Head’s blog

Sharing In Success Together

Lent - Week 6

Week 5 was a wonderful week. The sun has shone and the days are getting longer. Pick-up after activities on Friday happened in daylight and I am beginning to no longer require a head torch for my early morning dog walking!

One highlight was Mrs. Howard’s reading workshop for Pre-prep parents. Such fantastic advice and strategies on how to read with your child at home, such as making the most of the 10 minutes of reading you do with your children so that it is a worthwhile time. Reading with children is a real joy. Don’t see it as a chore; something you have to get done in the car or while you are cooking the spaghetti. It is a special time. (I do know from my own experience what the end of the day looks like when you have two small children – but try and make it quality!)

Assemblies have been a real triumph. I love seeing all of the children and staff together and there is something very powerful in sharing in successes together. Year 2 performed a wonderful China assembly with songs, art and language. Tremendous. On Friday it was the Year 5 assembly with drama, a song, dancers and a brilliant ‘boy band’ rap. Such a talented year group who spoke really passionately about environmental issues. It was great to also see so many of the parents supporting the children – thank you. We have updated our certificates that all the staff award each week so that they are specific to our values of Opportunity, Community, Endeavour, Achievement and Nurture. Such lovely reasons for certificates from being a kind friend to progressing in reading. We now have Reception and the Pre-prep joining our assemblies so that we have one time in the school week when the whole school community is together and the excitement when the House points are awarded is spellbinding.

Children performed in the Lympstone Church concert on Thursday evening. The acoustics and space was intimate and special as the children performed – many for the first time. They were confident, well rehearsed and it was a very accomplished evening. My thanks to the music staff, led by Mr Hoban and to the peris and indeed the parents who help with the practice at home.

We showed around some prospective parents on Wednesday in our School In Action Day and we have three new children starting the week after half term. We wish them a very warm welcome to the St Peter’s community.

Our guidance on Year 7 and Year 8 has been revamped and can now be downloaded from the parent portal and website. It is a super document and gives lots of information on why the top of a prep school is such a wonderful environment and opportunity for your children.

C.Johnston, Head

Stories Coming To Life

Lent - Week 5

I love stories. As a child, I was never without a book; the bigger the better. My imagination soared with tales of faraway trees, unicorns, and adventure. But my absolute favourite stories were those set in the past. My love of History and reading combined together – now that was happiness. And still I read…My family knows that if I’m in the middle of a good book that I will do little else but read, though they have to be rationed to the holidays only!

Our visiting authors attended this week and the children were spellbound. Eamonn Reilly spoke of dilemma and suspense and the children were captivated. Pens Down Day meant that storytelling and talk for writing were at the heart of the curriculum. I loved seeing the children responding so well to the challenge. Year 1 discovered an 8-foot snakeskin under a hedge; one child writing three whole pages as he was so inspired. Reception made story bracelets with each bead a part of the story so they wouldn’t forget. I had to leave a meeting to go into the Learning Hub as there was such a racket going on. I thought that a whole year group was having an unsupervised rumpus in the middle of the day. What a surprise to actually find Mrs. Perry’s Year 7 English class listening in rapt attention to two children telling the most marvellous story, with actions and shrieks! “Carry on! As you were!” I said. My thanks to Mrs. Howard for organising such wonderful opportunities for the children.

As we end January the staff are actually spending time planning forward to the Summer Term. How about a wedding dress-up, Red White and Blue day with afternoon tea on the lawn for everyone to celebrate the Royal Wedding in May? I think bunting and flag-waving may be on the cards…

Appropriately as storytelling week comes to a close our thought for the week is from a Mr. Charles Dickens. Possibilities as probabilities…I like to think, as I wish some of my Year 7 boys, in particular, would do (they know who they are), he was wishing for a haircut?

Charlotte Johnston, Head

Questions & Answers

Lent - Week 4

A most satisfying part of my week was interviewing a variety of Year 6 children as part of our 11+ scholarship process at St. Peter’s. A mammoth task of logistics to ensure that all had a positive experience. Thank you so much to all the staff involved but particularly Claire Smith, who has done brilliantly in making it all happen. Children were able to apply for All-Rounder, Art, Sport, Performing Arts and Music awards which result in scholarships and a fee remission. Academic papers were sat, rigorous sports tests were completed, monologues learned and Art and music prepared for individual assessment. Huge amounts of preparation took place. Parents must be thanked for all of their work with the children and their understanding as we go on to the task of decision making.

The children spoke to me of loving the whole experience as it made them feel ‘grown up’ and really challenged them to do their best. As with all of these things, some will succeed and some won’t be successful. One of my key questions in an interview was ‘How will you deal with it if you aren’t successful?’. The answers, without fail, were heartwarming – ‘I would be proud of my friends (I would be a bit jealous but I would really make sure I said well done to them).’ ‘It would make me work harder for the next time. I could always have another chance when I go to my senior school at 13. It would make me really, really determined’. ‘It wouldn’t put me off. I know that there will be people who are better than me at things.’ ‘That’s a good experience too. I’m just really glad I had a go.’ ‘Really glad I put myself forward because you have to be quite brave don’t you.’

The process reminded me of some wise words from my Grandmother. ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it’. How true.

Another question brought interesting answers: ‘What would you save if your house was burning down and your family and pets were safe?’ Great answers from fishing rods to trophies to a sketchbook and pen – ‘Because there is going to be a lot of hanging around with my little brother while that house gets sorted out and you are always entertained with a sketchbook and pen’… 21st-century childhood right there.

Results are coming in for our Year 8 as we speak. We will publish when all are in, but congratulations to all those successful so far. It is great to let you know that our 100% success rate at Exeter school entry at 13+ continues …

Charlotte Johnston, Head

An “Ocean” of Learning

Lent - Week 3

Laid low by the Noro-virus, I write weakly from my sick bed listening to the merry whoops of children enjoying their playtime. Fresh from running a course for Prospective Heads last week I would like to thank Mrs Ball for taking over my newsletter duties with her rather entertaining piece on #pride.

You will all have received a link to our recently published Good Schools Guide review. The team joined us at St. Peter’s last term, spending time with SMT, staff and, of course, the children. I am very pleased with the review and would very much like to thank those of you who have passed on your congratulations to the staff and the team at St. Peter’s. I really feel that the review got the measure of what we are doing here and where we are going in moving the school forward whilst treasuring its traditions. If you would like another read please click here.

Much has been written recently on the benefits of dogs in schools. I certainly find that as I take Monty on duty or walk him at lunch time; often with a group of enthusiastic helpers; that children will come and speak to me who would perhaps pass by on their busy ways if I didn’t stand with the dog. I learn some interesting tidbits and I am often proudly shown work / dances / games or told jokes. I had a go at the ‘Kingball’ game, and was found to be rather good (for approximately one minute) until I was gleefully sent out of the Kingball square by some guffawing 10 year olds.

This week I welcomed a group of Year 5 pupils into my office for juice and biscuits. It is wonderful to listen to their ideas on improvements and to hear what they love about their school.

Pre-Prep assembly was a welcome break from back to back meetings on Wednesday and it is heartwarming to see the pride on the children’s faces as they gain their certificates each week for one of the school’s values: Achievement, Endeavour, Opportunity, Community and Nurture. Thank you to the person who spotted the Acronym of ‘OCEAN’ – now we will be able to remember and think of the Sea at the same time. Super.

It was a delight to welcome the latest Senior School Head to our Parent Seminars. Lee Glaser of Taunton School spoke on the International Baccalaureate which is an option at Taunton as well as A Levels and B Techs. There are many opportunities out there and it is useful to find out about them while your children are in Prep school so that you can plan accordingly. Next term we welcome Bob Griffin, Head at Exeter School who will talk about ‘Wellbeing’ in our young people. I will release details once a date is finalised.

I leave you with the thought for the week from Mr George Bernard Shaw on #achievement, progress and how change is important:

“Progress is impossible without change; and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”
(George Bernard Shaw)

Charlotte Johnston, Head