16th September 2021
Aspiration, Inspiration and Gratitude.
Well, it has been another busy week as we get our new school year off to a flying start. School has a purposeful air to it, with teachers setting expectations and children naturally rising to them. Classrooms are busy and productive as all year groups get their teeth into our ASPIRE curriculum. Of course, due to our Full STeAM Ahead project, we do have a STEM angle to many of our lessons this half term, and it is lovely to see our pupils buzzing with excitement - this whole school focus has really gripped them.
At break time on Friday, I was talking to a group of Year 4 pupils, who were so excited to tell me all about their inspirational STEM person: Mae Jemison, who they are discovering in English this week. I cannot tell you how inspirational it is for them, to find out about her ordinary (just like us) start in life which led to her becoming an engineer, physician, astronaut and ultimately the first black woman to travel into space. When we open up the lives and route maps of inspirational people, we enable our children to see that it could be them too - with hard work, resilience and self belief. This magic is happening in all of our classrooms and it makes THJS a very special community to be a part of.
Enthuse Project Launch
Ms Smith and I visited Little Chalfont School on Monday afternoon for the launch of a very exciting collaborative project. The @StemlearningUK ENTHUSE project will see 8 schools join forces over two years to enhance the teaching and learning of Science in all of our schools.
In preparation for the launch, Ms Smith asked the Year four pupils in our school, to draw a scientist. The aim of this was to reveal stereotypes about the type of people who can become scientists. I was very pleased to note that the majority of Thomas Harding pupils, had not drawn the stereotypical image, but we actually had a diverse mix of women, men and people of colour - which was so reassuring to see- we are clearly doing something right!
St Clement Danes are leading the project, and the initial aims that have been set are to improve the assessment of science and enhance the use of enquiry led investigations in lessons. This will be an exciting 2 years which promises to enhance our science provision, support the subject knowledge of our staff and enable us to collaborate in a meaningful way with local schools and colleagues. I will keep you updated as the project unfolds!
As you will all know, we are fortunate enough to have a highly skilled and passionate team of Learning Support Assistants at THJS. This week, for National Teaching Assistant's day, we surprised them with a special cream tea to thank them for all of their incredible hard work. Our team is genuinely incredible, everyone works tirelessly to ensure that our pupils achieve their potential. We simply could not let an opportunity like this pass without saying thank you. To say that they were surprised is an understatement! I will also include some more pictures below - so that you can see their surprised faces! What a great team we are! #TeamTH
'Get Caught Living Our Values' in the Community Competition.
Over the summer, we held a special competition to encourage our pupils (including those who were due to join us in September) to live our ASPIRE Values during their holidays. We kept our social media accounts up to date with some of the entries, and I must say, we were thrilled with the quality of many of the entries. Today in assembly, we awarded certificates and prizes for the entries that had the greatest impact on our community.
We are so proud of all of our pupils. In a recent pupil survey (July 21) 97% of our pupils knew our values, 92% could define their impact on learning and progress, and 82% could express how at least one of the values made them better people and enhanced their character.
This shows just how embedded the values are, and they do indeed underpin everything we do, from providing the 'drive' inside our curriculum, to the structure of our behaviour policy to determining the way that the many individual interactions happen everyday in school. We really do live our values at THJS.
Aspire in the Community Certificates
This term, we are introducing a whole new set of ASPIRE Certificates, that will reward living one of the values in the community. These certificates will also lead to an ASPIRE badge of their very own! We gave out the very first of these certificates on Friday, to the winners of our summer competition! I have added some pictures below. A huge and heartfelt thank you to our parents, who have clearly supported these endeavours. Do not forget to bring in pictures and evidence of your children living the ASPIRE values at evenings and weekends - as we cannot wait to award more of these new and exciting certificates.
Aspire in the Community Winners
On Friday, a group of year 5 girls held a cake sale for the World Wildlife Fund. They had become increasingly concerned at the plight of the world's wildlife following media reports about climate change and the damage that it is causing to the planet's ecosystems. It goes without saying, that wishing to act with INTEGRITY in this way at THJS was always going to be encouraged. So, on Friday at break (and after school) we held a hugely successful cake sale. We will let you know the totals as soon as they are in, but it did appear as though almost everyone in school had brought in 20p to buy a cake! A huge thank you to all of our parents who sent in donations of cakes - you all helped to make the event a huge success.
Well that is it for this week! Have a safe and happy weekend to everyone in our THJS Community.
9th September 2021
Back with a BANG!
As we near the end of the first full week back at school, I must admit to feeling incredibly proud of our whole community. The children have settled back in so very well and have shown huge resilience in their approach to the new school year. Our new year three children are polite, confident and packed full of enthusiasm for learning - which is so lovely to see. Our new teachers have also settled in really well, and have already enhanced our team enormously. What an amazingly positive start to the new academic year, we have had - it has been super busy, but very successful! Read on to hear about some of the key events from the first week of term!
ASPIRE DAY 2021
We held our annual ASPIRE Day this week, and as always, it was a hugely positive and rewarding day spent celebrating our school values. Each class/year group chose one of our Aspire Values to learn about in more depth. The day was spent looking at how the value helps us to build our character and become better people. We also spent time exploring how the value can drive our learning and help us to achieve our full potential. The afternoon is then spent creating an artistic response. I spent a wonderful afternoon on Wednesday, walking around the classrooms and discussing this work with the children. I was utterly amazed in year 3, to find that all children could tell me the values! One child (Finch) in particular sought me out on the playground at breaktime, to tell me his slogan for Equality - 'Never above me, never below me, always beside me.' I have to say, our new year 3 pupils have fully embraced our values and are impressing us hugely already.
In year 4, I spoke to 'F' who was eager to explain her flower slogan: 'Trust your journey and just keep going' and how it linked to resilience and having a growth mindset. She explained that she understood that each struggle was just one step - and that you had to keep going to see where the path would take you! WOW F - I was so inspired by your understanding that it has made its way into my weekly blog!
The end result of all this work, is a collaborative art project which leads to a huge hall display that will stay in place for the whole of this year. This display is always the high point of any tours I give of the school, and it is a huge daily reminder of the importance of our values for us all.
Full STEaM Ahead
This year, we have planned an incredibly exciting start to our school year, all based around the curriculum area of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths). The aim of this exciting project is to broaden the horizons of our children, to inspire them and help them set higher aspirations for themselves. We also want to tackle the stereotypes around the types of people who typically become scientists. We want to encourage our pupils to realise that these paths are also open to them in the future - they are open to everyone. #aspire
Our teachers have planned a packed term of STEM learning, based around our ASPIRE curriculum, which will build towards a STEM Exhibition on Wednesday 20th October 2021.
We kicked off the whole event today with a Science show from the Royal Institution – Energy Live. The show was an exciting journey through the stores of energy that surround us. From elastic to gravitational, kinetic to chemical, see some fiery and explosive demonstrations of what energy is and how it affects our lives. I have to say that Gareth from the Royal Institution was fantastic. He brought science to life in such an energetic and exciting way! We started this morning with a show for years 3 and 4, and then this afternoon we had upper Key Stage 2. The children were hooked, and all who joined in with the audience participation were eager, enthusiastic and engaged. I would say that by the end, most had a transformed view of science (if they even remembered it was science that they were doing!) I have added a few photos and videos below of the highlights, but there are more on our Gallery page.
In the afternoon, Gareth delivered some staff CPD for us, which was memorable to say the very least. We are used to academic, theory based staff meetings, where listening and taking notes are more the order of the day. Gareth reignited sparks within us, by encouraging us to think about how we engage reluctant scientists, how to teach harder, or less enjoyable concepts and also how to use practical activities to get the children thinking! Obviously, we could not let the teachers get away with not participating in the live demonstrations, and as the video below shows, they had a great time!
Teachers Creating Shooting Rockets
Finally, this evening I have watched my fourth version of the Energy Live show, this time for parents and their accompanying children. This was such a treat - to see the children engaging in science alongside their parents, was incredible. Gareth did not disappoint - with even more live demonstrations and chances for children (and parents) to get up and get involved. I have added some photos and videos below to give you a flavour of my day. However, as I sit and reflect - I have to say, we have undoubtedly hit the aims of the day - to raise pupil aspirations around science, and to convince everyone that science is creative, exciting and can even be fun! Our Full Steam Ahead project is officially launched and it is looking like it will be a hugely successful start to the year! What a great team!