BEHIND THE STUDY DOOR: HALF TERM THOUGHTS
Dear Parents and Guardians,
It has been a tremendous first half of term and I would like to congratulate the pupils and staff for achieving so much in the last seven weeks, which have absolutely flown by. There is no doubt that everyone is well and truly ready for a decent Half Term break. As ever, the sense of energy, passion and excitement that prevails in the School is evident in all areas. I would like to pay particular tribute to our new pupils and their families, who have all contributed so very much to the school community. Our Year 8s have led the school extremely well this term, and I have been delighted with their attitude towards their own individual areas of responsibility. Our congratulations to them for setting just the right tone for the year.
In his new book, ‘Rebel Ideas’, Matthew Syed makes the point that the success of navigating major global complexities can be attributed to work in groups, rather than as individuals, simply because the challenges are too complicated to solved by one person alone. He uses the analogy of a colony of ants as a good example of this:
“A naive entomologist might seek to understand the colony by examining the ants within the colony. Individual ants, after all, deploy a vast range of behaviours, such as collecting leaves, marching, etc. They are busy and fascinating creatures. And yet you could spend a year, indeed a lifetime, examining individuals and learn virtually nothing of the colony. Why? Because the interesting thing about ants is not the parts but the whole. Instead of zooming in on individual ants, the only way to understand the colony is to zoom out. One step removed, you can comprehend the colony as a coherent organism capable of solving complex problems. The whole is greater than the sum in parts.“
I have written about the importance of diverse teams before, and in reflecting on the past seven weeks, I am minded not to compare the successes of the children to a colony of ants, but to their teamwork.
Highlights of the term so far
In terms of the commitment of the children to all areas of school life, the academic year has got off like a rocket. Every week we read of their endeavours in the Prep and Pre-Prep newsletters.
In the classroom, skills have been developed and subject knowledge consolidated and expanded. Our increasing approach to inter-disciplinary learning was captured most appropriately by ‘World Space Week’, which involved pupils right across the school developing their knowledge of the moon and skills across all subject areas. In a special assembly led by Mr. Foran last week, we were shown what each year group (from Year 1-8) had been doing. Children were captivated by the theme and some outstanding creativity was shown by them all. We are putting together a short film showing examples of the work produced, which will be shared when we return after Half Term. ‘World Space Week’ is an example where the fusion of knowledge and creativity combines to form a powerful and stimulating learning environment for pupils. I have the delightful honour of seeing a number of children each week as they show me their work which their teachers have selected as meriting a ‘Head Master’s Commendation’, and I see the passion they have for their learning. Whether it be for poetry; coding and animation; maths work (I have lost count of the number of Mathletics certificates we are handing out each week); Food Technology; Drama, or for mastering a new skill through effort, it is great to see the children taking such pride in their learning.
The teaching staff have also been engaged in a number of courses and visits to other schools this term as we prepare to launch the ‘Pre-Senior Baccalaureate’ (PSB) in September 2020. The PSB is a learning community of over 30 schools (expected to rise to over 50 in the next two years), and day conferences are held annually for each subject area, meaning our Heads of Department have been out visiting other PSB schools, meeting other teachers and sharing good practice. Under the leadership of Ian Nicholas, our Assistant Head (Academic), we are on track to bring in exciting developments to our approaches to learning and teaching. Whilst embedding this properly takes time, we are well on the journey now and are already seeing the great benefits the PSB will bring. The cross-curricular project and ongoing assessment of skills and attitudes are two areas that will provide a great framework for the children’s learning. ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ (featured in last week’s blog) and digital mastery have also been represented on courses, two other areas we are looking to develop.
The PSB will initially begin in Year 7 (September 2020, current Year 6), although it is a gradual change so much of the content, subject matter and schemes of work will continue as they are. All Senior Schools are very much on board with this and are supportive of the changes we are making. Whilst looking at the curriculum in Years 7 and 8, we are also reviewing other, more subtle, changes for Year 7 to mark the step up into the ‘senior years’. Some of these will take effect this year to give our Year 7s more responsibility, and I’ll bring you news of this in due course.
Another long-term implementation for us is the embedding of MindUp across the school. We were very grateful to the parents who were able to join us last week for the session with Claire Farrell. The feedback we received was fantastic, and we will certainly be organising many more workshops and sessions for families, the children are encouraged to use this beyond school. Our own personal validation of MindUp came this weekend as Arthur (in Reception) led us through a brain break and talked very coherently (in fact, the most coherent I have ever heard him) about the process and benefits of brain breaks. He then went on to describe his amygdala. Over time, we know MindUp will have a significant impact on the children and culture of the school, and my thanks to all the staff for showing great willingness in launching it this year.
This time of year heralds the start of the registration for Senior Schools, ISEB and individual school pre-tests as well as the start of the interview process. Catherine and I are working our way through many school visits at the moment, and it is great to build up good relationships with the Registrars and Heads of the Senior Schools we feed. The resounding message we receive from them all is that St George’s is held in the highest regard and they all find our pupils to be well-rounded, kind, grounded and willing to be busy. I have much enjoyed meeting parents this term to discuss options and will be writing references for Year 6 applicants during Half Term. The list of schools they are applying for is impressive and we wish them all the very best of luck as they embark on the process. Rather than a child being the right fit for a school, it is important to remember that the schools are looking to see if they are the right fit for the child. Many families are looking at schools that offer options to board, either full, weekly or flexi, and I am delighted that so many children are now boarding at St George’s on a flexible basis. 70 ‘sleepovers’ have taken place this term (record numbers) and the children do have a wonderful time under the care of our outstanding Houseparents and their team. Do contact Mrs Ally Onions (Allison.email@example.com) to find out more; it is great to see our ‘boarding tokens’ being used.
Our Choristers remain the constant in the boarding house, and my warmest congratulations to them all, for all they continue to achieve in Chapel. The Year 8s have stepped up, whilst our new Year 4 probationers have all made an outstanding start. Their daily singing continues to inspire and I do whole heartedly encourage you to join us for a service if you are able to. We will publish the schedules each week, and Catherine and I will be hosting year group drinks, combined with Evensong, from January. A highlight for the Choristers was their joint performance with Eton College and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra as part of the Windsor Festival. The build up to Christmas is very busy for them and we wish them well as they prepare for Advent. Their latest CD, ‘Christmas at St George’s’, is out from 1 November. It will make a marvellous Christmas gift!
On the games field, our girls and boys continue to represent St George’s extremely well, both on and off the field. Well done to the girls for their hockey season, and as they now move to netball, they will enjoy playing on the newly re-surfaced court (due to be finished at the end of next week). The boys continue football until Christmas. In their matches and tournaments against other schools, the standard of hockey and football has been high, and it is great to see the development of the core values of sport being taken so seriously by all. It has also been a busy first half of term for our swimmers and triathletes. My thanks to Patrick Wright and the PE department for all their hard work in what has been a very busy seven weeks for them.
With two delightful evening concerts, participation at the Downe House Orchestral Day and sublime singing by the Chamber Choir and T-Voices at a morning concert at Windsor Parish Church, our instrumentalists and young singers continue to enjoy all that music brings to St George’s. In addition, the Chamber Choir led our first Chapel Service of term beautifully. On the theme of performing arts and following the great success of our LAMDA exams in June, I am delighted that so many pupils are signed up for LAMDA and it is clear they gain so much from this. Preparations for our summer production of ‘Aladdin’ are getting underway shortly after Half Term, in which all of Years 5-8 will be involved.
Finally, the combined efforts of our Pre-Prep were on show recently as they performed their Harvest Festival to families. It was a wonderful performance from them all, and perfectly summed up our focus on ‘togetherness’. My thanks to Emma Adriano and her team for their hard work for the performance and all they do for the Pre-Prep children on a daily basis. I recommend reading Emma’s latest blog on the importance of reading (attached to the email). Our thanks to all those who donated food as part of our Harvest collection, and to those who attended the Macmillan coffee morning on Friday. Our next charitable event is on Friday, 15 November, when we mark Children in Need by inviting pupils (and staff) to dress in either spots or a onesie.
After Half Term
The second half of the Michaelmas Term always brings many events to look forward to, and we will write with more details of these after Half Term. In addition to those listed in the calendar, there is one other, rather special, occasion to make you aware of:
Our spectacular new pavilion will be opened by Her Majesty The Queen on Friday, 22 November. This will be a relatively short and private visit, but we are absolutely delighted that she has graciously accepted our invitation. Given the nature of the visit, it will have a sports focus involving girls and boys, and on this occasion will not involve the whole school or parents, in part due to Her Majesty’s schedule and the time of year.
Catherine and I very much look forward to seeing you at various events after Half Term, including our coffee mornings and the Act of Remembrance on Friday, 8 November.
To return to the book I quoted at the beginning of this letter, Matthew Syed’s point about the importance of diverse teams is well made: Brian Uzzi, a psychologist at the Kellog School of Management, researched over two million patents issued by the USA over the past 40 years. Teams feature in every single category. This is replicated by a growing shift in the workplace where creativity has shifted from the individual to teams, where the majority of equity funds, management teams, start-ups, technology companies and research are run by teams.
This focus will only increase for our children, and so will our commitment to diverse thinking.
Catherine and the boys join me in wishing you all a very happy half term.
Head Master's Commendations
Congratulations to the following who were awarded a Head Master's commendation in Assembly on Monday:
Charlie H: for showing excellent enthusiasm and for extra research on all space topics this week. There is a chance he could even top Mr Foran with his space knowledge!
Tabitha P: for an imaginative space poster in French.
Isaac S, Andreas L, Isabelle S, Oliver S: for outstanding work during English lessons this week.
Zinédine B, Noah N-C, Milton O'B, Savannah K, Yana V, Jennifer W and Noor O: for excellent focus and contribution in science lessons this week.
Siena L and Kathleen K: for effort and teamwork in LAMDA sessions.
Yana V and Nefeli M: for creating a fantastic quiz on the planets as part of World Space Week.
Nathaniel M and Tom V: for coding a complex game on space.
Spirit of St George's Awards
Congratulations and thank you to the following, who were awarded a Spirit of St George's award, in recognition of displaying the core values of the school:
Jeevan H and Leo M: for showing great politeness and thoughtfulness towards other people in Old Bank House, an example being always holding doors open to others.
Mariella O'B: for showing great kindness, generosity of spirit and politeness to others.
The evening concerts are a wonderful opportunity for pupils to gain confidence and for parents and friends to enjoy the results of all their hard work and practising. On Tuesday pupils showcased their skills on a variety of different instruments.
Year 5 Trip to Edwardian Windsor Castle
Report by Bikram H, 5SD
When we were going up the 100 stairs my legs got tired. When we got up to the castle a nice gentleman called Martin met us and took us to the castle. When we were inside we all sat on the floor and listened about Queen Victoria and King Emperor Edward VII. Then there was some role play and Alexander was crowned as King Edward by a bishop (Poppy). In the next role play Queen Alexandra, or my sister Jeevan, was wearing what the Queen would wear. The last role play was the funniest and George and Barney had to try to make the girls laugh by dancing at a garden party. Then Tabitha and Tilly had to try and make the boys laugh. (Bikram H)
Usborne Book Fair
This week the Usborne Book Fair came to St George’s. All the children from Kindergarten through to Year 8 visited the fair. It was very rewarding to see the excitement and enthusiasm of the children. This event is so beneficial in promoting a love of reading and the commission earned enables the school to choose many new titles for the libraries and classrooms. Our parents' support is greatly appreciated.
This Week in the Pre-Prep
Year 1 had a wonderful trip up to Windsor Castle. They had a workshop where they learnt about life as a Royal in the past. Alannah made an amazing Queen Victoria! They saw the newly reopened, and very beautiful Doll's House and then went on to visit the State Apartments. They had learnt about the fire at the Castle and saw the room where it had happened, which is now returned to its original beauty. The final part of their day was a surprise trip down the steps back to school which was very exciting! They all went home tired, but with so many memories. Thank you to the lovely mums who helped on the day.
The Pre-Prep was a hive of activity on Friday. In the morning the children in Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 enjoyed drama workshops about the Knights of the Round Table provided by Perform UK. It was very noisy and a lot of fun.
In the afternoon, while children in Year 1 decorated Halloween biscuits, the Year 2 classes recreated the Great Fire of London on the lawn and representatives from the Castle Fire Brigade came down to help supervise the event and extinguish the fire. A spectacular way to end this half term!
Young Leaders Support Windsor Community Defibrillator Partnership
by Mr Wilson
Thank you for all your support in the ‘Guess the Number of Balls’ defibrillator challenge. We have raised over £300 towards this worthwhile cause, which enabled 11 automatic external defibrillators to be installed around Windsor Town Centre since 2017. The box will now be going on to Windsor Girls' School and I will be announcing the winner of the competition after half term. Looking ahead, we are undertaking a second fundraiser on Thursday, 21 November. Our Young Leaders, Windsor Girl volunteers, local PCSCO David Bullock and I will be completing a ‘Three Peaks Challenge’. We will be simulating climbing the combined height of the three highest mountains in the world by going around the triangle in Home Park Private. We will be completing this in as many unique ways as we can, such as hopping, dancing and in my case ‘moon-walking’. This will be a crowd-funded event, which will be open to donations from both school communities, friends, family and the local community. Thank you in advance for your support in this very important initiative.
The U10/U11/U12 final hockey fixtures took place on Wednesday against Highfield School. A great afternoon of competitive hockey at Eton. In the U10 matches all players showed excellent intense hockey and positive spirits throughout the afternoon. There was some great defending and team work from both teams. Special mention to Lily D for demonstrating excellent skills in pursuing the ball throughout the game and to Isla M for receiving girl of the game. Well done to Charley W who persevered in goal and continued with her positive spirit throughout the match and to Leah H whose defensive play was strong throughout. Individual contributions from all players resulted in a 3-2 win for St George's.
The U11s had two challenging matches and the B team were unlucky to lose by 1 goal after some back and forward play throughout the game. Well done to Bea A who played her first match as goalkeeper, Savannah K for some excellent tackles, and Zara Y who kept the ball away from goal. Noor K showed excellent determination throughout the match and made some successful passes up-field. Special mention to Isabel G for excellent determination to win back the ball and some great finishes when scoring.
In the A team match there was a great individual effort from Willow W who took on three defenders and finished with a fantastic goal. Special mention to Yana V for being awarded player of the match.
All the girls have really progressed with their hockey this term, they have personally improved each week and their knowledge of the game has developed. They have all really benefited from using the facilities at Eton and we look forward to seeing their hockey progress in the future.
The U8 and U9 girls had an exciting afternoon of hockey at The Marist with our final fixtures being very competitive and challenging for all teams.
The U8s made a great effort in both games and came away with a draw and a win. There were some excellent individual performances from Cicily W who scored some great goals during her match and maintained her drive for the ball throughout. Elise-May and Cecily M made some successful tackles and the whole team made progress in the way they moved the ball down the pitch.
In the U9 games there were some great tackles and communication was evident throughout the game. Special mention to Amelie W who moved the ball up the pitch well and made a number of interceptions throughout. Well done to Sienna L who played an important role in goal and made numerous successful saves during the match. Well done to Isabelle S who found some excellent space on the pitch and to Jamila for some excellent hit outs. Players of the match Edith R and Alexandra W. Well done to all the girls, their teamwork and positive spirit was displayed in all matches and the development of their individual hockey skills has been exciting to watch over the term.
IAPS U11 Football Tournament at Lambrook
Congratulations to all the boys who took part in the IAPS U11 Regional Football Tournament. The boys had a tough draw losing to both St Piran’s and Edgeborough, the two teams that ultimately competed in the Cup Final. After the group games the boys went through to the Plate Knockout stages. In the Quarter Final they played against Cothill, winning 1-0, then Rokeby in the Semi-Finals, winning 1-0. The boys had made it to the Plate Final against New College School; it was a tight game that ebbed and flowed, with the team ultimately losing 1-0 in the last play of extra time. This was truly a squad performance with every player playing a key role to become the Plate Runners-up.
On Thursday Mr Tom Gilbert visited the Prep School assembly and gave a presentation on his career in the unique and inspiring environment of McLaren Automotive and his involvement in the design of some wonderful cars.