The Voice of st leonards junior school

Friday, 3 March 2017


The Knowledge: The World's toughest test?

To become a qualified, licensed London taxi driver, a trainee must pass a rigorous assessment after three years of training. This assessment is, of course, to check the trainee knows London’s tens of thousands of streets and their layout like the back of their hand. This is called ‘the knowledge’ and sets the London taxi drivers apart from just about any other taxi driver anywhere in the world. Imagine that, being able to essentially memorise over 60,000 streets and 100,000 places of note. That is certainly going to grow your brain quite considerably, and a study for the Wellcome Trust in 2011 successfully proved that the 50% of trainees who passed ‘the knowledge test’ were found to have greater grey matter in their hippocampus, the area that stores memory., than when they started training.

This demonstrates that it is possible to grow your brain’s capacity and increase long and short term memory. The good news is it doesn’t take memorizing over 100,000 landmarks and 60,000 streets to do this. There is a simpler way: reading.

We all know the benefits of encouraging a love of reading in children from a young age, whatever their perceived reading abilities. To name a few:

Increasing vocabulary

Increasing general knowledge

Reducing stress and letting go

Making one laugh and explore emotions

Help one sleep

Improving imagination and creativity

The list is endless. We know the importance of reading, both fiction and non-fiction.

What is interesting, is how reading changes your brain. What actually happens when you read.

Just like the study of the taxi drivers, a study was taken in 2009 in America which showed children who had read for 100 hours developed greater white (communication) and grey (memory) matter in their brains.

Just 15 minutes of reading each night will expand your brains as the ‘Knowledge’ expands the brains of those successful taxi driver trainees.

Reading goes a long way more than simply growing our brains though, and we don’t need research to tell us that reading for pleasure makes us more interesting, empathetic and takes us on a journey of imagination, discovery and curiosity – one of the most magical aspects of childhood and adulthood.

However, let us not look at this through rose tinted glasses. Some children are more reluctant to read than others, and some of you will be reading this thinking “well this is all well and good, but how do I get my child to read in the first place”.

Whatever your child’s ability to read, and whether he / she is dyslexic or not, reading is accessible to everyone, and the most common barriers of all are easy to remedy:

1. If your child doesn’t like the book they are currently reading, just choose another one. As Amanda Craig, a novelist and children’s critic said, “not every child takes instantly to books like a duck to water, but I don’t believe there are children who hate books. There are just children who haven’t found the right books for them”. Once you get your child hooked on a genre they love, an author or series they find gripping, or a style of writing (whether fiction or non-fiction), they will be off.

2. Make reading a family activity. As soon as your son /daughter gets into reading, don’t just leave them to it. Discuss books at the breakfast / supper table. Demonstrate your love for reading. Keep reading to your child (experts suggest it is beneficial to read to your child until they are 11).

3. Storytelling is a brilliant way to capture a child’s imagination. Listen to audio books in the car.

4. The most important advice of all: leave all electronic devices downstairs. It is no good having a mobile phone in a bedroom turned off or on silent. Every child's (and adult’s) bedroom needs to be completely technology free: no phones, devices, TVs or anything that might cause temptation. There is nothing more wonderful than falling asleep after 5-15 minutes of reading, with characters, imagination, knowledge, or a question floating inside your head.

No child at St Leonards found the storytelling day on Monday dull; I’ve never sat in on a lesson involving a class novel or reader and seen a bored or disengaged child; None of the 149 children who visited Toppings this week moped around the bookshop, instead they all returned elated, clutching their books; our daily reading sessions on the sofas have attracted at least 30-40 children each time. Reading, storytelling and fiction and non-fiction text breathes energy, interest and excitement into our children, and we all have a tremendous opportunity to wholeheartedly encourage them to read. It is not only good for our brain development, awareness and empathy towards others, but brings great happiness. What more could you want.

It has been a tremendous 'Book Week' at St Leonards, and I am thrilled to see the sheer pleasure our children get from literature.

Have a wonderful weekend,

William Goldsmith


Many congratulations to all those who took part in the Kilgraston Swimming Gala on Thursday. The girls enjoyed tremendous success, both in the individual and team relay competitions. The U11s came 1st, whilst the U13s came 3rd. Overall, St Leonards came 2nd. Well done, girls.

Our Girls swam extremely well on Thursday at Kilgraston
Book Week 2017


A wonderful feature of 'Book Week' has been members of staff from both the Senior and Junior Schools reading to the children during break times. A mixture of their own childhood favourites and more modern stories, the children have loved seeing (and hearing!) their teachers and other staff in a new light, and it has made for a most relaxing break time on the sofas and beanbags in the main atrium area. This is certainly something we will continue to do throughout the year.

The staff have thoroughly enjoyed reading their 'childhood favourites' to the children during break and lunch times
Roald Dahl Bake Sale
Our Roald Dahl bake sale has raised over £180 for Book Aid International

To raise money for our chosen 'Book Week' charity, Book Aid International (more detail below), we held a Roald Dahl themed bake sale on Wednesday after School. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, nor was I certain our children (and of course their ever patient Parents and Guardians) would be able to rise to the challenge. Was I mistaken! I couldn't quite believe my eyes as the most extraordinary, creative, and - for the most part - scrumptious looking baked goods appeared on Wednesday morning. Ranging from Mrs Twit's eyeballs, Bruce Bogtrotter's chocolate cake, Snozcumber cake and James and the Giant Peach themed snowflakes, St Katharine's Hall was filled with the most glorious display of culinary delights. Roald Dahl would have absolutely loved the sheer imagination of the whole event, and we were delighted to raise over £280 for Book Aid International.

Over events during Book Week

Our Book Swap has proved to be incredibly popular amongst adults and children, with many exchanges taking place throughout the week.

In addition to our events, a number of competitions have taken place during the week, and it has been great to see the children testing their knowledge of books and authors and completing so many of the various quizzes.

Winners and prizes will be announced on Wednesday during assembly.

World Book Day - Costume Parade

I was told to expect the unexpected and be wowed, and I will never forget Thursday morning, standing outside (as Willy Wonka in case anyone wondered!) observing some incredible characters coming into school. Our costume parade was joyous, and the buzz around the school during the morning told it's own story.

Well done to the entire community - children and staff - for their efforts.

Trips to Toppings

Each class has visited Toppings bookshop, our very own place of magic in St Andrews. Armed with a 'World Book Day' token and some additional money, the children all loved browsing the shelves and spending time in this wonderful reading paradise.

We would like to thank the staff of Toppings for accommodating all our classes this week.

Book Aid international

Whilst motivation behind this week's theme has been to promote a continued love of reading amongst our pupils, it has also afforded us the opportunity to consider those for whom reading is out of reach and unaffordable, for many in the world's poorest areas have no access to any form of reading material.

'Book Aid International', a charity who's mission is to supply books to some of the remotest and poorest regions in the world, have given over 24 million people access to books each year. Last year alone they shipped well over 1 million books last year.

Without the support of this magnificent charity, so many people would have no access to something we rely on daily.

It was a great pleasure to welcome Dr. Konig on Wednesday morning to speak to the children about the work of 'Book Aid International', and we are very keen to keep our partnership going.

As a result of the Book Swap, Bake Sale and Costume Day, we have raised in the region of £500 for 'Book Aid International'. Though the final figure is to be calculated, we are hugely grateful to everyone who has supported this.

For more information about the work of 'Book Aid International', please click on the link below:

Dr. Konig gave an assembly on Wednesday morning outlining the work of Book Aid International


It was a very great pleasure welcoming Revd. Russell McLarty, accompanied by two storytellers, Senga and Sheila, to St Leonards on Monday, to lead the school in a day of storytelling workshops. Having captivated the school with their wonderful tales, so wonderfully told, during assembly, they spent the morning with each class developing our own 'favourite stories'. Storytelling is a most wonderful skill passed down through the generations, and we are so grateful to Russell, Senga and Sheila for passing on their great skill for storytelling. It was the perfect start to 'Book Week'.

Girls Football Club
The Girls Football club have enjoyed getting back outside on Wednesday afternoon for their weekly training session. We would love to see more members. Please sign up for this activity next term if you are keen.
Charlotte, Eilidh and Helena attended the Scottish Schools Orchestra day on Sunday.



Well done to Charlotte who received a "Commended" award for her short story in the Perth and Kinross William Soutar children's writing competition. There were 158 entries, she was one of the 16 shortlisted and, at the awards presentation on Saturday, she was awarded one of 4 "commended" certificates

Charlotte receiving her award from write, Lari Don

We wish the following a very Happy Birthday for next week: Niamh, Charlotte, Marcel, Imogen, Fearne


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