The Voice of st leonards junior school

Friday, 5 October 2018



The notion of ‘Growth Mindset’ is something we place a great deal of emphasis on at St Leonards, and indeed it has become a cornerstone of current educational practices. Brain elasticity and the concept of building learning power by focusing on positive thinking has been embraced by leading educationalists as we encourage pupils to believe that if they work hard and keep going, whatever challenges they will encounter along the way, they will increase their skills and talents. Developing a Growth Mindset involves having a fearless approach to making mistakes in order to further develop understanding and ultimately talent, and having the courage to harness effort over perceived talent; after all, research suggests that talent and skills is 75% learned and only 25% in pre-existence.

One of the greatest failures in our educational system is our obsession with testing and pigeon-holing our pupils within a narrow curriculum. In fact, little has changed in some methods of teaching and learning since the Middle Ages when learning by textbook became into being. Since then, whilst theories surrounding educational methods have changed, the system whereby children are categorised into ‘those that can’ and ‘those that can’t’ still exists in some quarters.

Praising effort is incredibly important, however I have been challenged this week to consider how we raise the bar high enough for our pupils to aspire to achieve more than they feel they are capable of. Is simply focusing on their effort enough?

I attended an information evening at Arthur’s nursery this week. A message I took home from this was ‘do not do anything for your child that you know he / she is able to do for themselves’. For a three year old, this involves any number of everyday basic tasks, and this is something Catherine and I have taken on board. Whatever the circumstances or environment we find ourselves in, if we know our child is capable of doing something, we should never opt for the easy option and do it for them. It makes perfect sense if we are to encourage determination, perseverance, resilience and the capacity to build learning power, all of which constitute a Growth Mindset.

I was also reminded this week to not rely too much on praising children for their effort without challenging them to push themselves further and try to exceed what they perceive our their limitations. Does simply telling a child that ‘trying their hardest is all we can ask them to do’ provide a ceiling for them to only put enough effort in that is comfortable for them? A rhetorical question, but one that teachers and parents should consider when we next reassure our children that ‘as long as they try, we are happy with them’.

I was interested to read comments by Carnegie medal winner Geraldine McCaughrean who criticised publishers for the way in which they have promoted dumbing down in the language of children’s literature, maintaining that this will lead to 'an underclass of citizens with a small but functional vocabulary: easy to manipulate and lacking in the means to reason their way out of subjugation. Blink twice and today’s junior school readers will be in secondary school, armed only with a pocketful of single-syllable words, and with brains far less receptive to the acquisition of vocabulary than when they were three or seven or nine.' She added that young readers 'should be bombarded with words like gamma rays, steeped in words like pot plants stood in water, pelted with them like confetti, fed on them like Alphabetti spaghetti.'

This has led to a third challenge to myself: are we dumbing down our expectations for children? We know that they are perfectly capable of enjoying sophisticated vocabulary, language, number work and inquiry related learning at all sorts of levels. But, quite obviously, if we don’t set their aspirations high, we’ll never know what they can achieve. And even when we do, in my experience they can often exceed them, which is excellent news!

As we consider the opportunities we have to expand our children’s horizons through genuinely interesting and exploratory wisdom, we must never provide a ceiling to their learning power, and I do not think simply praising effort is enough. In addition to this, setting the bar high and challenging children to stretch their capacity beyond what they think is their limit will truly build this learning power.

Wishing all St Leonards families a wonderful weekend, wherever your adventures take you!

William Goldsmith


HARVEST ASSEMBLY | Harvest Assembly on Wednesday was a very special occasion for both pupils and parents, with Year 5 leading us through a most informative presentation, complete with costumes, fun facts, and posters displaying information about how the Harvest Festival is marked in countries around the world.

Mr Barrable’s class took their inspiration from their Unit of Inquiry on water, while Miss Nejman’s boys and girls focused on global Harvest celebrations.

We were fortunate to be joined by Rev Beebee, who gave a wonderful Harvest address, and who was incredibly impressed by all that he had learned from Year 5.

Thank you to all the Year 5 pupils, their teachers, and Rev Beebee for delivering such a super Harvest Assembly, and to all our families who donated food and household items for the St Andrews Storehouse.

We heard during the assembly how 25% of children in St Andrews are living below the poverty line, which is a shocking statistic, and makes our donations all the more important.


SHOWJUMPING STARS | We were thrilled to receive news of Anna’s showjumping success at Muirmill near Kilmarnock last month. Anna came third in the 90cm class and first in the 1 metre class – a terrific achievement, and testament to all her hard work.

Lucy, meanwhile, has also had a successful summer, and was picked for the 10 & Under team to represent Scotland at the Scottish Home Pony Show.

Our warmest congratulations to both Anna and Lucy on their respective achievements!


U9 vs Fettes

FETTES FIXTURES | Two very strong rugby teams from Fettes visited St Leonards on Wednesday to play fixtures against our U9 and U11 boys. Unfortunately both our home teams lost out this time, but a solid performance from the boys nonetheless.

The U12 girls' hockey team lost 6-0 to Fettes. It was a much improved performance from last week with end to end action. Special mention must go to Emily Logan, Thea Wright and Anna Black for their efforts today some amazing tackling from Emily and great link up play with Thea and Anna who drove the team forward.


ROSS FORD RUGBY | The Junior boys were treated to a coaching session and Q&A with Scotland rugby star Ross Ford on Tuesday afternoon. The hooker, who has played in three World Cups and is Scotland's most-capped player, shared tips and techniques with the teams, making for a very special training session.

Our thanks to the Brown family for very kindly donating the session to St Leonards following an auction to raise funds for the charity 'My Name'5 Doddie'. The charity is named after Scottish former rugby union player Doddie Weir, and is raising funds to aid with research into Motor Neurone Disease.


The following pupils received certificates at Celebration Assembly on Monday:

Marina for her continued help looking after the Lower School pupils during play times, where she shows great kindness.

Ingrid for being an outstanding ambassador for St Leonards in helping two tourists on the Pends.

Holly for creating her own book promoting the importance of making mistakes.

James for attentive listening and posing articulate questions during a presentation given by a visiting speaker on refugees in Greece.

Charlie for creating a super riddle using the weekly spelling words.

Rory for creating an attractive and informative poster on the eagle owl.

Sal for selling her home-grown plums outside school, raising £50.71 for the RSPCA.

Xiurong for working extremely well as part of a team to create an interesting and informative leaflet about water.

Eabha for working extremely well as part of a team to create an interesting and informative leaflet about water.

Hari for creating an attractive and informative poster on the short-eared owl.

Ethan for creating an attractive and informative poster on the great horned owl.

Ruben was Year 3 Pupil of the Week for his kind and helpful behaviour, an example being taking time to assist a friend during Maths, where he showed great kindness and patience.

Isobel for creating an attractive and informative poster about owls.

Evie for creating an attractive and informative poster on the barn owl.

Ellie for creating an attractive and informative poster about the tawny owl.

Mohamed for thoroughly researching and clearly presenting work on the 'origins of Halloween', as part of the Homework Heroes tasks.

Simon for showing kindness in helping a Year 2 pupil at lunchtime.

James was Year 1 Pupil of the Week for showing great enthusiasm in all areas of school life.

Thea for taking her own initiative to produce a book and model, linking to the Unit of Inquiry 'All About Us'.

Thomas was Year 2 Pupil of the Week for his exemplary all-round behaviour, politeness, helpfulness and hard work.

In the House Points scores this week, Mull had an average of 7 points per pupil, Lewis had an average of 8, Harris 9, and Skye was in the lead with 10 points per pupil. It is brilliant to see these scores going up week on week!


BUDDY TIME | The boys and girls had a brilliant time working together outside for Buddy Time earlier today. In their pairs, the children created bridges in the playground using chalk and found objects, such as leaves, stones and twigs! It is always wonderful to see the pupils working together across the different year groups.


YEAR 4 SPEAKER | Year 4P were delighted to welcome Keira MacFarland to their classroom today. Keira is a pilot and has been flying with BA for 18 years. She studied at St Andrews university and went on to train as a pilot in Michigan.

She spoke to the class about her role as a pilot and all the cities around the globe that she has flown to, the furthest being a 15 hour flight to Santiago, Chile . The children were very keen to ask as many questions as possible.

This was a fantastic highlight to our Unit of Inquiry in which we are learning about the importance of transport networks. We are extremely grateful to Keira for giving up her time to come to speak with the children.


The full album of photographs from the Comrie Croft trip is now available to view via the link below. Thank you to Mr and Mrs Shiells for their help documenting this fantastic weekend. We hope you enjoy the pictures!


Another glorious week has whizzed by. All Lower School children are happy, enthralled, engaged and relaxed if slightly tired, as they approach the first holiday of the academic year; the key ingredients for any learning. The corridors are filled with cheeky laughter, excitement as they sign up for the informal concert and conversations which begin with ‘Did you know......?’ I love the energy and enthusiasm that abounds within the whole school but the Lower School is especially exciting. My wish is that they never lose that energy, that fun, that exuberance. We require good behaviour, respect and manners but equally we need the boundless sense of wonder and the unadulterated delight. Who wouldn’t want that?

Each and every child is exceptional and together they make our school the buzzing hive of learning that it is. We trust our Open Morning tomorrow will convey that to our visitors. St Leonard’s really is a very special place so do please encourage friends and family to pop in from 9:45am.

No week passes without objectives however....

Year 1

  • Phonics ‘p’ Words ‘he’ ‘to’
  • English - After reading ‘Next Please’, using imaginations to create a broken toy and have them magically fixed by the toy Doctor. Could we spot the before and after difference. Blending our phonemes to read words and identify initial sounds.
  • Maths - To be able to distinguish between long and short, wide and narrow. To begin to make comparisons between a variety of lengths and widths.

Year 2

  • Phonics – ‘ng’
  • English - To use imagination to create our own dialogue thought and speech bubbles for characters in ‘Suddenly’ bubbles. To write narrative timelines of our own lives.
  • Maths – To be able to add on ten and nine to two digit nos. To understand place value with numbers to 50 and beyond

Year 3

  • Phonics – ‘ar’ and ‘or’
  • English – To understand the purpose of question marks and commas and use them correctly in our own writing.
  • Maths – To consistently be able to add and subtract 10 and 100 with numbers to 1000.

Everybody in the Lower School wishes you a terrific weekend!

Claire Boissiere, Lower School Coordinator

We wish the following a very...

Happy Birthday for the Week Ahead... Magnus, Adam, Francis and Amber

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