A great deal to look forward to this week with Teatime concerts, Outdoor Learning days and the Year 2 play. Should be lots of fun.
Mon 7th Mar 2016, 09:50
A good friend of mine is celebrating his 10th birthday today. He doesn’t look like your typical ten-year-old (although he does resemble one on occasions) and the reason for that it because he is actually turning 40. He is one of those ‘lucky’ people who can forever claim to be younger than they actually are, although for children who happen to be born on the 29th Feb, I imagine that it is really frustrating, having to wait four years for a proper birthday. Whether they celebrate on the 28th or the 1st, it must be a little annoying or perhaps it makes it extra special. I’ll be asking Sophia in our assembly today as she will be celebrating her special day as a ‘Leapling’ and we will be thinking about how we can all take a leap forwards in our lives. A leap year gives us an extra day to do just that - so what would you do with those additional 24 hours? I imagine that it would elicit a wide variety of responses, mainly related to catching up on the inevitable workload of family life. It is perhaps worth taking a moment to consider how that extra day could really bring benefit to our lives or indeed, the lives of others. It is a common theme in assemblies and in much of what takes place at BPS, ‘Non Sibi’ is an important thread that runs through much of what we do but there also has to be time for focusing on doing something for oneself. Twenty-four self-indulgent hours of putting aside the usual commitments, and with money no object - what would you do? Readers of this blog are welcome to reply if they feel so inclined with a prize* for the most original idea.
You could pop the question to a loved one although most of us are probably a little way past that point. You could literally ‘leap around’ and I am reliably informed that there is a place in Bristol where you can do just that – it’s all the rage apparently and I am told that we will soon be going. A&E awaits I’m sure. Perhaps a better idea would be to take in an Oscar winning film or listen to a Brits winning album. For the more active, a walk on Dartmoor with some of the region’s finest ale at the end could be a good option. That gets my vote over the trampolines any day! If I were I to ask the children I may well get the answer – “have another disco”, such was the enjoyment of Friday’s excellent event, organised by our FoBP committee. Two hours of dancing interspersed with world record sweetie consumption ensured that everyone had a great time. A big thank you as always to the members of the committee and the teachers who gave up their Friday evening to make the disco possible. Other children may request a day of House matches, the Junior competition which took place on Tuesday was enjoyed by all. I will pose this question in assembly and see what the children come up with but I imagine that there will be some very creative ideas. Whatever you decide to do with your ‘extra day’ I hope you enjoy it.
*prize only available every Leap year
Mon 29th Feb 2016, 08:17
If you had the power to put together your ‘Perfect Week’ at school, then I wonder if it would look anything like the one just enjoyed by the children here at Blundell’s Prep. As the children headed off for their half term break they were full of smiles having enjoyed five days of art, music and drama and what a week it has been.
On Monday I asked the children to come up with a mantra for the week ahead and used Baron Pierre de Coubertin’s immortal words ‘Swifter, higher, stronger’ as the inspiration. Our theme for this year’s Creative Arts Week has been the Rio 2016 Olympics and it took seconds for Meredith and James to come up with ‘Create, Explore, Imagine’ – perfect! We finished our assembly with some Samba dancing (most of the teachers joined in!) before the children embarked on a staggering array of activities which saw them fulfil the Creative Arts Week mantra to the full.
There have been too many different activities to mention them all, and a great many highlights – just ask your children. If they are part of Drake house then they definitely had a good week as they not only won the House Music competition but they also won the first Blundell’s Bake Off, and they ended the half term in first place for Merits and House points. House Music was hotly contested and our guest judge, senior school music teacher Mr Gordon, found it very difficult to separate the three houses but ultimately it was the quality of ‘Money, Money, Money’ by Abba which led Drake to victory. Fast forward to Friday and it was the turn of the Drake bakers to deliver some sumptuous treats to be enjoyed by guest chef, Craig Sampson. I am not sure he has ever eaten such heavily decorated creations as he consumed a year’s worth of sugar in minutes. Special mention should go to the Star Bakers, Oscar and Millie, who made a beautifully decorated cake which would have had Paul Hollywood cooing with delight. Not a soggy bottom in sight!
Earlier in the week, Year 4 had a chance to put together an Olympic themed ‘Play in a Day’ and they worked tirelessly to create from scratch a production for their parents to enjoy. It was full of colour and joy, with all of the children playing their part. The drum and dance workshops were enjoyed by all of our children from Nursery to Year 6 and gave them the opportunity to make a lot of noise, and I mean a lot of noise. Then on Friday the Pre-Prep children took part in Poetry Day, and they recited a whole variety of poems from scary ones to funny ones, and even some written by the children themselves. To see children as young as 3, stand on the stage to recite their poems in front of Miss Clancy and her team of Year Speech and Drama students from the senior school, was quite remarkable. Our budding animators were also inspired by the visit from Ed Jobling who converted Room 7 in to an animation studio for the day and allowed the children to create their own Olympic games through Stop motion photography and the power of green screen techniques.
In amongst these workshops, the children had the opportunity to take part in a staggering array of art workshops, with a team of guest artists and parent helpers on hand to assist (and to join in) whenever they could. Carnival head dresses, Olympic ring collages, felt making, screen printing, batik, tie-dying, papier mache bugs, clay and wax resist rainforests, petri dish art, firework silhouettes, clay favelas, Warhol animals, Britto inspired drawings, Hockney photo collage, stencil printing, and the small matter of the children’s beautiful CAW books which they have all taken great pride in working on throughout the week.
I know that I wax lyrical every week about everything that goes on here at Blundell’s Prep, and with good reason, but Creative Arts Week is something very special indeed. It takes a staggering amount of organisation and hard work to make it possible and all of the teachers come together to ensure that the children get the very most out of the five days. Special mention must go to Mrs Aldridge who masterminded the whole event and gave the children what I am sure for many of them would be the ‘Perfect Week’ at school.
Happy half term everyone!
Tue 16th Feb 2016, 08:35
What a wet weekend... again! With the rain set in on Saturday, there was little choice but to settle down for a day inside. How fortuitous therefore that this weekend saw the start of the Six Nations Rugby Championship! Following on from the disaster that was the World Cup, all eyes were on Eddie Jones and his first selection. Would he go for youth and wholesale changes or would he stick to those who have experience at the highest level? Well the answer was the latter and on Saturday afternoon I watched as England began their campaign with a narrow victory against Scotland. Although a far cry from the attacking spectacle that was much of the recent World Cup, what struck me was the sheer determination with which both sides went about their work. Neither would give an inch and they fought for 80 minutes, all for one collective goal – victory. When it comes to introducing children to sport you want the children to have role models and the likes of Jack Nowell (dodgy hair aside) and Chris Robshaw provide just that. They work hard, day in, day out, to achieve their goals – to be the best and to win. So how does this then translate to the life of a 10-year-old who sees these role models and wants to emulate them? The message, if we are not careful, can quickly become very black and white. Win = success, lose = failure and this is a mind-set that requires some skilful handling if it is to be avoided. Now don’t get me wrong, I am as competitive as the next person and I do not believe that children should be told that winning is not important. Not only would that be patronising in the extreme but it would also undermine one of the key motivators for participation. But it is certainly not everything and that message starts with those who are involved in the sporting lives of our young children.
The joy of participation, the development of key skills and physical fitness, the experience that comes from facing a challenge and the sense of belonging that may be derived from being part of a team, are all enormously important in shaping children’s characters. This was seen in all its glory on Monday afternoon as our children in Years 5 and 6 took part in their House matches and we saw them come together to compete for a trophy – for victory. We also saw them face a whole variety of challenges that were far more important to their personal development. They decided where they would play, they talked tactics, they changed positions, they fell and got back up again, they encouraged each other and commiserated when things did not go to plan. They enjoyed success and disappointment as individuals and as a team, with everyone recognised and valued for the contribution that they made. It is imperative that the children hear the message from those around them that the process is more important than the outcome, and this is particularly important during their participation in sport. Over the last few weeks we have seen all of our children playing for the various school teams and all of their contributions have been valued and recognised by the coaches who encourage and support them. I have certainly enjoyed working with the Under 10 Football C team, all of whom have given their best in our training sessions and in the matches in which they have played, some of which they have won and others that they have lost. What has mattered is that they have worked hard, have shown character and have really improved. That is surely what we should all be aiming for.
The children will be immersed in all things art, music and drama over the next five days as they enjoy the opportunities that are on offer during our Rio Olympic themed Creative Arts Week. We are really looking forward to welcoming lots of parent helpers and various guest artists to support the children in their creative efforts and I for one can’t wait to see what they produce.
Mon 8th Feb 2016, 08:00
Do you recall the first time that you stayed away from home as a child? I imagine that it was staying at a friend’s house for a sleepover or it may have been with relatives. For others it may well have been a residential school trip and I can vividly remember preparing to go away for the first time – a school trip to Fiesch in Switzerland, not to ski but to walk. The detail that went in to packing, what was and was not allowed (thankfully, Walkmans were ok) and the endless conversations regarding walking boots. “Don’t bring brand new boots or you’ll get blisters” we were told. Some listened (me – thanks Mum) others did not and boy did they regret it. Others didn’t bother with walking boots at all but this was the eighties and we were all very fashion conscious. Unfortunately 80’s fashion and swiss mountains were not a great combination. More blisters followed. The build up to the trip was a combination of excitement and nerves. Excitement at the thought of being away from home with my friends, having fun and getting involved in lots of Swiss mountain related activities which were not possible to replicate back in Maidstone. But there were also nerves at the unknown - Where would I sleep? What would the food be like? What if I got lost? Thankfully my parents were on hand to offer reassurances, in fact they seemed very relaxed at the prospect of me being away for a week! We spent time talking about what it would be like, focusing on all of the positives and I think that this played a very important part in my feeling happy to go. You may wonder why I am taking this trip down memory lane and the reason is that I have had a number of recent conversations with parents who have commented that their children are a little concerned about the residential trips that take place during the Summer Term. I can understand this as our children are young and many may not have had a night away from home. My advice is to start slowly, perhaps with a night away from parents at a relative’s house. If this is not possible then a sleepover at a close friend’s house, preferably close by to their own home, could be just what is needed to start preparing children for heading off on a school trip. Whatever tactics are used, the ultimate goal is to help children to feel confident that being away from home is ok. That they can cope and will be safe, even in the middle of night when they wake up, and therefore listening to their fears and talking them through is vital. Some children take it all in their stride but others do not, and whilst our natural urge may be to take the ‘just get on with it approach’ this is not right for some children for whom a more considered approach is required. Helping children to feel comfortable with being away from home is vital if they are to make the most of the experience and at BPS we are determined to be part of this, as our residential trips are a highlight of the year. Year 3 head to Paignton Zoo for a night, whilst Year 4 go to Folly Farm in Bristol for two. Year 5 head down to Dartmoor for three nights and Year 6, having enjoyed their three night sports tour to Jersey in the spring, then go to North Devon for two nights at The Ultimate Adventure Centre. The children get so much from these experiences and as parents and teachers, we must equip the children with the tools to wave goodbye with confidence. I’m sure that by the time Trips Week comes around all of the children will be raring to go.
Our week started with the much anticipated Grandparents’ Morning and we were delighted to welcome over 90 guests to the school. The children provided the warmest of welcomes and took great pride in looking after their grandparents and sharing lesson time with them. As always, our visitors were hugely complimentary and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to be part of their grandchildren’s education. Later that day our Speech and Drama students had the chance to showcase their talents at the Speech and Drama Recital and what a wonderful job they did. Our audience of parents and grandparents also included three of our school Governors and they were treated to 40 minutes of poetry and prose, delivered with astonishing confidence and skill. The recent LAMDA results have included a huge crop of Distinctions thanks in no small part to the efforts of the talented Mrs Rochfort and having been there on Monday afternoon I can understand why. Staying on a dramatic theme, this week I had the privilege of watching the Senior School play, ‘Street Child’, directed by the equally talented Mr Rochfort, and it was nothing short of exceptional. The quality of performance from every cast member was as good as I have seen in a school production and this was particularly the case with Year 8 student, Will Bucknell who played the lead role with astonishing skill for someone so young.
Acting skills were also tested in Year 3 this week as Sydney had to endure the mummification process during the Year 3 Egyptian Day. I am told that she was very authentic as her vital organs were removed and her body was wrapped in linen (tissue). Her classmates were very appreciative of the sacrifice that she made so that they could learn about Ancient Egypt. To conclude the week we were joined by 10 budding chefs (well actually 9 as one of them was a proper chef) for the Dad’s Curry Workshop. The menu sounded delicious and those who were tasked with tasting the finished products were not disappointed, although it took a while for my mouth to stop burning after sampling the mutton meatballs!
Mon 1st Feb 2016, 08:05
One of the most common school mantras that you will hear is ‘Learning for Life’ and there is no question that education in 2016 pays a great deal of attention to developing skills that will serve children into adulthood. Much of the focus tends to be centred around the soft skills of resilience, adaptability, creativity and empathy as they are deemed to be some of the most attractive skills to future employers and, most importantly, to help children to become well rounded adults. There is no question that these are vital attributes for our children to master but there is also room for time spent on the more traditional ‘real world’ skills and this was brought home to me this week whilst watching our Year 2 children learning about money. Concepts such as time and money can be very challenging for children and whilst their numerical understanding may be strong, their ability to then transfer this understanding to these rather abstract concepts can often require some skilled teaching. Without wishing to harp on about the ‘good old days’ I do think that we are guilty of neglecting some areas of learning in our everyday lives, and it is easy to see how this happens. How often do children handle money these days? In fact, how often does anyone handle money? Much like Her Majesty The Queen, one does not tend to carry cash and this has perhaps had a knock on effect on our children’s understanding of what money is and how to manipulate the various values of currency. I remember saving pennies to go to the shops to buy ½ penny sweeties, putting coins in to my Natwest Piggy Bank and the excitement of a generous relative popping a note into a birthday card. I knew what it was worth and what I could do with it. I would suggest that this is far less likely to be the case with our own children so looking for opportunities to let the children have a bit of pocket money (no, they didn’t put me up to this) and to let them learn how to use it is all the more important. They should handle coins, see what they are worth in real terms and make transactions that require calculations. The idea that you can hand over one coin and get ten back as change is something that we take for granted but to children, it is often confusing. In the lesson that I observed, the children certainly found this to be the case but to watch them begin to make sense of the different colours, sizes and values of the coins was testimony to the skill of the teacher. It has certainly prompted me to give my children a small amount of pocket money to...
This week our children have certainly had some ‘real life learning’ to enjoy as they have been out and about. Year 6 headed to Exeter Racecourse for a day of equine related maths and they were challenged to solve a number of problems, including how many horses could be safely fitted in to the parade ring. Not your everyday problem I know but it is the practical application of mathematics that is such a powerful way to learn. You will not be surprised to hear that the subject of jockey’s winnings caused some considerable interest as the children were asked to calculate earnings using their knowledge of percentages. The handicapping system was also used to calculate weights and the children were challenged to estimate using the metric and the imperial systems. It was certainly a very worthwhile day and one that the children greatly enjoyed.
Looking slightly further back in time to learn lessons from the past was the theme for our Year One and Year Five children this week as they welcomed guests from the 17th and 16th centuries respectively to the school. Thankfully the extinguishers were not needed as Master Hugh Scrivenor, a wool merchant from 1666, helped the children to learn about The Great Fire of London through hands on activities which were then further developed the following day when they headed outside to make their own fires in order to make charcoal for their art work. Our Year Five children did survive the day with King Henry VIII although James and Flo were not spared the stocks! The past has much for us to use today but perhaps that is a step too far?!
Mon 25th jan 2016, 14:40
Aristotle said that the ‘The whole is greater than the sum of its parts’ and during this last week we have seen this in abundance as the children have worked together on a great many exciting ventures. On Wednesday, our Year 5 and 6 choristers headed to the Genting Arena in Birmingham for the annual Young Voices Concert. Preparations had been made throughout last term’s music lessons and our children were ready to work alongside over 6000 fellow school children to put on a show to remember. The man charged with bringing this enormous and rather excitable choir together was a gentleman called David Lawrence and he spent the afternoon fine tuning every element ready for the concert in the evening. It was fascinating to see the way in which he brought the many musical elements together and the result was spectacular. I was delighted to hear that many of our parents had travelled up the motorway to watch the children perform and although they were across the other side of the arena I was reliably informed that they could see all of us singing and dancing. Thank you to all of the parents for providing such supportive comments regarding my dancing – I think it is important to participate, however embarrassing that may be! Some rather weary children returned to BPS at 1am to be greeted by some rather weary parents, but the whole experience was one that all of the children are sure to remember for many years to come.
On Wednesday our Pre-Prep children headed out in to the school grounds for an afternoon of outdoor learning. One of their tasks was to build a shelter and they had some help from our senior pupils, many of whom are very much at home in the outdoors. The children worked together to plan and then construct their shelters before enjoying some much needed camp fire refreshments. It was then the turn of our older children to take the lead in a spot of ornithology as they helped the younger children to identify the many different birds which visit our school grounds. As well as being a lot of fun, there is enormous value in these collaborative situations, and this was very evident on Wednesday afternoon.
On Monday of last week we welcomed Senior School teacher, Mrs Milne and Latin students, Hatty and Frankie to BPS for the first Classics Club. All children in Years 3 to 6 are invited and if last Monday’s session is anything to go by, they are certain to enjoy themselves. I will be encouraging more of the children to join the club and Mrs Milne will be helping to drum up support when she joins me for my Monday assembly.
On Friday our Year 6 children were taken back 150 years as they immersed themselves in all things Victorian at Powderham Castle. I am not sure that one would describe what they were asked to do as collaboration, more forced labour, as they scrubbed floors, polished shoes, dusted, ironed and made paper twists for the fires. They also got to go in to the kitchens where they spent time with the castle’s cook (a much kinder lady than the very authentic Housekeeper!) and rustled up some delicious griddle cakes and some real lemonade. Lunch was bread and cheese although the dessert of Eccles cakes and Victoria sponge more than made up it. Some parents had included crisps in their children’s packed lunches but they decided not to eat them, such was their commitment to the day. Either that or the housekeeper had scared the wotsits out of them!
There are more opportunities for the children to work together during the coming week as Years 3, 4 and 5 enjoy their outdoor learning mornings. They may need to look out for one another on Friday as King Henry VIII makes his annual pilgrimage to Blundell’s Prep – with his propensity for removing heads, the children will need to be on their guard if they want to remain ‘whole’ rather than split in to parts!
Mon 18th Jan 2016, 08:05
What will 2016 have in store I wonder?
I don’t know how you feel about New Year’s Resolutions but I must confess that I am not a fan of those that require giving things up, perhaps as a result of so many failed attempts to give up chocolate. I have come to the conclusion that giving things up in January does not work for me and instead I prefer to focus on trying to make things a little bit better. Not earth shattering I know but I would suggest that it is a more likely to succeed and avoid that mid-January feeling of failure. What I have found is that this positive approach makes all the difference. I am not making an attempt to write a self-guide here, far from it in fact, but the idea of concentrating on what you can do rather than what you cannot do is the key to achieving your goals and there is a lesson in there for us all. In spite of our best intentions to plan ahead, we have no idea what 2016 has in store, so it is best to be ready to adapt as necessary. In my Monday assembly I will be talking to the children about ‘bridges’ and drawing comparisons with the move from one year to the next through various bridge based metaphors, interspersed with genuine danger (there always has to be danger). My hope is that the children will recognise the importance of focusing on what lies ‘over the bridge’ but also the importance of being adaptable as they move in to the new year. There will be many highs, and you only have to look at the school calendar to see that there are an endless number of exciting opportunities for the school community to enjoy. Invariably there will be times when things do not go to plan and their ability to deal with this is the key to ensuring future happiness and resilience.
The first four days of the new term have seen our Year 6 pupils taking another big step across the bridge between the Prep and the Senior School as they have prepared to sit their Entrance Exams, and on Saturday morning, 32 Prep School children were joined by 27 external candidates for a morning of assessments and fun activities, as well as the chance to get to know one another. I am not sure if the children went in to the day thinking that they would enjoy themselves but they had prepared well and finished the day with smiles on their faces, having taken many positives from the experience. We wish them all well as they deserve to be successful.
On Friday our Year 3 children invited their parents to join them for lunch and with Fish and Chips on the menu it was an offer that could not be refused. We eat well at the Prep School and our parents were delighted to see the balanced diet on offer to all of our children. One or two did ask where the liver and lumpy custard was but I was pleased to report that they are a thing of the past. The puddings are a temptation that I will continue to face in 2016 but once or twice a week isn’t too bad is it?
This coming week will see our Year 5 and 6 choristers heading to Birmingham for the Young Voices Concert. If last year is anything to go by then it will be a great event and a wonderful experience for our pupils to sing alongside 6000 other children. In the spirit of trying to do things a little bit better in 2016, I have attempted to learn the words. I’m not sure if the result will be all that successful (or tuneful) but I’m ready to give it a go!
Mon 11th Jan 2016, 08:39
You know it is Christmas at Blundell’s Prep when you can hear Mariah Carey blasting out from the dining hall amid raucous laughter and the sound of cheering from yet another Mexican Wave. Yes, it was Christmas lunch time and once again our wonderful catering team ensured that we were given a festive feast to remember. The sprout challenge was laid down and accepted by everyone on table 13 (unlucky for them) and plates were cleared in time for the chocolate and cream extravaganza that was pudding. By the time that the hall was cleared in readiness for final assembly I think that the staff were all ready for 40 winks but alas there was the small matter of gymnastics certificates, merit badges and the much coveted house cups to award. In a fitting tribute to Mr Hirst, his beloved house Grenville were able to secure the honours in the sport and the House Points to great delight from a third of the school. We then bid a final farewell to Mr Hirst who offered some advice to the children, asking them to make laughing and being happy a priority in their lives. Wise words indeed.
On Tuesday our final nativity took place and it was the turn of our Nursery to perform the ‘Wriggly Nativity’ to a packed Pre-Prep Hall. It certainly lived up to its name as the children entertained the audience with songs and dances, some planned and some ‘improvised’ but all done with enthusiasm and joy. The audience even joined in with the wriggling at the end, to the delight of our 2, 3 and 4 year olds. As if the excitement could have been any greater, Father Christmas paid the Toddler Group children a visit on Wednesday although due to an emergency with one of his reindeer he had to drop his presents and run. However, on Thursday he returned for the Pre-Prep Christmas Party and was in fine form as he handed out gifts and got everyone in to the Christmas spirit.
On Wednesday evening the school gathered in Chapel for the annual candle-lit Carol Service. The children were in fine voice and sang with great gusto, as did our parents’ choir. It was as lovely as ever and a very intimate and atmospheric way the finish the term.
The holidays are here and offer a chance to catch up with loved ones or head off for holidays with friends and family. I hope that you also take Mr Hirst’s advice and fill your Christmas with happiness and plenty of laughter.
Happy Christmas to one and all.
Tue 15th Dec 2015, 08:25
I am delighted to say that my request for assistance with the 500 mince pies was answered this week as we welcomed hundreds of guests to the Prep and Pre-Prep for this year’s Christmas plays. As always, themes were varied and we had the more traditional nativity stories as well as the very moving performance of ‘Christmas 1914’ from our senior pupils. Year One children treated us the story of James the stable boy, and they sang and acted with huge enthusiasm. Our Reception children performed the hilarious ‘Humph the Camel’ to a very appreciative audience and our Year 3 and 4 children brought a legal theme to their nativity with a very polished play entitled ‘Straw and Order.’ Our Year 5 and 6 children took on some hard hitting material this year as they retold the story of Christmas 1914 in the front line trenches of the Western Front. It has been a very busy week but one that has seen the children perform with a great deal of skill and confidence. A big thank you must go to all of the teachers and teaching assistants who worked with the children to prepare them for their performances, whether it be through the learning of lines, the rehearsing of songs or the creation of the fantastic costumes which are a hallmark of any Blundell’s Christmas production. I would also make special mention of Mrs Angela Rhodes, whose genius in costume design is the stuff of legend. How she manages to put it all together I will never know, but thank goodness she does as the results are spectacular. I have included a few photographs from last week, to share with you all that has been going on.
I sit writing this week’s Blog having just returned from Oxfordshire where Mr Swain and I have been on a mini tour with our Under 11 rugby players. The squad of 13 boys were taking on two of the top Prep Schools in the country in Moulsford and The Dragon, and they all played their hearts out. In very windy and cold conditions, our lads were spurred on by the travelling support, and gave a very good account of themselves. In both matches the BPS boys were winning at half time but could not quite manage to hold on in the 2nd halves and narrowly lost both games. It goes to show that we can compete on equal terms with the very best Prep school rugby players and Mr Swain and I were very proud of how our team responded to what was a considerable challenge. All of our sports teams play with enormous heart and this is why they have enjoyed such success this term. Our U11 B rugby payers, U10 B hockey players and our U10 A rugby players have all remained undefeated this season and that is quite a feat when one looks at the quality of our fixture list. Congratulations to them all.
We look forward to the Christmas Carol Service on Wednesday at which we also say goodbye to a very special gentleman who has been part of the school for over 30 years, Mr Steve Hirst. Mr Hirst is well known for his dry sense of humour, his dedication to the J Team, the school’s Christian Union, and his willingness to help anyone and everyone. You could not wish to meet a more generous and thoughtful man and I know that he will be greatly missed by all of the children, parents and staff at Blundell’s Prep. Please do join us for the service which promises to be a fitting end to what has been another action-packed term.
Mon 7th Dec 2015, 11:10
If I had to pick a favourite day of the week it would be Wednesday. “Not Friday?” I hear you cry, but there are two very good reasons for Wednesday being my highlight of the week. The first is that Wednesday afternoon is time for sport and so it is spent either watching our girls and boys playing matches against other schools, or travelling throughout the region with my rugby team. It is an escape, a time to put my suit away for a short time and climb in to layers of insulation before heading out to brave all that the West Country weather likes to throw at us. Sport in Prep Schools is part of the DNA and a wonderful opportunity to see children in a very different environment. I can think of countless examples of children who have been quite shy or unsure of themselves in the classroom being transformed when given the opportunity to play sport for their school. The positive impact on their confidence is so often taken back in to their studies as they learn to persevere and deal with success and failure alongside friends. So my Wednesday afternoons allow me to see the children in a very different environment, to get to know them when they are caked in mud but determined to do all that they can for the benefit of their team mates. I never cease to be amazed by how committed our children are to doing their best and rather than shying away from possible failure, they enjoy being challenged. It is a privilege to be part of that.
My second reason for choosing Wednesday as my highlight of the week is that I spend the morning in our Pre-Prep. Spending time with our youngest children is such a tonic and the warmth of welcome that I get is a very powerful reminder of what we as teachers are tasked with doing. This week I spent time in our Nursery, watching our highly skilled Nursery teachers and teaching assistants providing the most wonderful care for our 2, 3 and 4 years olds. I think back to when my two went to Nursery (I can just about remember back that far) and I just wanted to know that they would be looked after; cuddled if they were sad or had had a bump, encouraged to play with other children and given every opportunity to learn and grow as little people. I realise that as Head of the school I am somewhat biased but when I spend time in our Nursery I see all of those things that I looked for as a parent and more. There is space for every child to explore, including the outdoors as wellies, coats, hats and gloves are always ready to be put on, often without any adult help needed. There are countless different activities available for the children to develop their skills, understanding and confidence, and they move between them with ease, often with other children with whom they play beautifully. This week I watched as our 2 and 3 year olds correctly identified a bird feeder, they explained why the birds needed food at this time of year and then they made their own bird food with seeds, porridge, raisins and lard. The children talked about the ingredients, they poured the ingredients in to the bowl and they took turns to stir the ‘delicious’ mixture before spooning it in to cups to set. Throughout this activity the children asked questions, worked together, shared ideas and had great fun in the process.
The care for the children could not be better. If a knee is bumped then a comforting word and a cuddle is never far away. Snack time is more civilised than you might imagine with children of 2 and 3 taking turns, saying “please” and “thank you” without prompting and eating copious amounts of fruit and vegetables. It is a very happy place to be and so much of that is down to the highly skilled teachers who appear to have limitless energy but who also know every child as an individual and go to great lengths to ensure that they are all given the best start to their education. So that is why Wednesdays are my favourite day of the week and the best reminder for me as a Head as to what our school is truly about.
I have included a few photos from this weeks Nursery trip to Pennywell Farm where the children helped with the Nativity play and met some of the farm’s furry residents. As you can see, they all had a great time.
Do remember my invitation from last week – I can’t eat 500 mince pies on my own!
Mon 30th Nov 2015, 08:59
When considering what to write about every week I look back at the last 5 days and consider the high points, of which there are always many. This week there was a common theme which ran through so many aspects of our week and that is Music. It was recently observed that our children can be heard to spontaneously break in to song as they walk around school and I can bear testimony to that fact. They love everything musical and if one looks at how many opportunities the children have to sing, play and perform then you will understand why.
It would be fair to say that Christmas arrived early at Blundell’s Prep and rehearsals for the six different Christmas productions have been heard throughout both Prep and Pre-Prep since half term. If you walk throughout the school you are very likely to hear music, whether it be from a concert, a rehearsal, an assembly, a class lesson or a 1:1 session with our team of peripatetic teachers. Had you been in the Prep School on Thursday morning you would have heard the Senior School Brass Group performing for the children. Not only did they showcase their talents but they also spoke to the children about the joys of playing brass instruments in the hope of developing the next generation of trumpeter or saxophonist. In my day, saxophone playing was all about Kenny G, so not particularly cool, but our senior brass group made it look very cool indeed so if your son or daughter puts a trombone on their Christmas list then you will know why!
This week we have held two Tea-Time Concerts, one for the Juniors and one for the Seniors, and both were brilliantly supported by over 60 parents and grandparents. The range of musical instruments played was impressive, as was the quality of performance from every budding violinist or pianist, drummer or singer. Some children were performing for the first time and they showed a calmness that many adults would only dream of. It can be pretty scary to stand in front of a room of adults, all with their eyes looking at you, so to see our 7-year-old musicians able to do this was very impressive. Even between the junior and senior concerts, you can see the range of experience that our children have. Some are just starting out with their musical endeavours but their 10 seconds on the piano mean the world to them. Our Senior concert saw more debuts from children who are new to the school this year but it also showcased the talents of our more experienced performers, some of whom are working towards Grade 4.
Music is a big part of Blundell’s Prep and is brilliantly supported by Miss Purvis in the Pre-Prep, through to Mrs Cracknell in the Prep and then on to Dr Leaman in the senior School. Children who begin their musical journey have the opportunity to carry it on throughout their time at Blundell’s and on Thursday night I was one of an audience of several hundred people who got to enjoy the spectacular ‘Blundell’s at the Shows’ in Ondaatje. The array of musical talent on display was as impressive as I have seen, with my highlight being the Petergate Singing Group performing ‘Bring him Home’ from Les Miserables. These five guys gave a stunning performance and I am inviting them up to the Prep School to perform and inspire the next generation.
Over the next 3 weeks we will see all of our children utilise their musical talents. The Christmas productions and more traditional nativities will give all of our children the opportunity to take to the stage and the Festival of Carols will see choirs from local schools come together to celebrate Christmas in Blundell’s Chapel. Our Christmas Carol Service will include not only our school choir but also our Only Boys and Only Girls Aloud choirs, and our parent choir, The Mamas and Papas. If hearing all of these groups sing in Chapel is not enough, they will all be performing again at Knightshayes on the 11th December so do come along to support them.
Then in the new year, our choristers will once again be heading to the Birmingham NEC to take part in the Young Voices Concert. They are busily learning words and dance moves, as are the teachers who will be going with the children, one of whom will be me. Suffice to say I need a lot of practice!
My request is one that readers of this blog will know well – come and be part of all of our musical events over the next few weeks. There will be a warm welcome alongside copious amounts of mince pies to enjoy – how could you resist?
Mon 23rd Nov 2015, 07:45
‘Community spirit’ is a phrase often used within our school and with good reason. I never cease to be amazed by the manner in which people come together to support the children in their endeavours or the way that the community in and around Blundell’s participates in the many social events throughout the year. If there is a call to contribute, people respond, and that is a wonderful strength of our school. It can be attendance at Tea-time concerts (as we will no doubt see this week), a stoic refusal to be beaten by the elements on the touchline (U10 rugby parents are probably still drying out) or the giving of items for a charity fund-raiser (thank you for all of your contributions), that are the hallmarks of Blundell’s families and over the last week we have seen this in spades.
On Friday we came together to support Children in Need and once again our children (with some parental assistance, I’m sure) made cakes to sell and dressed in home clothes or super hero costumes if they wanted to – Captain America did not make a reappearance as he had Governors’ meetings to attend! Then on Saturday, Blundell’s Prep families enjoyed a highlight of our year as we welcomed hundreds of eager shoppers to our Christmas Market. A staggering amount of hard work had gone in to ensuring that every detail was considered and there was laughter, music and lots and lots of delicious treats for all to enjoy. All members of the school community were involved; the children ran their stalls with customary entrepreneurship, our choir sang like angels, as did our parents choir, and the teachers were on hand to keep everyone refreshed. As I have mentioned previously in this Blog, our Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee are incredibly supportive of the school and do so much to bring the community together. On Saturday they created a magical Santa’s grotto and special thanks must go to Sarah T for the beautiful applique panels which she hand stitched over many, many hours to adorn the drama studio. Thanks also to Victoria, Karen and Rachel for standing in as Santa’s elves and running one of the lucky dips! Upstairs in the Prep School, Lucy, Victoria, Abi and Caroline did a wonderful job in the Kids Zone where many a face was painted and gingerbread biscuit was decorated whilst parents were able to shop downstairs. A big thanks to them all! Michelle, Justine, Kathryn and Matthew did a sterling job on the ever busy sweet stall across the morning, whilst out in the playground, Susannah braved the elements to sell the 300 delicious Christmas themed cupcakes she had made. Having sampled the sticky toffee pudding and chocolate lava fudge cupcakes over the weekend I can safely say they were amazing. Final thanks must go to Helen our Chair for bringing everyone together and to Lisa who took the lead in running the outside stallholders. The preparations start months in advance when potential stallholders are approached and she has managed the whole thing brilliantly, ably assisted as ever by Bev and Gloria. It may be mid-November but Christmas has certainly started at Blundell’s Prep!
The last five days at school have also seen Year 4 immerse themselves in all things Roman as on Tuesday they welcomed a Roman ‘Optio’ to BPS – the children spent the morning as Celts and the afternoon as Romans, and Year 3 ‘volunteered’ to go head to head with the legions, armed only with some blue balls to hurl at the on-coming ‘Testudo’. Thankfully no blood was shed.
There has also been considerable sporting success this week. On Tuesday our Year 2 children played rugby and hockey against St. Peter’s and Mount Kelly with everyone thoroughly enjoying their first foray into matches against other schools. The journey there was exciting, the matches were exciting and the tea was exciting – it was certainly a highlight of the week for many! On Thursday our Under 11 girls hockey team travelled to Repton School for the National Hockey Finals. They played very well indeed and finished 14th out of 26 finalists, a remarkable achievement from these talented players – well done to all of them. On Saturday, our U10 boys rugby team travelled to Queen’s for their annual tournament and in rather soggy conditions they managed to lift the trophy for the 2nd year running, only conceding one try in the six matches played. It was a very impressive performance in challenging conditions, and one for which they deserve a great deal of credit.
The next four weeks provide a wealth of opportunities for people to join us, whether it be for concerts, sports fixtures or nativity plays. It is a lovely time of year to be in school so please do come and be part of our community.
Mon 16th Nov 2015, 09:55
As teachers we aim to provide a tool-kit to help our children remember all that they learn in school. From our youngest in the Nursery to our oldest in Year 6, the teachers use a variety of techniques to help the children remember and recall a wide range of facts and figures. Initially, the focus is on helping them to read and write and as they move through the school they find different ways to learn a wealth of information from a huge range of subjects. For learning to become truly memorable it must be tailored to the individual needs of the children and be highly engaging, relevant and above all, fun. From songs and rhymes to mnemonics and mind-maps, we are constantly looking at creative ways to help the children retain what they are taught within a challenging and supportive environment. Being able to remember and recall information when needed is a tremendously important skill and one that we aim to help every child to master.
On Wednesday mornings I have the chance to escape my desk as I spend time in our Pre-Prep. I headed to our Nursery and was greeted by our youngest children putting on their coats and wellies before heading out for adventures in the grounds. I am always impressed to see our 2 and 3 year olds happily putting on their own wellies and skilfully sliding their arms in to coats. I was greeted by two of our youngest children with a loud “Bananaaaaa” in the style of a Minion – they had remembered my visit to the Nursery from before half term when we had decided to be Minions whilst eating a snack. Not sure that this would qualify as the most intellectual learning seen in the Pre-Prep but it made us all laugh and laughter certainly plays a big part in remembering. I also spent some time in our Kindergarten classes and arrived just in time to join in with a Literacy lesson based on Fireworks night. To say that excitement was rising for the impending 5th November would be somewhat of an understatement and the children were very keen to explore firework and bonfire related words which were then used to produce some lovely pictures and writing to go with them. There was also the opportunity to make some colourful firework paintings and Isabella did not hold back as she wielded her paint brush with such enthusiasm that the entire room was also decorated with paint and red sparkles. Miss Brook was kind enough to tell me that a few of the sparkles had found their way onto my face which I was glad of as I may have got some funny looks from my guests arriving later that morning!
The rhyme ‘remember, remember the 5th of November’ was very apt as we celebrated Bonfire Night on Thursday evening. Unlike last year, we managed to dodge the worst of the rain to go ahead as planned and as always, our Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee put together a wonderful evening. There were delicious refreshments aplenty, customary glow-sticks, a roaring fire (thank you to the firework company for getting it lit for me) and of course, the fireworks themselves. It is a highlight of the calendar and was greatly enjoyed by in excess of 500 people.
I am certain that Form 5CO will remember their amazing efforts to raise funds for the charity Toilet Twinning which they shared with the rest of the Prep School in an assembly this week. Through a cake sale, a litter pick and a 3k run they raised £449.50, which is a fantastic achievement for a class of just 13. These funds will allow the charity to purchase an entire toilet block for a school and 3 other toilets for other villages in Nepal as well as some much needed bars of soap. Well done to 5CO and Mr Coomer who introduced the children to the charity.
Remembering will also be the theme of my assembly on Monday when we gather to remember the sacrifice made by so many men and women during armed conflicts over the last century. We will welcome the Head of the Corps from our Senior School, Cormac Oliver.
It was a busy five days last week and I certain that many happy memories will have been created. With another full week ahead, which includes a trip for Year 2 to play rugby and hockey matches against Mount Kelly and St. Peer’s, a visit from the Hindu Temple and a Roman Soldier, and the Christmas Market next weekend, I am sure that the children will have many more happy memories to come.
Mon 9th Nov 2015, 09:50
We have packed a lot in to the last week, with sport, music and maths appearing alongside outdoor learning days and cooking workshops. The variety is quite remarkable! On Tuesday our Year 4 children spent the morning in the woods, creating canopy inspired collages and cooking chocolate filled bananas over fires that they had to make and then light – no matches allowed! The afternoon then saw us welcome local primary schools to our annual U11 Tag Rugby Tournament and this year it was The Duchy who were worthy winners.
On Wednesday our Year 3 children got to know their local environment a little better as they explored Tiverton as part of their Geography curriculum. You may well be aware that Wednesday was also World Maths Day and our Pre-Prep children recognised this with a wonderful morning of Maths investigations around the school in the form of a Maths trail.
On Thursday the first Tea-Time Concert of the year took place in the Prep School and it included a number of children who were performing for the first time. This takes a great deal of courage but what struck me was the complete lack of nerves as our young musicians took it in turns to play the piano, the flute, violin or to simply stand and sing. The final performances came from our accomplished string group and they revelled in the opportunity to entertain the audience of over 60 parents and grand-parents.
Also on Thursday afternoon we welcomed local Prep schools to our Under 9 B rugby festival. It was a super occasion and one that was very well supported. The boys thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to play 5 matches and the visiting guests appreciated the delicious refreshments that were on offer.
Friday saw us host 16 guest chefs for the first cooking workshop of the academic year. Sarah and Craig came up with an ambitious and delicious menu for our parents to put together, and as they entered the kitchen, there were two feathered clues hanging ready for them. Thankfully, the main ingredients had been plucked and prepared, ready to create a delectable pheasant dish with fondant potatoes as well as a salmon and blini starter and a sumptuous apple crumble deconstruction. I know they were good because I had to sample them all! In the new year we will be holding a dad’s cooking event (at the request of the mums) so look out for that in next term’s calendar.
Whilst some of our parents were cooking up a storm, our Under 11 girls’ hockey team were battling for a place in the National Hockey Finals at the regional qualifier. They progressed through the group stage with wins against Kingswood, Bromsgrove, Wycliffe and Perrott Hill before defeating Taunton in the quarter final and then Bromsgrove again in the semis before meeting Millfield in the final. With only seconds to go the scores were tied at 2-2 but a goal from a short corner in the final seconds were enough to give Millfield victory. Although disappointed to have lost the final, our girls were delighted to qualify for the National finals to be held at Repton School in mid-November. It is a wonderful achievement and we wish them well when they head up North next month.
Only three days to go until half term and a much needed break for the children. Whether staying in the UK or heading off to warmer climes, I wish you all a restful holiday.
Mon 19th Oct 2015, 08:05
It would be fair to say that there have been some recurring themes within this Blog (you may well be about to experience deja-vu) but now that it is into its 5th year that is hardly surprising. Education is always evolving but there remain some common threads which are relevant to all schools and all children at all times. The challenge to help children become the best that they can be includes a great many qualities and skills which schools and homes work together to instil. We want children to have a love of learning, a desire to take on challenges and deal with set-backs. We want them to be happy, fulfilled and ‘educated’ in the truest sense, ready for their lives well beyond the school gates. A fundamental part of that is the manner in which they interact with the world around them. I have had countless conversations with parents who have commented on this being an integral part of what they want for their children and at Blundell’s Prep, we are determined to support that. It starts in our Nursery where saying “please” and “thank you” is commonplace as our youngest children sit to have their morning snack. It moves through our Pre-prep where the children learn to share, to work together and to take turns, before the Prep years begin with an ever greater focus on independence and decision making. The common strands that run through all of these stages are kindness, consideration and good manners – values which are as important now as they have ever been.
As with so much of the children’s learning, it is the consistency of message that is so important but with family life as busy at it has ever been, I wonder if it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the insistence on saying “please” and “thank you”, on keeping mouths closed when eating or on using cutlery as it was intended to be used! Encouraging good table manners is an essential part of child development and something that we are very keen to encourage. The first few weeks of term have seen whole gammon steaks eaten like lolly pops, chicken harpooned as if threatening to escape from the plate and various fruits nibbled on and sampled before being rejected back to the communal platter for someone else to ‘enjoy’. At times it has not been pretty but, like all things in education, it is a work in progress. Yes, I may sound like a broken record (not for the first time, I know) but it is important to get this right and during the week to come we will make good manners our focus. As ever, the support of our parent body is paramount so I ask for help in support in making mealtimes a more pleasant experience for us all.
With only a week and a bit until half term there is a great deal going on. In the last week we have seen Year 5 enjoy a morning of Outdoor Learning which included pumpkin carving, natural paint making and the preparation of a most delicious pumpkin soup. Year 4 are all set to head outside this coming week so we keep our fingers crossed for good weather. On Wednesday we will recognise World Maths Day with outside activities across the school helping to bring Mathematics to life. It should be great fun and the children are set to learn a great deal.
Mon 12th Oct 2015, 07:55
Dealing with disappointment is something that fans of the England rugby team have had to get used to over the last few weeks. After a promising warm-up campaign, the nation’s hopes were focused on a repeat of 2003 and the heroic feats of Jonny Wilkinson and co but the harsh realities of things not going to plan were laid bare for us all to witness last Saturday and then again this weekend. For any England rugby fan it was a bitter pill to swallow, especially as this World Cup is on home soil and history did suggest that the home nation should progress to the knock-out stages as a minimum. So how does one react to such disappointment? The look on the faces of the players said it all. They were devastated and the bowed heads and stunned disbelief was then followed by contrition and apologies to the nation. “I am sorry” was a statement made by the coach, the captain and just about every player who had to face the media glare when all they would want to do is curl up in a dark hole. Yet, in spite of feeling like they had let everyone down, they carried on and spoke of preparing for the next challenge. My feeling, is that this group of players will go on to achieve a great deal but they are going to have to deal with this disappointment first before looking to the future. Ok, we are not there yet, but we know that we have all of the tools to get there, so let’s take stock, evaluate the direction that we wish to go in, and then press forwards with even greater determination. It is the mark of any good team but with the defeat still raw, it is perhaps easier said than done. Time will tell.
I am sure that we have all felt something similar at times in our lives, and have had to deal with disappointment in its various guises. Our children certainly do and this is an aspect of their wider education which is of great importance but one that also requires careful management. As is the case for our England rugby team, the sports pitches provide the perfect environment in which some tough life lessons may be learned. This week our children have been on the winning sides in rugby and hockey fixtures against St. Joseph’s, Taunton Prep, Plymouth Prep, Stockland and Wellington and they were delighted but next week will bring new challenges and my hope is that they will show the same courage and good grace when facing defeat and the disappointment that it brings. How can we help the children to manage these situations? The first thing that we can do is model good reactions to disappointment. If children see those around them facing setbacks with good grace then they are more likely to copy that behaviour. The second is to help them to see the bigger picture and to highlight times when things have gone right for them. This promotes the idea that this moment of disappointment is exactly that, a moment, and life will quickly move on, providing them with opportunities to experience success once again. The third is to help them to reflect on whether their measurement of success vs failure was realistic. My feeling is that children, especially those in schools with high aspirations and a culture of success, are prone to set themselves unrealistic goals – there is a difference between being aspirational and setting yourself up for a fall, so our job must be to help children establish what is challenging but achievable. And finally, the temptation may be to protect children from disappointment by trying to apportion blame to elements outside of their own control, and at times this may well be appropriate, but used too readily and children will quickly learn that their first response when things go wrong is to look out rather than in. The England team certainly did not look anywhere other than at themselves and that is a quality that we should all try to embrace.
Mon 5th Oct 2015, 08:45
Well done to all of those parents who correctly answered Mr Richards’ comprehension questions last week. You made your children very happy indeed. Sadly there are no House Points on offer this week but I do have a question for you. Who is your hero?
This is a question that was presented to all of the children in the Prep School as they were invited to dress as their hero and donate some funds to the Devon Air Ambulance Trust. On Monday we welcomed Rosey Oakes to our assembly and she spoke to the children about the wonderful work done by DAAT. The children were inspired and on Friday they had the opportunity to come to school dressed as their hero and what a wide array of outfits were on show. We had every Marvel and DC comic book hero you can think of with three making it on to our Facebook page so do take a look when you get a moment. We also had sporting heroes, literary heroes and those who have shown heroism through their contributions to the world. We had plenty of farming heroes, very apt when living in this beautiful part of the world but we also had world famous heroes in Isambard Kingdom Brunel and Florence Nightingale. We had Bethany Hamilton, professional surfer who had her left arm bitten off by a shark but returned to have a very successful surfing career. We also had military heroes, representing our armed forces past and present. What the day sparked was plenty of discussion as to what heroism really is and how we can all try to reflect these qualities in our own lives. The strong link to our school motto of Non Sibi (Not for Oneself) is fundamental in helping the children to understand what heroism truly is and how they can all play their part in making a positive, heroic contribution to our community and to the wider world. It was, of course, also a great excuse to dress up and have a lot of fun at the same time!
Friday was also Book Day in our Pre-Prep and there were literary characters aplenty as we welcomed author and illustrator Chris Wormell to BPS for a morning of fun and laughter. As the school day came to an end it was time for children to swap their costumes for pyjamas as they snuggled down to enjoy the much loved ‘Book at Bedtime’ with the usual hot chocolate and cookies providing much sugar fuelled excitement. It was all too much for some of our Nursery children as I found out when Darcey and William dozed off during my story. I didn’t take it personally! There was great excitement down in the main hall as Captain America came to read a story. Sadly I had just popped out for a moment so I missed his visit but I returned in time to hear that he had caused a bit of a commotion with his reading of ‘Calm Down Boris’. Thankfully, the wonderful Pre-Prep team were on hand to get things back on track and some sleepy children then headed off home for the night.
Mon 28th Sept 2015, 09:05
This week I have invited Mr Richards, teacher of English to children in Years 4 and 5, to share his thoughts on inspiring children to read. Very wise words indeed and a competition at the end.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin...
Once upon a time in Devon, a whole school became inspired to read, write and love books...
This was the goal of charismatic children’s author David Lawrence Jones who visited Blundell’s Prep last week. I had the pleasure of witnessing his enthusiasm and dedication to this cause. He engaged and enthralled the children for over an hour and I left the hall that day with the words of every child in the Prep School ringing in my ears, “WE ARE INSPIRED!”
The children weren’t the only people to be inspired that day. It was difficult to leave the hall and not be inspired! The question that immediately sprang to mind was; how could we harness this inspiration to support the children to succeed in their new goal of becoming better readers and writers? The answer is simple; if children learn to love reading and writing then their achievement in these areas will inevitably follow.
Teachers and parents alike have a responsibility to develop and nurture a love of books in the children that are in our care. Reading and writing are the keys that we use to unlock the doors to learning. As Jacqui Onassis once said, “there are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.”
“How do we do this?” I hear you cry! After all, a blog that waxes lyrical about reading is all well and good but if it is not going to offer some real-world tips then what is the point?! Here is a short, and by no means exhaustive, list of steps that we can all take to help:
If a child likes to choose a book more than once, let them. I have read my favourite book countless times. It is more important to develop a love of reading than force them into books that they won’t enjoy.
In a slight contradiction to my first point, encouraging a range of different genres and styles is also important. Non-fiction books, magazines, ebooks, graphic novels, picture books (yes, even for older children!) and cookery books all have their place in developing literacy.
Make sure that your child is reading at an appropriate level. If a book is too difficult for them to read or understand then they will quickly lose interest.
Adult role models are vital. It is imperative that children see adults read their own books for pleasure. Children should also be read to regularly, not matter how old they are. A study by the National Literacy Trust concluded that in order to convey a love of books it is important for children to have a role model who likes reading.
Reading comprehension is one of the most important aspects in supporting children to access and enjoy books. A child is capable of reading many words before they can understand them. Spend some time to discuss books with your child, talk about what has happened in the book and try to look for deeper meaning behind the text (examples to follow!)
The most important thing is that books should be enjoyed and loved and we all have a responsibility to foster this in the children under our care.
I mentioned that reading comprehension was important and I wouldn't be a teacher if I didn't check your understanding with a little test! The first ten parents to send me the correct answers will receive two house points for their child:
- What was the name of the visiting author?
- Can you name one of his books?
- What did Jacqui Onassis say was the best way to enlarge your child’s world?
- Which organisation conducted a study into the importance of adult role models in reading?
- What is the name of your favourite book? Explain why you like it.
- Tell me one thing that you will do to help inspire your child to love reading.
Mon 21st Sept 2015, 09:00
The importance of welcoming new people to the Blundell’s family has been very evident over the last week as new children have continued to settle and new parents have started to make friends. Our community is one that prides itself on including all of those who wish to be part of it and there are many opportunities for people to gather for social events. On Friday morning, Sarah welcomed many new BPS parents to our home for a coffee and the chance to meet our wonderful Parent Liaison Reps. It was a very sociable occasion and one that is very important in putting names to faces and ensuring that everyone feels part of what is happening at school. This strong sense of community has been at the forefront of our thinking over this last week and this has not just been the case at the Prep. On Sunday we attended the Harvest Festival Service for Years 7, 8 and 9 in chapel and there was standing room only as families gave thanks for the many bounties that we enjoy. What came across very strongly was the importance of providing for those who have very little and the whole school community will do this through donations of food and supplies to CHAT (Church Housing Association Team) in Tiverton. In the week to come we will be welcoming parents to Harvest Festival assemblies in the Pre-Prep and the Prep School and parents are invited to join us. If families are also able to spare a few items to donate to CHAT then please do bring them in this week as they will be put to very good use.
The first full week of term has come to an end and on Friday this was reflected in some tired but happy faces as people headed off for the weekend. For our children in Years 2 and 3, the first week of term has included a trip to the beach – wasn’t that what the Summer holidays were for? On the basis that the weather at the start of term is invariably better than the holidays themselves, our Year 2 children headed to Budleigh Salterton and our Year 3 children to Saunton Sands for exploration, science, geography and sculpture. All had a great time, learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed their ice-creams!
This week we welcome author, David Lawrence to the school and from what I am told, the children are in for a real treat as David has a gift for bringing literature to life. As I mentioned, we also have our Harvest Festivals and you are very welcome to join us on Wednesday in the Pre-Prep or on Friday in the Prep School. Come and be part of our community – you’ll be made to feel very welcome.
Mon 14th Sept 2015, 09:10
First day at school, butterflies in the stomach, brand new pencil case in brand new bag, shiny shoes and hair brushed for the first time in weeks. That day is one that elicits a wide variety of emotions in parents as their offspring head off to school, many for the first time. Some may be anxious that their child finds their way to new classrooms whilst others hope that someone will be there if they fall and bump their knees. Others may feel that immense sense of relief that comes with no longer having to feed/entertain/transport their children – 8 weeks is a long time after all! Well on Thursday morning everyone looked happy to be back at school or at BPS for the first time, as was the case for 36 new faces. By the end of the day everyone looked very much at home as new friendships had been forged and those new classrooms found. By the end of day 2 it was like the children had never been away and school was back in full swing. I am not certain that there is any magic formula for helping children to settle quickly in to new schools. It really boils down to kindness from all members of the school community; people looking out for one another and noticing when someone looks lost or is on their own. This is something that our school does particularly well and I saw this on Thursday and Friday as play times were full of children being reunited after the long break or forging new friendships for the year ahead. This transition to the new school is particularly apt for Sarah and me this year as our daughter heads to the Senior School. ABBA’s ‘Slipping through my fingers’ has to be avoided at all costs as we come to terms with the fact that our little girl is not so little anymore. Are we ready to accept that? We are trying but one thing is for certain, our daughter is very ready and this is perhaps the most important point for us as parents to remember. Our children are always more resilient than we think and they adapt to new situations quickly, particularly when they are surrounded by people who have their very best interests at heart. It may be tough for us to accept but we should take heart from their smiling faces at the end of the day. I shall certainly endeavour to heed my own advice, however hard that may be at times.
Mon 7th Sept 2015, 08:25