St John’s Advent Service

On Sunday the school’s Advent service was a great way in which to bring the school and the church community together.

The school choir and their families joined the church congregation for the service with the children reading all the prayers and singing the Scots Nativity.  Fr  Matthew gave an excellent sermon explaining to the children that the next four weeks were a time to prepare for the real meaning of Christmas as well as enjoying all the festivities.

There are a number of photographs displayed in the church dating from the 1940s up to the present day and these have brought home to me how just how important St John’s and the old Bayham Road school have been to the church and the wider St John’s community over the years.  This exhibition of photographs is certainly worth seeing.

Christmas Term

The last month of the Christmas Term is always busy with a huge variety of enjoyable events.

Last Friday was Quiz Night where the competitive spirit of parents and staff was apparent as teams put their heads together to answer the wide ranging questions compiled by Mark Semple, the Quiz Master,  and David Stringer.  There was cheese and wine aplenty and in the end it was a close run thing with no one seen to be “phoning a friend”!

On Tuesday evening a Reading evening took place for parents where  Sally, Sarah Grimble, Liddy Clark and Jane Gillhauley explained how reading is encouraged throughout the forms and gave advice to the parents who came on how they can best help their children at home. These sessions have proved to be extremely useful and very worthwhile.

Thursday the 24th saw the last of the Open Mornings for new parents.  Over 20 families came and listened to the choir practising before a talk from Sally and Sophie.  The children from Form 5 then showed the prospective families round the school, visiting the different classes, talking to the staff and walking to the school fields.  Once again the children were the stars of the morning in the way they spoke naturally and freely about their school.

Cycling at St John’s

The morning started with Sally, Fr Robin, Dennis Ward and I listening to a few minutes of the choir practising the songs they will be singing at Gloucester House Nursing Home and Knole Park Golf Course in December. It was like listening to one of Gareth Malone’s choirs on television, the children were doing so well. So that was a really good start to the morning.
I then joined Ollie Ireland and fifteen Form 5 pupils on their cycling morning at Sevenoaks County Primary school. Ollie has become a very talented mountain bike instructor and with the help of Sevenoaks CP has developed some excellent tracks in the woods adjacent to their grounds. There are 6 tracks in all catering for all the different levels of difficulty to which primary school children can aspire with the right training. Having walked to the school with our bikes the children spent over an hour attempting most of the tracks, starting with the easier ones and as they gained in confidence progressing to the more difficult ones. As always at St John’s it was great to see the children enjoying themselves and encouraging one another, always positive, never negative.

Life at St John’s – Cross Country and the 1987 Hurricane

Sport is just going from strength to strength with Sheralyn Silvester leading an impressive school culture of doing your best and going that extra mile to really achieve outstanding results.  This was shown on Wednesday when a Primary Schools Cross Country run was held at Radnor House.  There were about 120 children taking part in each of the four races.  It was so encouraging to see all the St John’s runners do so well.  McKenzie Copp came second in the boys years 3/4 race with Lily Ridler 4th and Anya Huppack 10th in the girls 5/6 race and Alfie Chart 5th in the boys years 5/6 race.  To cap it all St John’s were runners-up in the Team competition for years 3/4 boys and years 5/6 girls – not a bad afternoon.

Last week I went in to see Form 1’s work on the damage caused in the South East from the October 1987 hurricane.  The children had obviously learnt a great deal which their writing and drawing showed with some imaginative descriptions.  Sam Kemp had managed to obtain a vast quantity of newspaper cuttings and copies of Bob Ogley’s books on this devastating event.  I then answered many interesting questions thought up by the children.  Then today I joined From 1 for their nature walk to the Vine and was greeting by what seemed like an invasion of Stone Age children and their teachers walking around the school.  It seemed that Form 3 were having a Stone Age day with a visiting Stone Age expert to help them  experience what it would have been like to live at that time.

We had a very productive morning on the Vine firstly seeing the post hurricane oak trees and then following up Form 1’s class work by drawing leaves and finding out the perimeter and height of the trees.  After a sit down to eat biscuits we walked back to school.  A perfect morning weather wise and with Autumn approaching there were many different coloured leaves starting to fall.

New Parents’ Morning

We have had two such mornings, one today and one last week, when over 30 families came to school.  We have a very helpful band of Mums who come in to serve refreshments and talk to everyone as they arrive before Sally introduces herself and talks about the school, followed by Sophie Allen who speaks about the early days of life in Reception.

Pupils from Forms 5 and 6 become ambassadors for the school, taking the families around the classrooms and sports field to meet the pupils and answering their questions.

Then back to the hall for final questions and answers with Sally, Jane Smith and myself. The children were outstanding in the confident way in which they conducted themselves and certainly “wowed” the new parents with their PR skills.

St John’s is all about the development of children, helping them to gain self confidence so that by the time they reach their final two years they are happy with themselves as individuals.  This was certainly apparent this morning and is what makes teaching such a very special and rewarding profession.

St John’s Blog 11

I have been in and out of school this week and as usual so much is happening.  Choir practice took place this morning in what seems like a new hall.  The floor is newly polished and the storage cupboards built during the holidays are really big and store everything, including the music stands and instruments so the hall seems twice the size.

The Form Reps for the School Council will be chosen this week and their first meeting will be next Thursday.

Sheralyn Silvester and I attended the local Primary Schools Sports Meeting yesterday and put our case for making the annual Primary Schools Sports Day in June less overwhelming and crowded by having two events, one for the larger Primaries and one for the smaller ones.

It was very encouraging to see that St John’s pupils are taking advantage of the excellent coaching on offer by Sevenoaks Rugby, Football and Hockey clubs on Sunday mornings during the winter months.

I chatted to Joshua Still to make sure everyone knows that Sevenoaks Football 1stXI are playing Chesham Town of the Ryman League in the FA Cup second qualifying round at Greatness Park on Saturday, k.o 3.00pm.  They have never reached this round before so hopefully they will have plenty of support.

Lots of school events are coming up.  Unfortunately I shall be away for the new Reception children Welcome Assembly on the 26th September but I look forward to being there for the Open Morning for the 2017 new parents on the 11th and 17th October.

Governor Blog – Ed Symes

As I sit writing this on the August bank holiday, I cannot quite believe that another summer is about to come to an end and the new year will begin.
At the end of last year, the teaching, learning and attainment committee sat down to assess academic progress and attainment and the results of this feed into the objectives for the next year.  To do this we look at a pile of data expertly compiled by Christine Platt and Jeannie Newhouse and also take account of our governor monitoring visits over the year.
I am delighted to say that last year was extremely successful for St Johns with some of the highlights being an 100% pass rate in phonics in year 1 and all our year 6s hitting expected grades.  Sally and her team are to be congratulated on the work they put in over the year to achieve this.
That said, St Johns is not one to rest on its laurels and we noticed that writing had not performed to the high standards we set ourselves.  We have agreed that the core academic objective for this year will be to improve our performance in writing and you can expect to see plenty of new initiatives from the school.
We will continue to monitor progress over the year and would welcome any feedback from parents and pupils.  These first hand experiences are vital for keeping St Johns at the levels of excellence we have all come to expect.
I wish you all a happy and successful year,
Ed
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Summer Fete

Clare and Steve Ridler and their team of parents had decided a few weeks ago to hold the Summer Fete on the fields this year. Although this meant more work in moving all the equipment down from the school and depended on good luck weather wise we were all for it and ready to go.

Saturday came, the weather was ideal and with a willing army of parents and staff and the help of Steve’s truck we started the process of moving everything down to the field at 9.30. Two to three loads later all was done and well before 12.00 the fields were looking great. All the usual “fun of the fair” stalls were set up with flags flying and food and drink aplenty with hot dogs, hamburgers and delicious cakes and buns together with the more healthy options.

Again the infectious St john’s family spirit came to the fore and the next three hours became a great social occasion, either under the shade of the trees or out in the sun with the children playing happily and without anyone realising that they were making over £2000 for the school.
3 o’clock came, the truck appeared along with the army of helpers and within the hour the field had been cleared and everything was back at school. My idea of a perfect family day in the sunshine.

Key Stage 1 and Reception Music and Dance afternoon

This afternoon was a great afternoon of entertainment organised by Sarah Marsh our music teacher.
First was the turn of the children in Key Stage 1 (aged 6 and 7). The 30 strong choir started off the proceedings with a song about penguins, not only singing well but there were some impressive penguin movements. Sarah then gave us a master class in how she teaches the children in this age group, followed by five piano solos, two violin solos and three more songs from the choir, one with part singing, another with dance movements and the third with solo performances. The 60 strong audience enjoyed every minute and it was difficult to realise the children were so young.

Next off to Knole Academy with Reception (22 five year olds) to see them performing with five other schools in the Academy’s primary school Step Together show. Stunningly dressed in yellow costumes with pink leggings they performed a vey fast and complicated African dance routine with great success. The concentration shown by children of this age was so impressive and with their happy smiling faces it was a joy to watch.

Summer Music Concert

We are all part of a huge cultural evolution of music at St John’s in such a short time. The success of this is not only down to Sarah Marsh, who leads it all with real inspiration and a great gift in teaching, but the entire staff and pupils having this in their mindset, and realising very quickly not only how enjoyable it is but how much it does for their self-confidence and the general improvement in all aspects of their education.

Now we have 100 pupils learning instruments, a KS1 and KS2 Choir all of whom have been so well taught as a team, an orchestra, a brass band and a recorder group. On Wednesday our first ever summer music concert took place with solos in Piano, Recorder, Violin and Brass and performances from the Choir, Orchestra and Recorder group in front of an audience of over 150 people at the Ship Theatre. The concentration of the children to perform well was the most impressive part of all, and the team work in the group performances was outstanding.

All who were there realised they were seeing something very special in the evolution of this outstanding school.