“The Circle of Life” – an activity sure-fired to improve neural myelination.

I am of course deeply indebted to Wikipedia for filling me in on the expert knowledge needed to write this half-term posting.

But before I do, and to get you in the mood, please consider watching this wonderful curtain raiser to the Disney Stage show “The Lion King”.

The Lion King is a Disney media franchise comprising a film series and additional media. The success of the original 1994 American animated featureThe Lion King, directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, led to a direct-to-video sequel and midquel, a 2019 film remake, a television film sequel, two spin-off television series, three educational shorts, several video games, merchandise, and the third-longest-running musical in Broadway history, which garnered six Tony Awards including Best Musical.[1] The franchise mainly revolves about a pride of lions who oversee a large swath of African savanna as their “kingdom” known as the Pride Lands, with their leader Simba watching over it as “king“. The first three animated films are widely known for being influenced by the works of William Shakespeare,[3][4] as well as other works based on his material.

So, over the last 2 days at Claires Court Junior Boys, 2 casts of some 90 boys led by our Head of Music Emma Stevenson pulled of 4 showings of the most amazing junior school production I have ever attended. The scale of difficulty cannot be overemphasised, singing in tongues, moving choreographically with mechanical costumes, acting in the spirit of the great emotions the storyline brings and staying in character throughout, one cast of stars being the supporting cast for the other and performing faultlessly for 2 hours. Honestly it brought more than a few prickles to my skin and tears to my eyes. In short, I and 4 audiences were genuinely blown away and of course transported to the plains of Africa, where the story is set.

For the most complex of human activities to be successful, they have to be rehearsed, iteratively repeated for many hours before they become second nature. Early steps are slow, because the new pathways that need to be created linking all the senses, fine and gross motor control and body movements take time to get learned and embedded. We now know this arises because the learning process lays fatty sheaths around the nerve axons, enabling the messages to travel faster, quicker and more autonomously. The hardest thing to learn is to play a musical instrument, yet in turn because it gives you visual and auditory feedback, the repeated hours of practice lay down even thicker layers of insulation, essentially brining mastery to the instrument.

Teaching is not the requirement by the way, but learning and practice are, and in recent UK studies, researches have been able to prove that 3 hours of instrumental practice quickly make you 10-15% cleverer. What’s not to like, I hear you say, and I’d say ‘nothing’ – it’s a slam dunk and we have not needed 21st century research to confirm that which educators have known for generations. What is required is the time, space and culture around children’s learning environment (that’s a grand set of words for school), and that space must be open enough not just for the teaching to happen but for there to be the time and space for the learning to happen too.

Whether you look at my junior or senior school provision, children’s extended day stretches from 8 til 5pm and beyond, with so many opportunities for informal rehearsal and private practice. The science of learning makes it quite obvious that mechanical dragooning can cause troops to stay in line, but that’s not the same as creating a major stage production with 9 and 10 normal mortals, who need to be able to practice their roars and squeaks in their own ways.

It’s of course a huge responsibility to run a school and make sure the environment is fit for learning; it’s a great pride I take in realising that my colleagues are so capable of demonstrating every working week that the evidence of children, boys and girls getting cleverer is self-evident for all to see. In the Lion King, Pumbaa the Warthog teaches us all his core philosophy of life – Hakuna Matata. I leave the lyrics of this for you to read – I’m off on half-term to enjoy my own next steps in the Circle of Life:

Hakuna Matata!
What a wonderful phrase
Hakuna Matata!
Ain’t no passing craze
It means no worries
For the rest of your days
It’s our problem-free philosophy
Hakuna Matata!

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A SPECIAL REPORT: Wellbeing Barometer Survey: 2023

Because parenting doesn’t come with instructions, SchoolTV is a wellbeing resource implemented at our school to help support you in the challenges of modern-day parenting. Parenting is a learning journey and it’s easy to feel stressed and overwhelmed when faced with raising happy, well and resilient young people today.

Every family has experienced some sort of difficulty or adversity in recent times, some more than others. As mental health concerns continue to rise, there have been some alarming statistics reported in relation to the mental health and wellbeing of young people. Unfortunately, the blueprint for parenting is often based on our own experiences, but this is no longer fit for purpose in raising children as citizens of tomorrow. Parents and caregivers play a vital role in providing the guidance needed to support children and adolescents as they reframe their worries and focus more on the things they can control in their life.

In this Special Report, we are seeking parent participation through a short survey. The survey is designed to provide a barometer to help gauge the state of student wellbeing within our community. We encourage you to take a few moments to complete the survey as this will help our school know the nature and extent of your concerns and determine how best we can support families in the months ahead. Responses remain anonymous and will only be reported on an aggregated basis. You are asked to base your responses on observations made in the last 12 months.

By working together we can continue to build relationships, foster connections, enable understanding and break down barriers as we navigate a pathway towards better mental health and wellbeing for all students. Please reflect on the information offered in this Special Report, and as always, we welcome your feedback. If this raises any concerns for you or your child, please reach out to the school or seek professional medical advice.

We hope you take time to reflect on the information offered in this Special Report, and as always, we welcome your feedback.

If you do have any concerns about the wellbeing of your child, please contact the school for further information or seek medical or professional help.

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Attention Parents and Friends of Claires Court – Summer Ball news… Saturday 10 June 2023

The PTA are delighted to announce that the table reservations for the annual ball are now available. So, get your table guests ready! We have managed to keep the ticket prices the same as last year at £85 each which gives you a three course meal and a great evening.

  • Each table will require a designated ‘Table Leader’. As ‘Table Leader’ you will be required to coordinate the payment for the other guests on the table.
  • ‘Table Leaders’ must reserve a table for either 10 or 12 people by sending an email to pta.ccgs@gmail.com including ‘Table Leader’ name, table of 10 or 12 and contact number. 
  • For those that do not have enough to make up a table of 10 we can create a mixer table with other guests. Please advise this via email pta.ccgs@gmail.com 
  • Information on how to pay for the table will follow but this year we will have a dedicated payment system.
  • On receipt of payment and nearer the time, the table leader will receive a booking form which needs to be returned with guest names and allergy information. 

So, please, PLEASE, PLEASE consider joining our Summer BIG TOP ball. The funds that the PTA make available through their efforts have this year made the most remarkable difference to

  • Our 17 Ukrainian students (now 14), who found the safest of settings for themselves at Claires Court, and our work with English tuition, pastoral support through the employment of a Ukrainian national qualified teacher to support teaching and learning and also family communications;
  • a host of projects at local level, most recently at Seniors, the most modern of keyboards to implement our new creative music opportunities for boys and girls;
  • our many and various community activities in school, social events, prize giving and speech days, through the provision of human hands to support, funds to provide awards and prizes as well as
  • the central background to the PTA Foundation activities, including the arrangements that enable the Summer Ball, the Fete and Christmas market and the Autumn Fireworks event.

I’ve worked with the PTA board (in the main made up of current and former parents), amazing people led brilliantly by their President, Phyllis Avery MBE, and now more than ever, their efforts deserve our 200% support!!!

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The blurring of boundaries – how can we realign our lives to provide balance and maintain wellbeing?

The TES (Times Educational Supplement as was) is the profession’s major journal which is dedicated to supporting the world’s teachers. “Our mission is to enable great teaching by helping educators to find the tools and technology they need.” This week TES published the ‘School Wellbeing report’, which is largely reporting back for the teaching professionals and their views aligned to their work. The report reminds its readers that we do have to worry about retention of colleagues within the sector, though is optimistic in confirming that teachers do wish to care for the children and colleagues they work with, and that good relationships are key to successful outcomes arising.

Regular readers of my blog will know that the school has recently adopted SchoolsTV to provide its own media channel providing a one stop shop for parents and our community, which will over the next few months provide we hope a concerted approach to declutter the advice the now certainly can overwhelm us, and to provide a sense of calm and focus to our lived experience.

I walk. Not every night, because I might very much have been on my feet at work and at home doing ‘other’ things. But when I walk, sometimes I let my brain do the ‘talking’, and step by relentless step for the 45 minutes or so the ‘white noise’ settles down and my thoughts and priorities seem more aligned. As often as not though, I’ll stick a podcast on, and listen to BBC or some other channel that I find of interest and value. I’ve always been a bit geeky, so science and/or history work best for me, building knowledge and understanding in equal measure.

From a professional point of view, I like a range of podcasters and include ‘The Therapy Edit’ with Anna Mathur in my channel listings. After a seizure I experienced last August, I recognised I had ceased to value sleep sufficiently, and so I have recovered same by banning my phone from the bedroom and by imposing a 60 minute shutdown on use of digital screens inc TV before going to bed. I’ve also recognised that alcohol needs to be consumed on a minority of days and in moderation for the same reasons – both badly affect the hormonal balance, the biological cycles when sleep happens and exclude the natural routines that good sleep hygiene requires. You can catch Mathur talking to Dr Ranj Singh on this Sleep podcast, and (skipping the first 2 minutes of Lloyds bank advertising) gives you a good insight into the topic as well as Mathur’s easy listening style. Our own SchoolTV channel covers the full sweep of advice here.

More recently I have caught Anna Mathur (a pyscho therapist) being referenced by Fiona Cowood writing in the Telegraph in an article she has entitled “You could do a lot worse than being a lazy parent – and here’s how’. Sadly the article is behind a pay wall, but it highlights the fabulous advice that parents of children in the 2020s need to heed more of, which is “Do less”. That’s not an admonition of the work focussed beasts we may have become (I’ve always worked flat out), but actually advice to parents to adopt a lazier more hands-off style of parenting. Mathur makes the same point in the article, highlighting the twin curses being the ‘guilt’ and ‘too much research’.

The rise in mental health disorders reported both here and across the pond is linked the child’s loss of freedoms and abilities to roam. Dr Vyas-Lee, co-founder of the mental health clinic Kove writes “We definitely have a problem with children’s resilience; it’s about building up a tolerance for things being hard or difficult. If you never fall, or if everytime you call someone catches you, where is the resilience building?’ She continues “It’s useful to be reminded that allowing our kids to fail is good for them. It’s much better to spend 20 minutes one to one with your children that to give yourself over to their every whim day in, day out. Mathur adds “Children’s brains need to be bored, because those are the cracks where creativity, resilience and self-esteem grow.’

Of course life’s problems are more than just the above, but having had our lives turned upside down by #lockdown, #austerity and #working_from_home, we do need to reconvene and sort out getting the compartments of a well-ordered life back into place. Working from home is often a great reality for many adults, so separating workspace and playspace is vital, and enabling switchovers from one phae to the next is vital. Mealtimes need to become properly re-established ; the number of families that have abandoned eating together causes as much alarm in my mind as poor sleep hygiene and excessive screentime.

All of the experts I list above and so many more shine a light on us all to ‘DO LESS, RELAX, TAKE SOME TIME, SLEEP WELL’. And how did my Easter break go you might ask? A mix of schoolwork, carpentry, allotment, family time and much sleep too, thank you.

Claires Court’s own primary and secondary Wellbeing survey will be further advertised next Friday, once we have every body back into the ‘swim’ – catch that here on https://clairescourt.uk.schooltv.me/, Primary or Secondary.

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Announcing the arrival of Claires Court SchoolTV, and our Spring Wellbeing Baromoter 2023…

…plus some notes and thanks to start!

In terms of general participation and elite competition, Claires Court has returned in full, firing on all cylinders with (to name but a few) the Senior Music concert on Monday evening this week, our House cross country championships, and the huge success of the senior sailing squad in winning the National Schools Sailing Team racing championships a weekend ago.  The children and staff are clearly benefiting from the myriad opportunities we now have in a post covid world – alas too many to mention all in this note.

We welcomed back Mr Justin Spanswick earlier this week as our independent safeguarding advisor. Mr Spanswick brings back with him newly acquired knowledge of the wider educational world, one in which he is making a very strong mark which we are all proud of. He was able to spend some time on all sites, as well as visit our ‘burgeoning outpost’ of talent based at the National Sports Centre at Bisham. 

I have been invited to represent Claires Court as part of an interest group of digital experts from across the globe, at the House of Lords on Wednesday afternoon.  Here I will be highlighting our ongoing digital technology journey and our baby steps with Merlyn Mind into the use of Artificial Intelligence in the classroom. AI is clearly a game changer, and will permit even closer the fine tuning of teaching and learning to meet individual needs. However, one of the major lessons learned from the enforced lock-down of schools is that children need to work with others, to collaborate and to create the ‘intellectual biome’ that makes schools such vibrant places in which they can both learn and enjoy their childhood. 

We recognise your needs as parents when you ask for our advice, telling us of your frustrating searches through many online tools for pertinent videos or the experience of others.  We are delighted to announce the launch of Claires Court’s SchoolTV channel providing a substantial database of helpful information and advice for parents – https://clairescourt.uk.schooltv.me/. For now we are just one of a dozen or so schools in the UK embracing this service, but it will rapidly grow. As it does, we will commence focussing the resources so you can quickly see where we as a school are currently putting emphasis. Please take the opportunity over the Easter break and give the site a good reconnoitre – as ever, I’d love to hear your feedback – jtw@clairescourt.net.

Our inaugural survey starts with ‘The Wellbeing Barometer’ Special Report – whilst there are plenty of other special reports published, we are starting with only 2, and on the same topic. Please choose either primary or secondary for the age and stage of your children.

The Wellbeing Barometer’ requires parent, guardian and caregiver participation to answer a series of multiple choice survey questions. The information gathered will enable our school to establish a baseline of student wellbeing and assist in focussing on some of the key issues concerning families in order to highlight where further assistance may be required. Responses to all poll questions remain anonymous and will only be reported on an aggregated basis.

Responses to all poll questions remain anonymous and will only be reported on an aggregated basis.

Beyond that, when Easter’s out and the Summer term is in, we’ll return to look at the outcomes of this special pair of reports.

In the meantime, if you can, please enjoy some R&R over the next 2 weeks and see you back at school on Wednesday 19 April 2023.

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Help is needed across the globe…

As our charity weeks of activity commence at Claires Court, sadly it seems we have disasters requiring support across the globe. Being proactive in our help not just facilitates the support services now to be further resourced, but helps reuilding the resilience of local communities as well as their reserves of physical items and safety of their families.

The photo above shows Malawians in Blantyre impacted by Storm Freddy. A great colleague, friend and former pupil Charlie Bretherton is leading from the front to rebuild his school and wider community – if you can, please do help, a huge, epic crisis.

The link below goes to the Bretherton family’s Go Fund Me page – https://www.gofundme.com/f/malawians-in-blantyre-impacted-by-storm-freddy?utm_campaign=m_pd+share-sheet&utm_content=undefined&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_term=undefined

Malwai is one of the great British Empire colonies and now member of the British Commonwealth. As Britain choses to ease its support of its former colonies, it leaves the country prey to the attractions offered by other world powers, such as China. Now indebted to the Chinese, the Malawi government needs all the help it can get, and the UK’s influence is 3rd only behind USA and South Africa. You can read a sensible scholarly article on the current state of the nation here.

I am very much in the camp of invest now in Foreign Aid to reduce the longer term calls on our country’s generosity when displaced refugees make it through to migration at Dover. We have for example almost 400 doctors and nurses from Malawi, and schools such as Hillview International school, where Charlie is headteacher are providing amazing routes to academic success that in the long term will benefit both English speaking nations. Here’s his voice from their website:

I am delighted to welcome you to our school. At Hillview International School we offer, with pride, an exceptional education from Pre-Nursery through to IGCSE, in which individual and community relationships are cultivated, where innovative learning platforms and pedagogies are used and where values and character are nurtured alongside academic development.

As the only single streamed school in the Blantyre area, we offer low student/teacher ratios and excellent levels of individual attention within a beautiful campus allowing a seamless transition from Nursery to Primary and High School.

At Hillview we aim to provide exceptionally high standards of education in line with the National Curriculum of England and the Cambridge International Curriculum. Our sporting and club experiences are designed to challenge and delight children.

Our Nursery, Primary and High Schools are a mix of modern and traditional well equipped and spacious classrooms, with a focus on developing the whole child’s potential through exciting learning, sports and family inclusion, ensuring children are at the heart of all we do. With our caring and dedicated staff teams, supportive governors and involved parents we have created a happy and engaging place to work and learn.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch for an opportunity to meet, visit the school or enquire more about our schools and their facilities.

I look forward to meeting you and welcoming you into the Hillview family.

Mr Charlie Bretherton, Principal

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Announcing the relocation of our Junior girls onto the Junior boys site to create Claires Court Juniors at Ridgeway

Our fundamental aim for Claires Court has always been to ensure parity of education, opportunity and equality through the breadth of the curriculum and our teaching practice. To oversee this in the primary phase, last year we promoted Mrs Kirby to the new position of Head of Juniors (Boys, Girls and Nursery). Since then, together with her leadership team, she has successfully developed the junior curriculum including forest school opportunities, increasing the mixed sporting fixtures played and offering joint educational off-site visits. 

We have now reached an exciting point where, with the junior curriculum  united, we can accommodate both boys and girls to share the same space as well.  After discussion with Mrs Kirby, our intention is therefore to relocate Junior Girls to the Junior Boys site at Ridgeway from the start of the Autumn Term, September 2023. The Nursery, Senior Girls and the Sixth Form will remain at College Avenue and Senior Boys at Ray Mill Road East by the river. The current space used by Junior Girls will be allocated to the growing needs of our Senior Girls and Sixth Form and all our school sites will continue to benefit from future investment and improvements.

Future developments 

From September 2023, our new Reception classes will be coeducational with both boys and girls taught together. We will continue to teach your child/ren in a single sex capacity until they leave the school in Year 6 and we aim for Claires Court Juniors to be fully coeducational from 2029.  Senior Boys and Senior Girls will remain gender separated and there are no plans to alter this or the arrangements for the coed Nursery and Sixth Form.

What changes will there be for my child?

We know this may come as a surprise to you and we want to reassure you that there will be no change to your child’s education. The only difference will be the space they learn in and they will now share social times such as break, lunch, pre and post school activities.  


Our staffing and leadership structure will not change as a result of this move and you will have the chance to meet the teachers who will be teaching your children across the curriculum in due course.  


We will undertake a review of our uniform, aided by both pupils and parents. The likely timeline for this is to start during the next Academic Year (2023/24) for full introduction in 2025.

Practical Matters

We know that there will be many questions so please join Mrs Kirby on an online Google Meet at 1pm on Wednesday 1 March (this will also be recorded for those who cannot join).  Please can any questions be sent in advance (by the end of Monday 27 February) to juniors@clairescourt.net and Mrs Kirby will endeavour to answer them for you online.  If you would prefer to speak to us, or a member of the leadership team, to discuss any individual circumstances,  please contact the same email address and Mrs Aquilina will arrange a convenient time.  

For information in advance, Mrs Kirby will be covering;

  1. The planned integration of both boys and girls together
  2. Practical information; Drop off/pick up arrangements, changing facilities, extra curricular activities and uniform 
  3. Classroom developments
  4. A date for parents to visit 

Mrs Kirby will be personally announcing this news to our junior pupils tomorrow (Friday, 24 February) in special assemblies. She will explain how we will support the transition to learning together and answer any questions that the children have.

As many of you will know, our previous plan was to move all our operations on to a new campus at Ridgeway. Although this was denied, our strategic aim still remains in that we would like to educate the Juniors on the same site together.  Coupled with a changing market and an expressed wish for a coed environment at this level, we are fortunate to have the capacity and agility to respond to this exciting opportunity. 

On Thursday evening, the Principals broadcast the above content to the school staff body, and we are so delighted with the overwhelmingly positive reception our news has bring…

Hugh Wilding, Administrative Principal James Wilding, Academic Principal

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Calling for fundraising support for the victims of the terrible Earthquake in Turkey and Syria

A family in our community run a brilliant bakery and coffee shop in Maidenhead. They have family, friends and relatives in the region affected by the recent earthquake. I am pleased to share this with you all. Please be generous.

“Dear Mr. Wilding,

I wanted to get in touch with you asking for a potential help from Claires Court Schools for our fund raising event at bakedd artisan bakery for the people who are suffering from the recent earthquake that happened in East part of Turkey.

As we have posted on our social media and announced on BBC Berkshire and Maidenhead Advertiser, we will be organising a fund raiser event at bakedd tomorrow and we will donate all our sales proceeds to a non profit charity called Ahbap (https://ahbap.org) who are helping the people in need.

I would like to ask if you would be able to execute a donation event like Free Jeans day at Claires Court Schools to help us spread the word and help to create more donations for us to send to Turkey.

We are planning to send all the donations and the sales proceeds by Monday next week, that’s why it is such a short notice.

Thanks for your kind help in advance.”

And 24 hours later, Emre is able to post:


This is what happened @bakedd yesterday🙏🙏🙏
We don’t know where to start ….

First of all we would like to thank our team for their outstanding efforts and their generous contributions to our donation campaign. To YOU our wonderful bakedd community who have not left us alone since the day we opened, You are all AMAZING!!! To our friends, to everyone who heard our interview on the radio and came to donate, to the owner of @riodeli2020 who unexpectedly handed us an envelope with a smiling face, to our young friends at @popeyesgrooming who would support us whenever we needed them, To @wessexpharmacy , to @prestoitalian , to Mr Wilding from @clairescourtschool ,@woodfloorjunkie In total we raised 🌟£8683.40🌟through our sales proceeds and the generous donations yesterday !!!!! We will keep the donation box on our counter until Saturday and send all the money to @ahbap charity on Monday…
Gul & Emre & Serdar

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Reach for the Nomination…The Lexden Prize for Sixth Formers

The Lexden Prize, named in honour of our Honorary President, Lord Lexden, celebrates the most remarkable sixth form students at ISA members’ schools. Their achievements can be in any aspect of school or community life, and do not have to be academic. All ISA Members’ schools are invited to nominate one student for the prize. Nominations must be made by a member of school staff, and include a short nomination statement, and a personal statement by the nominee. There is also space to include a file or link to a piece of supporting evidence of the students’ achievements.

Here at Claires Court, we have 150 Sixth Formers, and it’s obviously invidious for the grown-ups to reach in and anoint our choice without reference to the individuals themselves, With many with great academic strengths, others with extraordinary sporting prowess, Henley champions, Rugby England Sough West squad selections, still more with great generosity in their volunteering or shining as in a new found country as refugees from war.

Across the school, this year’s theme has been ‘Be the best you can be’. The tag line has caused a few wobbles internally, such as one young soul sighing remoresffully ‘I don’t know what my best looks like yet’. Group activities, whether in the classroom, on the playing fields, in the CCF all help stretch the individual beyond their knowledge, but over the last 12 months, 2 incredible students stepped for war to meet the challenge posed by Harvard and MIT universities to join a cohort of young leaders across the planet to ‘Take the World Forward’.

The ‘Take the World Forward’ Fellowship is the vision of Harvard combined with the spark of MIT, a project committed to building the next generation of problem solvers. The Fellows invited to participate were hand picked bright minds, selected following a rigorous process of application and interview. Ciara and Reni, Year 12 students at the time, applied and were chosen to join this exciting programme. Their task – to identify, brainstorm and solve some of the biggest challenges of today and tomorrow with the guidance of illustrious IVY league mentors. 

Ciara’s project focused on the experience of reoffenders trapped in the US penal system while Reni researched and recommended increasing girls’ access to education in Africa. Both our students met with their peers from all over the world in online meets to discuss and shape solutions to these issues and are still in contact with them now.The TWF project required funding, and our own PTA Foundation were generously able to meet those costs to permit the students to engaged. Both are to present their findings at the PTA am on 3 March.

Reni and Ciara remain part of the Harvard and MIT international network and are regularly invited to attend seminars and courses on current global issues. Both have developed more sophisticated research skills and having interviewed subjects better understand both the interviewer and interviewee roles. Ciara commented that her project prompted her to choose to apply to study criminology at undergraduate level and include some of her project findings in her personal statement. Both students agree, the opportunity has helped shape their futures and equipped them with invaluable transferable skills.

Over the past 5 years, we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to nominate 3 amazing students to join the Lexden Roll of honour. In 2021, Owen Mashingaidze’s nomination was successful, in 2020 Georgia Carmichael’s and in 2019 Todd Muil’s. All 3 had great strengths but in very many different ways. I feel absolutely certain that in 2023 we will find ourselves in a similar position, but … it is of course the individual student’s choice to create their submission. At this stage, whilst we gather the range of applicant’s the students submit their application to the Principal’s and Headteacher’s by their email to Mrs Hall in the Sixth Form office. KYH@clairescourt.net.

Let the applications commence…

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February calling… Looking forward with the green shoots of spring…

Friday 27 January 2023 and the BBC announced on the radio this morning that I needed to find an hour over the next 3 days to have a look out for the birds in my back yard. Below is the full RSPB announcement together with a link to their webpage.

Big Garden Birdwatch long weekend is here! There’s still time to sign-up and take part. Just spend one hour between Friday 27 and Sunday 29 January counting the birds, and help monitor how birds are faring. It’s free, fun and a great way to keep an eye on your local wildlife. Wherever you are, whatever you see, it counts!

I’ll add my findings at the close of Sunday, but in the first look out of the Head’s office window today (it was just after first break) over 100 seagulls and 2 Red kites had landed to clear the yard of the discarded Bacon rolls and other breakfast snacks vended through the canteen.Not that I am going to inform the RSPB of this school yard survey, I am mindful that the numbers could be down, because our avian friends have been facing a similar viral epidemic against which they have little resistance, without the help of face masks, hand sanitisers and vaccinations. Whilst I jest really, this is a serous matter and I have my fingers crossed that despite the frost and cold, the song birds do make a decent showing over the Birdwatch period.

Data, Teaching and Relationships are three critical Schoolwatch features that assist me in judging the health, vitality and optimism in my school at this time. We’ve just had to complete both the DfE and ISC census figures, conjoined to ensure our sector is able to get the very best data set to compare contrast and inform its plans for the future. Providing the data is mandatory, and it is pretty granular too, providing bags of evidence to check the 2 sectors against each other, as well as to provide for some useful in-house comparisons. I’ll report back on the census information once it is published in some months time, though I am pretty confident it will show our school in a very good light once more, for the sheer breadth of the provision and services we offer, at a remarkably cost-effective price for a school of such serious, professional standing.

Next week for 10 days is Teacherwatch in our school, with every teacher observing another teacher’s lesson and then giving them feedback on same in swift measure. Of course the observation will have a focus, and there will be good, bad and interesting things seen. To say that my colleagues are excited about it is perhaps stretching the concept, but actually that’s pretty close to the mark – we honestly love teaching and talking about it, and sparing the time to feedback to a colleague in a manic period of 8/9 days when everyone is doing the same will generate a high degree of professional advancement for many if not all. We might have some glitches along the way, and some missed opportunities, but recalling eggs and shells, let’s bring it on!!!

The worst thing about winter for everyone is that, apart from Christmas, the season can get you down. We’ve just waved cheerio to Blue Monday last week, allegedly when individuals in the Northern Hemisphere are at their lowest ebb. Good news of course, because the next Blue Monday is 350+ days away and we have the lengthening days, the lighter mornings & evenings and the sights and sounds of spring to cheer us up. One of the most important tricks in the successful teacher’s hand is to use ruthless and relentless optimism whist children are in their care. “What could possibly go wrong” I am heard to call out at the start of the school day, and verily whilst almost anything could the vast majority of the cogs in the complex wheel of school whirr by without a hiccup. Why even the latest meteorite has just passed us cleanly by “Asteroid 2023 BU: Space rock passes closer than some satellites” without fuss!

To close, schools may be all about work and progress, but actually our institutions are all about building great relationships, created in their best form when individuals know their purpose, understand the key principles of life being a team game, and for the young people in our care, knowing they can enjoy their childhood too. Yes, I am definitely ‘done with January, ‘calling for February’, and in the meantime looking for every sign of a warming of the environment to encourage our bulbs to flower, and perhaps even more importantly, to feel the cockles of our hearts warming too.

And if course my prose hasn’t helped you, here’s a poem, Joy of the Fireplace by Yorkshire Prose that will surely do the trick! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wDmXEc1lKDk

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