This first term of the academic year has been both busy and productive, and the chance to reflect whilst writing this has left me marveling at quite how much has been achieved. From themed curriculum weeks to specialist drama workshops, charity fundraising events to whole school sporting events coupled with the usual myriad of clubs, this term has certainly been somewhat breathless.
The events, however, which best epitomise the School’s fundamental aim to ignite in our children a genuine love of learning and encourage them to achieve and reach their individual potential, are the end of project show cases. Our end of term project show cases are a clear demonstration of how we approach teaching and learning and what makes us so unique; they have become a hall mark of the school and tangible evidence that creativity and achievement go hand in hand, see our pupils reach standards to which they aspire and, at the same time, acquire skills that will prepare them for success far beyond our walls.
The start of the new academic year in September already seems an age away. Our new children settled with remarkable ease, assisted, in no small part by the friendly and welcoming nature of the children and staff members already here. Kate Laden joined us as our Reception class teacher and has been instrumental, alongside Hiral Desai, in ensuring such a successful start to school life for our youngest children; a strong start to school life is crucial, the better the start, the stronger the finish. Luke Butterworth joined us as our Year 2 class teacher assuming responsibility for Physical Education and maths in Years 1 and 2. Luke has built on the firm foundations laid last academic year by Caitlin Van Ballekom in ensuring our sporting provision remains inclusive and wide ranging and has made strong links with local prep schools with the vision for the School to be part of a league of competitive fixtures. Alastair Hill joined us as Year 5 class teacher and assumes responsibility for the teaching and learning of maths. Teaching maths from Years 3 to 5, Alastair has ensured that our children are supported and challenged in their preparation for 11+.
Hephzibah Tagoe joined us in September with the view to extending musical provision for our children. Hephzibah’s vision is to ensure that each child has the opportunity to enjoy and appreciate music. This year, music has become an integral part of end of project show cases with musical performances from the children somewhat beyond their years. In the Spring Term, children in Years 3, 4 and 5, will take part in Voice in a Million at Wembley Arena. Voice in a Million is a project founded in 2009 to raise awareness for the plight of millions of children worldwide, who are orphaned, abandoned or separated from their birth parents; and in need of a loving family for life. The project achieves this by staging large arena concerts with one of the largest children's choirs in the world; the event will be an extraordinary experience for the children taking part. Furthermore, in February, children throughout the school will have the chance to be inspired by professional musicians by taking part in an interactive workshop to sample brass playing. Gianni Brass is a brass ensemble bringing together some of the UK’s leading and upcoming brass players.
All schools should reflect and self-evaluate to ensure they constantly evolve to offer the best provision for their pupils. Last year, a Parent Questionnaire was sent to gather views and ideas from a parents’ perspective. As a consequence of the feedback, great emphasis was placed on ensuring that our children in our Reception class benefited from the best possible start to school life with the introduction of home visits alongside visits to nursery schools to ensure that we were able to begin the school year with each child’s starting point and interests informing our planning; the success of which only needs to be witnessed by the percentage of children running in to school independently of their parents each morning.
With continued emphasis on ensuring that parent are fully involved in their child’s learning, curriculum workshops to ensure that children are supported at home in reading and handwriting took place in the autumn term with workshops in maths, e-safety and encouraging children to adopt a growth mind-set taking place in the Spring Term. We also appreciate the need to ensure that such events are accessible to busy working parents and have therefore timetabled workshops in the Spring Term as breakfast meetings. Furthermore, we also appreciate the importance of understanding how we assess children’s progress and, to support parental understanding, an evening workshop has become an integral part of the School’s calendar. Next term, we will also be seeking the view of the children; it is their school as much as ours.
This academic year saw the beginning of the journey of preparation for 11+ for our children in Year 5. As part of this, the School has revised its timeline of preparation in terms of teaching and learning and also how we work with parents, to ensure the smoothest, most subtle and effective preparation for the next step in a child’s educational journey. In November, parents of children in Year 5 took part in a bespoke parents’ evening with myself, Jo Fife and Alastair Hill to discuss ‘long list’ school choices in greater detail. In January, the Year 5 parents’ evening will focus on discussion of specific targets in English and maths.
Whilst it is not expected that parents have chosen senior schools to which to apply for their child until the end of Year 5, a key part of the process is researching a wide variety of schools. The myth that choosing a school for your child aged 11 is challenging needs to be dispelled; most challenging is finding the right school for your child aged 4. When finding the right senior school for your child, working closely together is of utmost importance; you know your child, we know your child and, most significantly, we know the schools and enjoy strong relationships with them. South London schools and the 11+ application and preparation process is very familiar to me, having been a part of it for nearly twenty years. In March, we will be hosting our first, and what will become, biennial Senior Schools Fair afternoon. At the fair, we will be joined by a variety of schools, co-ed, single sex, boarding and day schools, to assist you in your search in finding the right school. We enjoy strong links with all the schools that will be joining us.
The Spring Term date list details a plethora of events for children and parents alike. The Spring Term will prove to be as fruitful and productive as the Autumn Term for all members of the School community. I, personally, alongside the planned events, look forward to those indefinable moments that happen on a daily basis when children realise the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of what they are learning.
On behalf of us all at Wandsworth Prep School, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Christmas and every good wish for the New Year.
Bridget Saul - Headteacher