The Voice of st leonards junior school

Friday, 26 January 2018



The best way to master school life is to find your personal sources of passion. Think about what goal is important to you. The more you care about a topic, the more comfortable you’ll feel speaking up about it

Susan Cain

I start today with a scenario for you all: imagine you arrive at a course, conference or seminar. You walk into the room and your heart sinks because you realise that you will have to be seated around tables, which undoubtedly means engaging in discussion. As you sit down, you see the first PowerPoint slide and the word on the screen jumps out at you: ‘ICEBREAKER’. At this point, you wish you had scheduled in a tactical stop at Starbucks to ensure you arrive five minutes into the first session, thus avoiding the awful charade of ‘getting to know everyone on the course’. You recover from the impromptu introductions, and settle into the session, listening to the speaker who rattles through his points. Slide ten arrives and your worst fears are realised: ‘GROUP TASK or DISCUSSION’. And so the day goes on….

In my quest to be as informed as possible about the best education practice, one of the most interesting books I have read is Susan Cain’s ‘Quiet’. In this she sets out the case to promote the power of those whose voice is sometimes the quietest. She cites the Harvard Business School approach of promoting confidence and presence by ensuring your voice is the loudest, whilst highlighting Rosa Parks’s ability to galvanize a crowd through sheer silence, and yet demonstrating equal presence. Her sequel to ‘Quiet’, ‘Quiet Power’ is aimed at supporting introverted children in growing up in a world that is about confidence, collaboration and sometimes shouting the loudest to get heard.

The staff used this as a basis to discuss how we best utilize different teaching styles to suit introverted and extroverted personalities in our classrooms. Having split up into groups to read some passages from ‘Quiet Power’, we all agreed on two areas:

  1. We, as teachers, have a responsibility to know every child’s preferred learning style and personality, and construct our teaching around this.
  2. We have all been guilty of writing one of the following comments in a school report: “X is very quiet in class” or “Y needs to contribute more to class discussions”.

At this point, many of you will recognise this comment, and perhaps are resigned to expecting it in all school reports (if one thing was learned on Tuesday it was never to write this in a report!).

So, as we were all agreed that adapting to everyone’s individual needs and learning style is crucial, and that not every child will speak out in class (if they did, we would spend our entire time answering questions), how do we change our teaching style to promote both introverted and extraverted boys and girls? I specifically refer to children who might have the following traits:

  • Don’t want to be wrong
  • Don’t want to be forced to be the centre of attention
  • Might evoke feelings of anxiety if asked to contribute vocally in front of others
  • Would rather speak when they have something worthwhile to say
  • Are quiet, but not ‘disengaged’
  • Might use a range of strategies to avoid forced or unexpected participation

We then discussed ways in which we can ensure our classrooms are accessible to children with all types of learning style and preferred method of contribution. Empowering the children to have a voice, whether this be through speaking out in class, or writing, is essential. Making every child and their own contribution valued raises self-esteem. Whilst we must ensure our children are encouraged to take risks and go out of their comfort zone, we must tailor our teaching to ensure this doesn’t just mean speaking out. Above all, we are all resolved to help the more garrulous children make space for others, and for the more introverted children to benefit from this space and make their voice heard.

Interestingly, in a climate where 21st century learning is all about the buzz or hum of a busy, collaborative classroom, where constructively noisy working environments are encouraged, and where we all shy away from silence during lessons, as my colleagues and I read our chapters from Cain’s book, busily highlighting areas of interest and writing on our Post-it notes, there was absolute silence in the room!

If you are interested, please do read Susan Cain’s books. There is an interesting section in ‘Quiet Power’ about how parents can support introverted children. Do also visit the Quiet Revolution website:

As Jane Gandee, Head of St Swithun’s School, Winchester, says: ‘If we can listen to all the voices in our schools and all areas of society, we can create a generation of young people who will prioritize reaching out to others above the sound of their own voices’.

Wishing all St Leonards families a happy weekend, wherever your adventures take you.

William Goldsmith


A brilliant display from our Year 7s, Mrs Laura Stewart and Mrs Val Donald

BURNS ASSEMBLY | Year 7 pulled out all the stops with a wonderful Burns Assembly on Wednesday morning. They recited one of Robert Burns’ most famous poems, Tam o’ Shanter, complete with props and pipes. The boys and girls really brought the tale to life, giving everyone a flavour of Burns’ works in time for Thursday’s ‘splash of tartan’ celebrations.

A big thank you to Year 7 for putting on such a fantastic performance and to Mrs Stewart and Mrs Donald for all their hard work. It was certainly an assembly to remember!


GONE FISHING | Year 5P created a fantastic magnetic fishing game as part of their Unit of Inquiry looking at forces. They had great fun inventing their own games with their own rules - some were timed, some had to miss a go, and others lost by picking up the pond weed! It certainly made for a fun Friday afternoon!


SIMPLE MACHINES | The boys and girls in Year 2 are currently inquiring into the structure and application of simple machines, and have set up a workshop in their classroom. Everyone enjoyed a visit from Mr Graham Mackenzie from the St Leonards Estates Department, who dropped into the Junior School to teach the class about how to use tools safely. Year 2 can now use hammers, drills, screws, hacksaws and clamps safely as part of their small group activities, enabling them to gain hands-on experience of using wedges, screws, levers, wheels and axles.

It has been an exciting week for Year 2, as they also indulged in a spot of ice cream – homemade! To learn about another simple machine, the ‘inclined plane’ they mixed up the ingredients for the sweet treat before placing them in a tub full of ice and salt and rolling it down the slide in the playground. Within 15 minutes, the concoction had transformed into delicious ice cream. Yum!


GYMNASTICS WIN | Our talented St Leonards gymnasts represented the school at the qualifying heats of the BSGA Scottish Gymnastics Finals in Perth on Sunday, 21 January. After a fantastic display, Melissa Alexander (Year 6) finished in first place in the national Level 4 heats and will go on to compete in the Scottish finals on Sunday, 18 March.

The St Leonards Level 2 Primary team also finished in second place in their category, with Corinne Dumbreck (Year 7) coming first overall. Their super performance will see the team compete at the Scottish finals in May.

Congratulations to all our Junior School gymnasts on a terrific set of achievements!


TOUCH OF TARTAN | There were kilts of all colours spotted around the Junior School yesterday as students marked Burns Night with a splash of tartan. A traditional and rather delicious Burns’ supper of haggis, neeps and tatties featured on the menu for lunch. Here are some of the boys looking particularly smart in their traditional Scottish dress!


The following pupils received certificates at Celebration Assembly on Monday:

Abbie for creating an interesting fact book about light.

Archie for displaying amazing handwriting (in his quest for a pen licence!).

Eabha for demonstrating a superb science experiment with food colouring.

Francis for creating a wonderful poster about Sir Chris Hoy, after meeting the Olympic cyclist in person.

Grace received a certificate and a £5 voucher for Toppings for earning 100 Good Marks.

James was presented with a Spirit of St Leonards Award for adopting a positive, 'can-do' attitude to his work across the curriculum, working diligently and willingly in the areas he is strongest, sharing these strengths with others, showing perseverance in areas of challenge, and making special efforts to be open minded.

Jennifer received a Headmaster's Commendation for creating a PowerPoint presentation about her experiment, in which she made a working volcano at home.

Mohamed and  Ruben were this week's Year 2 Pupils of the Week. Mohamed was awarded a certificate for his wonderful rainbow adjectives and describing himself so thoughtfully, while Ruben designed a very clever Polo car with a working wheel and axle.

Nasser received a Headmaster's Commendation for completing comprehension work to a very high standard.

Nikolas received a Headmaster's Commendation for creating a wonderful poster showing volcanoes around the world, listed in chronological order.

Oscar received a certificate for his project about tornadoes.

Rakan was this week's Year 1 Pupil of the Week for showing understanding of the importance of reacting to mistakes in a positive way and for working really hard to model good behaviour.

Saydee was Year 3 Pupil of the Week for showing such fantastic focus and working extremely hard in Maths.

Thea received a Headmaster's Commendation for producing an experiment, which made an egg float in water.

Bronze Stars for 50 House Points were awarded to Shreyas, Rachel, Maya, Ryan, Joe, XiuRong, Harry, Roy, Alanya, Freddie, Ting, Kai, Sal and Charlie, all in Year 5. In Year 6, Bronze Stars were presented to Cameron and Molly.

Silver Stars for 100 House Points were awarded to Sophie, Angus and Katherine in Year 3, and to Thea and Zachary in Year 5.


SUPER STEPS | The boys and girls have been enjoying ceilidh dancing with Mrs Beebee this week – one of the many after-school activities on offer in the Junior School!


STAYING SAFE | Year 3 enjoyed a visit this week from Mr Knight, who is the Domestic Bursar at St Leonards. He explained his role and shared his knowledge of health and safety with the girls and boys, who learned a lot about the different signs and symbols around the school, and how we can make sure we stay safe.

A very big thank you to Mr Knight for taking the time to speak to Year 3!


SKY SONG | We are looking forward to welcoming author of the 'Dreamsnatcher' trilogy and former St Leonards pupil Abi Elphinstone to the Junior School on Wednesday morning! She will be visiting the school to speak about her new book 'Sky Song', which has been described by The Guardian as 'an action-packed adventure and a truly magical tale'.

Copies are available to order ahead of the event at a cost of £6.99, and will be signed by the author on the day. Anyone wishing to purchase Sky Song should contact Mrs Dewar.

We wish the following a very...

We wish the following a very Happy Birthday for the week ahead: Eliza, Ruben, Logan, Amol, Lana and Evie.


EXTERNAL EVENTS | The annual Snowdrop Festival at Cambo Estate near Kingsbarns starts tomorrow, Saturday, 27 January, and runs until 11 March. There will be woodland walks as well as an opportunity to tuck into tasty treats at the Nosebag Caf, drop in at the Stables Visitor Centre, and tour the beautiful gardens.

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