Friday, 9 June 2017


Lego: Serious Play?

I am quite sure the University of Cambridge turned quite a few heads when they advertised for a ‘Professor of Lego’, to take the chair in a new department within the Faculty of Education in January this year. They were inundated with applications (as one might expect), and have subsequently appointed Professor Paul Ramchandani to take the role and literally examine the importance of play in education.

Very understandably, this appointment has divided opinion. Whilst it is widely agreed that there are considerable benefits of learning through play, some have questioned the relevance of pushing this when learning still has to be hard work and at times rather unglamorous. Tom Bennett, the Government’s expert on behaviour in schools (a highly respected writer and educationalist) has argued that learning must go well beyond enjoyment and play, indeed have an element of unpleasant slog to it.

So, the Lego Group has given a £4m grant to Professor Ramchandani and his team to use Lego to “ensure children are equipped with the 21st century skills like problem solving, team work and self-control”. These are indeed key skills for our children, now more than ever, and the days of factual regurgitation of knowledge are well and truly behind us, or certainly should be. I completely agree with the notion that learning through play engages learners, ignites many of the multiple intelligences, develops core life skills, and adds great interest to the learning process. I unashamedly think – and passionately so – that learning should be fun, and why shouldn’t we connect something so magical, innovative and imagination firing such as Lego to learning? I have never met a parent who doesn’t encourage their children to play with Lego. Despite Arthur’s age, Catherine and I look on in amazement as he builds his Duplo houses with such intense concentration, glee and pride (and sometimes artistic temperament, which alas he has inherited from his Father). Of course there is a connection between the world’s most famous creative invention and education, and I am absolutely delighted that Cambridge have shown the courage, imagination and foresight in researching the effects of Lego within the classroom.

I am not for one second suggesting we allow ourselves to lose the rigour of education within schools and classrooms, and allow children to build Castles, Sydney Opera House, Darth Vader and Big Ben all day. Of course, if this was the case, we would quickly discover that this extreme version of active learning breeds a generation of passive learners, who will not take in much at all. The acquisition of knowledge is vital, and study has to stretch our pupil’s minds, even from the age of five. We must continue to develop a mindset in our pupils that learning can be tough, challenging and a slog at times. We mustn’t pretend that learning is always fun either. Rather like learning lines for a play, or practicing scales, mastering a perfect off-spin, or learning the weekly Latin grammar, mastery takes time, dedication, grit and a fearless mindset. No, mastering any skill requires everyone, whether five years of age of fifty, to dig deep. Everyday in our jobs we will be making decisions, undertaking difficult decisions or having to have tricky conversations, which we are able to do because we learned how to dig deep in various stages of our own learning journeys.

However, I applaud Cambridge and all those who put play at the centre of the learning process. We are developing a true love of learning in our pupils at this stage, and this will prepare them for the tough moments ahead. What is the point of creating a disconnect between games and toys that add huge benefit to the development of children and what they learn at school? Absolutely none I would argue, and I hope Professor Ramchandani provides interesting research which dismisses the myth that learning and play must remain apart.

Lego will play an important role at St Leonards, as will acquisition of knowledge, development of phonics, reading, handwriting and so on. I remember my Prep School as the chalk and talk approach to factual regurgitation of knowledge, and very little else from the classroom. How wonderful that the next generation will have this same knowledge, but acquired in no small part through play and all the spin off effects from this. After all, this isn’t anything new: the Montessori method have been doing this since 1897.

So, play or hard work at school? The two go hand in hand, let’s not shy away from either or separate the two. We are not ashamed of play, after all it is probably the most vital cog of growing up and infant, child and adolescent development. Play creates enjoyment; pupils who enjoy learning become life-long learners; life-long learners seek hard work, challenge and the more monstrous side of education.

If this weather continues into the weekend, may I recommend getting the Lego sets out and seeing where your child's imagination and creativity takes them. I will be continuing with my Lego Castle, which I had as a boy, which will have pride of place in my study next week.

Have a super weekend,

William Goldsmith


We offer many congratulations to our tennis players who competed in the finals of the East Fife Tennis Tournament during Half Term.

Our Year 5 and 6 team, consisting of Tom, Jack, Katie and Millie, were runners up, whilst our Year 3 and 4 team - Sanna, Ben, Logan and Thea won their category.

Well done!

Meanwhile, our U12 Girls enjoyed a very closely fought tennis match in the rare glimpse of sunshine at Kilgraston on Wednesday. Fiona, Niamh, Millie, Katie, Sophie and Ophelia all represented St Leonards and won all games. Well done, Girls!


We were treated to a superb evening of solo and duologue performances from the candidates for the LAMDA exams on Tuesday evening. Thirty two children took part in the performances, which were of an incredibly high standard. Having learned their pieces, the children added bags of personality to their parts, and the audience were thoroughly entertained.

We are very proud of all the children who took part in this, and their exams this week. Public Speaking is one of the greatest skills, and they have all done themselves proud. Well done to:

Hannah, Harry and Verity

Sophie and Katie

Logan and Sam

Sal and Rachel

Jennifer and Abbie


Paddy and Cameron


Bruce and Hector


Ophelia and Ingrid

Ashton and Angus


Magnus and William

Eva and Corinne

Milli and Harriet




The Year 3 are studying ‘How farming produces goods and services for the community’ and were very lucky to have the opportunity to visit Mr and Mrs Black’s farm to see a working farm in action. We had a wonderful morning learning about the different crops Mr and Mrs Black grow, climbed on board a combine harvester and ventured into the carrot and potato fields on the back of a trailer! A very big thank you to Mr and Mrs Black.


As we expand the Junior school library we are looking at extending our mother tongue provision. As a school community it is important to celebrate the different languages and cultures and give the children a choice of selecting books in their mother tongue.

If you have any books in your native language that you would like to donate, or, suggestions of what would be an appropriate text to include I would welcome your response.

Mrs Pennycook


Year 5 tuned into their new Unit of Inquiry 'Show Me the Money' by playing Monopoly. The game allows players to buy and sell property, manage their finances and devise strategies for winning.


Year 2 have been exploring the relationship between worms and plants. Today we made our own wormeries.

Ruben brought in his butterflies. We watched them hatch out of their pupa. Thank you Ruben for a super explanation.


Lucy writes...

I really enjoyed our trip to Normandy because every day was full of fun activities, like going to the bee farm, making candles, learning about the bees life and going to the snail farm and seeing the snails, having picnics and going to the French school, going to the market and playing on the beach.

My favourite day was when we went to the market and then the theme park and we got to go on all the roller coasters. I also liked going to the school and getting to see our pen pals.

I really enjoyed this trip and I wish we could do this again.

Evie writes...

This has been one of the best trips of my life! We had the opportunity to experience so many new things. The best part for me was the day at the theme park, Parc Bagatelle. We went on the most exciting rides and were allowed to be independent for most of the day. I also really enjoyed the time we spent at the market where there was so much to see and buy. Overall, the trip to France with the rest of the Year 7s was simply amazing because of the wonderful weather, variety of activities (every minute was full), sharing a dorm with my best friend and experiencing my first taste of independence in a foreign country. The teachers were all brilliant - thank you for a truly wonderful time!

Niamh writes...

On our school trip to France, I had the best time ever. We got to experience lots of different things from wheat plaiting to touching and learning about stingrays and snails 🐌 and in the company of all my friends. One of my most memorable days was going to the market and having the chance to try haggling over the cost of items and getting to speak French. The theme park was fab too because we got to push ourselves out of our comfort zone on the really fun but very scary rides. The disco was great too, Mr Bossphore-Ward even showed us a few new dance moves. Thank you for letting the trip go ahead and to all the teachers who took us. It was definitely one I will never forget.


We congratulate Evie who has qualified for the British Dressage Pony Championships, to be held in England at the end of September. Many congratulations, Evie!


Lana has achieved a commendation in Grade 6 Gymnastics. This is a terrific achievement, Lana. Well done.

We wish the following a very...

We wish the following a very Happy Birthday: Ting, Hari and Rory


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