From the Head

W/E  6th March 2020

The Vinehall community’s resilience has once again been tested this week.  My great appreciation goes out to those who have remained calm and trusting in the advice received from our many professional bodies in response to the threat of the Coronavirus.  Never before have hand washing, soap and the reciting of ‘Happy Birthday’ been grouped together with such drive and collective responsibility.

Every effort will be made to ensure business is as usual in the closing weeks of this term.  Whilst there is great uncertainty elsewhere, we will endeavour to display a common sense approach and our impressive community spirit in ensuring the children’s seamless education and carefree joie de vivre.

W/E 28th February 2020

To add a little Vinehall twist: What will you take up for Lent?

The planning and scheming of many a secretive act of kindness was encouraged this week in Mrs Payne’s assembly.  Lenten Friends will be popping up when one least expects and hopefully most needs it.  The children and staff have been randomly paired off … ‘Wow, how kind! Who could it be that is looking out for me this Lent?!’ One of our favourite Vinehall traditions is very much up and running.

Exploits we no longer need to keep secret, however, are the incredible number of Scholarships and Awards won so far this year. With more opportunities still to come in academic assessments next term, the count is already up to a highly impressive 22!
A huge well done from us all to:

Willow A Sedbergh Sport Scholarship
Leo A Battle Abbey Music Scholarship
Milly D Bede’s Academic Scholarship
Margot F Benenden Art Scholarship
Noah G Eastbourne Drama Scholarship
Mary K-B Eastbourne Forbes Wastie All Rounder Scholarship
Freddie L Battle Abbey All-Rounder Scholarship
Eloise L-H Stonar Academic & Equestrian Scholarships
Billy M Eastbourne Drama Scholarship
Zuriel N Harrow Athletics Scholarship; Music Exhibition
Tonbridge Music Scholarship; Cowdrey Scholarship for sport
Isabelle S Eastbourne Forbes Wastie All Rounder Scholarship
Basil S Bede’s Music Scholarship; Cricket Exhibition
Eastbourne Music Scholarship
Thomas S King’s Canterbury Gower Sports Scholarship
Gryff W Eastbourne Double Music and Sport Scholarships
Tonbridge Music Exhibition

W/E 14th February 2020

Storms, floods, power-cuts – what adventure! Thank you all for your understanding on Monday by keeping many of your children at home.

Commendably, the children have continued about their business with purpose and calm, despite the strong gales up here on Vinehall hill.  Many tests and practice exams have been sat, nursery rhymes shared, fixtures braved, competitions entered and digital presentations made. The children all deserve a wonderful rest … perhaps the onesies will stay on for a few extra days!

Once re-energised, Paul Borrows and I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible for the Eco-Committee’s kitchen garden regeneration project on the Thursday of half-term.  We can only hope that Storm Dennis will have moved on by then.

W/E 7th February 2020

Clear skies and fresh mornings could not have framed our pastoral theme more elegantly over the past few days. ‘Clean air, clean minds’ has been the focus in raising our awareness and approach to self-esteem and children’s mental health.

Numerous Terry Tortoise awards will be given out on Monday to children who have shown considerable resilience in and around school. To try, try and never give up is easier said than done – well done!

W/E 31st January 2020

More than usual this week, visitors commented on the warmth and joy that our children so naturally radiate.  This je ne sais quoi is in fact everything, as it demonstrates the confidence, the purpose and the belonging that we hope to provide for every character in every child.

Another illustration of this unassuming Vinehall confidence came on Monday at our assembly.  We were all truly impressed by Dexter B’s poise and courage as he spoke about his family’s loss, now two years ago.  His selfless ambition to present and encourage others to support SUDC is an inspiration to all.

W/E 24th January 2020

Secret Santa brought me bamboo socks.  Bamboo socks?!  How had I not heard of these before?! Since then, I have been discussing similarly ingenious initiatives with the children, discovering that many already knew so much more than I – such as swimming costumes made from plastic bottles and carpets made from recycled fishing nets.

These positives were highlighted this week in Assembly, as we continue to focus on making a difference by reducing what we use.  Children have been tasked to come up with their own brilliant ideas on how to reduce, upcycle or even invent.  Please do support this challenge by encouraging them to share their ideas and their eco-efforts with you at home.

W/E 17th January 2020

Taking responsibility and being courageous in all that we do have been our themes this week, resulting in many a mention for Maisie Monkey.  As always there are too many examples and children to mention; however I’d like to mention two highlights of my week:

Milly D and Izzie S bravely stood in front of the school at Assembly to launch the new paper and soft plastic recycle bins.  Not only did they promote this whole school responsibility superbly well, but they also introduced the Eco-committee’s Spring project of Ecobrick vegetable beds.

The second memorable Maisie Monkey courageous moment was on entering the Library building one afternoon with visitors, where we were greeted by the most wonderful young ambassador.  Hannah Q immediately stood up, asked the parents and their daughter if they were enjoying their tour, before chatting away with confidence and charm.  The parents were bowled over at how polite and eloquent she was, even asking us if Hannah worked for Admissions and whether we had planted her there for the tour!

W/E 10th January 2020

Three days in and it is as if we have never been away! The children have slotted straight back into their routine with the expected boundless energy.

As with every new term, I ask the children to consider how they will make the very most of each and every opportunity available to them.  Taking responsibility is the opening pastoral theme and my challenge to them over the weekend is to settle on some aims for the term.

So much to look forward to!

W/E 6th December 2019

Where do you go to find peace?

Who do you spend time with when you want to find peace?

Although we are all very different, the children were unanimous in their responses that to feel at peace, they needed to find a calm, happy and safe place to be. Friendships were also high in importance and the children were asked to consider whether they are radiators or drains to their friends.

I look forward to seeing everyone at Salehurst church tomorrow, where I know you will experience the great warmth and full cheer of the Vinehall community.

W/E 29th November 2019

‘Sorry’.  ‘I am so sorry, I didn’t mean it’.  ‘Forgive me’.  ‘Let me make it up to you.’

There could be no better week for the children to explore the theme of forgiveness, as their collective tolerance and teamwork were put to the ultimate test in a multitude of choir and play rehearsals and performances.  For me, the greatest quality of all is the ability to show humility in a time of considerable pressure and high emotion, and so I spoke about the art of saying ‘sorry’ in our assembly on Monday.

Often known as the hardest word, my message focussed on the three helpful stages to a genuine apology.  Firstly, you must reflect in order to feel sorry for what has been said or done.  Secondly, you must find the courage and articulation required to say sorry.  Lastly, you should think about the manner in which you conduct yourself from that point onwards; proving that you are sorry.

‘The most important part of you will always be what’s on the inside.  You will make mistakes, everyone does, but that’s why pencils have rubbers.’  (Amy Hughes, writer.)

W/E 22nd November 2019

As the children count down the days to Christmas, it is certainly not the advent of the end of term that should be at the forefront of their minds.  (No, neither is it the madness of many of the meddling manifestos!)  It is their preparation for the enormous magic of the next few weeks of school.  Heads down and seat belts on for what is anticipated to be the best run-in ever!

Diaries at the ready as, even though we are in the pastoral theme of forgiveness, I do feel that however tolerant and forgiving our children may strive to be, they would simply not forgive you for missing any of the following:

Watch Dance Week; Girls’ Hockey v Bede’s; Boys’ Rugby v Dulwich Prep; The Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 Play; Boys’ Rugby v Claremont; Girls’ Netball v Claremont; ‘The Battle for Narnia’ (a double-dosing of C S Lewis with ‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ followed by ‘The Horse and His Boy’); a Balcony Concert at The Conquest; Girls v The Mead or Mayfield; Boys’ Rugby v Claremont; The Carol Service; the Nursery and Kindergarten Nativity; Boys’ Rugby v Saint Ronan’s; and the Pre-Prep Christmas Assembly!

I look forward to seeing you on many an occasion!

W/E 15th November 2019

As we enter production season, we very much look forward to our C S Lewis double bill of ‘The Horse and His Boy’ and ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’.

“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but their own.”

And the magic of Narnia links well to the Anti-bullying week that has just passed, which has seen much discussion on how each child must control their own story.  Easier said than done of course; however, each of us can focus on our role in achieving a collective harmony and bring about the warmth of Spring in ours and others’ lives.  Our children have responded brilliantly to this and Vinehall flourishes.

We all love a great story, especially those where good may struggle before it prevails.  Please join us in the Chaplin Theatre in just under two weeks to enjoy our victory over the White Witch of Winter!

W/E 8th November 2019

The second half of the term kicks off with the two parallel pastoral themes of ‘dissent’ and ‘anti-bullying’. My challenge to the children in this week’s assembly was to pull together, to be supportive and to show unlimited kindness and tolerance in all that they do. I have asked them to be bright, warm and colourful in character – each of them adding to the whole-community picture of positivity and charitable spirit.

It is a time to step out of the shadows; it is a time to be heard; and a time to do your best for the benefit of others.

W/E 18th October 2019

Following the courageous and wonderfully executed ‘Eco’ presentation on Monday by three of our senior warriors – Milly D, Freda H and Izzie S – I would like to challenge the school over the half term break to make a difference.

Every small effort in each one of our homes will surely go a long way.  As our girls reminded us: How could we save on energy? How could we cut down on our use of plastic? Could we compost and recycle more?

I look forward to hearing of the children’s ideas and efforts on their return.

Have a wonderful half term break!

W/E 11th October 2019

‘Is it hard to be really good?’

A wonderful and deeply searching question posed by one of our 7 year olds to our visiting Olympic gold medallist on Tuesday.

Helen Richardson-Walsh’s response was so refreshingly natural – ‘Yes, I suppose it is hard.  You see, it takes a long time to become good.’

Inspirational advice and a reminder that our children will not just happen upon success, but will need to put in the long, hard graft and will need to experience the many disappointments and failures along the way.

In the instant society that our children are growing in today, we need to remind them that it is ‘OK to be slow’ and it is ‘Good to wait’.

After all, the tiny seed knew that in order to grow it needed to be dropped in the dirt, covered in darkness and struggle to reach the light.

W/E 4th October 2019

With the Harvest Festival around the corner, we certainly have so much for which to be thankful; not least of course for our Grandparents, whom I look forward to welcoming to Vinehall on Thursday.

The clear message to our children this week from David Chaplin, former Headmaster and founder of Rwanda Aid, was to look to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves.  Let us all use our skills to participate in charitable events this Autumn, just as Clara F has done in completing her triathlon.

A reminder that the Conker Competition will be starting soon, so get out and about to collect your stash over the weekend!

W/E 27th September 2019

Despite the poor role-models and shenanigans in Westminster at present, you will be pleased to hear that democracy is alive and well within Vinehall.  Over the past couple of Tuesdays we have held hustings and elections for our House Captains, where candidates were tasked to deliver an election speech and where every child made their vote.  The results of the votes are now in and the following will receive their titles and badges at the full school assembly on Monday.

Ashton – Mary K-B and Curtis Y

Paxton –   Boude I and Dexter B

Rushton – Lara S

Saxton –   Azilis de la T and Billy M

May the House rivalry continue in earnest under such fine young leaders.

Talking of fierce competition, I am thoroughly looking forward to seeing you all here tomorrow afternoon at our biennial Pet Show extravaganza!

W/E 20th September 2019

Ahead of our fortnight on a pastoral theme of Rivalry, I have been asked where I stand on the subject of competition within our school.  I replied that if we as a school were ever to dampen the competitive spirits within our children, we would not be best preparing them for their futures. Fundamental to the personal development of a child’s character and self-confidence, is a carefully managed balance between seeking success and building resilience.

At Vinehall, it is our responsibility to encourage an ethos of positive, cooperative and modest competition.  Our children will only reach their potential if they are to experience challenge and healthy competition along the way.  Therefore, and although not wishing to bring this wonderful late summer spell to an end, I ask the children to keep an eye out for their nearest Horse Chestnut trees – not long now until the Autumn battles can commence!

W/E 6th September

The blend of excitement and apprehension on a first day of a school year will ever inspire.  Our new staff were quick to comment on the happiness, warmth, insatiable energies and unifying camaraderie. The children’s return has been a sensation and I know that once any apprehension has settled, the excitement will remain, allowing for limitless opportunities to be enjoyed.

Whilst the children are listing what is new to them this year, I have challenged them to approach these changes with open minds, a have a go attitude and an awareness of how they can support others who find new starts more difficult.  ‘Pro alis optimum agere’.

I was delighted to see so many at the coffee morning on Thursday and look forward to catching up with your thoughts and news over the coming weeks.

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