The details of most of our events can be found on our weekly Newsletters and via Social Media, but to summarise the most important activities of the past term:
It was a proud moment today when we found out that our team had won the 2021 "InterSEK Virtual" Debate against excellent rivals IES Budapest in Hungary. Well done and congratulations to Charlotte, Matilda, Cordelia and Josh!
Congratulations to our Debating Team which reached the 2021 InterSEK final today, against Budapest, Hungary! Great effort and great teamwork!
One of our hopes this year, pre Covid, was to organise a Duke of Edinburgh Award group, as well as attempt the "Ten Tors". While that has not been possible, today saw a "Virtual Ten Tors", describing the training process, preparation, mindset, safety implications, in addition to the role of the Reservists of the Armed Forces. As such, the session was about careers and the important role of the Forces as much as the Ten Tors itself. Anyway, Josh and Ethan are up for it, and already discussing their "team", local training and how to tackle the 35 mile adventure. As competent rugby players, they should have no issue with tackling, and teamwork will come second nature!
La plaza tiene una torre,
la torre tiene un balcón,
el balcón tiene una dama,
la dama una blanca flor.
Ha pasado un caballero,
¡quién sabe por qué pasó!,
y se ha llevado la plaza
con su torre y su balcón,
con su balcón y su dama,
su dama y su blanca flor.
“La plaza tiene una torre” by Antonio Machado
Given our international outlook, and links with our Spanish-speaking sister schools, it is no wonder that here at St John’s Sidmouth, Spanish is a fundamental part of our curriculum. On Thursday 29th April, children from Reception to Year 6 enjoyed a Spanish poetry competition, speaking and singing in Spanish. “Enhorabuena” to all participants, and we look forward to you practising these skills on our exchanges to Spain, when travel resumes! The Valencian sunshine, coast and of course wonderful poetry, await us!
The St John's Greenhouse is a constant hive of activity these days and far from the former potting shed of a few. Garden plots exist in Nursery, Reception, Junior School and Secondary School and few diggable areas of soil remain, much to the delight of our local insect and bird populations!
From fruit bushes to fruit canes, carrots to courgettes, and a host of vegetables in between, we are giving a new meaning to "green fingers". But why? Obviously we are keen to reduce our carbon footprint and exercise at the same time, but more important are probably the social gains of reduced anxiety outside, team work, problem solving, surrounded by nature, and a sense of meaning - which we should all have. We have even appointed a gardens prefect! From tiny acorns, mighty oaks do grow; and we are setting the seed for our children's future physical and mental health, as well as to be resilient as the proverbial oak tree. Skills for life at St John's!
Bikeability (Cycling Proficiency) at St John's this week. Sore legs, new skills and many useful new safety tips! Well done, year 6!
Our school dog, Blue, must be the most educated dog in the area! He has his own chair in classrooms, listens to the children read, and enjoys a stroke and pat, while anxious children complete spelling tests. Break time is his favourite part of the day though, with hectares of fields and woodland at St John's and the opportunity to round up his class to go back to traditional learning! He does fall asleep in lessons some times with such an active day, much to the amusement of the pupils! It's a dog's life!
Our Nursery pupil, Brodie, has become a newspaper celebrity with his brother, watching a training session of Sidmouth Lifeboat. Water has been a feature of Brodie's week, as he also helped water all the Nursery garden and new plants this week. Well done! (the photograph is courtesy of Sidmouth Herald Newspaper, and we thank them for their continued support for the community as well as St John's.)
Marcus was doing his bit for British food production and can "field" any question on cattle production, maize for fodder or general farm life. What a talent for the future. We are also pleased to know that like most young farmers, his rugby and cricket practices were also quire "amazing" and we look forward to seeing him in action when fixtures resume.
Secondary students are also eager to return to school as they continue their rehearsals for May's InterSEK Cultural competition (between the 23 IES and SEK schools). Over 1000 students will compete (virtually) this year as our two sister schools in Spain organise events as diverse as coding to chess, song writing to Minecraft gaming. Participation will be worldwide, giving the opportunity to meet former classmates from exchanges to Boarding and even former sporting competitions in Quito (Ecuador) and Santiago (Chile). We are not competitive at all in St John's but we certainly don't intend to come second! Fair game!
Return to school today, new students, increasing numbers and a real difference in the Nursery garden! A pirate boat has appeared and our youngsters are eager to look for hidden treasure and sail the seven seas. The truth is that St John's is the treasure trove and we are very much riding the ocean wave of success at the moment. Waiting lists mean that early application for September is strongly recommended, or "miss the boat"!
Sidmouth Vikings Football Club, Amy's swim classes, a netball match and two hours of roller skating club were the balance of Saturday; all in glorious sunshine and real warmth. Skating became dancing on wheels as participants enjoyed exercise, dance moves and skilful balance to an eclectic mixture of musical genres! Great way to spend a Saturday afternoon for all ages, from nostalgic former teens to current ambitious teens trying "to keep up"!
Sporty Stars camp finished today with a belated Easter Egg hunt in our woodland, zorbing and archery. Great fun by all, and we can't wait until June half term for the next camp! The camp caters for 5-12 year olds and offers an opportunity to use up all that Covid lockdown pent-up energy.
Out of their comfort zone, learning new skills, catching up on lost childhood during the pandemic. St John's / Sporty Stars camp, Easter 2021. The first of many!
Three very large camp bubbles enjoyed St John's facilities today; but with the fields, adventure playground, sports hall and woodland den construction, there was room for everyone! "Sporty Stars" treated them to Zorbing, "glow in the dark sports", archery and a variety of crafts, and definitely lived up to their reputation as the best activity camp in the area. St John's is proud to be their host, and even prouder to see 60 youngsters enjoying our facilities, being children again, and seeing the Sidmouth "sunlight" at the end of a very long Covid tunnel. Information on camps via firstname.lastname@example.org, or direct to Sporty Stars at email@example.com
Junior School, supported by "Blue" our School Spaniel, successfully navigated the school fields and woodland to find the many colourful Easter eggs, donated by our wonderful PTFA. Adorned with rabbit ears and Easter bonnets, and pursued by Blue, our children left no leaf, branch or hedgerow unsearched as they rushed to fill their baskets. It was simply an eggcelent event and a very sweet way to end the penultimate day of the Spring term. Easter holidays beckon, chocolate abounds, the sun is shining and all in all, we can call it a successful term!
Red Nose Day! Official! St John's once again showed that it's the small Devon school with a big heart by raising 510 pounds for charity on Red Nose Day. The penalty shoot our was probably our biggest fund raiser, but thanks to our whole community for an excellent day.
We are now planting fruit trees around our perimeter partly for ecological reasons, but also to support our Sidmouth community as we will constantly donate to the local food bank. I'm sure there could be our own break time fruit juices and occasional fruit pie too! Our students really do learn to make a difference in their local area.
St John's took part in today's National Day for Reflection, marking one year since the first lockdown. While Junior School planted a tree in their garden, Senior School used their normal Assembly time for students and staff to add their reflections by poems, art and photographs. At 12 mid day, everybody gathered on the school's patio overlooking the sea, for the traditional one minute's silence. A moving occasion.
St John's has been counting down the days! 21st March Census Day. Students have been learning why this day is important for all of us as well as conducting mini censuses of their own! It all adds up to "real-world learning" that can't possibly subtract from the curriculum, but does multiply enthusiasm!
St John's School can proudly announce that we have adopted a cheetah from Paignton Zoo. This time last year, we managed to bring several animals to school, but it's now great to be Foster Parents! Proud to be sponsors and support wildlife, ecosystems and Biomes.
We were delighted to receive a box of Fair Trade products this week, which became a central feature of Friday's assembly. After student presentations on the topic of Fairtrade, as well as traditional song and musical performances, Head Boy Farley as well Student Council Chair Evie-Mae raffled prizes including Fair Trade tea, coffee, sugar, chocolate and even nutritious fruit bars! They certainly left a clear "flavour" of Fair Trade and I'm sure the healthy supermarket products will be a feature of future shopping habits. A huge thanks to Sidmouth's supermarkets as well as the oganisers of Fair Trade Fortnight.
What a fitting day for a "leap" into our heated swimming pool, especially with our new PTFA -funded floats! We are so grateful for our supportive Parents' Group, who have already this year funded a virtual pantomime, popcorn laden Secondary film day, new library acquisitions, swimming pool floats and are now helping us provide "Mental Health First Aid Training" (and support) for our student body. What a difference an (extra) day makes! Come and join us, it's no leap into the unknown and you don't have to wait every four years for a unique experience!
In Year 5 this week, we have been learning about Fairtrade as part of Fairtrade Fortnight. The children learned about bananas being grown on St Vincent in the Windward Islands and the benefits that being a Fairtrade farmer brings.
They have written poems about bananas and written and recorded some great news reports about the effect of Covid 19 on banana farming in the Caribbean. The children in school also had the opportunity to make some friendship bracelets out of banana fibre sent to us from the Fairtrade Devon Team.
The Nursery children and staff need to say a very BIG THANK YOU, as this week they were kindly donated a market stall/puppet theatre with so many resources!
The children have loved exploring this new role-play area and have used what they know about shopping in their play. Scanning items, asking each other politely for different fruits, using the till to exchange coins and the scales for weighing; the curiosity and imaginative play has been endless.
The mathematical language and communication opportunities have been wonderful to hear.
"Its heavier“, one child comments whilst comparing two items on the scales. "It's going to be 6! That is 6 coins”, as they counted 6 items in the basket.
Design Technology should challenge, bring students out of their comfort zone and lead to innovation. Hopefully, it will lead many to think creatively throughout life and lead to seedbed companies that our economy will require. Year 7 Edward is one such determined young man, who blends AI, ICT and traditional craft principles in his search for the perfect dragster.
Congratulations to Year 10 student Joshua Poole, who has published the second episode of his sporting stars podcasts, with Welsh Rugby International, Rob Evans. What ambition, composure, confidence and innovation for a GCSE student. The epitome of a St John's student and a role model for society. Well done.
With Zoom to the rescue, Year 9 Parents have been very supportive and complimentary on our IGCSE careers and options evenings, involving all staff, shared screens and introducing all subjects. Head of School Graham Hurrell commented: " It is testimony to our wonderfully supportive Parents and professional staff, that we have turned potential anguish, frustration and fear for the future, into a seamless and almost normal series of Parents' evenings along with the associated careers and pastoral support to our student body. I am so proud of the resilience and determination shown by both families and staff, and it is obvious that our future is safe in the hands of our GCSE generation, such is their maturity, confidence and growth mindset."
Our Junior celebration of success half term assembly today was multi-talented ranging from an acoustic guitar solo, to poetry, limericks and even a Spring photograph competition. The only challenge was that someone forgot to tell the weather about Spring. Year 3 student Ava, amused us by reading out the following limerick that she wrote at home:
"There once was a boy called Matt,
He stupidly sat on a big fat cat,
the Cat said meow,
He thought it was a cow
Now the poor cat is the size of a rat"
Samuel then explained the syllabi count in traditional Japanese and Chinese verse, and treated us to his own creations. Very apt as Saskia reminded us that it is Chinese New Year and we are about to celebrate the year of the Ox. So a second Happy New Year, everyone, from our international and East Devon St John's community!
St John's Junior School Key Worker children sang their hearts out today in a mini concert for residents of Sidmouth's care homes. With Zoom to the rescue, ably supported by our Year 5 tech media team and Mr Salmon on the school's Grand Piano, the children interpreted a variety of upbeat songs filling them, and we hope the residents, with wellbeing and positive mindset. There appears to be a flood of troubled water at the moment, so the children have created an important bridge to those less fortunate themselves, in their role of contributing to the local community. "Music is the universal language of mankind. When words fail, music speaks" (anonymous). SJS Junior children can articulately express themselves in word, song and poem, and possess that everlasting optimism that comes with Spring.
Innovative Year 10 student, Josh Poole, has used lockdown time really effectively by setting up "Sport Talk", a series of podcasts with special guests about sport and other interesting topics, including turning professional and advice for young players. Josh is hm-self a gifted sportsman, including Rugby Union, Football and Athletics, so it was clear that his first sportsman should come from the Rugby World. Episode one featured a fascinating and insightful interview with Aaron Shingler, (Scarlets and Wales Flanker). Well done, Josh, and perhaps a budding career in this field.
Through our story telling activities it is wonderful to see our children being imaginative, engaged and most of all excited about the language they are hearing from the books we share. From designing bridges for the Three Billy Goats Gruff, to finding the biggest puddle and toasting marshmallows, we certainly have had a fun-filled week at Nursery. A big thank you goes to Mr Titchin for joining us at Welly Boot camp this week.
St John’s Junior School will be taking part in activities linked to Devon’s Fairtrade fortnight over the next few weeks, and we are looking forward to helping pupils make a difference in the local and global environment (as our internationally-minded Mission Statement encourages).
As part of this initiative, Fairtrade Sidmouth are launching three competitions which we are pleased to support. Please see the attached flyer for more information. With the deadline for all competitions being the 26th February, there is no time to lose for our talented children, and we are sure that they will rise to the challenge. They will also learn a great deal about the Global economy and a fair amount of cultural empathy at the same time: an invaluable “soft skill” for their future.
Equality and wellbeing have been at the forefront of our educational direction this week, as part of Wellbeing week. Wellbeing Wednesdays will highlight this concern on an ongoing basis, as we count all the benefits of a healthy mind inside a healthy body.
I climb trees, I walk my dog, we enjoy our school woodland, and we love St John’s! Wellbeing week 2021. The smiles say it all.
Following our suggestions for holiday virtual work experience for our students, the following is a new innovation by “InvestIN” and takes the form of virtual Careers Evenings for Parents. This will be particularly useful for Year 9 families as we head towards our own February GCSE options evenings, as well as Virtual Parents’ evenings. In these challenging days when we are unable to hold in-school presentations with traditional Question and Answer, we feel that it is vital to maintain top quality Careers education both at school and home. Please be reassured that if you require more individualised career guidance, understanding of GCSE / IGCSE, Tertiary study, or even University guidance in the UK, EU, Canada, Oceania or United States, then we will be pleased to assist. We have many years of experience with overseas universities including campus visits and the application process.
Reception and Year 1 children spent a mild, sunny afternoon Birdwatching today in our diverse school habitats, as part of the RSPB’s annual Big Garden Bird Watch. They identified Blackbirds, Robins, Crows, Pigeons, Magpies and plenty of Seagulls before skilfully sketching their chosen birds. This follows our summer butterfly count, where we identified 6 different species on our school grounds. Perhaps our children will learn to care for their environment and not repeat the mistakes of older generations? Our future is literally in their hands, so ecology and outdoor education are high on our educational agenda.
Year 9 have been whetting our appetite with practical baking and descriptive writing this week, so much so that we are drooling from the aromas and vision from 20kms away!
Matilda has been describing a few of her favourite treats – and why not during lock down?
1. “Salami – Long and narrow in shape with a bitter smell that crawls into your nostrils, as well as a tangy and lingering taste. The surface is a speckled brown display, but when cut open, the centre is a softer pink. Generally though it is a more rigid meat than say chicken, with a more crispy texture in comparison.”
2. “Doughnut – A ring of sugared dough, whose top half is dipped into liquid chocolate and left to ooze along the remainder of the fried dessert. Soft and fluffy in texture, with a typically harder coat along the outside. Known to be sweet and addictive, with a pale brown appearance if left bare.”
Wow, I’m off for a Baker’s dozen! And they taste even better than they sound!
Junior School pupils told us how much they missed seeing their Secondary School mentors and role models, so Abigail and Elsa in Year 9 decided to read to them by Zoom. The favourite stories? Hairy Maclary! It’s a dog’s life at home during lockdown, but hopefully we are not barking up the wrong tree with these wellbeing initiatives! Our school dog, “Blue” also enjoyed them, and was envious of the story book bone!
Critical Worker children joined their classmates for a wonderful Zoom Assembly this morning, with the opportunity to celebrate Hugh’s Silver Merit award along with his first-rate classwork during Lockdown, group birthdays and Amelie’s amazing Unicorn cake, which as unfortunately made at home, could not be tested for quality control by Staff and students! That was certainly critical.
The “icing on the cake” today though, was our live performed music, with Secondary student Abigail singing “A nightingale sang in Berkley Square” by Maschwitz and Sherwin, while Emily played a wonderful rendition of “Sound of Silence”, fortunately not too silently, with a finale of “Morning has broken” by our children in school. Wonderful, Spring like, and what better way to welcome in the weekend!
At a time of National Lockdown, what better way to promote wellbeing than to climb a tree with your friends and get back to nature? With our own on-site woodland, stream, ecological areas and cultivated garden areas, our children really do “see the wood for the trees” and the smiles say it all. “Wild” PE is here to stay, along with our traditional year round swim programme, team sports and Trampoline of course! Our children love to “branch out” and reach out of their comfort zone, and like our historic trees, blossom as a result!
Our two Nativity scenes, four Christmas trees and decorative lights were truly stunning. Secondary School also enjoyed their Tutor Room Christmas decorations’ competition, won by Year 10 with an emphasis on the use of recycled materials as well as wonderful creativity. Former Head Student Simon Law returned to school to judge the competition.
Today, Year 4 students took charge of both technology and communication as they articulately explained their month’s unit of enquiry into Egypt. From hieroglyphics to Shadufs, Pyramids to the Rosetta Stone, they each explained their individual line of enquiry, how they had collected their information as well as the end product, be it poster, actual miniature working Shaduf, or model clay pyramid. They even learned how to introduce themselves in modern Arabic along with simple numbers in Arabic. Amazing. There was also time for a little fun with augmented reality, rotating the Rosetta Stone in its British Museum location along with “hands on” analysis of an Egyptian sarcophagus (below) from the Saqqara Pyramid area. May the ancient force be with you, Year 4! “Shukran” (thank you!)
PTFA and Staff plant bulbs, and extend our Woodland play area to allow for “Wild PE” sessions. Wonderful sunny day, and a joy to be outside in the fresh air, even if socially distanced. We can’t wait for the Spring to see the colourful blooms.
Whole School Carol Service and Readings, including Early Years Nativity Play, and Church blessing. This was filmed and professionally edited, to allow all families to watch this wonderful event. The Chapel acoustics were sensational, and every child in the school took part, with support from staff and even the Parents’ choir. A truly “harmonious” occasion, and thanks to Choir Master Michael Steer for the idea and organisation. Wonderful.
Our 4 Secondary Saxophone players provided an amusing and energetic homage to the “Blues Brothers” in Secondary Assembly. Our Assemblies are always topical, usually highlighting our International perspective or important World events or dates. San Juan, “International day of” are common, but this was for pure enjoyment and celebration of our students’ creative skills. Play on, lads!
Our Peripatetic staff provided mini concerts to explain and demonstrate the sounds and properties of the instruments available to learn in school. There is a strong link between the skills of musicians and the ability to succeed in foreign languages and Mathematics. So music is important to and for us, both aesthetically and academically. On this day, we were treated to an eclectic mix of musical genres from Jazz to Church organ, acoustic guitar to classical violin concerto. Very much enjoyed by all, and an opportunity to experience music of the highest quality from our skilful staff.
At 10:45am, we all lined up on the Patio to await Sidmouth’s cannon for the start of the traditional 2 minute silence. An emotional ceremony overlooking the sea, followed by Year 10 student George Hindhaugh playing “The Last Post”, before Head of School Graham Hurrell read the iconic verse “And in the morning we will remember them”. Tuesday’s assembly had set the scene with Chief Petty Officer (RN retired) and Parent Ms Stephens, explaining the current contribution of the Armed Forces to World Peace, prosperity and in the case of the Royal Navy, open sea routes for World Trade. This was an illuminating and empathetic talk, linking with our strong school Military connections. Previously, Colonel Graham Cundy (Royal Marines ret) had consented to provide our Key Note Address on Leadership, at Speech Day. Both speeches will be long remembered for their articulate nature, moving accounts and strong message for our future Leaders. Thank you!
Coinciding with Junior Assembly, this was an opportunity to give thanks for our lifestyles, meals and nutritious diet, show off the produce from the School gardens and understand the importance of the traditional Harvest Festival in all religions. Our choir sang a beautiful interpretation of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” and we then presented a wide collection of tins and non-perishable food to Sidmouth Food Bank.
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