Last Blog

Dear Lovely St John’s Parents & Carers,

I must start by thanking you all for your hugely generous gift, the amazing personalised and beautiful fire pit – I couldn’t love it more. I will send photos of a relaxed summer evening in my garden with the firepit lit at the centre. I think it is going to glow beautifully. The school emblem, the children playing and listening to stories, the natural world all depicted make it so special. Thank you all.

The messages in cards and emails you’ve sent have been overwhelming, you’re all so kind and flattering in your praise for the school and for my part in its success. Thank you, all I can say is that it has been an honour and a privilege to be a part of something so exceptional and I leave with the very best of memories and love for this dear school and all its people.

How can we have reached today?  I think I’ve been in denial and now the fact is that my time here at lovely St John’s is over.

Below is a transcript of the speech I gave yesterday:

I was blessed with loving supportive and guiding parents who continued to love, support and guide us into their 90s. Once when I was rather pleased with myself when we’d moved to our super old house, my mother, in her inimitable style, pointed out we are all simply guardians of property until we hand that over to the next and reminded me therefore to love it, look after it and leave it in good condition for the next. Well Mum, I think it’s the same with a school and it’s been the biggest pleasure being a custodian of St John’s.

Before I go, and most importantly, I want to deflect the attention from me and to acknowledge and celebrate the team that is St John’s.

In 2009 I undertook my biggest challenge in my teaching career when I was signed up to a year at St John’s. From September 2009 until January I was literally marking off the days and thinking longingly of the cosy successful primary school I’d left that felt like home, just 15 minutes’ walk from our house. Then began the change, the change for this school and a big change for me. I was excited at the improvements that I could see we were making and I was keen to get going properly.

St John’s was, in 2009, a failing school with falling role, there were at that time just 58 pupils. So began a turnaround…

We had to change the public perception and build in our pupils and families a belief in self-worth and aspiration. I had to challenge a group of disaffected staff and build anew with shared vision and, fundamentally, strong teaching skills.

So now to look at the people who are here providing the very best for St John’s children right now.

We have a governing body that understand the need to challenge and support in just the right balance, when to delve into school practice and when to leave well alone! I know how fortunate I’ve been to have this backing, and not least from our phenomenally talented, compassionate and reliable chair of governors, Fr Robin.

The parent body, a wonderful bunch of people who entrust their children to us, they are a group of people full of energy, great ideas and ready to back the teachers with their children’s learning. Many families I’ve grown to think of as friends and whom I’ll miss very much and hope to see again in the future.

We are truly blessed with the body of teaching assistants and support staff at St John’s – I defy any school claiming a more skilled and dedicated band of experienced people, passionate about individual pupils, depended upon and loved by their class teachers. These people are pivotal to the well-being and learning of pupils and to the smooth running of any day in school. Their skill set is exceptional and their ‘can do’ attitude means the world. Support staff, I salute you and your efforts, daily, week in week out.

The office – enter at your peril, this is the engine room where the real business gets done, fielding the phones, sorting the school, delivering forgotten items, ordering, communicating, generally keeping the ship afloat – my thanks to Amanda, to Emma, to Julie and to Theresa.

Then, on to the teaching staff –

In September 2010 Sophie and Mandy Barrow joined the team. Sophie came on teaching practice in a mixed class of just 14 Year 2s and 3s, many of whom couldn’t read and some didn’t turn up when it rained or when Swanley market was on. Sophie was a keeper, she interviewed superbly for the Reception class teacher post. We kept her! Mandy arrived ready to overhaul the teaching of computing and the getting the provision up to speed. Quietly behind the scenes, for years, she has been donating revenue from her websites to St John’s, her exceptional generosity that funded our IT suite and much more.

In January 2012 we really started to make progress when Liddy and Bev both came on side. Liddy brought her exceptional dedication to education, experience and teaching expertise as well as her generosity and passion for the pastoral side of St John’s. You all know what a rock of support she is to you, well she’s been that and more to me from day 1. Bev completed her teaching practice here and we were wise indeed to snap her up when she qualified. A gifted teacher with the most punishing expectations of herself; she makes Year 4 an outstanding place to learn and is a natural and passionate leader – no wonder so many pupils love everything science and technology, they’re offered an exciting diet.

September 2012 was a pivotal moment, as we were asked to take on a double year group. We welcomed this on the understanding we needed a new build. Then at the start of the next academic year Jane G, Judy and Sam got stuck in. Jane inherited a class of Year 5 and 6 who had missed much of their early education and had gaps to fill; Jane was aspirational, driven and determined to make up what gaps were possible …and even some that others would deem impossible. She took on the leadership of maths with her characteristic rigour and has grown a team of teachers and TAs and cohorts of pupils who are skilled and confident and many of whom express that they love maths.  Things were transforming.

Judy, inexperienced and hungry to learn was placed in Year 1. Judy is unique, I’ve heard she wonders if Therese will “get her” – well I really hope so or she’ll be missing out on a first rate teacher and the kindest of people. Sam blew me away at her interview, and has continued to do so ever since with her exceptional teaching skills. Children are cherished, provision is exceptional, creative and thorough and children flourish in her care – what a gift she has.

Four months later Sarah Grimble joined the ranks. Her first term here she taught every class, flexibility really must be her middle name! She will never let me forget when, in preparation of the new build, I asked her to load the metal container with the contents of a classroom on one of the hottest days of the summer. She emerged dripping and exhausted but, of course, still smiling. She has at last been allowed to settle and give Year 5’s the happiest of learning while leading English for us all.

A year later we were fortunate to gain Hazel Old for small group maths support. Suffice to say that many, many children now believe they can, who previously thought they couldn’t ‘do maths’ This woman is a genius.

Spanish teaching took off in September 2014 when Senora Hayes joined us. A highly skilled practitioner and instrumental in making our trips to Barcelona and Seville possible.

A year later Danielle Hollands signed up as a TA and then completed her teaching qualification. There is nobody with a greater ‘can do’ spirit surely! An outstanding PE lead, a technical wizard and a person with such generosity, she’s called on and is always willing and cheerful to support others. She works at speed and just gets things done – all would agree she’s an asset to the whole school.

In the autumn of 2017 we added Mhairi Mackelworth, Ed Grobel and Donna Simpson. Mhairi is a superb Year 6 teacher, she loves those children and expertly prepares them to be ready for their next step in education. A great residential trip companion with a balanced and realistic approach to life – she’s a breath of fresh air. Ed offers so much more than being the token male on the staff, he is thorough, efficient and skilled, but not only in teaching. He is THE most competitive in staff quizzing on Friday lunchtimes. Donna joined and showed her quiet and capable approach, she worked as TA with Liddy and soon was recognised as being invaluable. In her stepping up to lead SEND, she has truly excelled. Safe hands and phenomenal tenacity, thank you Donna.

Our latest additions signed up just after the pandemic struck so had to start with the minefield that was early remote learning. Jane Hanna took up teaching music at distance, in April, to children that she had never met, highly successfully. How different was last week and the amazing face to face music for Oliver. Alison Menzies brought years of experience in Reception and established happy and productive remote learning with 4 and 5 year olds half way through their first year in school. We love your skill set Alison and your intuition, your love of children and ability to make their early experience of school so special. What a star Sarah De Ville is, she had impressed everyone on her final teaching practice and continued to do so teaching Lion pod in June last year just days after (or before!) being awarded QTS. This year she had been doing all and more for our lovely Year 1s, lucky children.

And now I have my family to thank. You know that part at the end of a book, the acknowledgement section, where credits are given to all and sundry followed by those nearest to you who have stuck by you whatever. Well that’s where we are now. Our children, Fred, Zo and Gus and their partners, Alice, Tom and Lydia have done so, so much over time to support me at this school. From the early days of cleaning and sorting the school, the loos and the playground to Ofsted work parties, preparation late into the night, the making of resources, even jobs in teaching and learning support and recently the most necessary and appreciated from Zo in her patient and essential technical support. I’m so very grateful to you all. But it’s Piers who’s cheerfully managed late suppers, no suppers, shows, quizzes and school events, he’s made many a nip from Chiddingstone with forgotten items, managed maintenance jobs, made planning appeals, completed countless paperwork jobs and he has endlessly been interested and listened to my musings on the day to day school life, his advice taken or ignored, he’s always been there. Thank you, you’re the best!

And now finally … all heads are faced with challenges, one of mine I suppose has been to remain resolute in my belief that personal development, well-being and an experience-rich childhood are every bit as valuable as academic excellence. League tables, data driven inspections and judgements can shake the most committed. However, we know that this is no dichotomy really, striving for and reaching academic potential grows and flourishes from this very base; an education whose horizon is as broad as possible. The team here buy into this, St John’s is a thriving school with gorgeous pupils from diverse backgrounds– I can’t really think why one would leave, especially when surrounded by this phenomenal team!

Sally xxx

PGL Day 3

What a wonderful final morning.  After another restful night’s sleep and hearty breakfast, we packed our bags, squeezed in two more activities before a delicious lunch and bordered the coach with waves and cheers to the staff at PGL who have been brilliant throughout.  We will all be tired tonight, with heads full of new memories and experiences.  The Year 6 Team.

PGL Day 2

After a misty start first thing, the sun shone for us and we have had another busy day with archery, rifle shooting, zip wire, low ropes and abseiling, a trip to the site shop, where many careful purchases were made, all topped off with tonight’s magical campfire in the wood.  It was noticeable how well the different groups worked together today, especially supporting and cheering on those that were a little nervous on the higher activities and there was a noticeable groan when we discussed packing bags for the homeward journey…a sign of a perfect break.  We will see you all tomorrow and expect to be back in time for usual school pick up, but will keep you posted.

The Year 6 team

PGL Day 1

Lovely first day and we luckily missed the thundery showers until this evening when we were cosy and settling into our rooms.  We’ve had an active start – with a combination of abseiling, giant swing and raft building.  We loved it all!  Dinner was a treat.  Just like a cafe with generous portions and doughnuts for dessert.  We topped that off with birthday cake for Barney and we’re just about to begin our evening activities.  Hopefully we will all sleep well after last night’s football.  The Year 6 Team.

 

Message from Mrs Quirk

It’s been a strange week for us all at St John’s but a week where we have embraced exciting change for the future. After 2 days of interviews, tasks and meeting children, the panel of 5, made up of governors, members of the Local Authority and the diocese were unanimous in their decision to appoint Therese Pullan as the new headteacher of St John’s from September. I am looking forward to working with Therese, when she is able, in Term 6. I am emotional to be leaving this fantastic school but it feels so good to be handing over to a safe pair of hands and to a person who feels a great fit for this school.

Worth mentioning that the panel were full of praise for the school, the organisation of the days of interview, staff warmth and care and the conduct and charm of all pupils, especially the Year 2 pupils who were involved in one task. All were amused and struck by the comment made by one girl that “In the olden days, before COVID, we used to do lots of clubs and trips” We sincerely hope we are emerging safely from those restrictions and that clubs and trips will be back on the calendar soon!

Monday 22nd February

I hope half term proved restful and good for everyone. We are so influenced by the weather at the moment. There has been freezing cold snow, relentless rain and overcast winter days. Then we had a hailstorm of almost biblical nature that was followed by the most beautiful rainbow!

trim.CE8AEC0D-CEC8-40DE-A63C-6199EBC44638

Spring really feels as though it’s on the way now with days like Sunday and that welcome warm sun.

Returning to school today with just our critical worker children, we have been listening keenly to the news and the long awaited information about a road map out of lockdown. It seems we will all be back to school on the 8th of March. Where I’m sure many of you are delighted at this prospect there will be those of you for whom this raises concerns.

As soon as we have finalised our plan we will share it with you. Meanwhile please call me if you want to talk through the coming weeks.

 

Freezing Weather

These amazing icicles are very near my house, a really spectacular and beautiful sight. This freezing weather can be beautiful and great fun. I’ve seen many clips of dramatic sledging in Knole park and around. Sledging luckily is a perfect pastime during this long lockdown.

Our children at school have been enjoying the snow too, on the field and in the playground. Snow angels can be found almost everywhere!
We would have found it impossible to keep school open for our critical worker children without the amazing “walking team” of staff who have made it in every day.
Our site has been made safe by Edward Oatley who has turned up at 7am armed with his snow shovel, broom, barrow and salt. He really is St. John’s very own snow angel! Thank you Edward.

Back to School … or not 😢

It’s been jolly cold in school while we’ve been preparing for Term 3. Our environmentally friendly site manager always tries to be economical with the heating. Today I got into the boiler room and found the magic switch!

It’s definitely the right decision to keep as many people at home for the time being. The news is really alarming and we must do our part to keep our community safe while supporting our struggling NHS to do their amazing work.

Staff worked together today to adapt their planning to suit remote learning and amended and copied independent packs. What a team they are, St John’s is THE place to work and learn!
At the end of their daily zoom sessions your children will, I hope, welcome a drop of Spanish on Wednesdays and music on Fridays.

So, as the vast majority prepare to embrace another home learning phase, I send love and positive thoughts to you and your children.
We can do this … Together-Apart xx

Almost Christmas

How lucky we’ve been that Mr Shrubb has been so busy with lighting up our school! In a year when we’re all having to be careful and do without many of our special Christmas activities having some sparkle has really helped our mood.
Our KS1 nativity is finished! Last Wednesday the children jumped and out of costumes, sang, danced and delivered their lines beautifully. We filmed inside and out, in freezing temperatures with the feeling “the show must go on” The film was created last weekend and will be made available to you on Google Classroom by Thursday afternoon.
Meanwhile KS2 have had their class songs recorded, pupils have read the lessons and we have again filmed this fir you to enjoy at home.
Many thanks to all the staff for all their hard work in producing these lovely memories of St John’s Christmas 2020.
Tomorrow there’s all the fun of Christmas lunch and Class Fairs and films.
We are all quite tired as we’re sure you are too. It really has been the strangest of terms. Thank you parents and carers for your thoughtful support and your kind words of encouragement. We are so grateful to have such a wonderful school community; it makes our job so much easier.
Thanks also the this amazing team. From office to classroom to lunchtimes and whether from home, by zoom or face to face – all of you have done a fantastic job and are just great and are  never more deserving of a break and rest this holiday.

Happy Christmas Everyone. Year 1’s display reminds us of the wonderful Christmas story.

Term 2 Day 1

Welcome back everyone, how lovely it was to see all those smiley children arriving at school this morning.

I have to admit that the Year 5 Tudor day jousting competition doesn’t look a bit like the picture above but the sounds of joy filling the playground would suggest it’s every bit as much fun. Reception have kindly loaned their trikes in the absence of horses and umbrellas are proving to be ideal as jousting lances.

Photographs of the each class’ enrichment days will follow next week, here’s a reminder of the plans for this first week back at school

Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 Pyjama Story Day

Year 3 Stone Age Day

Year 4 Bridge Building

Year 5 Tudor Day

Year 6 Wolf Brother Forest

 

Thank you to all the parents and carers who wore masks and continued to follow strict social distancing at drop off this morning.