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  • Embracing the Heart of Learning: The Power of School Libraries

    Published 11/03/24, by Debbie Wren

    Amidst the daily bustle of activity, the hum of eager minds and the purposeful shuffle of young feet, lie sanctuaries of knowledge and inspiration – our school libraries. Beyond their quiet exterior, they stand as beacons of learning, havens where children embark on journeys of exploration, discovery, and growth. In an age dominated by screens and distractions, libraries offer a refuge from the constant clamour of technology, fostering an environment conducive to deep focus and reflection.

    More than just repositories of books; they are gateways to new worlds, offering a rich tapestry of resources to fuel the fires of curiosity. From the crisp pages of classic literature to the boundless realms of digital databases, our children soon realise that our libraries open doors to endless possibilities, inviting them to delve deeper into subjects they are passionate about and often explore new horizons beyond a classroom's walls. Our senior library certainly serves as a learning hub within our community, where collaborative projects and study groups share dialogue and exchange enriching educational experiences together.

    As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of education, we must not overlook the invaluable role of a school library. At Vinehall they are the beating heart of learning. In their embrace, our pupils find not only the tools to succeed academically but also the inspiration to soar far beyond the school environment.

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  • How steady are our children able to hold their moral compasses?

    Published 20/11/23, by Debbie Wren

    'If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs ...' Rudyard Kipling

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  • The importance of outdoor learning

    Published 18/09/23, by Debbie Wren
    ‘And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul…’ – John Muir We should need no reminders of how beneficial outdoor learning can be. It is time to position our schools as beacons of environmental education
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  • How to overcome back to school anxiety

    Published 11/09/23, by Dan MacDonnell

    01 September 2023: While many approach the new school year with anticipation for the good things to come, for some children the prospect of returning to school after an extended period can be daunting.

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  • Play is serious learning

    Published 12/06/23, by Debbie Wren

    12 June 2023: 

    Play is serious learning. Play is an essential part of a child's development and wellbeing. It not only brings joy and fun into their lives but also plays a crucial role in their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional growth. Our generous ‘break times’ are essential features in our balanced and fulfilling school days.  

    Through play, our children interact with others from all age-groups, providing opportunities for them to develop social skills and build relationships. Play allows for cooperation and negotiation, which are essential skills for building healthy relationships and functioning in a social setting.  

    "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning.
    But for children, play is serious learning. Play is the work of childhood." - Fred Rogers

    Children need to express and regulate their emotions. Play allows them to explore different feelings, roles, and scenarios, helping them to develop empathy, self-awareness, and emotional intelligence.  

    Play nurtures a child's imagination and creativity, allowing them to think outside the box, explore new ideas, and engage in pretend play. It encourages them to develop their own narratives and explore various perspectives, which fosters their cognitive and emotional growth. 

    In our safe and supportive environment, we are able to step back and let the children play. Off they run, to explore and feel free. 

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  • Every Child Can Thrive

    Published 02/05/23, by Debbie Wren

    2 May 2023: 

    In today's fast-paced world, it is easy for schools to get lost in the whirlwind of daily activity, urgently pulling and encouraging children onwards and upwards. However, it is important to remember that every child is unique and exceptional in their own way. One of the most important ways to ensure that each child has a chance to thrive is to focus on the individual child. This means paying attention to their strengths, interests, and abilities, and creating an environment that supports and nurtures these qualities. The very best schools will provide this individual attention.

    For example, if a child is particularly interested in music, it is important to provide opportunities for them to explore and develop their talents in this area. Similarly, if a child has a natural talent for maths and science, it is important to provide opportunities for them to explore and develop these skills. This could include advanced maths and science classes or within specific clubs and activities.

    It is also important to remember that each child has their own unique learning style and pace. Some children may learn best through hands-on activities, while others may learn best through visual aids or talks. By providing a variety of learning opportunities, we can ensure that every child has a chance to learn in a way that works best for them.

    Creating a personalised learning experience for each child not only helps them to thrive, but it also helps to build their self-esteem and confidence. When children feel valued and supported, they are more likely to take risks, try new things, and achieve their goals.

    ‘The number one priority is to ensure that a child is happy and their needs are being met.’

    Further reading: How to tell if your child is thriving at school | Muddy Stilettos

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    Published 16/03/23, by Juniper Education

    16th March 2023

    “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.” J. M. Barrie 

    Confidence is an essential foundation from which children will navigate through life’s challenges, build healthy relationships, express their views and find their place in the world.  

    A confident child might be willing to take risks and try new things. They might speak up in class or in social situations, sharing their ideas and opinions with others. They might also be more willing to ask questions and seek help when they need it, knowing that they have the ability to learn and grow. Vinehall understands that teachers and parents should praise their children’s efforts and not just their achievements. Children who feel appreciated for their hard work are more likely to develop confidence. 

    A confident child might also be comfortable with making mistakes and failures. They understand that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process, and that they can learn from their failures and improve for the future. Vinehall understands that teachers and parents should encourage their children to take risks and try new things. Even if they fail, they will learn valuable lessons that will help them succeed in the future. 

    A confident child might also have a positive attitude and outlook on life. They might be more resilient in the face of challenges or setbacks, and they might be able to bounce back quickly from difficult situations. Vinehall understands that teachers and parents should be positive role models for their children. They should demonstrate confidence in their own abilities and show their children how to handle challenges and setbacks. 

    Vinehall invests considerable time and energy in fostering confidence in their children by providing them with a supportive and nurturing environment, encouraging them to take risks, and being positive role models. Through this focused approach, children can develop the confidence they need to succeed and thrive. 

    “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” J.K. Rowling

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    Published 01/03/23, by Juniper Education

    23rd January 2023

    As we head into a new year and many of us take time to reflect on how to gain a greater balance in our lives, it is a good time to consider how well-positioned small prep schools are to provide the balanced education our children need.

    All good schools teach a wide spectrum of subjects, promote a broad range of knowledge and skills and allow children to discover areas of interest.  However, it is only the very best schools that can achieve a successful balance.

    As Sam Sutton-Reid, Head of Curriculum Managers at Pearson, wrote: The ‘balanced’ bit is about combining the skills and knowledge, the technical with the non-technical, the academic with the creative and the stretch with the accessible.

    There is little argument that a broad and balanced education is best, but the pressures around regular testing and assessment continue to hamper many schools from creating the freedom in their curriculum to achieve a balance. A skills-based curriculum which can focus on supporting the learning dispositions of each individual child must be celebrated.  After all, once the knowledge learned has been forgotten, what is left? It is all about the skills and the confidence and courage instilled in our pupils to know when and how to use these skills effectively.

    For school leaders this is where a child’s personal development is all important.  It is the bespoke attention we can give to each individual child across a wide range of skills which builds resilience and an openness to learning. Every child can be celebrated as they become creative and critical thinkers able to flourish and excel as modern global citizens.

    Joff Powis – Head of Vinehall School

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    Published 07/02/23, by Juniper Education

    7th February 2023

    I am a huge advocate of the 13+ model and feel it necessary, more than ever, to sing from the roof tops of the incredible opportunities open to a senior prep school child.

    The argument I would like to share is that our children in Years 7 & 8 are in a very privileged position, benefitting enormously from being at the top of the teaching and learning pyramid.  The opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond will never be afforded to them in quite the same way again, leaving the final two years in a Prep School as surely the best two years of their life in an educational establishment.

    Children are given responsibilities, having the chance to demonstrate leadership qualities and becoming role models to younger children.  Older prep children enjoy and benefit from the symbiotic relationship with younger prep children who look up to them, with respect, admiration and aspiration.  The way older children employ kindness and empathy has a material effect on this, reminding them of their own experiences as one of the younger ones and guiding them as they develop a firm blueprint of how to behave to fellow humans.  This innate responsibility and maturity is without doubt what the senior schools shout about when our pupils move on to them.

    Children who stay on at their Prep School until 13 are ready to move on to a new and bigger environment.  They have discovered their interests and talents in all spheres, they are more equipped to move on to face the challenges of a Senior School environment. Children at 13 are more confident in making new friendships as they are more secure in themselves due to the responsibilities and self-assurance they have been given in the senior years at Prep School level.

    We are rightly more aware of mental health than ever before. Years 7 & 8 is the age at which brain adolescence really begins and is without doubt a time of much worry and stress. Whilst your child is happy and understood, surrounded by people who know them really well and by the rich variety of opportunities on offer at Prep School, they are in the very best environment to develop their social-emotional skills and to prepare themselves for senior school life.

    Joff Powis – Head of Vinehall School

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    Published 16/01/23, by Debbie Wren

    How to overcome back to school anxiety

    While many approach the New Year with target-setting and aspirations for the good things to come, for some children, the prospect of returning to school after a holiday can be daunting. Back-to-school anxiety it very common and understandable. Throughout holidays, children settle into home routines and, for many, the thought of early mornings, constant socialisation and high levels of stimulation is challenging. Even grown-ups experience return-to-work anxiety!

    Anxiety is a feeling of unease, experienced by everyone at some point in their lives. Feelings of anxiety trigger an innate ‘fight or flight’ response and can be triggered by a range of factors. Facing the unknown is one of them.

    Children may worry or feel overexcited about seeing certain children in their peer group or how they feel about engaging in a particular lesson. Children may be recovering from illness or have to deal with spending time away from family and pets. Returning to school after time away can be tough.

    Reluctance in returning to school may look like:

    • Not wanting to get up or get ready for school
    • Feeling unwell or complaining of stomach aches or headaches
    • Not sleeping well
    • Appearing more clingy than usual
    • Expressing themselves angrily, seeming upset, or acting out
    • Having bouts of unexplained crying
    • Struggling to concentrate
    • Beginning to worry about small issues
    • Beginning to withdraw, seem down, or quiet

     How can I support my child?

    Trying a few new strategies at home leading up to the return to school (or building them into the nightly routine) may help your child with their self-regulation. Click Here for a few options to consider:

    Feeling worried, stressed or anxious are unpleasant feelings, but all emotions have their value. We cannot feel happy all of the time. Remember that your child will not always feel this way and helping them to accept their feelings as valid and valuable experiences will help to develop their emotional resiliency.

    Ally Linney

    Assistant Head (Pastoral)

    Suggested Resources

    The Anxiety Iceberg – How to support your child if they’re struggling with school anxiety – YouTube

    Going back to school | Childline

    Tips For Dealing With Back-to-school Anxiety | Blog | YoungMinds

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