14th January 2022


As we return to school for the start of a New Year, the children and staff have continued to reflect on the true value of friendship, and the importance of belonging.  Vinehall promotes many structures which support this; belonging to a small and cohesive class, belonging to a house, each with its own colour and identity, and belonging to a school where everyone is valued and accepted for their individuality.  The children in Pre-Prep all belong to a variety of clubs and to a different “family” table each lunch time.  There was a palpable sense of belonging last Friday as Pre-Prep and many of their family members went for a beautiful winter walk to celebrate that sense of re-connecting with each other after a break.

We have celebrated the beginning of 2022 with a wonderful new intake of children in Pre-Nursery, and the way in which these children have settled so quickly has been a joy to watch.  Children sense when they are safe and that the adults around them genuinely care for their wellbeing, and we are so fortunate at Vinehall to have the most amazing team of Early Years Practitioners who take a collective responsibility for each individual child.  This feeds into the children’s sense of belonging so strongly that after only one day at Vinehall one child said “thank you Lord for Vinehall” in her evening prayers.

The Jigsaw scheme of work we use for PHSE underpins this sense of belonging and brings together personal, social and health education along with emotional literacy, social skills and spiritual development.  At the beginning of each lesson the children are learning to practise mindfulness through the “Calm Me” exercises.  Mindfulness is a vital tool for life, helping the children to regulate emotion and build emotional resilience.  The exercise of listening to the chime aims to enhance focus and concentration.  In each session the children love to pass around Jigsaw Jo, who is our talking object.  This is a useful distancing technique and helps the children to work with potentially sensitive issues without asking them directly.

Year 2 are learning about “Healthy Me” in their Jigsaw sessions, and this week were considering the things we need more of or less of to help keep us healthy.  Within half an hour the children had covered the whiteboard with great ideas about this topic, ranging from eating less burgers and sweets to doing more exercise and drinking more water.  We then moved onto the thorny subject of motivation!  As adults we know that motivation plays an important part in whether we achieve our goals or not.  I look forward to unpicking this more with the children in our Jigsaw lesson next week!

10th December 2021

Awe and wonder abounds in Pre-Prep

The last week in Pre-Prep has been action-packed, with treats and delights for the children, and Thursday was no exception. The morning started with the children making their Christingles, using an orange to represent the world, a candle to show us that Jesus was the light of the world, the red ribbon to symbolise the love and blood of Christ and the four sticks to show the seasons of Spring, Autumn, Summer and Winter.  The part which the children enjoy most of all is, of course, the sweets on the sticks!

Christingle, from a word of German origin, Christkindl, means “Little Christ Child”; how fitting that we used our very own “Children’s Chapel” to celebrate the service.  Joff Powis was there to welcome Nursery and Kindergarten into the beautiful Chapel, where the candles on the altar were pre-lit, adding to the atmosphere of awe and wonder as the children sat and took in their stunning surroundings. Although the Vinehall Children’s Chapel was only built in the 1970s, it feels much older, and is an exceptionally special place for both children and adults to be able to gather and reflect.  Due to the small size of the chapel, Joff kindly took three separate services for Pre-Prep so that every child was able to make and then use their Christingle.

Before I sign off for 2021, I want to say one big thank you to the children, without whom everything we do would be superfluous! Christmas is for children, and the children at Vinehall are truly wonderful; compassionate, kind, tolerant and welcoming.  As I come to the end of my first term, I need to say that I have enjoyed working with each and every child in Pre-Prep.  I have watched as they have become more confident with me over the course of our music lessons, assemblies and productions and more able to voice their opinions and beliefs.  I wish them all, as I wish you, a very happy Christmas and New Year, and the chance to recharge and rest before we begin the new term afresh.

3rd December 2021

It’s a Miracle

Christmas festivities got off to a joyous start this week when Pre-Prep performed their Christmas nativity entitled ‘It’s A Miracle!’  It really was a miracle as all the hard work, excitement and last-minute nerves came together to produce a wonderful performance of this modern take on the most famous story known to mankind.

The two narrators played by Rufus G and Oliver G wove the story together beautifully and delivered a high quality of narrative throughout.  The main characters of Archie and Bella were played brilliantly by Albert P and Gabriella G.  The angel Gabriel, played by Raffy H, had the audience enthralled by the spirited and musical interpretation of his ethereal role, whilst Heidi R led the celestial host of angels with conviction and aplomb.  Meanwhile Coralie F was word perfect for her demanding role of Mary, taking it all in her stride and acting with poise and self-assurance throughout.  Lawrence LW played a wonderful supporting role as Joseph, whilst Ben O was aptly cast as the kind innkeeper.

A special mention must go to the three Kings, brilliantly played by Caspar K (as Caspar!), Jonty C as Balthasar and Felix E as Melchior.  One of my personal highlights was the interplay between them using the mobile phone to relay that they would not be able to get home for dinner just yet!  The modern twist in our story was provided by the Holy Holygram, beautifully played by Rupert F and Arya E.

We have had such fun learning the songs over the past few weeks and it was just wonderful to see the Pre-Prep children ‘come to life’ as their parents came and provided a much needed live and very appreciative audience.  Reception and Year One performed their lines so confidently that Mrs Alderson was seen rubbing her hands with glee at all the talent bursting out of Pre-Prep which will percolate its way up into Prep school productions in years to come!

I am hugely grateful to all the Pre-Prep teachers and teaching assistants who have worked so hard with the children and behind the scenes to make ‘It’s A Miracle!’ such a success.  We look forward to releasing a Vimeo recording of our production this afternoon.

26th November 2021

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.” These are the wise words of Dr Seuss in “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!”

Pre-Prep had a magical journey into the world of beautiful books this week when independent bookseller Rosie Hill set up the most enticing display at our annual book fair. Pupils from Nursery up to Year 2 enjoyed choosing from the wide variety of books on offer. These ranged from classics such as “The Secret Garden” by Florence Hodgson Burnett to recently released novels by Philip Ardagh. There was an impressive range of non-fiction books, which appealed to the inquisitive minds of Pre-Prep.

The books ordered by children will be delivered to school within the next couple of weeks and I know that the appeal of their books will lead them into the wonderful world foretold by Dr Seuss.

The Festive season truly got underway in Pre-Prep this week with the arrival of a spaceship and the Pre-Prep mice. The spaceship has been fashioned entirely from recycled material, and this impressive design is the work of Andy Rennie who works in Pre-Prep. The children have loved looking at the display, which comes complete with an original 1936 Ford model T car.

Finally, this is the first weekend of The Christmas Tree Festival at St Mary’s Church in Battle. Our wonderful creation was assembled yesterday by Lynn Datchler and Lucy Curtis, using the fabulous creations made by the After School Club. You can go along and see all of the trees which have been decorated by local groups, organisations and schools. It is open from 10.30am-6.00pm on Saturday and 2.00-4.00pm on Sunday.  Please do vote for our Vinehall entry!

19th November 2021

This year’s Anti-Bullying Week has the theme of ‘One Kind Word’. After the last year of isolation, kindness is more important than ever. Our Odd Sock Monday was a brilliant way of starting our Anti-Bullying Week in Pre-Prep, and the children wore their socks with pride! As a way of encouraging the children to be mindful of this theme throughout the week, I am running a colouring competition in which the children need to design and colour their own pair of odd socks. I have had so many entries of wonderful designs that the judging is not going to be easy, but I am looking forward to announcing each class winner in our celebration assembly.

It is critical that we encourage future generations to always spread kindness and compassion to others. I have worked at many schools during my teaching career, and so I feel I can say with confidence that the children at Vinehall are exceptionally kind and caring towards one another. Our PSHE focus this term is ‘Celebrating Difference’ and we have been learning that we are all unique. It’s the differences between us that make life interesting!  However, sometimes too much uniqueness can start to make us feel uncomfortable or isolated. Thus, the brilliance of ‘One Kind Word’ is the simplicity in which we can show compassion and acceptance to our peers and our fellow human beings.  Year 2 started a kindness box last term, in which the children could message each other with kind thoughts and words. We always end our PSHE session by looking in the box to see if there are any new messages. How fitting it was then that during our anti-bullying session on Wednesday the message from one Year 2 to his class simply said this: “I think everyone is a winner in one way”. This message demonstrates inclusivity, support for others and most definitely encapsulates the message behind anti-bullying week.

12th November 2021

Our week started with a special assembly about climate change and COP26, and it was a pleasure to welcome Ms Linney from the Prep School to present this.  We learnt that our planet is four and a half billion years old and the children were all very engaged in discussions about how to help our planet and reduce global warming. Evie explained this brilliantly by telling us that “pollution goes up into the air and it makes our planet hotter”. Florence suggested that “we can re-use the things we have to make something else”, while Arya proposed that we should stop using our cars so much. It was clear that many children are already actively involved in making little changes to save the planet, such as turning off lights, reducing water consumption and even reducing their meat consumption.

Meanwhile, our Eco Warriors formed their very own COP26, which started last Friday and will conclude this week. The children asked to turn the lights off to save electricity while they were holding their conference, and each warrior decided on a different country to represent. They debated long and hard about what their country could do to help.

One of the joys of being Head of Pre-Prep is the opportunity to empower the children in understanding how to look after themselves and our theme for next week is no exception to this. National Anti-Bullying week starts on Monday 15th November, and we will be taking part in a number of activities over the week starting with Odd Sock Monday. On the 15th November we would like all the children to come to school wearing odd socks! The day sends an important message to pupils that they should be allowed to be themselves, free from bullying and helps us celebrate Anti-Bullying Week in a fun and positive way.

5th November 2021

Awe and Wonder:

‘Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.’  – Plato

The Nativity Season is well and truly upon us, and the pressure is on to teach the children nine songs and a lengthy script in the brief framework of five weeks. Therefore, with the music playing merrily in the background as I attempt to coax the songs into my memory, I find myself reflecting on why we do it!

For some people the act of turning the clocks back with the darker evenings brings a feeling of melancholy. For others, it heralds the beginning of the magic of the run up to Christmas, and I have a sneaky feeling that I am not the only music teacher who feels a tingle of excitement as the Christmas story unfolds in front of me through the awe and wonder experienced by the children. But why is the effort spent in learning the text and the music worthy of such a large chunk of curriculum time?

The value of teaching nursery rhymes to children has been widely documented. Nursery rhymes increase vocabulary, help children assimilate language, and are a wonderful introduction to poetry. Equally, irrefutable evidence shows that children who have been exposed to music from an early age have a better working memory, enhanced cognitive skills and increased powers of concentration. Furthermore, children learn that success comes from effort (hard work), deliberate practice and perseverance. Surely this is enough to convince even the most hardened sceptic of the worthiness of the Nativity?

But there is more than this. Music is all around us. It is the soundtrack to our lives. Music connects us through people and places in our ever-changing world. It is creative, collaborative, celebratory and challenging. At Vinehall, music brings people together through the shared endeavour of whole-school singing and through the love of listening to friends and fellow pupils performing. The sheer joy of music-making feeds the soul of our school community, enriching each child while strengthening the sheer bonds of support and trust. So, it turns out there are many reasons why we do our Nativity. Now where did I put that script?!

15th October 2021

Sunday morning saw an assorted crew of happy children, chatting adults and dogs of all shapes and sizes set off on a ramble around the beautiful Vinehall grounds. The sun shone, the cobwebs glistened in the dew of the crisp Autumn morning, and Heidi rang the bell to set us on our way! Having Mr and Mrs Coles and the boarders join us added to the convivial atmosphere of a relaxed Sunday morning stroll, and I am delighted to announce that we raised £375 for Children in Need, thus raising 187% of our original total! Thank you so much to all of you who joined us and/or donated so generously. The children have most definitely fulfilled the school motto of ‘To Do our Best for the Benefit of Others’.

Last week we also had the chance to learn about how life can throw unexpected challenges when we were fortunate to be visited by Izzy Everest.  Izzy is the daughter of our judo coach Paul, and at the tender age of 15 is twice European Champion.  Izzy used the afternoon of her INSET Day to come and talk to the children about her life as a Judo Champion with cerebral palsy.  Izzy explained to Pre-Prep how she does not let anything get in her way but simply adapts the way that she participates; for example, when she had recently abseiled 13 floors down the building of St Thomas’ Hospital in London to raise money for other children.  Izzy then treated the children to a powerful display of Judo on the mats we had laid out.  I suspect we will have some more children join our after school Judo club next term!

Our last Pre-Prep pal to feature this term was Maisie Monkey, and in assembly on Monday we thought about how it feels to try new things, and discussed what we can do when we feel frightened.  The disposition of resilience was ably borne out on Tuesday morning when Coralie F, Arya E and Gabriella G stood up on the stage in the Theatre and recited their poem in front of an audience all older than themselves.  They were frightened, but they felt the fear and did it!  Not only did they recite their poem beautifully, they went on to win their section, which was for Juniors from 6-9 years old.  We send them our congratulations and feel very proud of their achievement.  What a wonderful way to end the term!



8th October 2021

As the weeks go by and we head towards half term with increasing alacrity, a wonderful feeling of cohesiveness has descended on Pre-Prep. The children are now completely comfortable and integrated in their new classes and year groups and any initial reticence has been left far behind.

My highlight of the week was being able to celebrate Harvest Festival as a whole school community, with the sense of togetherness and occasion which that brings. Far from being overwhelmed by the occasion, our youngest children sang their song about the “Big, Red Combine Harvester” beautifully, not only remembering all their actions, but also all their words.

Year 1 and Year 2 gave a sterling performance of “He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands” and the whole of Pre-Prep conducted themselves beautifully from start to finish. I could not have been prouder of them!

Thank you for the generous donations, which helped us to make a bountiful Harvest display; everything has been taken to Dom’s Food Mission and will be distributed to those in need.

This week we held the semi-finals of the ‘Poetry by Heart’, where we were treated to very talented performances by Year 2. Lawrence LW gave a flawless performance of ‘What the Giant had for Dinner’ by Ian Macmillan and Oliver G made us all laugh with his humorous and confident rendition of ‘My Sunday Socks’ by Dr Dobson. But it was the choral speaking trio of Coralie F, Gabriella G and Arya E who won the vote of the judges, with their excellent performance of ‘The Sea’ by John Foster. We wish them every success as they go forward to represent Year 2 in the Finals next week.

I hope to see some of you on Sunday morning as we enjoy our Countryfile ramble for Children in Need. Let’s hope for a glorious, crisp Autumnal morning!

1st October 2021

As the summer draws to a close and our thoughts turn to the shorter days and cooler weather of Autumn, it’s time to pause and give thanks for the Harvest. The children in Pre-Prep have been busy preparing a range of Harvest songs for our school service next Tuesday, and you may have already been treated to a rendition of “Big, Red Combine Harvester” complete with actions! Year 1 and 2 have been learning several songs, including one about the Harvest Moon. We found out that this is so called because the moon is particularly bright and rises early, thus allowing the farmers to extend their working day and gather their crops by the light of the extra-bright moon.

Our Harvest service will provide us with the opportunity to think about others and fulfil our school motto of “To Do our Best for the Benefit of Others.” We are looking forward to creating a vibrant Harvest display with the gifts of food and produce that the children will bring in next week, and the appearance of a huge pumpkin as our centrepiece caused a buzz of excitement yesterday!

Working collaboratively and being a good listener is the theme we have been exploring this week using our Pre-Prep Pal Billy Bee. We explored how Billy works hard with his friends, and I have seen some wonderful examples of this during the week. In Reception I enjoyed watching Max, Rose, Jesse, Henry SC, Henry P and Tashfeen working beautifully together to make a large model village. Later, I enjoyed a tea party with Coralie, Millie, Florence and Max, who displayed good team work. Collaboration and team spirit has also been abundant in Year 2 this week as the children have worked together to learn their poems. We will look forward to the first round of their competition.

24th September 2021

Monday morning bought a flurry of activity to Pre-Prep as our Eco Warriors ably sorted out the rather large pile of rubbish which had mysteriously accumulated in the hall over the weekend. Well-versed in how to recycle, the Year 2 Warriors quickly sorted the rubbish into the correct recycling bins, and order was restored! This set the tone for our recycling week of “Step it Up!” which ended with our playgroup making their very own recycled paper! We are so proud of the passion and awareness the children have shown this week for recycling and caring for the Earth.  I overheard one Eco Warrior saying to another “We don’t use any plastic in my house, and we decorate brown paper to make it into wrapping paper.” Keep up the amazing work Pre-Prep!

This week Pre-Prep have also been learning about the process of democracy. We all listened carefully as members of Year 2 each gave a short speech, outlining why they should be elected to stand on one of the three whole school committees for the forthcoming academic year. We then gave each child a voting pebble which they placed in the bowl next to the photo of the candidate for whom they wished to vote. Even our two-year-olds exercised their right to vote! After counting the votes, we are delighted to announce our new committee members!

Our Eco representatives will be Coralie F, Arya E and Oliver G. Our School Council members will be Gabriella G and Albert P. The Academic Committee will be served by Heidi R and Felix E. We look forward to supporting them as they begin their exciting new roles representing Pre-Prep in the whole school community.

Nicky Whittaker