I hope you share my sense that the year has been a good one! It seems far less than ten months ago that we were all arriving for the start of the new academic year; our then new Reception class innocent and wide-eyed at the prospect of starting ‘big school’ and our older children inspired by the carte-blanche that joining a new year group or Key Stage represents.
The academic year of 2017-18 has been somewhat of a milestone for the School as we nurtured our first group of Year 6 pupils towards the final stage of their journey towards 11 plus success; a cohort that proved themselves to be confident and resilient, with the subtle restraint to approach the process with realism and composure, rather beyond their years. It is not just their appetite and drive to offer their best in all that they do, but also their cohesion as a group of friends that so freely recognise each other's strengths with open encouragement and support. We will miss them sorely next September yet are assured that they leave us with skills to cope with the demands of the senior schools to which they move on.
The ability to prepare children successfully for a diverse spread of schools, by both 11 plus and scholarship routes, however, is by no means a defining part of our identity. Just as integral to the character of Wandsworth Prep is our sustained commitment to a spread of excellence, encouraging children to achieve in the classroom, on the stage, the sports’ field or on canvas. Furthermore, we are particularly mindful, and grateful, that our children achieve what they do through a genuine relationship between pupil, home and school; working in this context, we believe, strengthens the fabric of the school community and underpins the plethora of our children’s successes.
At Wandsworth Prep, children play in teams, act in plays, sing in choirs, understand the complexities of mathematical principles and concepts, explore science through scores of experiments, learn foreign languages, read Shakespeare, apply their learning both in and outside the classroom and, amongst all this, find the time to pursue what they enjoy, whether it be coding, sewing, drama or archery; they will find it.
Towards the end of the Summer term, there is always a sense of planned abandon to routine, with no year group following quite the same rhythm; a hallmark of which, are the challenging and unique end of project showcases which serve to demonstrate the depth of learning to which children throughout the school are exposed.
Children in Reception, who, less than one year ago, embarked on school life, thrilled their audience with a film which documented how they, as a group of problem solvers, worked as a team of experts on behalf of the Fairy Godmother to prevent injury, hurt or upset to others in some of the world’s best-known fairy tales. Appealing to the characters’ good nature, the children persuaded the wolf that the three little pigs may not be the healthiest of diets and sweetened the temper of an evil witch with strawberries and sweet peas grown in the school’s garden to prevent further unwanted mishap and secure happy ever after for all.
On 2nd September 1666, a fire started in the King’s bakery in Pudding Lane near London Bridge. The fire soon took hold: 300 houses quickly collapsed and the strong east wind spread the flames further, jumping from house to house. The fire swept through the warren of streets lined with houses, the upper stories of which almost touched across the narrow winding lanes. Efforts to bring the fire under control by using buckets quickly failed. Panic began to spread through the city. By the 4th September half of London was in flames. The King himself joined the fire fighters, passing buckets of water to them in an attempt to quell the flames, but the fire raged on. Hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless. Eighty-nine parish churches, the Guildhall, numerous other public buildings, jails, markets and fifty-seven halls were now just burnt-out shells. On the 9th July, children throughout the school were treated to an historical journey of the Great Fire of London by Year 1, with children and adults alike learning new facts about this event that shaped the landscape of modern day London.
We are a school that prides itself not only on academic success, but also on creating an ethos with relationships at its heart and meaningful engagement with the wider community; fundraising, to us, eclipses merely shaking the charity can. The humanities-based project for children in Years 2 and 3 culminated in a charity event held at school to raise money for the school’s chosen charity, The Squad. The afternoon, which was entirely child-led, with a raffle and games, made a significant contribution to the final sum of £3,750 raised by the school since September.
Entrepreneurship has become the buzzword of the decade with many schools recognizing how crucial such skills are in a changing and somewhat unpredictable economy. The most effective way to teach entrepreneurship in the classroom, is to plan experiences which are as practical and as ‘real-world’ as possible. As Sir Richard Branson noted it in a recent interview about implementing enterprise culture in schools: ‘the best way of learning about anything is doing.’ Since April, children in Years 4, 5 and 6 have worked in teams to create, and ultimately produce, their own chocolate products. Using art and design skills, appropriate packaging has been produced, persuasive language in English and i-pads in computing, has facilitated the adverts that have been made to promote their products. During the final week of term, pupils in Year 6 entered the Dragon’s Den and faced some of the most discerning names in the world of business in the hope of their product being chosen for commercial sale.
The projects that children undertake serve to deepen understanding to go beyond facts and content. Projects foster curiosity and a love of learning, teach grit, perseverance, growth mindset, and self-regulation and, furthermore, solve the problems of tomorrow in the classrooms of today.
Great theatre is about challenging how we think and encouraging us to fantasize about a world we aspire to. The Key Stage 2 performance of Charlie’s dream, hosted at the Putney Arts Theatre, was no exception. At Wandsworth Prep, productions are ambitious. It is becoming a universally acknowledged truth that a Wandsworth Prep senior production comprises key ingredients; child-led set design and costumes, gifted central performances and innate comic timing alongside a soundtrack and choreography that coaxes the audience’s attention and belief. Charlie’s dream was a reminder that the successful transposition from page to stage is not about dogged faithfulness, but creativity. Rather than technology to solve staging problems, a willingness to use subtle theatre techniques culminated in a show with a strong and distinctive aesthetic.
Sports at Wandsworth Prep achieves a balance of challenge, competition, co-operation and fun with our June Sports day representing the chance for our children to showcase their sporting prowess, learn important lessons about competition and enjoy a happy, healthy dose of fresh air in the company of parents and peers. The venue allowed children to partake in javelin, long jump and full track running races. Sports Day is an event in which every child takes part and works as a team to score points for the House in which they have been placed. It was heartening that so many parents commented on the children’s success in balancing competitiveness with sportsmanship and kindness.
Performing music is a fundamental and integral part of any musician’s journey and play on and sing up, our musicians have done in abundance this year. The value of performing, whether at home for family and friends, or in a concert venue with an audience to thrill, must never be underestimated. Performing for others, and the ability to get up and do so, is a life skill that builds confidence and self-reliance; not solely confined to the sphere of music. The school’s cycle of termly instrumental music recitals and concerts allows the youngest of performers to shine.
September 2018 sees the School embark on a renewed cycle of development. Central to our continued growth, is ensuring that, from the moment a child tentatively lets go of their parent’s hand in the playground, to the moment they confidently stride out of the Year 6 classroom, every minute of each child’s education is one that will always be valued and remembered.
We will continue to pull out all the stops to nurture friendships and a sense of community. Our approach to pastoral care will continue to place emphasis on getting to know our children as individuals and ensuring that each and every one of them feels personally valued, thinking of Wandsworth Prep as their second home during their time with us.
We want to encourage our children to be courageous, bold thinkers, to take calculated risks and not to be afraid of making mistakes on the way to success. We are, after all, preparing them for a world that requires courage and flexibility.