At Vinehall, we want to foster a love of learning for its own sake by encouraging our children to ask questions and think for themselves. We want to encourage our children to develop the necessary skills to work productively as part of a group and to become resilient and reflective learners, unafraid of trying something new or making mistakes.
In the Pre-Prep and Juniors, our programmes of study are based loosely on the National Curriculum, but room is provided for independent thought as well as for our children to find their own identity within a broad and varied curriculum.
Up until Year 4, children are mostly taught by a single teacher, with subject specialists teaching music, French and games. From Year 5 onwards, pupils are taught by subject specialists in all lessons.
Alongside the established curriculum subjects, pupils at Vinehall have Life Skills lessons; the content of these lessons is broad, ranging from study skills and financial literacy to global citizenship and mental health and well-being. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) is also taught as a curriculum subject from Year 5 and Year 6, providing pupils with the opportunity to ‘think like an engineer’ and to develop practical problem-solving skills.
We have high expectations of all our children and expect them to aspire to excellence in all that they do. To encourage them in this we aim to offer a diverse and exciting curriculum, delivered by highly qualified, inspirational teachers.
Freedom of artistic expression is encouraged at Vinehall and every pupil is offered the chance to develop their ideas through a range of exciting techniques. Subject areas are rich and diverse, with an emphasis on participation. As each pupil progresses through the school, they will build upon their skills, by thinking about the visual elements of line, tone, colour, shape, space, form and texture.
Vinehall pupils are encouraged to speak like an artist and to use vocabulary which is subject specific. As each pupil develops as an artist themselves, they will become aware of the work of other artists, from history and those practising today. They are encouraged to explore the motivation behind the Art and to gain a deeper understanding of the subject.
What drives someone to create? This is the question posed to our artists and visits to local galleries help to answer this question. Vinehall artists experience first-hand the Art created by others and reflect on their own work. They are also informed of current Art events including competitions and exhibitions. All pupils are encouraged to enter school competitions and can often see their work on display around the school.
As a pupil’s confidence grows, so does their ability to reflect on their own progress. Independent learning is promoted with the flexibility to work as part of the Art team. Projects are rich and varied, giving pupils the opportunity to learn from experimentation. The chance to explore is key and along with the formal elements, pupils are given an opportunity to learn from the inspiring work created by artists from other countries.
The Art department utilise the school grounds, which on occasion act as an outside classroom and drawing outside directly from nature is a regular occurrence. Our artists develop a deeper understanding of their place in the world through a series of tailored tasks, which focus on the responsible use of materials and an understanding of both recycling and sustainability.
All artists are encouraged to work to their own individual targets and to follow their own path within the curriculum. After school art clubs allow pupils the time to extend their skills and optional prep is offered to further extend a pupil’s abilities. Scholarship sessions are individually tailored to aid the building of a portfolio and to nurture the core skills to take a pupil through to interview at their chosen senior school.
Through learning Art at Vinehall, pupils are given the tools to acquire new skills, to observe and record their surroundings whilst creating Art which is inspirational.
Computing is a key part of Vinehall life for staff and pupils alike. We have a site-wide network with a main ICT room supported by three further computer suites used by pupils across the age-ranges.
Our youngest pupils gain confidence in using computers from the Reception classes upwards, and each pupil has an ICT lesson each week. Computers are widely used in all subject areas to support and enhance pupil learning.
Computing is an increasingly significant skill; our pupils learn to program starting in early years with programmable toys, developing skills with block coding tools and progressing to text-based programming languages as they get older. Solving and making their own games and apps are particularly popular!
eSafety is a most important part of modern life, and educating children and their parents to be eSafe in an ever-changing modern world is vitally important. Our PSHE programme includes regular sessions addressing eSafety and these lessons are underlined and reinforced practically when pupils are using technology in class.
DT is exciting and vibrant area of learning, where we ensure projects and learning opportunities are linked with our thematic curriculum.
The Design Technology Rooms (Carpentry from Year 3 to Year 5) are situated next to the Art Room, creating an exciting hub of activity. It encourages the children to respond creatively to all that is around them and to express themselves through a wide variety of design projects.
The children are encouraged to 'think like an engineer', patiently considering their initial design and showing reflection and resilience when these designs may need further adaption.
Drama features strongly in the life of Vinehall. Currently, children have weekly drama lessons in Year 5, Year 7 and Year 8. In these, they learn to move freely, explore their feelings and express themselves confidently. Topics are selected to enhance the work of the English Department.
There are several full productions staged each year so that all children have the opportunity to perform in costume, on stage and before an audience annually. Years 3 & 4 have a production (with music) in the Lent Term. Years 5 and 6 perform a Senior Play during the Michaelmas term. All Year 8 pupils present a musical production to mark the end of the year and their time at Vinehall, with Year 7 volunteers providing the chorus and a full orchestra as appropriate.
The aim of the English Department is twofold: there is the academic goal of supporting the pupils to achieve their potential in senior school entrance and scholarship exams and there is the commitment of all English teachers to develop the children so that they become articulate and well-read, with vivid imaginations and the ability to appreciate and manipulate language and texts, both orally and on paper.
To achieve this aim, Vinehall School is in the enviable position of being able to mix modern learning theories and teaching practice with more traditional elements to produce enjoyable lessons that both stimulate the pupils and further their learning. In all year groups, learning is based around class readers and themes, reading being at the very core of what we do. Lessons take texts as their starting point and then focus on the technicalities of the language, on analysing texts, with both poetry and prose comprehension exercises, as well as on creative responses in poetry, prose and drama.
Pupils have four hours of English lessons and half an hour of prep a week. Through these we ensure that all pupils encounter and try out for themselves a wide range of different ways of writing, and introduce them to a broad variety of texts, both classic and modern, as well as culture in a much wider sense, cross-curricular links being especially important. Throughout their school life, pupils are encouraged to read, as well as to share their reading with others.
If, by the end of their time at Vinehall, we will have managed to light at least a spark in each pupil, to engender a love for English, the language and the literature, or to nurture creativity, we will have succeeded.
Throughout the school, from Reception to Year 8, we have introduced a thematic approach to learning in Humanities lessons. The themes broadly fall under the headings of Geography and History, and the emphasis is on providing pupils with a sense of place and a sense of purpose. We want pupils’ understanding of contemporary issues to be informed by a coherent narrative that will enable them to appreciate both their place in an ongoing story and the responsibilities they have when it comes to writing the next chapters.
From Reception to Year 4, we have introduced eduu.school, a new thematic primary curriculum developed by Sir Mark Grundy in partnership with Hodder Education. Each eduu.school theme includes a driving question to frame learning and to provide a bigger picture view. For example, for the theme ‘Amazing Islands’, the children will seek to answer the question ‘Are humans improving the world?’
In Years 5 to 8, we have developed bespoke thematic programmes of study. In Years 7 and 8, the themes reach across the curriculum, so, for the theme of Conflict for example, whilst learning about the Crimean War in Humanities lessons the children learn about Florence Nightingale’s Rose Diagrams in Maths, and whilst studying the Boer War, the children read Thomas Hardy’s Drummer Hodge and The Man He Killed in English.
Developing independent study skills is an integral part of Humanities lessons in Years 7 and 8, and at the end of Year 8, the children complete the ISEB Project Qualification. This new qualification requires the children to come up with their own research question and then answer that question, applying the research skills and critical thinking skills they have developed during their final years at Vinehall. The research questions chosen last year included ‘Is space exploration a waste of money?’, ‘Were witch trials a medieval form of discrimination against women?’, and ‘Can money buy you happiness?’
In the old days one just had to learn lots of things and repeat them as required. However, rather than anyone now just learning things for their own sake – in an unconnected, abstract way which is really only for the more able learner – I have found it more effective for everybody if pupils understand what the point and connections of a given task or subject are. In short, why do they have to learn Latin?
The American educationalist B.F. Skinner defined education as what remains when what has been learned has been forgotten. Although there is little “use” for any subject per se – and Latin stands close in the firing line for being “dead” – that just does not matter. With the emphasis so much now on transferable skills, there are few faculties in a pupil which this subject does not seek to stimulate; nor can a pupil progress in this subject without applying those faculties, either. There are links to all the other subjects, too, so there must be something for everyone, surely! The obvious linguistic links to the Romance languages, the breadth of the humanities, the observation and interpretation of scientific data, the logical observations and conclusions reached from following any set of rules, and, above all, memory, must combine as a force for educational good. But the challenge is that it is not served up on a plate. But with a modicum of focus, effort and rigour, much can be achieved and enjoyed. And, it is so rewarding to see the children make those links for themselves, too.
With fewer senior schools demanding Latin, however, there is less inherent pressure on the pupil: they are less and less studying it “for” anything. On the one hand that could be a bad thing in terms of motivation; on the other hand, a good thing, if a subject can be studied for its own worth, links and skills. Many parents have said how they wished they had this opportunity! With the impact and necessity of CE on the wane, too, who knows what is in store? That is less important than the vitality, benefit and rock-like relevance of Classics in this rapidly changing and transitory world. What I do know and firmly believe in is the educational challenge, efficacy and value of this incredible subject.
The PSHEE provision at Vinehall had grown so significantly over the last few years that ‘PSHEE’ no longer encapsulated all that we offer. Consequently, PSHEE at Vinehall has been superseded by a ‘Life Skills’ programme, to better reflect the breadth and character of the content the children are studying.
Life Skills at Vinehall is a hugely important area of the curriculum, focused on embedding knowledge and skills that will enable pupils to flourish in the ‘real world’ once they have moved on from Vinehall. The content of the Life Skills programme ranges from global citizenship and financial literacy to religious understanding, mental and physical health and well-being and relationships and sex education. Our children are also taught how to navigate the online world safely and how to be critical thinkers when looking at online content.
Great emphasis is given to PSHEE at Vinehall from Nursery through to Year 8; not just in the timetabled lessons, but in every area of school life. Helping the children to develop self-awareness and confidence is a vital part of the role of every adult at Vinehall School; everyone contributes to enable each child to develop to meet the social, emotional and academic challenges of school life. There is a continuity of values and expectations from Nursery to Year 8 so that pupils are helped to become independent and to learn responsible behaviour towards those in authority and towards each other.
Winston Churchill’s early encounters with mathematics were not especially positive. In his biography, he recalled that the numbers he was confronted with seemed to be ‘tied into all sorts of tangles and did things to one another which it was extremely difficult to forecast with complete accuracy.’ Much later, when he was at Harrow, Churchill resolved to get to grips with mathematics – he had no choice if he wanted to pass into Sandhurst. The rapid progress he made was in part a consequence of his own single-minded determination, but Churchill gave much of the credit to a particular master at Harrow who convinced him ‘that mathematics was not a hopeless bog of nonsense, and that there were meanings and rhythms behind the comical hieroglyphs’.
The ‘meanings and rhythms’ that Churchill became aware of are fundamental to understanding mathematics. Learning mathematics is primarily about noticing and explaining patterns. At Vinehall, we want children who know that 8 + 7 = 15 to recognise that if they know this simple addition fact they also know the answer to 15 – 8 and 68 + 7 and 80 + 70 and 1500 – 700 and a whole host of related sums. Fundamentally, we want the children to appreciate that mathematics is not a vast collection of discrete and disparate results to be memorised but a web of interrelated and overlapping ideas.
At Vinehall, a mastery approach to learning maths is used throughout the pre-prep and into the prep school. Teaching maths for mastery means that a greater emphasis is placed on children using visuals to aid their understanding of mathematical concepts. Mastery lessons are also structured differently as they begin with an exploratory phase during which children are presented with a problem and given time to investigate the question collaboratively, before coming together as a whole class to take part in a structured discussion.
Utilising a mastery approach, it is our intention at Vinehall to ensure that all children become proficient with the fundamentals of mathematics, preparing them for their future schooling as well as the world beyond. Alongside this aim, it is also hoped that the children will derive pleasure from mathematics and will learn, as George Polya remarked, to ‘experience the tension and enjoy the triumph of discovery’ that solving problems entails.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, throughout the school the prevailing philosophy is that children learn maths by doing maths.
Learning a foreign language is an investment that lasts a lifetime. Critical thinking skills, creativity and a sense of global citizenship are awakened and nurtured. Being able to speak and understand another language is a passport to other cultures and experiences and offers opportunities for fulfilling travel and lasting friendships.
The aim of the Modern Languages Department is to promote an appreciation of other languages and cultures, an improvement in literacy and communication skills and a passion for language learning. The effectiveness of traditional methods is recognised and respected, with the expectation of regular vocabulary and grammar learning, but we also appreciate that children learn in different ways, and we introduce new strategies and resources to ensure that our children are engaged and excited by their language lessons.
French and Spanish at Vinehall are introduced in the Pre-Prep by subject specialists. The children learn through songs, games and rhymes. From a very young age, our children become used to hearing a foreign language and understand that English is not the only means of communication. They are encouraged to listen and repeat what they hear, at first by singing together and then by answering familiar questions in French, pointing, naming and describing objects.
As pupils progress into the Prep School, we consolidate and develop the main points of grammar, whilst expanding the range of vocabulary. Reading and writing skills are introduced in a variety of engaging formats, including sending letters to pen-pals in France. Learning remains energetic, purposeful and fun, making use of a range of materials and methods, including video clips, catchy action songs, classroom games and role-plays. We encourage children to grow in confidence, as they develop strategies towards independent language learning and communication.
From Year 6, children opt between Latin or Spanish, while continuing to study French, taking both languages to Common Entrance in Year 8.
Perhaps the highlight of the Modern Languages curriculum for Vinehall pupils is the Year 7 visit to Normandy. Immersed in French language, history, gastronomic pleasures, activities and culture, they have the opportunity to put into practice the language they have been learning and to make curricular links to History, Geography, Sport and even cooking. They return, without exception, having broadened their horizons and opened another door on life.
Perhaps the highlight of learning French for Vinehall pupils is the week in June in which all of Year 7 travel to Normandy and stay at the Château de la Baudonnière. Immersed in French language, history, gastronomic pleasures, outward bound activities, and culture. They have the opportunity to put into practice the language they have been learning and to make other curricular links to History, Geography, Sport and even cooking. They return, without exception, having broadened their horizons and opened another door on life.
‘Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness and life to everything’ – Plato
Music is at the heart of Vinehall’s daily life. We believe that all children are musical and we seek to unlock the musician in them from their first day at school. The music department has two full time specialist music teachers and all the Prep school children receive weekly class music lessons where they study the history of music and develop their practical skills. There is also a team of fifteen visiting instrumental teachers with whom children can receive specialist training on all the orchestral instruments, guitar and voice, and their development is further supported by orchestras, instrument specific ensembles and chamber groups. All the children sing in one or more of our choirs and the school Carol Service is the choral highlight of the year. They also perform at local hospitals, nursing homes and the Hastings Musical Festival where they have gained some of the highest marks ever awarded. We are very proud of the children’s outstanding achievements and especially our scholars who have achieved awards to Battle Abbey, Benenden, Charterhouse, Eastbourne, Harrow and Tonbridge.
The end of the academic year is traditionally marked by the Year 8 musical and recent performances have included The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls, Annie, Fiddler on the Roof and Return to the Forbidden Planet.
In this busy, impersonal world, music is essential for wellbeing and emotional health. Its early establishment in children is essential for healthy lives and a gift we seek to arm them with for the rest of their lives.
Science is everywhere in today’s world. It is part of our daily lives, from cooking and gardening, to recycling and comprehending the daily weather report, to reading a map and using a computer. Advances in technology are transforming our world at an incredible pace, and our children’s future will surely be filled with further leaps forward we can only imagine. Being ‘science literate’ will no longer be just an advantage but an absolute necessity. We cannot escape from the significance of science in our world.
Perhaps even more important than specific examples of science in our lives are the ways we use scientific thought, method and inquiry to come to our decisions. The process of inquiry is how we find answers and substantiate those answers.In the fields of hard science, the process of inquiry is more direct and finite: take a question; use evidence to form an explanation; connect that explanation to existing knowledge; and communicate that evidence-based explanation. Experimentation based on the scientific method follows a similar course: combine a scientific question with research to construct a hypothesis; conduct experiments to test that hypothesis; evaluate the results to draw conclusions; and communicate those conclusions.
Although inquiry and the scientific method are integral to science education and practice, every decision we make is based on these processes. Natural human curiosity and necessity lead to asking questions (What is the problem?), constructing a hypothesis (How do I solve it?), testing it with evidence and evaluating the result (Did the solution work?), and making future decisions based on that result.
This is problem-solving: using critical thinking and evidence to create solutions and make decisions. Problem-solving and critical thinking are two of the most important skills students learn in school. They are essential to making good decisions that lead to achievement and success during and after school.
Science education is one of the most important subjects in school due to its relevance to students’ lives and the universally applicable problem-solving and critical thinking skills it uses and develops. These are lifelong skills that allow students to generate ideas, weigh decisions intelligently and even understand the evidence behind public policy-making. Teaching technological literacy, critical thinking and problem-solving through science education gives students the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in school and beyond.
Sport at Vinehall plays a vital part of everyday life for a Vinehall pupil. We aim to provide a programme based on inclusivity, enjoyment and performance. We are focused on providing a broad and varied sporting experience for all our girls and boys.
Teams in all but the very youngest age groups compete most successfully in inter-school matches, which take place on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons with the occasional Saturday. Vinehall has an outstanding reputation for sporting excellence, winning medals almost every year at national IAPS events, and many pupils train and compete with county and regional squads.
We ensure that all children are given a chance to represent the school and this usually means there are at least two teams in each year group. Children in Years 3 and 4 are gradually introduced to playing competitive sport in friendly tournaments and matches with schools of similar size. This provides an opportunity for pupils to play in mixed ability teams without over-emphasising the importance of the final result.
There is a main sporting focus each term, with this being augmented by a varied PE curriculum. The pupils have lessons in swimming, basketball, gymnastics, badminton, volleyball, small sided games, tennis, golf, athletics and fitness testing. There are also a number of very popular sports activities that take place during and after school; these include cross country, gymnastics, dance, table tennis and multi-sports.
In the Michaelmas and Lent Terms, the main team games for boys are football, rugby and hockey, and for girls hockey and netball. In the Summer Term, boys and girls play cricket and tennis. Athletics, swimming and gymnastics are also important sports throughout the year, with the teams in these three sports having had great success at national level in recent times.
The pupils at Vinehall have the use of wonderful facilities.
The school has its own nine-hole golf course, extensive playing fields and a floodlit all-weather hockey pitch. There are also four tennis courts, two of which are floodlit, and six netball courts. There is also an indoor sports complex, which includes a sports hall, a gymnastics training hall and an indoor swimming pool. There are indoor cricket nets, as well as facilities for badminton, basketball and judo.
Several specialist coaches in gymnastics, swimming, judo, tennis and dance augment the school’s games-coaching staff.
Sport in Summary
BOYS - Football, Rugby
GIRLS - Hockey, Netball
BOYS - Rugby, Hockey
GIRLS - Netball, Hockey
BOYS - Cricket, Athletics & Tennis
GIRLS - Cricket, Athletics & Tennis
STEM lessons at Vinehall provide the children with opportunities to work creatively and think outside the box.
The children work collaboratively on challenges to find solutions and apply them to their projects.
After testing our designs, we evaluate them and make changes to improve them further. We then explore applications for their creations in the outside world, linking each session to STEM careers.
STEM education is crucial to meet the needs of a changing world, in which we will need critical thinkers for the next generation of innovators. Innovation leads to new processes and products that sustain the economy and provide environmentally and sustainable ways to live.
The children are encouraged by initiatives all year round such as The Earthshot Prize; The Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC; World Space Week; British Science Week and World Oceans Day which act as inspiration for STEM projects in the classroom. In these lessons, children are encouraged to reflect on worldwide issues such as exploring ways to reduce plastic in the oceans and how to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.