Head Master's Blog Archive2018/19

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Summer Term 2019

You may have noticed that it has been a whole three weeks since my last Blog? No, you didn’t notice? Well just to explain, the delay is down to a combination of things but mainly it fell victim to Week 10 of this Summer Term, a week unlike any other but one that was filled with so many wonderful school events, and the small matter of 200 reports to write! I am sorry, we are all busy, but I failed. Yes, I am not immune to the Growth Mindset culture which has developed here at Blundell’s Prep and I too have learnt that failure is just part of life. In truth, I’m not sure anyone noticed the delay, not even my mother, so I may have been better to keep quiet. Back to the last ‘few’ weeks...

Barbecue Barbecue Outdoors Outdoors Barbecue

Speech DayThankfully our vibrant social media feed keeps friends of the school up to speed with all that is going on so you will have seen that the children, staff and parents have been very busy indeed. You will also have seen the impact of summer arriving, as we have made the most of opportunities to head outdoors, with one of the most recent examples being the House BBQ and activities afternoon. Dressed in house colours the children enjoyed an afternoon of traditional games with different year groups coming together to enjoy the most delicious BBQ lunch, provided by our fabulous catering team. It’s amazing how much excitement is generated by simply eating outside and the ice-cream to finish it all off was the icing on the cake.

Sppech Day guest speaker, composer and conductor, Leo Geyer Speech Day - trophies

During Week 10, we welcomed parents to our annual Speech Day and in sweltering conditions we enjoyed hearing from our guest speaker, composer and conductor, Leo Geyer. OutdoorsHe had the audience singing the pentatonic scale and regaled them with stories of incontinent horses – you had to be there but suffice to say the children, and Governors, were in stitches. It was, as it always is, a celebration of our pupils and the many successes which they have enjoyed this academic year. On Thursday afternoon of this last week we celebrated our senior pupils once again as we gathered in Chapel for a very moving Leavers’ Service and then returned to school for the Blundell’s Adventure, Leadership and Service Awards evening. The closing slideshow of photographs truly captured the essence of what life at Blundell’s is all about and there was not a dry eye in the house. We also had our Move Up Day, the rescheduled Pre-Prep Sports Day and the social highlight of the year, The Summer Ball. So all in all, a busy week but one that truly captured the very best of our school community.

Play Play Cooking

I wondered what to make the topic of my final Blog of the year and I decided to share something that is close to my heart as a Headmaster of 8 years and a father of 15. OutdoorsGenerally speaking I am a pretty easy going sort of chap but there are a few things in life that get my goat. One is when the letter H is pronounced “Haytch” (like fingers down a blackboard) but perhaps the most annoying of all is the propensity for children to use the word “like” in every sentence. Who is to blame for this you may ask. According to a recent article in The Times, the blame lays squarely at the feet of the hit TV programme ‘Love Island’. This four-letter word was used 76 times in under five minutes in the television reality show and as a result has been banned by Copthorne Primary in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where pupils are forbidden to pepper their conversations with the word “like”. Also outlawed are single-word replies such as “good”, “nice” or “sad” to questions and children are encouraged to use expanded sentences with varied vocabulary. As the long summer break is now upon us, you may also find your children using the word “like” with monotonous regularity – please feel free to remind them that they are not a contestant on Love Island!

Kayaking On the moors At the beach Outdoors Sailing Drama

Over the last few weeks, we have seen our children here using their language skills in the very best of ways. KayakingOn Speech Day, our Head boy and Head Girl, Harvey and Scarlett, addressed our school community from the lectern and showed remarkable confidence in doing so. At our Leavers’ Service, brilliantly put together by Mrs FitzHerbert, we heard the fondest memories from their time at BPS from members of Year 6 as they stood in front of the large congregation. Earlier that week, the Prep School enjoyed hearing from the children in Year 3 as they shared some of their ‘Talks’ from the last term. I have mentioned on numerous occasions, the importance of building confidence in children to use their language skills in ‘live’ situations whether in class, on the stage or simply interacting with one another during a school day. Being able to communicate ideas with clarity and confidence are crucial aspects to every child’s experience here at Blundell’s and I am delighted that we are able to provide countless opportunities for all of our children to develop these vital skills for life.

Play Play Play Play Play Play

Summer beckons and I would conclude by thanking all followers of this Blog for their loyal support. I hope that I have been able to share with you just some of the highlights of the year as well as a sense as to why I am so very privileged and proud to be the Head Master here at Blundell’s Prep. Happy holidays to one and all!

Mon 8th July 2019, 11:54

Last week I had the pleasure of listening to a fascinating lecture from Susie Costelloe, the lead paediatric dietitian at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital, when she came to Blundell’s to speak about nutrition. Susie Costello with Laura CliffordWe were joined by parents with children of all ages but with a shared question – what are we doing wrong? It is very easy as parents to fall in to the trap of thinking that we are feeding our children too much of this and too little of that, so it was a blessed relief to hear a voice of reason and calm from someone with many years of clinical experience. Susie spoke with great authority about the need for balance, the need to avoid the categorising of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, and the need for children to develop important social skills through the joy of shared culinary experiences. She explained the hard facts but also counselled against over analysis, preferring to focus on the potential impact on body image and mental health should the balance get tipped. It was fascinating to listen to and made me reflect, not just on how we teach children about food but also how we teach them about all of those things in life which could be considered as potentially harmful.

I have written in the past about society’s propensity to demonise various advancements, often fuelled by the media rush to write attention-grabbing headlines, and food is one such area that takes a regular beating. Another is technology, specifically screens, and this week I decided to share some of our recent developments in this area and some of our plans for the future, alongside my usual nostalgic trip down memory lane.

I think back to my own experience of ‘computers’ as I still call them (children don’t really use that term anymore) and like many of my generation the image of one massive computer appears, invariably in the corner of the classroom and inevitably unused for 99% of the working day. I don’t recall ever getting to have a go on the massive computer but I remember wanting to. It was a thing of mystery, hailed as the start of the education revolution, but we still read from chalk boards and occasionally, if we were very well behaved or a teacher was away, we got to watch something on the massive television that was wheeled in by four children, such was the weight of the thing. Imagine my euphoria when some years later, a ZX Spectrum +2 arrived in our house. I can still recall the sound of the tape as it went through the ‘loading ‘ process – would it work? Would it crash? Would I get to play Manic Minor or Horris Goes Skiing before tea time? Oh the agony. Fast forward a decade or so and screens continue to play their part, this time through the wonder that is Nintendo’s Mario Cart. Of course, I was able to resist the temptation to spend hours glued to this iconic game and dutifully attended all of my university lectures on time, but as for my 9 housemates, well that was a different story! Fast forward once again and we are in to the realm of Fortnite. Fast forward again and there will be greater access, greater temptation, greater concern but at the same time, greater potential for good and this is where I prefer to focus as we look to further embed the use of technology across our school with the arrival of 52 new iPads.

In a recent article in The Times, Technology Correspondent Mark Bridge highlighted a major study by university researchers at Oxford, King’s College London, Manchester, Harvard and Western Sydney which concluded that time spent online could produce “acute and sustained” alterations in the brain and could be particularly harmful to children’s development. Most seriously, they warned that “digital distractions” and the capacity for “cognitive offloading” — where information does not need to be retained in the brain because it is stored online — could negatively affect the development of children at critical stages. They referred to studies suggesting that higher frequency of internet use in children was linked to “decreased verbal intelligence” and impeded development of grey matter. Studies such as this quite rightly get our attention and at a time when we are looking to further unleash the power of technology in our teaching, we are reminded that the technology tail should not be allowed to wag the educational dog. Tech as a mechanism for play, for entertainment, for relaxation, must be separated from its use as a learning tool, and become as familiar to a child as a ruler or a pencil. Not a novelty, not a gimmick, not a play thing, but the most effective tool for learning at that given moment. There is huge merit in the levels of engagement that IT can generate and that is for the teacher to determine and to weigh up when deciding how best to utilise the available technology or as will sometimes be the case, not to use it at all.

Ian Gilbert’s fantastic book, ‘Why do I need a teacher when I have Google?’ which I have made mention of in previous blog posts offers a great insight into this potentially hazardous situation and highlights the importance of our children become discerning consumers of technology. As Mark Bridge writes in The Times, “Additionally, the online world now presents us with a uniquely large and constantly accessible resource for facts and information. Given we now have most of the world’s factual information literally at our fingertips, this appears to have the potential to begin changing the ways in which we store, and even value, facts and knowledge in society, and in the brain.” Our children need to be taught how to do this and that is what we intend to focus on we develop our new curriculum here at BPS.

I mentioned the recent arrival of 52 iPads and this has been possible thanks to the generosity of our Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee. Since these powerful tools for learning arrived we have seen them being used every day and in all manner of different ways; for filming and editing, for collaboration and sharing of ideas, for critical research and for the development of maths and spelling skills. Friends of Blundell’s Prep CommitteeWe have also seen them used to play an enormous game of Kahoot involving 150 people and 22 questions provided by the teachers. Our winners were the combined force of Mr Howkins and Mrs Aldridge, who were typically magnanimous in victory. Our teachers are ambitious for the use of these resources and during the next academic year we will be exploring ways to develop the children’s skills, not just in how and when to use technology but also when not to. Of course, we must also consider the importance of time spent outside in our glorious grounds, the importance of children looking other people in the eye rather than down at a screen or the simple joy of cuddling up in a bean bag to read a paper book. Finding an appropriate balance is, in my opinion, the crucial factor in ensuring that our children flourish.

Mon 17th June 2019, 17:11

If you google ‘The most successful people on the planet’ you will not be surprised to hear that the first page that pops up is one dominated by business. Residential TripsResidential TripsBig names such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Sir Richard Branson appear and it is true to say that they are people who have enjoyed extraordinary levels of success but when exploring this with children, I think that it is wise to look a great deal deeper than materiality and personal wealth. How do we raise successful people? It is a question that I have been asked, in one form or another, by parents who visit our school and it opens up a wider debate as to what ‘successful’ really means. Academic success is an obvious starting point but I think that we all know that life is much more than a stream of letters and numbers on a report card. Success outside of the classroom; on the sports field or within music, art or drama must certainly be included, but these elements remain only part of the jigsaw and there are some crucial pieces that could be missing. Residential TripsResidential TripsI think that if you were put on the spot and had to answer the question “What is the one wish that you would have for your child?” your answer may well include the word “happiness” and whilst I accept that happiness does not necessarily lead to success, it does increase the likelihood. This week I read an article in inews entitled ‘How to raise successful people’ and having initially scoffed at the prospect of yet another highly successful person, with their outrageously successful offspring, preaching at us and chastising us for not doing X, Y or Z, I read on and came to the conclusion that success really does come down to a few very simple principles, primarily centred around the importance of self-belief. Without self-belief at the core, achieving happiness and any sort of success in whatever form, is going to be a tall order.

Residential Trips Residential Trips Residential Trips Residential Trips

You will know from my previous blogs that we have been focused on developing strong mindsets within all of our children and this year we have seen some quite extraordinary results. There have been numerous examples of children adopting a ‘can do’ attitude when in the past they may have been inclined to shy away from a challenge or seek help from the outset, and this past week has brought that sharply into focus as all of our children in Years 3 to 6 have been on their residential trips. Our teachers are absolutely steadfast in their encouragement of every child but just being told “you can do it” is not enough for many children. They need to discover this for themselves, they need to feel that it is like to conquer a fear or to achieve something previously felt to be beyond their grasp. SailingAs we started this week, there were the inevitable nerves from some who were staying away from home for the first time, yet off they all went to Paignton Zoo, Folly Farm, Dartmoor and Buckfastleigh, to share time with their friends and to experience something that would, in one way or another, challenge their emotional state. The development of independence, of knowing that they can cope with being away from home and their usual routines, is an important starting point in building self belief and this then provides a base from which to, quite literally in the case of our ‘Go Ape’ inspired Year 6 pupils, launch themselves on to the next stage. I have heard tales of children pushing themselves into and beyond their comfort zones, of feeling absolute terror on the high ropes course and yet finding a way through, and of persevering even when their initial attempts were unsuccessful. As author of the book, Esther Wojcicki states, “Life is full of failure! You have to get up from that failure and move to the next step. If you have no faith in yourself you’ll never be able to do anything” and this week the children have experienced failure but they have also developed self-belief, and this will lay the building blocks to future success, whatever life decides to throw at them. If you haven’t seen the photos on our social media platforms, please do take a look as they show not only the courage displayed by the children this week but also the joy of time with their friends. Our little slice of Heaven here in Devon!

Play Play Play Play Play Play

PlayYou don’t have to climb an enormous tree to develop self-belief. This week, our children in Reception and Year One shared their Summer Plays with appreciative audiences and for many of them this took a great deal of courage. PlayIt never ceases to amaze me how confident they appear on the stage and this last week was no different with children as young as 4 years old proudly delivering their lines and singing songs. The early seeds of positive mindsets are set in place from the very beginning and are encouraged to grow throughout every year group. After half term we will have the chance to see our Year 6 pupils on stage as they perform ‘The Jungle Book’ across two evenings – please do join us for what promises to be a wonderful production.

Happy half term!

Mon 27th May 2019, 13:57

On Monday morning, I was greeted at the school gate by lots of smiles and not just from the children. Yes, it was that time of year when school stays open for the May Bank Holiday and many of our parents take the opportunity to make the most of a child-free day. I hope that you all had a very good start to the week.

Grandparents’ Day Grandparents’ Day Grandparents’ Day Grandparents’ Day

We like to start the week with some music and always have different styles playing as the children come into my Monday morning assembly. This week we enjoyed the immortal Aretha Franklin and those seven letters RESPECT. I must confess that I found myself bopping away in the corridor as the hall filled up and as I glanced in I could see that I was not alone in that. You will not be surprised to hear that the theme of my assembly matched the title of the song and we explored various different situations in which a lack of respect for others could occur. One of the messages that I wanted to convey was the importance of finding an appropriate balance between having fun together but also knowing when the time is right to listen and focus on the task in hand. It is not easy at times but I am proud to say that our children tend to get it right and when they don’t, they are quick to recognise their error. They are therefore, a million miles away from my favourite comic book character, Dennis the Menace, the loveable rogue immortalised in The Beano. I remember the excitement as my weekly edition arrived on the doormat and delighting in the abject chaos that he created, particularly at school and often at the expense of his long-suffering Head Master. Oh, how the tables have turned, I hear you cry. With sidekick, Gnasher in tow, they would find themselves in all manner of different scrapes and would always be ready with a wise crack or a joke. Now I am pleased to say that none of our children would be anything like Dennis although I am well aware that within our school we may well have a future comedian or two in the making. I was reading an article from the TES entitled ‘Do you teach Britain’s funniest class?’ and it got me thinking about our children here. Which of our classes would win this accolade and how would they fare against other classes in other schools? A competition organised by The Beano provided me with just the opportunity I needed to find out so this week I have asked the children to share their favourite jokes with me and having chortled my way through all of their offerings, in the end I chose 4CH to be our representatives. They came up with:

  • I got hit in the face with a snowball recently - knocked me out cold! (Connor)
  • Why does a mouse do the washing up? So she can make it squeaky clean. (Emma)
  • My dog Minton ate two shuttlecocks? Bad Minton! (William)

Unsurprisingly, there were several jokes involving toilet humour which I decided not to pick as I didn’t think that The Beano would appreciate them. We shall see...

  • What is Donald Trump's middle name? Dunna. (Anni)
  • Knock, knock. Who's there? I did ap. I did ap who? (Rory)
  • Why did the toilet roll roll down the hill? Because it wanted to get to the bottom! (Ez)

According to the TES article the following 5 jokes were voted for by pupils but I think that our children did a bit better. What is your favourite joke? Please remember, this is a family show folks!

  1. Why was the sand wet? Because the sea weed.
  2. What do you call a blind dinosaur? Doyouthinkhesaurus.
  3. What did the policeman say to his tummy? Freeze! You’re under a vest.
  4. Doctor, Doctor! Help, I feel like a pair of curtains. Pull yourself together, then.
  5. What’s the fastest vegetable? A runner bean.

Grandparents’ Day Grandparents’ Day

Grandparents’ DayI have always believed that schools should be full of fun and when you work with children one thing that you are guaranteed is to hear laughter. As comedian Harry Hill points out “The thing about children is they’re unbound by a lot of the conventions that adults have. You never know what they’re going to say, and it’s often a surprise.” Grandparents’ DayOver the years, I have shared stories at speech day of various hilarious comments by children of all ages, and I am hopeful that this year will be no exception. Not a day goes by without the children finding humour in different situations, sometimes intentionally but often without even realising. Our annual 'Blundell’s Has Got Talent’ event will take place later this term and I wonder if any of our children will share their comedic talents with us?

Grandparents’ DayThere has been a lot of laughter in the Prep School since my last Blog and much of this could be heard on Grandparents’ Day. Having rescheduled this much-loved event after the snow arrived last term, we were bathed in sunshine as our 140 guests arrived. It was very special to see the excitement as the children led their grandparents off to their classrooms and the tangible sense of warmth as they worked together on various challenges. There are some gorgeous photos on Facebook and I would urge you to take a look if you haven’t done so already.

PresentationFinally, I couldn’t finish without mentioning our Quiz Club team and the success that they enjoyed in the Regional Competition - they won! Having been delayed en route, William held the fort on his own until the rest of the team arrived and they then proceeded to work their way towards the top of the leaderboard eventually winning on the final question. High drama indeed and qualification for the final which will be held on the 27th June at the National Gallery in London. Huge congratulations to them all!

Mon 13th May 2019, 07:27

Glass-blowingHaving enjoyed a most glorious Bank Holiday weekend, it was inevitable that we would begin the Summer Term with rain. In spite of the conditions, the children seemed very happy to be back at school and over the last three days a great deal has happened. Year 2 have visited Bob Crooks’ Glass Studio in Crediton to learn about glass blowing and sculpting with several lucky children having the opportunity to have a go themselves. Then on Friday we welcomed the Fab Drumming Company to BPS for a series of workshops enjoyed by all of our children from Nursery to Year 6 – they had a super time and certainly made themselves heard, which brings me seamlessly to my theme for this Blog – Pupil Voice. MusicI don’t recall having a School Council when I was at Primary School and if we did, I certainly don’t remember what we discussed although if I could hazard a guess it would probably have involved more sport and various other food-related topics. So what has changed these 40 odd years later you may ask. Food certainly appears on the agenda at our regular School Council meetings but other themes have taken prominence over recent years the most significant being related to sustainability, recycling and the wider issue of climate change. This is perhaps no surprise as the topic has received a great deal of attention of late due in no small part to the powerful words of teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg. Greta has certainly brought in to the media spotlight an issue that many of our young children have been troubled by for some time and as a school we are certainly looking to respond to these concerns with actions.

Music Music

In previous blog posts I have mentioned the wonderful work taking place in our Year 2 classes led by Miss Jellard which has included the returning of bags full of single-use plastic to one of our local supermarkets, and the upcycling of various items found on the beautiful south west coastline. We have welcomed environmental campaigners and we even had a re-tweet from Surfers Against Sewage, much to the children’s delight. Over the recent Easter break, many of our children took part in an Environment Action Competition in which they were asked to produce a poster, a model or a diary and consider the following questions: How do you help the environment? What do you do at home to look after our world? How are you protecting our futures? It is perhaps the final question that has been so high profile of late, especially after the recent actions of Extinction Rebellion, but it is a question that occupies the minds of your pupils on a daily basis and it a question that they are giving voice to, not just within the School Council but also in Geography lessons, PSHEE lessons and in the recently updated RS and Philosophy curriculum, where ethical issues are debated with great passion as well as a genuine desire to make a difference. Having met with our School Governors earlier this year, the children have quite rightly initiated the removal of all single use plastic water bottles from the Prep School and every week they ensure that paper waste is kept to a minimum. Our consumption of paper has decreased but the children aspire to go further. Food waste has been reduced and single use plastic cups at break times are a distant memory, as are the plastic straws that are invariably attached to the sides of juice cartons. This term we will be working with the Soil Association in order to expand the children’s understanding of food sustainability and we have also been exploring ways to reduce our energy footprint, starting with the installation of new windows, helping to keep heat in the building. We are making progress and with the continuing passion that emanates from our children, that is certain to continue. Let’s hope that this is replicated across the country as more and more Greta Thunbergs give voice to their genuine and heartfelt fears.

Plastic-bergA special mention must go to Ben and Aiden in Year 2 who entered and won the National Geographic Kids Magazine competition over the Easter break. They designed a brilliant ‘Plastic Pollution’ poster and impressed the judges with their passion and their vision. As a result, our school will receive a visit from a Covestro scientist as well as some funding to explore STEM in greater depth – well done boys!

This week we have our fingers crossed for fine weather so that our sports fixtures can begin in earnest. We have Spanish Enrichment Workshops and Scrum Kid sessions for Nursery on Monday, visits to the Buddhist Temple and Tiverton Museum on Tuesday and Tiverton Castle on Wednesday, a mini-first aid course for all of our Nursery and Pre-Prep children on Thursday and then on Friday our Quiz Team head to Bath for the next round of the National Quiz Competition, returning in time to welcome their guests to Grandparents’ Day. If that isn’t enough, there are usual array of clubs and rehearsals taking place. The Summer Term is certainly up and running!

Mon 29th Apr 2019, 07:08

Spring Term 2019

As we come to the end of the Spring Term, it is extraordinary to look back and reflect on all of the different activities that have taken place. In our whole school assembly on Wednesday morning, the children enjoyed the traditional slideshow of photographs, showcasing those activities and capturing the sense of fun which we feel is so important to ensuring a happy and truly fulfilled life at school. Hockey teamSeeing our very youngest Blundellians smiling and calling out “That’s me!” as their image appears on the big screen was very special indeed and a super way to begin to draw the term to a close.

It will not have escaped your attention that the sun has put in an appearance this last week and what a difference it has made, not least to the faces of our U11 hockey team who were in action this week at the West of England finals having been crowned Devon Champions last term. They did very well, coming joint second and losing out on progression to the National Finals only on goal difference, but enjoying the experience of playing at that level once again. Our cross-country runners were certainly feeling the heat on Monday as they took part in our annual House Cross Country competition, with Drake coming out on top this year to lift the much-prized Mildren Cup. Amazing to think that this time last year we had to cancel the event due to snow!

Cross-country The Mildren Cross-Country Cup

These are just two of the many events which have taken place since my last Blog post a mere two weeks ago but one that I do want to mention is STEM week which took place during the penultimate week of this term. The ability to provide our children with what can be labelled as ‘real science’ is of vital importance and STEM week provided numerous opportunities for children to do exactly that. ChemistryIn a recent article in the TES, Professor Becky Parker of the Institute for Research in Schools spoke of the importance of scientific participation and research in schools commenting that ‘it sparks a love of science and discovery – something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.’ I think that we all recognise that scientific understanding is going to be ever more important in our world and as Professor Parker suggests, ‘Science needs young people to embrace creativity and think outside the box to tackle the challenges that the planet faces.’ Our Science lessons certainly provide the children with a love of the subject as well as the tools to research, as was evident when I recently visited a Year 5 Science lesson with Prep Head of Science, Miss Mahon. If you follow us on social media then you will have seen all of the amazing STEM sessions which have taken place, including glider and car making, eyeball dissections and an explosive assembly from Senior School Head of Chemistry, Mr Mead.

Science Chemistry demonstration PhysicsChemistry Physics experiment

One of my good friends who has worked in a number of different schools commented that our social media feeds are the best that he has seen and I asked him why that was the case. His comments were that it came across as genuine, as authentic and as truly reflective of an all-round education – no distinct bias to one area of school life or another, no over emphasis on competition, no sense that it was run by, in his words, the “brand managing marketers”. Probably a good job that he added that, otherwise our social media guru, Mrs Southgate may never speak to him again! I know how much our parent body appreciate this daily window into the lives of our children here at Blundell’s Prep and I am hoping that as the terms go by, news of what we are doing here in sunny Devon will spread further afield. Of course, if our ‘followers’ would like to share our posts or even comment on them, we would be delighted. Likewise, if there is area of school life that you feel is under represented then please do let me know and we will endeavour to do something about it.

Slow-worm Snake

One post which I hope you saw was from Monday of last week and followed the 4th and final ‘My hidden chimp’ assembly. Well on Monday the chimp was not so hidden and in fact, he (Derek) made an appearance, much to the delight of the children and the teachers. Inner chimpIn an effort to bring coherence to the final 4 of the 10 Top Tips, my willing volunteer, Mr Martin, donned the simian themed onesie and set about showing how our inner chimps can be tamed. He learnt to try new things and this involved answering some challenging maths questions, ably assisted by our budding times table rockstars in Year 3 to 6. He then had to resist temptation to eat the banana that was being saved for break time before being challenged to share some Lego with Colin in Year 3 whose chimp also happens to be named Derek. A common name for our inner chimps it appears! Having thrown the Lego across the school hall, Derek was then urged to do what he did not want to do and pick it up, with Colin showing great kindness by helping him out. As you might imagine, there was a lot of laughter and a huge round of applause for Mr Martin who committed himself so thoroughly to the role. If you get the chance, do explore the work of Professor Peters as it is fascinating to hear of his career with British cycling and how he has used these experiences to good effect with children. If your child’s inner chimp makes an appearance over the Easter break then the tips in ‘My hidden chimp’ could prove invaluable.

Happy holidays to one and all!

Fri 29th Mar 2019, 07:06

For those who are kind enough to spare five minutes every fortnight to read my Blog, you will be aware that we have been exploring different ways to create a culture in which children take responsibility for their learning. The work of Professor Carol Dweck has played a big part in that process, as has the excellent work of Matthew Syed in his book ‘You are Awesome’. It has been wonderful to see the impact that our focus on developing mindsets in children has had on their learning and over the last three weeks I have had the pleasure of sending home lots of ‘I did it!’ postcards for parents to hear of the wonderful progress that their children have been making. One such example that springs to mind is a young lady who has made a quite astonishing amount of progress in her Maths, and this has been down to a change in mindset, the effective use of technology and some inspirational teaching. When the conditions are just right, some truly amazing things can happen, but it does rely on every child being open to putting in the hard yards and persevering even when it gets tough. To help them to do this, we have spent the last few weeks talking about our inner chimp. A little while ago I read a book called ‘The Chimp Paradox’ by Professor Steve Peters and as I was doing so I was thinking just how useful this could be for children. Low and behold, a version called ‘My Hidden Chimp’ was written and this has been the basis of my assemblies these last two weeks. It may well be the case that you have already been introduced to a Derek or a Dave, a Steve or a Nigel, as all of our children in the Prep School have named their chimps and these were amongst the favourite options. Strangely enough, most of their names were male orientated – you can make up your mind as to why that was the case! It may also be that your child has tried to blame their emotional outburst, their grumpiness, or their reluctance to take on a challenge on their chimp – nice try! The limbic system within the brain is the chimp and it is our emotional centre and the main instigator when anxiety, stress and lack of motivation make an appearance. The importance of learning to manage our chimps cannot be understated, not least as it has a direct impact on children’s ability to learn. In that respect, developing a growth mindset requires the management of the chimp as the chimp is, by its very nature, a friend to the fixed mindset. So we have been exploring different strategies for dealing with Dave or subduing Steve, before that chimp can derail progress.

Tip 1 – Smile
Tip 2 – Saying sorry
Tip 3 – Being kind to someone
Tip 4 – Talking about your feelings
Tip 5 – Asking for help
Tip 6 – Showing good manners
Tip 7 – Try new things
Tip 8 – Accepting when “no” really means “no”
Tip 9 – Learning to share
Tip 10 – Doing what you have to do

Thus far we have explored three of Professor Steve Peters’ ‘10 Top Tips’ in our assemblies and the children have been really honest when discussing the different situations in which their chimps tend to make an appearance. This week we will be focusing on tips 4 to 6 and then in the final week of term, we will cover tips 7 to 10 and there may even be a special guest appearance. Negotiations are currently underway. If you are interested in finding out more then watch this TED talk (on YouTube).

Music Music Music

This last week was a busy one and without any doubt the highlight was the Spring Concert on Wednesday evening. This once a year extravaganza brings together all of the musicians from across the Prep and the Senior School to perform for a packed house. MusicThe theme for this year’s concert was ‘Blundell’s at the Games’ with every piece linked to a sport or a game, and there were some quite extraordinary performances. Our Prep School choir were in fine voice and our young instrumentalists had the chance to play alongside their older counterparts in the full orchestra, and experience that they all relished. Highlights from the evening were many, but to see the 1st XV singing ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’ alongside the School House Choir was wonderful and, perhaps rather surprisingly, very tuneful. I think at times that children may wrongly get the impression that they have to choose between sport and music when in fact, participation in both is perfectly possible and in fact, hugely beneficial. At Blundell’s we want children to explore both of these disciplines and many more, and Wednesday’s concert was a celebration of that. Congratulations to all who took part.

Music Music

My inner chimp was rather vocal on Saturday afternoon as I watched a certain rugby match but that disappointment was quickly washed away by the success of our Under 8 boys’ hockey, U8 girls’ netball and our U9 girls’ netball teams, all of whom were in action over the weekend. They had a very successful time in their respective festivals at Millfield, playing with great skill and determination to return home undefeated. Netball team - U11Well done to all of them and a particular thank you to our highly committed Games staff all of whom work so hard to help every child to develop their talents. Congratulations also to our U11 girls who played some excellent netball on Friday afternoon to win the Exeter School Tournament.

The next five days sees the Prep School immerse itself in all things Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths related as the children get to enjoy STEM Week. Senior School Head of Chemistry, Mr Mead is set to join us for an explosive assembly on Tuesday morning and there will be all manner of exciting events taking place. Keep an eye on our social media platforms to see what is going on.

Mon 18th Mar 2019, 08:00

I don’t know what it was like for you when your children were very young but for many, us included, I imagine that your lives may well have revolved around three things – nappies, feeding and sleep, the most significant for many being the latter. For Sarah and me, the issue these days is waking our children up rather than getting them to go to sleep but on Thursday of this last week, the horror of sleepless nights was brought back into sharp focus for me as we hosted our first evening seminar, ‘Sleep Solutions from birth to age 5’ with guest speaker, Rachel Waddilove. Rachel Waddilove (right) with Laura CliffordIt was fascinating and terrifying in equal measure, as I listened to tales of night after night of broken sleep, poor families desperate to find ways to bring some harmony to their lives and avoid that daily 4am alarm call. As I sat with our hall full of guests, it was fascinating to hear of Rachel’s experiences during her 42 years of working with babies and families, and to see the very genuine sense of comfort that she gave to the many members of our audience who were keen to get Rachel’s advice. By her own admission, she does disagree with what the NHS often advise these days and what many people now believe to be the ‘right’ way to care for young babies. I am of the opinion that people should make up their own minds as to what is right for them and Rachel echoed those sentiments entirely as she listened to these sleep deprived Mums and Dads, all of whom were looking to do the very best for their little ones. And this leads me to the theme of my Blog this week – sleep – a subject that continues to be close to my heart, not least because I see the impact that sleep deprivation has on all children, not just those aged 0-5.

A recent article in The Guardian highlighted just how important sleep is to the development of every child and the negative impact that reduced sleep has on their education. Quoted in the article is Dr Charlie Tyack, a clinical psychologist from the department of sleep medicine at Evelina London, who said: “Good quality sleep is a key foundation for emotional and physical wellbeing, as well as educational performance” and having worked in schools for over 20 years, I would certainly agree. Our school days are action-packed and the children need the time for their bodies and brains to recover. Prof Russell Viner, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and a co-author of the BMJ paper, provides further cause for concern when he says: “There is more and more evidence emerging that lack of sleep has a major impact on children’s mental and physical health, as well as learning.”

What we can we as parents do to help? On Thursday evening, Rachel extolled the virtues of the evening routine and I have to say that there is value in this continuing through childhood, with defined bedtimes, evening rituals such as reading before lights out, and a complete absence of screens for at least an hour before it’s time to head to the land of nod. I could quote various medical studies but I think we all know that it is common sense and yet we also know that our busy lives often conspire to derail those helpful routines. pupils in playgroundWe need to balance the busyness of life with quiet time, family time when the opportunity arises, and a healthy dose of sleep. Easier said than done, but a worthy goal to aim for.

Connected to this is, as I have already mentioned, screen time, and this week we took the decision to send a letter to our parents, drawing their attention to the vile social media stunt that is ‘Momo.’ Clearly, it is another attempt to infiltrate our personal information but hoax or not, it is a timely reminder of the need to be vigilant when allowing our children access to the Internet.

On to a far more pleasant subject, this week I had the pleasure of a 1:1 chat with each of our charming Year 2 children. This is something that I do every year as part of the induction programme and as a way of them getting to know me a little more and me getting to know what they are passionate about. As ever, the subject matter was broad with topics such as pets, holidays and precious teddies making an appearance. I also discussed the sponsorship of endangered animals, rock collections, homemade radios and ornithology, the common factor in all of my discussions being the enthusiasm, knowledge and confidence with which all of the children spoke. I think that many of them are chomping at the bit in eager anticipation of the move in to Year 3 and that is always lovely to see.

hockey teamOur senior hockey and netball teams have been in action this week, with regional IAPS tournaments to compete in. Both teams came tantalisingly close to qualifying for the nationals but sadly, this year, it was not to be. What was so impressive was the effort that they put into every game. Our Under 10 girls managed to come back with the gold medals from the Queen’s Netball Tournament on Saturday, winning all of their games, scoring 35 goals and conceding only 4. What makes me even prouder is that before half term they lost for the first time in nearly 3 years and this has made them more determined to learn from that experience and become an even better team. Saturday’s result shows just how impressive a group these girls are – well done to them all.

boys' hockey team netball team

Mon 4th Mar 2019, 07:52

Two weeks have passed since my last Blog post and so much has happened here at BPS. If you follow any of our social media feeds then you will have seen the extraordinary variety of activities that take place, day in day out. We have had scholarship success and sporting triumphs. We have also had House Music and Creative Arts Week. What we have also had are countless examples of the children being challenged to think differently and to embrace new opportunities with the right sort of mindset. This week I have enlisted the help of some our Year 6 children who have kindly shared their thoughts on how they have used a growth mindset when tackling different activities over the last 5 days. More on that in just a moment.

Creative Arts Week - art Creative Arts Week - art Creative Arts Week - art Creative Arts Week - art Creative Arts Week - art

In an article in The Times newspaper this week, Education Secretary, Damian Hinds talks of the ‘five foundations for building character and resilience’ and included as two of those pillars are the words ‘creativity’ and ‘performing.’ If you spent time at Blundell’s Prep this week you would have seen both in abundance and much more besides! The article is an interesting one and I imagine welcome news for a Maintained Sector whose breadth of curriculum has been eroded over recent years. I must confess that whilst I agree with the sentiments in the article, I am not overly keen on the phrase ‘public school swagger’ as to my mind it suggests an over-confidence that borders on arrogance and that is most certainly not what our school is all about. The fact that The Times newspaper has chosen to use an image of Etonians is also not the most helpful to a sector of education that is so often in the firing line. However, the words character and resilience are central to all that we look to do with the children and Creative Arts Week provides the ideal platform for those elements to be fully explored as we step out of the normal curriculum, out of the usual routines, and have a go at something new. For some children, this is a situation that fills them with excitement, for others, a sense of uncertainty may linger and that is when having the right mindset is all the more important.

Creative Arts Week - art Creative Arts Week - art

Creative Arts Week has certainly provided numerous opportunities for any fixed mindsets to be challenged and I include the teachers in that as well as the children! This week we have seen the Prep School immerse itself, quite literally in the case of the laptop safe (ask Mrs Willder), in paint, glue, clay, ink, wax and wool. By popular demand, the finger-knitting returned this year and true to form, the boys were instant addicts. “Could you please tell my son that he has to go to bed and stop knitting” was one request from a Year 5 parent – not something that you hear every day and frankly, knitting beats Fortnite, doesn’t it? As well as the more traditional elements of Art, the children have also had the opportunity to explore a medium mash up by combining drawing with animation and Photoshop with guest artist, Tony Minnion. The results were spectacular. We were also delighted to welcome animation expert, Ed Jobling to BPS once again this year and he transformed the Year 6 classrooms into studios from which the Year 6 children produced the most wonderfully creative short films but this particular activity was not without its challenges as Scarlett so eloquently suggests:

‘I really enjoyed animation this week. It was definitely a highlight although it was really hard. At first, our group came up with 3 animations that we could make so we started on the first one. We tried 3 times but every time there was something wrong with it and we had to delete it. This meant that by the time that other groups had made 1 or 2 animations we still had nothing. My group decided to have another go and I’m so pleased that we did. There were no shadows in the wrong place, no people walking in the background, no accidental hands in the middle of frames. We could actually save this one and send it to Mr Morris. I was thrilled.’

Creative Arts Week - artAll of the children in Years 3 to 6 have had the opportunity to work with clay and for some children, the level of care and detail required is often hugely challenging. With ‘The Natural World’ as our central theme, some year groups were sculpting birds whilst others focused on fish or landscapes, and it was fascinating to see the level of detail that went into every individual creation. As you might imagine, it was not always an easy task as Amelia so rightly points out:

‘During Creative Arts Week we used growth mindset in our activities. One of the ways that I used it was on Monday when we did clay tiles and we had to create a landscape image. I tried to make a tree out of clay and found it very challenging to make the treetop look right. Kept on trying but by the fourth attempt I wanted to give up. However, I said to myself “you can do it” so even though I knew it would be hard I picked up the tools and tried again, this time with success.’

Creative Arts Week - music Creative Arts Week - music

Creative Arts Week - musicOne of the most striking and colourful of activities was the making of Totem Poles, and after the planning and drawing stage the time came for Minna to paint her final design. Creative Arts Week - musicAs she so honestly reflects, this posed a few challenges:

‘During Creative Arts Week we had two lessons of making totem poles. In the first lesson we drew our totem poles on to wooden boards. In the second lesson we had to paint them. I found painting the totem poles quite difficult because I don’t have the steadiest hand and there were some really narrow parts to paint. In the end I managed to finish painting my totem pole by selecting the right brush and using lots of perseverance!’

Creative Arts Week - musicYou may recall that in my first Blog of the term I made mention of the ‘I did it’ postcards that Mrs Clifford and I would be sending in the post each week. This last week we sent home 13 in total and I am sure that they will be a welcome surprise when they arrive on the door mat. These cards recognise success in one or more of these five key areas of Growth Mindset (see below) so if you have the opportunity to talk to your children about how they could embrace any of these qualities then please do take it. We are always happy to hear stories from home so please do share them with us.

  • Being determined and persevering during a challenge.
  • Making marvellous mistakes and learning from them by asking “how can I get it right next time?”
  • Challenging a personal fixed mindset. “I can’t” becomes “I will give it a go.”
  • Listening to and applying feedback in order to find ways to improve.
  • Putting in effort during a challenge that is ‘above and beyond’, showing grit and resilience.

Just one week to go until half term and we have much to look forward to including netball and hockey House matches for Years 3 to 6, ‘Craft and Cake’ for our future Reception aged children, and ‘Tea and Tunes’ for all of our budding Pre-Prep musicians. Enjoy the week ahead and have a super half term break.

Creative Arts Week - group

Mon 11th Feb 2019, 08:00

Young Voices Concert at the NEC

On Friday, our Year 5 and 6 children were amongst 6,500 other school children who were taking part in this year’s Young Voices Concert at the NEC in Birmingham. To say that excitement levels have been high in the run-up to the big day would be an understatement and having battled through coughs and colds, 59 children were fit and ready to jump on the coach on Friday morning and head up the M5. Young Voices Concert at the NECAs always, there was an eclectic mix of songs included in this year’s concert, with Jess Glynne and Coldplay making an appearance alongside everyone’s favourite (well, certainly mine) The Greatest Showman. As I watched the many video clips from the performance that were posted on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, I could see and hear the enthusiasm with which our children belted out the lyrics to these wonderful tracks. Hands waving, big smiles, arm in arm – they were in the moment, immersed in the music and the results were wonderful to watch. We have been involved in YV for a number of years and it is always interesting to see just how keen our children are to take part. There are many reasons for this, one being the chance to get a YV t-shirt, but mostly it is the passion that they have for music, and this shines through every day of our school year.

Young Voices Concert at the NEC Young Voices Concert at the NEC Young Voices Concert at the NEC

Last week was an especially musical one for the School, as aside from the YV Concert, Wednesday saw the Prep School children take part in their first Teatime Concert of the term and it was great to see a number of them performing for the first time. Young Voices Concert at the NECFor others, the more seasoned of our young musicians, this was a chance to perform in public one more time before they headed to the Senior School on Thursday to take part in the Music Scholarship Day. This year, we had six children showcasing their abilities in the hope of gaining an award, and we look forward to hearing how they got on during this coming week. What I know for sure is just how much time and effort each of those six potential music scholars has put into their preparations and I thought that I would touch on the importance of practice in my blog this week. I regularly see captions online in which slogans such as “Can I just skip to the bit when I am awesome?” are used to emphasise an apparent lack of determination to apply oneself to a task that requires sustained, focused and often difficult practice. Learning a musical instrument is a great example of this and over the years I have seen children happily take up an instrument only to give it up when the going gets tough. That’s not to say that children shouldn’t be able to change their minds but I wonder if sometimes we are a little too quick to say “yes” to that request to stop rather than finding strategies to make practice more manageable, more appealing, and more effective.

Music ConcertWhat can be done? Like most effective practice sessions, and I include homework in that, chunking the task (or piece of music) can certainly help a child to find success. If a long piece that they just can’t play all the way through without making a mistake is causing angst then break it up into smaller chunks and focus on the part that is causing the issue. It may take some time, and you may need to change direction if it is all too much, but often the prospect of just a bar or two is the key to greater engagement. Rather than setting aside a block of 30 minutes for practice, it may work better to work on a policy of ‘little and often.’ Not rocket science, I know, but it is amazing how much progress can be made if a child does just 5 minutes of focused music practice every day. As they see their own progress, so motivation increases and 5 minutes becomes 10 and then, if you are very lucky, you reach the holy grail – your child chooses to practice and will do it without being asked. Music ConcertEncouragement is crucial and I do believe that there is great power in the performance aspect of music. That is not to say that all children should be forced on to the big stage but if you show an interest in what they are playing and provide a supportive and non-judgemental audience, then you will often find that your child will be keen to show you what they can do. In truth, and I speak from personal experience, at times you may need to push a little. How hard is very much up to you and depends on your child but to allow them to simply quit when it gets a little tough sends them entirely the wrong message. Developing resilience in our children has to be one of our key aims and in my last blog I wrote about our on-going work in developing a growth mindset culture. One of the ways in which we are recognising the essential qualities is through the awarding of ‘I did it!’ postcards and this week I sent out the first of what I hope will be many recognitions of the children who consistently demonstrate those qualities to a young man who has shown grit and resilience in his musical endeavours.

Music ConcertHaving introduced an ‘endangered instruments’ programme to our musical provision this year, I thought it worth mentioning that as a result of providing opportunities for children to try the oboe, French horn, saxophone and clarinet, we have had a surge in take up and this has already had a positive impact on our ensemble groups. It is wonderful to hear these often unheard instruments being played by the children across the Prep School. With two Music Prep sessions per week to support children in their practice and musical groups meeting every day, there is every chance that music will continue to flourish here at BPS. Music in our Pre-Prep is most certainly doing so and on Thursday 14th February we will hold our first ever ‘Tea and Tunes’ afternoon, providing our youngest Blundellians with the chance to perform to a small audience and show all that they have learned.

The power of music to inspire, to create joy, and to bring people together was there for all to see on Friday night and what a treat for those who were there to be part of it. As the philosopher ‘Plato’ once said ‘Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.’

Mon 28th Jan 2019, 08:00

Firstly, and most importantly, a Happy New Year to one and all. I do hope that Christmas was all that you hoped it would be and that the prospect of the year ahead fills you with hope and excitement. For those who are on ‘Dry January’ this may be more of a challenge and if like me you have enjoyed the excuse to partake in over-eating that the festive season brings, then good luck with the various healthy eating programmes that you have no doubt embarked upon. Two weeks in and the ‘Lean in 15’ is enjoying varied success in the Southgate household, but we will persevere. As is always the case after a lengthy holiday, parents were full of smiles as they returned their equally happy children to school on Tuesday. Term began with customary assemblies across the Prep and Pre-Prep, with different themes taking centre stage. Mrs Clifford introduced the Nursery and Pre-Prep children to Kevin the Koala and spoke of the joy in embracing change at any time of the year but especially at the start of a new one. I went headlong into a Maths lesson of sorts as I asked the children in the Prep School, and the teachers, to get their grey matter working once again by finding the numerical value of certain words by allocating 1 to A, 2 to B and so on. With the aid of calculators, although many didn’t need them at all, the children de-coded the words luck, effort, knowledge and attitude, with only one adding up to provide a score of 100%. The importance of starting the new term with the right attitude was my central theme, indeed, it is the core message that permeates a great many of our assemblies, and underpins our work on developing each child’s mindset. The children’s responses, and their mental arithmetic, was on point and shows how much progress we have made since focusing more overtly on developing a Growth Mindset culture across our school.

Pupils - girls Pupils - boys

Before term began, our teaching staff met to further develop this GM culture and to build upon the common language that is now used within the school. Having spent some time last term helping the children to better understand what fixed and growth mindsets are, and learning how they can take control of their own development by literally growing their brains, we are now exploring ways to bring greater independence to the choices that they make in their learning. For our younger children, we are using ‘Help Desks’ where children can go for resources to aid their learning, the point being that they identify that they need extra help and are able to select the best way to get it. This is further developed across the Prep School as children are encouraged to select their own challenge level when different options are provided during tasks and the results thus far have been fascinating.

We have had many conversations about rewards and as a school with a very well established and much loved awards structure (the Non Sibi badge being the ultimate accolade) we have been exploring ways to develop intrinsic motivation. This term we are introducing specific Growth Mindset stickers to our younger year groups, so if your child comes home with a sticker that says ‘Fantastic! You took on a challenge today’ please do ask them about it and if you can focus on how they took on the challenge rather than the challenge itself, all the better. We will also be introducing a new postcard which will come home in the post and these will be awarded to those children who consistently demonstrate a commitment to improving their own mindset, whether that be learning from mistakes, responding to or seeking feedback, sticking with a task when it is tough, or simply making wonderful progress. Your child will not know that they are to receive a postcard so once again, please do chat to them about it, focusing on what they learnt about themselves in the process, as this reflective dialogue is crucial in imbedding good learning habits and we’d really appreciate your help.

Our much loved Whole School House Assemblies will also be taking on more of a GM theme as we look to utilise the great excitement that comes when our youngest and oldest children work together. They have much to learn from one another and we will be using these occasions to further promote healthy attitudes towards learning. Oh yes, and while I mention it, we are trying to use the word ‘learning’ rather than ‘work’ as the latter can have negative connotations for children (and adults!) With this one it is proving a challenge for many of us, as ingrained habits are over-written but I’ll work at it... I mean learn from it. If you are interested in finding out more, this link is a really useful guide for parents.

In other news, the draw for this year’s House Music was made on Friday with songs from the musicals ‘Mama Mia’, ‘Matilda’ and ‘School of Rock’ up for grabs. Preparations are now underway and we look forward to hearing the final performances at the end of Week 5. We also have German Enrichment, Year 3 Outdoor Learning, and a Year One Great Fire of London workshop to look forward to. Sports fixtures start this week and on Friday we are holding a Parents’ Cooking Workshop, so if you would like to book your place there are a couple of spaces left. You may think that you cannot cook but perhaps the new year is the time for a new approach? What a great way to model your own growth mindset!

Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2019.

Mon 14th Jan 2019, 08:00

Autumn Term 2018

The time has come for me to write the final Blog of the year and I cannot help but reflect on all that has taken place during 2018 whilst also giving thought to how different life must have been for those who were emerging from the four years of The Great War. Tin Hats and TelegramsAs I watched our children in Year 5 performing their extraordinary 1st World War themed Christmas play, ‘Tin Hats and Telegrams’ I couldn’t help but be amazed by the sensitivity with which these young actors delivered every line or sang every song. The audience of several hundred parents and grand-parents were amazed at how the children had risen to the challenge of bringing to life a story that still resonates these 100 years on. Having taught History for many years, I know just how interested the children are in this part of our nation’s heritage and by including plays which refer back to those pivotal moments in time, we are sure to maintain this connection to our past. Let’s hope that this continues for generations to come.

Tin Hats and Telegrams

Tin Hats and Telegrams Tin Hats and Telegrams Tin Hats and Telegrams

NativityAs you might imagine, the subject matter for the Nursery Nativity was somewhat lighter and on Friday morning the parents of our youngest children were treated to a performance to remember. It is pretty much impossible to predict what will happen when 2 and 3 year old children are suddenly in front of an audience of over 100 adults but they were very well behaved (the children that is!) and clearly enjoyed the chance to take to the stage. The term ‘miracle worker’ is perhaps overused however in the case of our Nursery teachers, Mrs Thornton and Mrs Spencer, that term is most certainly appropriate.

Nativity Nativity Nativity

On Monday evening, our school community came together for the much loved Carol Service in Chapel and once again we saw our children take centre stage and rise, as they always do, to the occasion. The singing from the choir, our small singing ensembles, and the children in Years 2,3 and 4, was spectacular, as was the volume that emanated from our congregation as they belted out ‘Hark the Herald Angels sing’ with great gusto. Our readers from Years 5 and 6 were also very impressive indeed with a special mention for our final reader, Mrs Elaine Filmer-Bennett. Mrs Filmer-Bennett is leaving us this term after 21 years at the school and if the theme for my Blog this week is ‘rising to the challenge’ then our Head of Pre-Prep can be no finer example of that. She has been an amazing teacher, colleague and friend, and we will all miss her when the new term starts in January. How fitting that she should be part of such a special Blundell’s event, as Mrs Filmer-Bennett has always been at the very heart of all that is good about our school community. We wish her well for whatever the future may hold.

Chapel Chapel reading

Our children and teachers give a great deal of themselves to school life and this has been mentioned to me by countless visitors to the school this term. We have had a busy few months and it has been wonderful to see so many new families who are interested in exploring what Blundell’s Prep can offer their families. Without fail, they are struck by the warmth of our community and that is a hallmark of our success. People at Blundell’s are generous with their time but they are also generous when it comes to thinking of others, as the collections from the Festival of Carols and the Carol Service demonstrate. I thought you would be thrilled to hear that the total amount raised this term for Diabetes UK is £2344.44, and that will make a big difference to this very worthwhile charity.

Pupil engagement in the finer details of school life and my constant request that everyone ‘rise to the challenge’ was brought home to me this last week as I met with the School Council. Christmas lunchAs always, they were full of ideas from their meetings and arrived at my study armed with big plans which they were hopeful I would support. Inevitably, the conversation began with the topic of food and the wish to have a greater variety of jelly, although several councillors were quick to point out that this did not include lime flavoured jelly. Nobody likes lime jelly, or so I am told. Having then explored ideas for play times, Sam in Year 3 made the very polite request that I install an escalator to connect the ground and first floor, as he felt that he would perform better in lessons if he did not have to climb quite so many stairs. We discussed the various merits of such an installation, and the cost, so Sam compromised by requesting that I provide long poles so that he could pole vault to the upper landing! I am all for taking on a challenge but that may be a step too far.

Dressing up Dressing up Christmas lunch Christmas lunch Christmas lunch

I have added a few pictures of the last day of term which included the utterly delicious Christmas lunch and the customary end of term parties. It also included a wonderful and very emotional Pre-Prep assembly which was a surprise for Mrs Filmer-Bennett. It was run entirely by the children and included an acrostic poem, a beautiful song with lyrics written especially for the occasion, the giving of cards from each year group, and the presentation of so many gifts. It was the perfect way to say farewell to the most wonderful of ladies.

Happy Christmas to you all.

Fri 14th Dec 2018, 11:05

decorating the treeDecember has arrived and in Tesco this weekend, the Christmas songs were in full swing. In truth, Christmas at BPS started several weeks ago when the Christmas trees arrived and I enlisted the help of our Year 3 children to help me decorate the big one in our Reception area. They applied themselves to the task with customary enthusiasm and, to their credit, a fair degree of artistic flair. In years gone by, the decorations have been somewhat hurled at the tree only for Bev and Gloria to work their magic and redistribute a bauble or three. This year, the children took their time and did a beautiful job, albeit on the first 3 feet of the 12 foot tree! With tree finished it was time to welcome hundreds of guests to the Prep School Christmas Market and what a super event it was again this year. We are very fortunate to have a wonderful Friends of Blundell’s Prep Committee of parents who gave their time generously once again to support this much loved event. decorating the treeThere were the usual guest traders selling Christmas goodies, Father Christmas was in fine fettle as always, the raffle saw various members of staff cleaning up on all the big prizes, and our children played a big part by running their own stalls and making hundreds of pounds for their chosen charity, Diabetes UK. It was the work of our Year 6 children, brilliantly supported by Mr Morris, Mrs Aldridge and Miss Mahan, that I wanted to make mention of this week as the market saw the culmination of their efforts to ‘Make £5 Grow.’ This is an initiative set up by Virgin Money and one that our Year 6 team have embraced with great gusto. We have been keen to develop entrepreneurship within our senior pupils and the Virgin scheme provided just that opportunity. Having applied for a £5 interest free loan, each of our children had to use that money to develop a product to then sell at the Christmas market. They started by considering their customer base, the sort of items or services that would be most appealing, the availability of time, the cost of resources, and the potential profit that could be generated so that the loan could be re-paid and the revenue donated to their chosen charity. decorating the treeOver the last few weeks we have seen a hive of activity as the children prepared slime and chocolate filled baubles, decorative pompoms of every size and shape, a Christmas themed photo booth, and a very popular chocolate fountain. In the days leading up to the fair, posters appeared around the school and when market day arrived, the children were ready and raring to go. Through their hard work, they more than doubled the original loan and in doing so learnt a great deal about the value of money.

Singing Pre-Prep

In a recent article it was suggested that children lack the necessary knowledge about money, and schools must play a part in changing that. Schemes such as the Virgin one can certainly play a part in helping children to gain a better understanding as it allows them to engage in activities that are real. PlayAs the article suggests, “It’s very important that children don’t just learn about concept or theory. If the theory’s not put into practice, they don’t actually learn anything.” We will be exploring the theme of entrepreneurship and how we might apply it to different subject areas as we embark on a curriculum review next term, and I am excited about the possibilities that will come from a greater focus on skills, particularly those with real-world applications. PlayHaving seen the enthusiasm, the focus and determination, and the genuine interest shown by all of our Year 6 pupils these last few weeks, I think that there may well be some future entrepreneurs among them!

As we move in to the final full week of the term, we have performances from Years 3 to 6 to look forward to, and then the Nursery Nativity as the grand finale on Friday. We also have the Festival of Carols at the end of the week and then our school Carol Service on Monday 10th to which I extend an invitation to all Blundell’s Prep parents, grand-parents and friends of the school. It is always a super event and one not to be missed.

Mon 3rd Dec 2018, 08:00

You may be aware that last week was ‘Anti-Bullying Week’ and this annual recognition of the most emotive of topics did not go unrecognised here at Blundell’s Prep. Whilst the children across Blundell’s Pre-Prep, Prep and Senior School are aware of the anti-bullying’ message, we choose to shine a light on the importance of ‘Kindness and Tolerance’ and this is supported through form time, in assemblies, and the much anticipated visit from our Senior School Monitors, or Prefects as we call them here at the Prep. Kindness and toleranceThis year our senior pupils, two of whom started their educational journey here at the Prep, chose to use social media as the subject matter from which to encourage greater kindness towards one another, and their message was a powerful one. Whilst many of our children do not use social media, nor do most of them have phones as a show of hands confirmed, they are all aware of the dangers of online communications through games that they play or through the learning that takes place in Computing lessons. It is widely reported that online bullying is on the increase and that is no surprise as children of ever younger ages start to interact within the virtual world. I have seen first-hand just how painful it can be when comments are made online and it strikes me that when grown adults engage in such mindless and spiteful ‘trolling’ on platforms such as Twitter, it is little wonder that children are copying this behaviour and saying things online that they would be less inclined to say if face to face. ‘Never write anything that you wouldn’t want your Granny to see’ is a mantra that I have used and so far, I hope that it has worked.

The subject of bullying, including the growing issue of ‘banter’, has been highlighted within the updated ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’ document which is statutory guidance for all schools and colleges. It is a document that all staff in schools must read and use as their guiding principles for identifying those at risk and acting to protect them from harm. In the most recent update, a greater focus has been placed on interactions between peers and whilst for 99% of the time, relationships are generally harmonious, there are times when things do go wrong and we must guard against those overly used phrases such as “it’s just a bit of banter” when deciding how best to respond. It is certainly the case that not all incidents are bullying and I have written previously about the caution that must be applied before immediately declaring that bullying is taking place, but this recent article in inews caught my eye, not just because of the subject matter but also because it includes comment from Emma Gleadhill, who I heard speak at a conference just a few weeks ago.

Pupils Pupils

The article shines a light on the difficulties that arise when bullying takes place within close friendship groups. It is, as the article says, very difficult to spot, and the victim will often be reluctant to do anything about it through fear of retribution from someone who they may have previously confided in. The subtlety of the behaviour which is described in the article as ‘stealthy’ is corrosive and can have a lasting impact on children’s self-esteem and happiness. As Emma Gleadhill says “We need to help our kids to spot this kind of behaviour. To help them tune into their feelings,” and through our pastoral systems here at BPS, that is what we are looking to do. Anti-Bullying Week may come around just once a year but the issues do not and we must ensure that we are mindful of this as we look to promote a culture where kindness is consistent and commonplace.

How do we do that? There are the obvious occasions when acts of kindness, generosity and the awareness of others are at the forefront of our thinking. This was certainly the case on Friday as the children dressed in home clothes and enjoyed the delights of a Year 6 cake sale in order to raise funds for Children in Need. Go back a week and we see the school come together for a wonderfully poignant Remembrance Service, with children and staff reflecting on the sacrifices made by others. These occasions certainly help to reinforce the importance of kindness but I am also interested in the more explicit teaching of kindness and this drew me to an article written by a lady called Lulu Luckock. Lulu and I have been in touch regarding the development of emotional intelligence in children and her thoughts on how we can teach children to be kind did raise some interesting points which I thought I would share. Feedback post-itWithout wishing to make light of this serious subject, I’m not sure that any cake that I baked as a gift for a neighbour would be well received, as my baking skills are somewhat lacking but the sentiment is spot on. Of course, the point is that kindness breeds kindness and that has to be a good thing for all of us.

In assembly on Monday, I will be looking at another aspect of Growth Mindset, this time the power of peer feedback. The post-it note sums it up perfectly, however the offering of advice is often easier than being open to receive that advice, yet it is a powerful tool to learning and that is the message that I will be attempting to share through the medium of drawing. Once again, my personal mindset will be tested to the full!

Mon 19th Nov 2018, 08:00

I am sure that we all have opinions on homework and having been in teaching for over 20 years, I have heard the full range from “lots more” to “nothing at all.” It is an emotive topic of conversation and my sense is that this is ever more the case as priorities and pressures in society change. The subject of homework has been in the press of late after comedy writer and actor, Rob Delaney shared his opinions on social media which were supported by Kirstie Allsopp and Gary Lineker. With good reason, they wish to preserve their children’s childhood and allow them time to enjoy other activities without being shackled to the kitchen table, ploughing through hours of mindless and, in their opinion, unnecessary homework. I sympathise but I also think that completing homework is much more than just finishing a worksheet or learning this week’s spellings for a test. At a primary level, it begins the all-important process of self-regulation, of becoming more independent in learning, of developing good habits for life. Most importantly, it should develop a love of learning that reaches beyond the classroom, as the process of learning, and the children’s understanding of its importance, must not be confined solely to hours spent at school.

One article that caught my eye last week was in The Times and was written by Education Secretary, Damian Hinds. The government has come under considerable pressure post budget when significant funding was allocated to repairing potholes rather than to schools, but when it comes to Mr Hinds’ opinion on homework, I have to say that I am inclined to agree with much of what he has to say. We set homework here at BPS and will continue to do so, but that is not to say that we want it to be to the detriment of the children’s lives outside of school. It has to have real value, and that is often the challenge when setting appropriate tasks to be completed away from the classroom. It may be the case that the professional judgement of the teacher leads them to set a reinforcement task, consolidating learning for the future or preparing for a task yet to come. With our younger children, homework is often used to enhance their knowledge of spelling patterns and number bonds, but it is also used to broaden interests and potentially spark a flame of enthusiasm for a topic. Just this week, there were several examples of this in action as I awarded Head Master’s Commendations to James and William in Year 6 for their efforts in Geography and History. Both had been so enthused by what they had been learning that they decided to extend their understanding by completing independent projects, James making a replica volcano and William researching his great-grandfather’s life during the 1st World War. Not only did they produce outstanding work but, most importantly, they demonstrated passion for learning and that was great to see. Now, you may be thinking “how on earth will we have time to make a volcano with everything else going on?” and I am acutely aware that for many, this is unrealistic. It is the fact that James and William were motivated to pursue their interests, not because they were told to or were offered any sort of extrinsic reward, but purely because they were excited enough by what they had learnt in school to use their time outside of school to pursue an interest. It is the process rather than the outcome that is of such value here and whilst the finished projects were superb, it is the mindset that we must look to recognise.

I do believe that homework has an important part to play in preparing children for the future, not just at Secondary School but in their lives beyond school. In his article, also in The Times, Lindsay Paterson supports the idea that homework lays the foundations for good learning habits and goes on to suggest that ‘Homework for young children serves the same purpose as football, music lessons, and splashing paint: it’s about learning how to be a decent, responsible, independent human being.’ As an advocate of homework at Primary level, I would wholeheartedly agree, even if for some children the notion that homework would be alongside sport on their ‘Top 5 things to do after school’ list may be something of a stretch! If used well, it can be a great help to any child but I also offer a word of caution. If your evenings are spent teaching your child because they don’t understand the homework set, or if they are still struggling after 30 minutes and are yet to have their tea, then that it is the time to speak to the school. In my experience, the link between home and school is vital in helping children to develop effective and sustainable learning habits and it is often the case that issues can be resolved very quickly and effectively just by sharing what goes on when it is time to complete homework. As is the case with most aspects of a child’s education, it is the strength of home/school links that plays such an important part in helping children to flourish and when it comes to homework, those connections are a potent tool for success.

Mon 5th Nov 2018, 08:00

If I asked you to name the five pillars of good physical health, you would probably reel off a list in seconds and it might look something like this: Balanced Healthy Diet, Exercise, Good Sleep, Alcohol in Moderation, Not Smoking. If I asked you to do the same with the five pillars of good mental health, well I imagine that the list becomes a little more challenging to put together. ArtThere is no question that mental health issues in young people are on the rise and this alarming trend is one that we all need to take notice of. We read in the press that incidences of anxiety, depression, self-harm and disordered eating have risen 70% in a generation. The Mental Health Foundation reported that 20% of young people in Britain will experience some sort of mental health problem in any given year; 10% at any one time. A 50% increase in the demand for mental health beds for young people between 1999 and 2014 means that the NHS simply cannot meet current demand and in a report into wellbeing among 10-12 year olds in 15 diverse countries (including Algeria, Romania; Ethiopia, Nepal, Germany, Norway, and S Korea), English pupils rated 13/15 for life satisfaction, 14th for body image satisfaction and 15th for self-confidence. I don’t wish to be alarmist folks but we need to take notice and do something about it. I am sure that we all have a theory as to why this is the case, and with National Mental Health Awareness Day taking place on Wednesday last week, I thought that I would share some thoughts on what we can do to buck the trend and make a difference to the lives of our young people.

Without wishing to oversimplify this very serious problem, perhaps we can start with simply addressing an issue raised in The Independent this week and that is ensuring that every child has someone to talk to. In a survey conducted on behalf of the Mental Health Foundation (MHF) charity it was discovered that one in ten children said they feel they have no-one to talk to, or would not talk to anyone in school, if they felt worried or sad. Using figures from the Office for National Statistics, the MHF estimated that this equates to 476,066 children aged between 10 and 15 in the UK. OutdoorsI do think that opening up channels of communication and giving children the confidence to know that there are people who will listen, who will not judge them or think less of them for asking for help, who will understand and empathise, are all key to developing really strong pastoral care systems in schools, and that is certainly what we aim to do on a daily basis here at BPS. How do we do that? Well there are many different ways, some overt in nature such as the use of data from regular surveys to identify those children in need of support. This information, gathered through the use of PASS (Pupils Attitudes to Self and School) has already proven to be highly effective and now forms part of our monitoring of pupil well-being. Some of our support is less overt, such as the use of a Worry Box in which messages can be left for our Deputy Head – highly effective if a child is feeling concerned about absolutely anything but making that initial move to ask for help is just a bit too scary. Our Buddy system provides children with a friend to go to if they need help, and we do find that younger children will confide in their older buddy as a first point of contact. When more help is needed we are fortunate to have the most wonderful School Councillor, who provides expert guidance to those who need it, but the real difference is made by the teachers who work most closely with the children and are best placed to identify when a child needs help or just simply a listening ear. Vigilance is key and it is something that we talk about on a weekly basis as we look to guide our children through their increasingly complex lives.

These systems are all well and good, but it is in addressing the root causes of poor mental health, and helping children to better understand what they can do to improve it, that is really the key to success.I recently attended the IAPS Heads Conference and in one of the seminars I listened to the work being done at Bootham School in York by the Head, Chris Jeffery. PERMA diagram (courtesy of GinaSemensi.com)He shared his school’s journey in achieving their goal which was ‘to enable students (and staff) to develop better ways of promoting good physical, emotional and mental health’, and there were a number of things within his presentation which really resonated with me, the most significant being this diagram.

This is the PERMA Model of Human Flourishing and it comes from psychologist, Martin Seligman’s work on happiness and well-being, and addresses five key pillars which, if followed, can have a big impact on mental health. The first is Positive Emotions - powerful things which have proven health benefits, reducing the risk of type II diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular disease, and they can be actively promoted through certain intentional activities: Showing kindness and care for others, learning new things and being curious, expressing gratitude and noticing or identifying the good things that happen. They have the ability to change mindset and build optimism, crucial components to learning as well as to developing a healthier life. Being fully absorbed in what we are doing, creating, learning or experiencing, both in our work and at play has huge benefits and that is why Engagement is so important. PupilsWe should encourage children to identify, acknowledge and play to their strengths, to take up hobbies that challenge and stretch them and to learn and try new things. Positive Relationships with friends, family, colleagues and those who share our interests in order to create a support network, can act as a positive foundation for good mental health. Face to face contact cannot be replicated by social media and ‘virtual’ contact! Physical connections through eye contact, handshakes and hugs releases the hormone oxytocin, which has anti-depressant effects and positively effects generosity and trust. Having Meaning in our lives is crucial – a sense of the purpose for each day is psychologically important as well; knowing why we’re doing what we are doing goes a long way to bringing enjoyment and fulfilment in to our lives. And finally, Accomplishment related to our strengths and our purpose is especially important; it grows self-efficacy, our belief in our ability to succeed and helps us to thrive. HockeyResearch also shows that ‘grit’ is twice as important as ability in helping achievement. Modestly recognising, owning and celebrating our accomplishments, rather than brushing them off, promotes wellbeing.

Clearly, the consistent application of these principles within the context of our busy and often challenging lives is not always straightforward but if we listen to what children are saying and give them the tools to lead happy and healthy lives, then we are giving them the very best chance to find fulfilment now and in the future, and that should always be our mission.

Mon 15th Oct 2018, 07:14

From time to time I like to explore some more controversial topics in my fortnightly blog and therefore I’m going to put it out there and say that I actually prefer Channel 4’s ‘The Great British Bake Off’ to the BBC version. “Sacrilege” I hear you cry but the Noel Fielding/Sandy Toksvig combo makes me laugh and, yes I’m going to say it, I think I like Pru Leith almost as much as Mary Berry. I realise that this statement may be classed as treason, as Mary B comes a close second to Her Majesty The Queen, but I just enjoy the new show. I also am not at all bothered about Strictly Come Dancing but I realise that I may be going too far now so will swiftly move on. In truth, my enjoyment of this inked in date in our weekly family calendar is dramatically enhanced by the rule imposed by my daughter that we must eat cake during the programme. Before you begin thinking that this is some sort of family baking session, I must shatter that illusion by telling you that we simply buy one from Tesco. Oh the shame of it! I am pretty certain that our children in Years 3 to 6 would be appalled as their baking skills are enhanced on a weekly basis through their Food Tech lessons and as I sat at my desk on Friday afternoon the smell of baking cakes did waft into my study, causing me to get up and pay the children a visit, just to make sure that everything was ok you understand, and nothing to do with a sudden craving for a sweet treat. Earlier in the week, I had returned to my desk to find a delicious slice of jam tart with pastry perfectly cooked – no soggy bottoms here – and it would be fair to say that rarely does a week go by without our children cooking up a storm in our state of the art kitchen.

My reason for mentioning the GBBO is that earlier in the week, I read an article in the TES in which Pru Leith talked about her best teacher, a man who changed her life and who she credits with much of her success today. We can probably all recall a teacher who made a difference and in past blogs I have talked of my great inspiration, the wonderful Mr Marr. In much the same way that Pru Leith was captivated by the personality of her maths tutor, Mr Ralfs, his waistcoat and tweed jacket, as well as his extravagant personality, Mr Marr inspired me through his charisma, his immaculate suits and highly polished shoes, but most importantly his ability to make me feel that he was completely dedicated to helping me. He made a connection and he gave me the confidence and the determination to work through challenges and make the most of my time at school. Much more than this, he shaped my idea of what a truly great teacher should be.

At the start of term, our new Senior School Head, Mr Bart Wielenga, spoke to all members of the Blundell’s community including teachers and support staff, and he outlined his vision for the school, focusing in on the profound impact that we as teachers can have on the lives of those whom we teach. It stands to reason that we will play an important part but the extent to which we can make a difference is determined by our ability and desire to connect with every child, however challenging that may be on occasions. As the Head of the Prep School, I am immensely proud of how our team of teachers, teaching assistants and support staff, all work to make those individual connections with children, and this is reflected in the happy atmosphere, mutual respect and warmth of relationships that are played out every day. It’s not just me who feels this, as our parents were very quick to share their views during our June inspection, and their responses were, in the words of our reporting inspector, “extraordinarily positive” when commenting on how the teachers work to support their children. Educational research is also very clear in what makes a difference to a child at school and provides the best conditions for progress in learning, as summarised in these four key points which were shared with all of the Blundell’s staff at the beginning of the new academic year:

  1. Pupil Self-Efficacy: pupil’s belief in their own ability and their resourcefulness in solving problems is vital and heavily influenced by you.
  2. Teacher Credibility and Relationships: Your credibility as a practitioner and as a reliable human being. The trust pupils have in you.
  3. Positive Peer Influence and Classroom Coherence: The work we do to create a positive environment, both in and out of the classroom.
  4. Students feeling liked by you: It is easy to like pupils who are friendly and compliant. You are the adult!

I am sure that you would all have an opinion as to which is the most important but the one that is perhaps most interesting to consider is number 4. This is not to say that we should look to in any way undermine the respectful distance between pupil and teacher but what is powerful beyond words is the moment when a child knows and accepts that you are on their side. Sometimes this happens very easily but if we want to truly offer outstanding support for every child then we must look to make these connections even when it is difficult. Having spent many hours talking to parents, I have on occasions been surprised by their child’s choice as their favourite teacher and their reasons as to why a connection has been made. What never surprises me is the power that these relationships can have in transforming a previous reluctance to engage in a subject or a propensity to give up when the going gets tough. It is a very significant part of what makes for an excellent teacher and we must never lose sight of it.

Mon 1st Oct 2018, 08:00

Week 3 is about to begin and the start of term now seems like a distant memory. I imagine that there were differing emotions in the days leading up to the first day back at school after the long summer break. I would guess that there were a few nerves and that is absolutely understandable. The children may be surprised to learn that teachers get a bit nervous at the start of the new year as well. A hint of anxiety at what is to come, coupled with the knowledge that it will soon be time for the grey matter to start working again! Perhaps that is just me? Outdoor LearningThe Summer break is a wonderful time but as August comes to an end, our thoughts turn to the new term, new friends, new teachers, new lessons and new stationery! Yes, the final two weeks of the summer break marks the start of the mad rush to buy those ‘essential’ items from WHSmith (other retailers are available). Suddenly the pencil case that your child simply had to have last year becomes “so uncool” and the colouring pens that just two months ago were thought to be in fine working order are discovered to have been left without their lids. You mortgage your house to buy another pack of Friction pens and pontificate about the need to purchase yet another smelly rubber. The ruler has vanished – supposedly lent to a friend, and the calculator that was not turned off in July now has a flat battery in September. Clearly, some of our girls in Year 6 had acquired new fountain pens and marked their first History lesson of the year by running out of ink and then changing the cartridges only to discover that there was in fact, quite a lot of ink left. The carpet in room 6 now bears testimony to this! Sadly, a recent article in the TES arrived just a little too late, as it suggests that much of this stationary is actually unnecessary. I’m not sure that I agree with all of the comments, although the one concerning glue sticks and missing lids is an all too familiar problem!

Swimming Swimming

Aside from this minor ink disaster, the start of term has been very positive indeed, and we welcomed nearly 40 new children across the Nursery, Pre-Prep and Prep School on the first day back. We also welcomed new staff with Mrs Clifford and Mrs Taylor joining us in the Pre-Prep and Mr Genders and Mrs Latus joining us in the Prep. As is ever the case at the start of term, the sun was shining, and day one saw our Pre-Prep children head to the pool for the first of their weekly lessons. They loved it and with 50 children from the Prep school also heading to the pool for their swimming lessons on Thursday mornings, it has been great to see this new provision already having such a positive impact. We have a great deal planned for the year ahead and I was delighted to have the opportunity to share these plans with parents at our Prep Welcome meetings last week. I also shared our vision for imbedding Growth Mindset principles in to every part of our daily lives and asked parents to look for opportunities to ask their children some key questions to help with this. I appreciate that children are not always receptive to answering parental questions after a long day at school but if you find the right moment why not ask them:

  • What was fun today? (Not necessarily Growth Mindset but it is always good to start with a positive!)
  • What did you try hard at today?
  • What made you keep going?
  • What mistakes did you make that you learned from?
  • What will you do to improve your schoolwork tomorrow?


The key is to focus on the process rather than outcome, however hard that may be. I am sure that every parent has heard their child say “I can’t do that!” and we certainly know that this can be a very quick response when faced with a challenging task. We are aiming to add just one word to that phrase, and that word is “Yet!” If a child recognises that they can improve through hard work, consistent effort, purposeful practise, the willingness to seek and accept feedback, and the understanding that making mistakes is not only ok but a good thing, then they are well on the way to becoming better learners. We have already done a lot of work on this with children throughout the school but we intend to do more and in mid-October we will welcome internationally renowned speaker, Steve Ingle to BPS to help us further develop our plans. In the meantime, do let me know if you have any observations about how growth mindset has helped your child – I am always keen to hear success stories.

Group at Lynmouth MusicRefreshments at break Outdoor Learning

I have included some of the lovely photos taken since we returned to school, many of which have appeared on Facebook and Twitter. Do remember that there are daily updates to our social media feed and all photos can be found in the Image Gallery on our website.

My best wishes to one and all for the year ahead.

Mon 17th Sept 2018, 07:25