The summer term is always busy but it is arguably the most exciting time of year in school when pupils, parents and staff members have the opportunity to celebrate learning experiences and achievements across the entire curriculum. The academic and personal development of our pupils lies at the heart of school life and it is immensely satisfying when progress is observed, recognised and celebrated as the year passes, and it is important to find time to look back and acknowledge this before moving on.
Every academic year has a character of its own, just as every individual in a school community is unique. When the planning of the curriculum, extra-curricular experiences and special themes are in place, we have a good idea as to how the year will evolve but it takes the engagement and response of teachers and learners for it to be a real success. I am delighted to report that sustainability, the current and critically important focus across all Foundation schools, has definitely gathered momentum within the Pre-Prep and Junior School during 2018-19.
Pre-Prep pupils have been leading the way in the push to reduce our use of plastic by bringing their break time snacks in paper or reusable bags and by finding ways of giving the thumbs down to single-use plastic water bottles and cups. They are eagle eyed when it comes to separating food and plastic waste at lunch time, and in their classrooms they try hard to switch of lights and use less paper. Pupils in Reception at Madingley call this approach, ‘Save the Trees Paper’.
Most young children are at ease with the natural world and gain great pleasure from playing and learning in the outdoor environment. Forest School sessions, Outdoor Education lessons, Science lessons at the Nature Reserve, Botanic Garden clubs and field trips are very well established in our schools and greatly enjoyed by 3-11 pupils. It is rare to find anyone who is not keen to pull on coats, boots and hi-vis before heading out of doors, whatever the weather, given the opportunity. I found myself in exactly this situation last week when I was ‘needed for ratios’ on a Key Stage 1 Forest School session in the 800 Wood at Madingley; what a perfect excuse to leave the office for an afternoon! Nothing beats a hands-on experience and this is especially important as we educate children on the importance of environmental awareness and sustainability.
While our Pre-Prep pupils are the acknowledged experts in the outdoor world, we have been thrilled to watch Junior School pupils embrace their role as well-informed protectors of our planet. ‘It’s Our World’, the integrated learning project held in March, provided much food for thought and marked the point when many of our older pupils became properly aware of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 for the year 2030. They worked hard to identify how these goals can be met and many have been bold in their quest for evidence, quizzing adult decision makers at home, in school and beyond, most notably in six University Colleges and the Judge Business School.
Junior School staff have been impressed by how seriously some pupils have demonstrated their passion for creating a greener future and, thanks to the tireless work of our Eco-Committee and Eco Warriors, the introduction of ‘meat free Mondays’ and gaining an understanding about The Cambridge Green Challenge, we have seen a huge step forward in terms of both individual and collective awareness and responsibility.
The closing event of ‘It’s Our World’ gave us more than a glimpse of what our pupils really care about and members of the ‘Panel of Experts’ had their work cut out to satisfy the curiosity and determination of those who posed the questions. We are delighted that since the event, we have had the opportunity to work with Ms Cindy Forde, founder of Planetari, in trialling ‘An Ocean Adventure’, a remarkable magazine designed by The Blue Marine Foundation and Planetari. This, in turn, has provided the ideal launch into the Festival of Learning project for pupils in Years 3 & 4 across the Foundation. While they get to grips with the fact that most forms of life live in the ocean and yet only a tiny fraction of this ecosystem has been explored, the other 3-11 year groups will be researching animal diversity, global forests, our footprint on the world and climate change. The Festival of Learning on Tuesday 9 July will be an incredible day for everyone involved, rounding off a year in which awareness of the importance of sustainability education has taken root and, more vitally, creating a launch pad for collaborative projects which focus on these issues next year.
Other end of year events are rapidly approaching. We very much look forward to welcoming parents to Pre-Prep Sports Day and (twice rescheduled) Junior School Sports Day, the Junior School Summer Concert, the Pre-Prep Country Dancing Display, Year 4’s performance of ‘Noah’s Ark’ and our first ‘Celebration of Learning’ for pupils in Years 1-6. If you are coming to the Summer Concert then do look out for the sustainability theme, as no fewer than ten of the UN Sustainable Development Goals are referenced in the programme of music. And, parents of Pre-Prep pupils may catch a glimpse of Isabella Mary Angetter-Hannam and/or Maddison Holly Lennon with their proud mums at the Country Dancing Display. Congratulations to both families on the safe arrival of their daughters in April and May respectively.
As this is the last Pre-Prep and Junior School newsletter of 2018-19, I should like to take the opportunity of thanking everyone for their amazing kindness and support, both this year and throughout the earlier years of my headship. It has been a privilege to have served the Foundation in this role and I am immensely grateful to all the parents and colleagues who have ensured that our schools are safe, happy and lively places of learning, and to the children for their boundless energy, enthusiasm and good humour. I shall miss their joie de vivre more than you can imagine, but I am confident that Rosedale House and the Nursery/Early Years settings will continue to provide a first class education for the youngest Stephen Perse Foundation learners in and near Cambridge.
With my very best wishes for a wonderful summer holiday and also for the future,
Head of Pre-Prep and Junior School