Headmistress's October Blog

Blog #2 Monday 9 October
Over the last few weeks we have been introducing and embedding the various aspects of our new Flourish programme. The children are now all engaged in ‘Class Time’ and the Year 6 girls recently wrote to parents to give them some first-hand impressions of how it is going:

This term the whole junior school have started something new! ‘Class Time’! Class time is based on the Danish idea of ‘Klasssen Time.’ At St Swithun’s we take it in turns to bring in a snack to eat while we sit and talk in our classrooms. We talk about the things that might be worrying us in life as well as events going on around us in the world. We enjoy it because we get time to talk to everyone and each person gets time to participate and contribute to the lesson. When one person has a thought or a worry the teachers and children will listen and then we all work together and do our best to help solve the problem – making sure that they leave their worries behind. We love Class Time because it gives us the chance to get to know our teachers and friends better and to sort out problems ourselves.

We have also been using our assembly time this half term to reflect on two particular Flourish areas:

Firstly we have been thinking a lot about ‘Amazing Attitudes.’ At the start of term we played a giant whole school game of snakes and ladders… why? Because it is important that our children remember that school, and indeed life, is like a game of snakes and ladders. Sometimes we will land on a ladder and feel great. We will achieve something, receive praise for working hard, or maybe win a competition. Sometimes there will be a bit of luck involved… but if you keep ‘rolling the dice’ you will get there in the end. Sometimes we will land on a snake and feel disappointed. Maybe we will have upset someone, not worked as hard as we could on a piece of work, or maybe lost a netball match. Sometime this will be bad luck, but there will be times when we could use this experience to learn a lesson and try to change things for the better. The key to getting along and enjoying the game is to remember the 3Gs
         Be GRATEFUL when you land on a ladder
         Be GENEROUS with your friendship when classmates land on snakes
         Be GRITTY and remember to keep rolling the dice… you have to be in it to win it!

Secondly we have been reflecting on ‘Fearless Creativity’ and thinking about the art of micro-bravery! We thought about creative acts, watched a video showing the Wintergatan Marble Machine in action (look it up – it really is very impressive) and reflected on the difficulty, the fear even, of trying to achieve something so big and creative. Sometimes in life we never take the first step towards a dream because it seems very scary – and so I have been encouraging our children to see their dreams as a series of small steps and to practice the art of micro-bravery every day. Aristotle told us we are what we repeatedly do. Through small acts of daily bravery then - perhaps asking for help, joining in with something new, putting their hand up or just by being themselves - we can encourage our children to be brave and achieve their incredible dreams.

We were lucky enough to be a part of the St Swithun’s senior school GRIP (Gaining Resilience In Pupils) conference this month and it was heartening to see that our Flourish programme is drawing on best practice from a range of research and current thinking on resilience and wellbeing.

Blog #1 Thursday 14 September
We have had a wonderful start to the year here at the junior school. Our new children have settled in so well, and those who have been here for a while have taken the job of supporting new friends very seriously. I have seen so many smiling faces this week that I am left in no doubt that it is going to be a fantastic year at St Swithun’s!

As well as welcoming 40 new pupils to the school, we have also welcomed new colleagues. Mrs Wallington will be working in our Reception class on Thursdays and Fridays as a teaching assistant, and Miss Phillips joins both the junior and senior school as Director of Sport; a role that will see even greater integration between the junior and senior school in sports.

This year we are hugely excited to be developing our new Flourish programme and we are doing a lot to ensure that the children are living by the 3Gs - our guiding principles of Generosity, Grit and Gratitude. Read on to find out a little bit more about 3 elements of the programme:

You may have heard of mindfulness or read some of the recent media coverage about it. It is well documented that schools who engage in mindfulness are likely to see beneficial results on the emotional wellbeing, mental health, ability to learn and even the physical health of their pupils.

As part of our Flourish programme we are offering the children classroom-based mindfulness called Paws b. This is a curriculum for children aged 7 -11 and is delivered through a series of PSHEE lessons as well as in other relevant subjects and in the children’s everyday lives.
The feedback from our children who have taken part in Paws b so far has been hugely positive. They report enjoying the lessons and find the learning supports them in a broad range of situations from being able to concentrate and focus more easily in school to helping them feel calmer in exams and competitions. We are aiming to encourage some of the older children to become Paws b ‘Mastermind’ mentors, who will be able to lead and encourage their younger peers in using the techniques they have learnt.

Additionally, as part of the school’s Flourish programme, we are introducing a 30 minute ‘Klassen-Time’ session every week, where we will spend time in our classes discussing issues that the children would like to share; from playground problems, through to current affairs. The emphasis will be on supporting classmates and working together to find solutions to each other’s problems. ‘Klassen-time’ is based on a Danish programme that aims of foster and build children’s empathy skills, allowing them to express themselves in a safe environment, and develop a shared responsibility for problem-solving.

In Denmark, as part of this programme, one child per week takes a turn to bake a traditional Danish cake to share with their class, which is eaten whilst the children talk and discuss the issue(s) of the week. We would like to develop this idea within our own ‘Klassen-time’ and encourage our children to take on the responsibility of preparing a small snack for the class each week. We would like the children to consider a healthy snack that represents their cultural heritage… whether that be British sausage rolls, or Vietnamese spring rolls! We would like this special time to also develop the cultural understanding of our children.

Wilderness Afternoons…
This year we are thrilled to be extending our outdoor education provision by introducing Wilderness Afternoons. Each term the children will get to explore a different ‘wild’ environment; but like the nationally regarded Forest School and Beach School programmes, our Wilderness Afternoons will be a lot more than just environmental study or taking the curriculum outside. When out in the wild children to show us a whole set of skills that can be hidden in a traditional classroom setting. Through Wilderness Afternoons we aim build children’s self-esteem and self-confidence; ultimately supporting their character development whilst having fun! We are big believers in the power of the wild here at St Swithun’s and can’t wait to see the children flourish in the great outdoors!