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Friday 22 May 2020
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Remember this? Year 3 visited Merrist Wood on a sunny May day last year.

Headmaster's Roundup

Dear Parents

As the pulse of life begins to return to normal, there are of course a spectrum of opinions on the lockdown. These range from thinking it is being lifted too soon right through to the belief that it should never have been imposed in the first place.  Whatever your view, I suspect you would all agree that your children's safety must always come first at school.  
 
To reassure you of this, families with children in year groups returning to school on 1 June will have received a comprehensive document from us this week, outlining our plans and preparations. We recognise that sending your child or children back to school remains at your discretion and remote learning will still be available if you choose not to do so.
 
Every morning before coming to work I like to go for a short cycle to keep my old joints from seizing up. Yesterday it was a humid start, and as I set out there was a large, dark cumulus cloud which looked a little threatening, but against the early morning sun it had a beautiful silver lining. We are all familiar with the phrase, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ and although this isn’t actually true, (as it depends on the position of the sun, the density of the cloud and how many oktas of cloud there are in the sky), we all understand the meaning.  At the end of this extraordinary half term, by far the most unusual and disruptive period in my 28 years in education, I reflect once more on those silver linings.
 
Perhaps the most important is that it has brought people together in ways that normal life does not usually allow. In slowing down we have all had far more time for our loved ones and I really hope that everyone has taken advantage of this additional time, despite the pressures of work. The NHS has also been elevated to its rightful place as, arguably, one of the most important organisations in the country.  And we have all recognised the fantastic NHS workers, who not only put themselves at risk for others, but have the unique knowledge and skills to look after us when we need their care. 
 
When it comes to the children, I hope that this time of home learning has built a degree of resilience and independence within them and as I wrote about a few weeks back, they will certainly be more ‘tech savvy’ and IT literate than they would have been otherwise.   So as we come to the half term break, I want to thank you all for your ongoing support for the remote learning programme. Over the course of the past 5 weeks, we have delivered a full curriculum to all the children from Year 1 upwards via Firefly and have been delighted with their engagement and the standard of work they have completed.
 
As you know, the curriculum at RSM has always been carefully tailored to the needs of our children, using unique programmes and resources and this leads to the excellent academic outcomes that we see year on year. When school moved online, we looked at the current progression of each individual year group, their learning to date and the plans in place for the remainder of the year, so we could ensure that the learning delivered remotely continued in the same way it would have done, had the children been in school.  By doing this, the accelerated pace of learning has been maintained and this would not have been possible had we implemented the one size fits all approach to the curriculum that has been adopted elsewhere.

There have been some inevitable technical issues with delivery, and we have evolved and adapted our approach where necessary to improve this. The introduction of easily accessible buttons for technical support and wellbeing are just some of the amendments that we have made to develop the online experience for children and parents. Your partnership and support have made all the difference here and we are so grateful for your positive, can-do attitudes in the face of these challenges. 

Feedback remains a vital part of the children’s learning online and their teachers have been reviewing every piece of work daily, as they would have done had they been at school. The Firefly platform has facilitated excellent two-way personalised communication and the children have particularly enjoyed leaving voice notes and using emojis. Their responsiveness to technology is a marvellous indicator of their adaptability and resilience – as I say, important skills of the future. The teachers have been particularly pleased with their enthusiasm for the new combined humanities topics this term and their reflections within P4C lessons continue to highlight their tremendous thinking potential. We are all impressed by the quality of work we are seeing.

Of course, all of this has to be balanced with time away from the screen. Often it is whilst riding bikes, playing in the garden or being a bit bored that true creativity is fostered. It has been lovely to see super art work and to hear about dens being built, wildlife being spotted and new outdoor skills learnt.

The resilience of the whole RSM community has been brilliant and below I have shared with you just a few of the positive comments we have received from parents, children and teachers.

Marcus Culverwell
 

Remote Learning Comments

 

From Parents:


"My thanks go to the teachers who have being preparing and recording lessons that are easy to understand, interesting, fun, achievable for the children to complete and parents to help with!"

"I am so pleased that my children are cooperating and helping each other and working so independently. It has changed their approach and resilience to their learning."


"A video explaining the task with examples followed by relevant documents was easy to understand, systematic and simple for both our children and ourselves to navigate."
 

From Children:


"It’s fun and easy to use and to get into the resources. It is exciting to see what the work for the day is." ( Year 3)

"I look forward to seeing the feedback from the teachers and wasn’t expecting to see such lovely comments on my evacuee work." (Year 5)
 
"It’s a really good thing that I can upload by own tasks on sport and on music. I have really improved my own IT." (Year 3)
 
"Maths this week has been such fun." (Year 4)
 

From Teachers:


"We miss the children but it is so good to have a system in place where we can review and see so quickly how they are getting on."
 
"I am amazed at the quality of the work coming through. The children are obviously working exceptionally hard and presenting it all so beautifully."

"This will give them a real boost before senior school where they will have to work independently and access lots of digital tools."

 
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Key Dates

Meet the Teacher - 17 June
Sadly, we will not be able to welcome parents or children onsite for Meet the Teacher this year. Instead, information about your child/children's new form and teacher will be sent to you by email on 17 June, along with information and welcome messages from their new form teachers. Further details to follow.
#RSMFridayFastFive
Mr Alden
Our Year 5 form teacher, Mr Alden has taken the #RSMFridayFastFive this week. Read more..
Year 6
Live Debate
Last Thursday, Year 6 had a live debate on Microsoft Teams about the conspiracy theories surrounding the 1969 moon landing. The children were given a side and they prepared their argument during Wednesday’s lesson. The debate was fascinating, with all children contributing. At the end of the lesson, the children were able to register their vote to state whether they believed the moon landing happened or if it had been filmed as part of a conspiracy. 68% of Year 6 believe that the 1969 moon landing was real!
RSM
Wellbeing
Thank you for sending in photographs and videos of your children this week. Sometimes, all it takes is a smile to lift the spirits and feel generally happier. Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural painkillers, and serotonin. Not only do these natural chemicals elevate mood, but they also relax the body which makes us feel good from head to toe. We hope that this video makes you smile!
#MentalHealthAwarenessWeek
This week was Mental Health Awareness Week. Thank you for sharing your acts of kindness with us. We loved hearing about them.
One Letter One Smile
To brighten the days of older people, One letter, One Smile are looking for volunteer pen pals to write letters to older people who may be lonely. The letters can be handwritten or typed in a reasonably large font size. Further information is on their website. Your letter really could make a difference!
Emerging Minds is a research network that has published evidence-based advice on how to talk about and respond to children and young people’s worries and anxieties about coronavirus. There are helpful resources grouped by age category. Take a look at their advice here.
Useful Links
NSPCC Resources for parents during Covid-19
Online Safety Home Activity Worksheets
Reflection
Courage
From the Chaplain: Courage
 
One of my favourite books is Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.  The story and the characters are so gripping and the sense of the triumph of good over evil is incredible.  It is also great lock down reading running to over a 1000 pages!
 
Many of you will know that Tolkien wrote the Lord of the Rings based in part, on his experiences in World War I.  As a young man of 24, Tolkien was sent to the Western Front in the summer of 1916 and experienced first-hand the horrors of the Battle of the Somme.  Some of his early thoughts about his mythology were written by candlelight in bell tents and some even in the trenches.  It is therefore unsurprising that his characters have so much insight into courage.  It is hard for us to imagine what those young men went through and how they managed to continue to face each day in those horrors, knowing it could be their last.
 
This pandemic has sometimes been compared to a war.  I understand the sentiment, but I think there are significant differences for most of us to the courage demanded of that generation on the Western Front.  That is not to say that what we are facing is insignificant- far from it.  We still need the courage to face every day with fresh determination.  The courage to face restrictions on our freedoms with grace and patience.  The courage to keep working hard at adjusting to a very different world.  The courage to not give up. 
 
I think those characters in Lord of the Rings have much they can teach us about the courage we need to keep finding.  I will let one them, Aragorn (OK my favourite…), have the final word to inspire us to keep finding the courage we need and not to give up.
 
“A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day.”
 
Best wishes,
 
Rev Jackson
#RGSWeCare
Special performance
A wonderful performance of Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Quintus, an RGS group who reformed to produce this in support of #RGSWeCare.
Art
Reflections in Lockdown
Music
Pitch and 
Rhythm
The children have spent some time looking at pitch and rhythms of Victorian street cries and this week wrote their own. 
 
Year 4 Science
Pitch
Year 4 scientists really enjoyed investigating pitch using different amounts of water in glasses.
Year 4
PSHE
The children made brilliant versions of the Scattergory game as part of PHSE lessons.
I enjoyed making the game very much. It was one of my family member's birthday so I played with them and my dad during lunch break. It was very fun!
Clarabel
Meesha and her Mum enjoyed playing Scattergory together.
Year 3
Leaf Art
Year 3 ventured into their gardens in search of leaves this week. Working creatively and imaginatively, they used the natural materials they found, to create a range of leaf insects. Very well done Year 3, your leaf insects look fantastic!
Year 4
Live Form Times
This week, Year 4 have enjoyed their first live form times. They took part in a rainbow scavenger hunt and had to find an object around the house for each colour of the rainbow. Here are some of the bright collections.
Year 4
Wartime Baking
The children enjoyed some wartime baking. The results look delicious!
Year 5
Descriptions
Year 5's class book is Goodnight Mr Tom and this week they were tasked with describing Willie as seen through the eyes of Tom. 
By Lawrence..

Dear Rachel,
When I woke up this morning I was well and truly shocked to hear the door bell go (it was so early!).
So I went downstairs to open it and there was a billeting officer with a group of children, but one of them was standing close to the officer and looking rather ashen.
That was the boy who had to be evacuated with me; his name was Willie.
When I first saw him, he looked grubby and anxious, like he had just come out of a boxing ring, but when I took him in I cared for him and was very kind to him.
Fortunately, he now feels more comfortable with me and he enjoys me reading to him (because he can’t read).
Interested in art, he wants to paint just like you. Now he is looking much smarter because I have bought clothes for him.
All my love
Tom xxx
Willie is an eight year old boy who temporarily lives with me. I knew I’d be getting an evacuee but Willie was not what I had in mind. Willie is a shy, weak boy who has sandy hair, grey eyes and bruises and scars surrounding every inch of his legs. I received a postcard and was astonished at how cruel his mother is, although she always said that she treats him well.  He doesn’t really want to stay but he doesn’t exactly want to go home either. I have taken Willie round places in the village including the Art shop! Memories whizzed through my mind as I stepped inside your favourite shop. Wild and uncontrollable is what the others said about evacuees, but Willie, Willie is not like them.
Year 2
Science
Year 2 scientists have been exploring density in fresh and salt water.
Year 4
Bookworms
Year 4 have been sharing some of the books they have been reading during lockdown. Keep up the good reading and recommendations Year 4!
At Home
Bug Hotel
We were delighted to see photographs of the fabulous bug hotel the Fish family built out of material left by their builders. 
Reading
RSM Library Corner
This book is full of games that take 5 minutes to set up and 5 minutes to tidy away!  It has received excellent reviews and is also available on Kindle.
Bicycles
Bike It - Episode 3
Here is the third episode of the At Home Bike Skills series from Reigate and Banstead's Bike It officer. He has also included a useful attachment called 'Behind the Handlebars Haiku'
 
RGS
Job Opportunities
  • Teacher of Mathematics (full time or part time) – Required from September 2020
  • Teacher of English/Second in English (full time or part time) – Required from September 2020
  • SENCO/or Teacher with SEN Experience (full time or part time) – Required from September 2020
 
If you know someone who may be interested in applying, please ask them to download the information from the RGS website or contact HR on hr@reigategrammar.org.  
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Reigate St Mary's Prep School · Chart Lane · Reigate, Surrey RH2 7RN · United Kingdom

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