BEHIND THE STUDY DOOR
One of the most imaginative of inspirations to young people, the world famous author Michael Morpurgo, has just described this week’s Sats exams as “a dark spider spreading fear in the primary classroom”. For half a million 10-11 year olds in England, this last week has been dominated by their Sats, a series of tests in reading, spelling, punctuation, grammar and maths. There are reports in the newspapers today that some “children were left in tears after their final maths test”, and I listened in horror last Friday as I heard a 10 year old boy telling Radio 5 live he was spending the weekend revising for his Sats. This was especially pertinent as I had moments earlier stood at the door of School wishing everyone a happy weekend and hearing about their plans to go to the beach, visit friends and relatives, and most importantly have much needed ‘down time’ after the busy week. I suddenly felt that dread that the British Education System, whether state or independent was, once again, exposing our pre-teens to the unnecessary pressures, strain and anxiety of our obsession with testing.
I spent a hugely rewarding two days at the start of the week leading a course in emotional wellbeing and Mental Health First Aid. Some of our teaching was specific to mental health illness and empowering teachers and parents to spot the signs and develop self-efficacy to signpost the young person to appropriate help and guidance. In addition, our discussions were more holistic in pinpointing preventative measures, most specifically in not losing sight of two critical components of growing up: happiness and resilience.
If we are really to tackle mental health issues in any effective way, we must be proactive in helping children to develop the resilience and robustness essential to maintain balance and good mental health. As Dick Moore (an ex Prep School Head and now prominent Mental Health campaigner) has said, we must never remove the everyday stresses that life delivers, instead “bend in the wind rather than snap in the hurricane”. Resilience can be learned, and will be critical for our children to succeed in a rapidly changing world ahead of them. Resilience is not simply showing grit or determination when faced with adversity on any level, it involves a number of key qualities which we would like to see our children develop. These special qualities, some internal and some outward-looking include: openness, curiosity, optimism and hope, zest, adaptability, control, compassion, growth mindset, commitment and purposefulness. Through our PSHE and wellbeing scheme at St Leonards, aptly called ‘Ad Vitam’, we will be stimulating the growth of these qualities in our children, to truly prepare them ‘For Life’.
There is something far more powerful than resilience that we must never lose sight of, and I unashamedly remain very one-directional in focusing on this as the most important part of an education: happiness. A happy child succeeds, and far more important than gift, talent of intelligence, true happiness lies at the heart of a child’s upbringing. Happiness comes through generosity, kindness, authenticity (being comfortable in one’s own skin and persona) and being aware of oneself and our surroundings.
Excessive testing does not build resilience, and certainly doesn’t do anything to develop life-long happiness. Nor does it ultimately create successful learners. I read recently that the vast majority of those under 30 who are CEOs of Fortune 500 companies totally discredited exams to having anything to do with their success. Instead, they put these astonishing careers down to the creativity and imagination they were allowed to develop. A true love of learning is our aim, and we will achieve this alongside our focus on happiness, resilience and true wellbeing in our pupils.
Dick Moore suggests the following important steps in ensuring emotional wellbeing, and I go as far as encouraging you to put this on your fridge and refer to it daily with your children:
1. Be emotionally genuine and authentic to those close to you
2. Laugh and smile
3. Eat well; sleep well
4. Exercise and have fresh air
5. Don’t expect to be perfect. We all fail
6. Top academic grades are not essential for happiness
7. Accept your emotions
8. Talk, talk, talk and ask for help
9. Be kind to others and yourself
10. Support each other but don’t think you can make everything better
11. Count your blessings
12. Believe that time changes things
As for the purpose of Sats, I really do draw a blank. With the exception of stifling creativity, curiosity and imposing vast swathes of anxiety on 10-11 year olds, I really am dismayed at reports of the anguish they cause. Testing isn’t the answer. Ensuring our children grow up with a developed sense of self-belief, happiness and resilience is.
Wishing all St Leonards families a wonderful weekend
ATHLETICS VS RILEY HOUSE
It was another great fixture in the sunshine, the girls performed well but unfortunately went down 38 – 32. A very close relay at the end to decide the winners.
Jaki was the top performer of the day wining the Javelin with a throw of 14.56m, not bad, considering it was the first time she has ever competed in this event.
YEAR 6 KINDNESS
Sophie (6C) writes "You spin the name wheel 4 times every Friday and then spin the kindness wheel 8 times every Friday. Then you try to do 2 kindnesses to each of the 4 people you spin and if you do that by the end of the week then you get to put a bead and a K on your string at the end of the week and so on until you finish the word kindness."
This week saw our Bi Annual visit from the Scholastic Book Fair and once again the children and parents of St Leonards Junior School rallied to support. The first morning resembled the infamous Harrods sale! Each morning and afternoon the Book fair was manned by our wonderful parents enabling the children to purchase books of their choice.
This Book Fair raised £576.82 for us to spend on books for the children to read within school. Thanks must go to all who supported this event, to Rita Dhasmana for her coordination of the volunteers and to Sally Brown, Clare Niven, Kerrie Munro, Laura Jacks and Susan Shirreffs for manning the shelves.
YEAR 4s REGAL WATERCOLOUR PROJECT
LOWER SCHOOL PLAYGROUND
This morning we were delighted to welcome parents and carers of children in Years 1 to 3 to explore the changes we have been making in the playground. A presentation was given to explain the rationale behind the changes and the desire to create a purposeful space in which children could play safely and develop their imagination and creativity. William also gave thanks to the PA for their generous donation of money to the Junior School which has allowed the changes to take place. The parents and carers were then given a tour of the new play areas, including mud kitchen, small world play area, writing area and friendship benches. The children have already loved playing in these new areas and it was wonderful to be able to show off our new equipment to their families. After the presentation and tour, the children and their families were able to plant flowers, herbs and shrubs which they had kindly brought along to help continue the development of a more natural outdoor space. Huge thanks to all families who gave up their valuable time to come and join us today and we look forward to similar events in the future.
YEAR 2 MAKE THE MOST OF THE LOVELY WEATHER
Year 2 have been making the most of the lovely weather and taking their learning outdoors this week. We have been identifying native flowers growing around the school, doing lots of planting and gardening and then, after all our hard work, we enjoyed a picnic on the grass!
FAREWELL TO OUR STUDENT TEACHERS
After their six week placement with us, we bid a very fond farewell to Miss Hannah Stillwell, Miss Zuleka Ismail and Miss Rebecca Muir today. Hannah, Zuleka and Rebecca have thrown themselves into the life of the school and we have all hugely enjoyed their immense contribution. We wish them all the very best as they continue their studies at Dundee University.
THE BONNIEST BABY IN DUNDEE
Year One and Two pupils were treated to a fantastic author event earlier this week. Michelle Sloan, who lives in Broughty Ferry and author of ‘Fourth bonniest baby in Dundee’, entertained the pupils with her engaging style. The pupils enjoyed ‘pegging up the laundry’ and singing along, Michelle also talked about the importance of how the illustrations were just as important as the story itself.
GARDENING CLUB NEWS
Our Gardening Club have been very busy this week planting up containers in the infant playground. We have focused on flowers to attract pollinating insects as well as a few edible flowering plants such as peas, beans and nasturtiums that we have planted within easy reach of our new kitchen garden. We are really pleased with how much this has improved how our playground looks and the children have worked so hard to make this happen.
Look out for the plant stall located just inside the main school door where we have started selling some of our seedlings. This is run by the Gardening Club and by Year 2. All profits will be used to help us continue to develop our outdoor play areas. Thank you very much for your support!