Headmaster’s Blog

As Russia welcomes the world to its World Cup, as we gear up to welcome the ECS community to the FECS fête, and as Kim and Trump welcome each other, I have opted for a ‘welcome’ theme for this week’s HM’s Blog.

Firstly: the parents and guardians that we have welcomed to ECS this week. The Pre-Prep did a terrific job of welcoming fathers (and stand-in fathers) to Hall House today for their Fathers’ Day celebrations.  The classrooms were abuzz with crafting, with making, with songs, with letters, and with performances, and the children took great pride in welcoming dads and other guests into their learning environment.

It’s also been a great pleasure to host some transition evenings this week for parents in Year 2 and Year 6.  We welcomed current Year 6 families to the Chantry Library to talk about life in Year 7 and beyond, and our Year 2 families followed suit a few days later to learn about what to expect in Year 3.  Mr Bartlett (Assistant Head) gave an overview of the curriculum and of enrichment opportunities to support the children’s learning, and Heads of Section Mrs Reddington (Lower Years) and Mrs Salter (Upper Years) explained our pastoral structures and systems, and talked about the central importance for us of knowing our children as individuals.  To the Year 6 families, Mr Meeke (Head of Scholarships & Academic Enrichment) and his team of Heads of Department highlighted the outstanding provision offered via our unique Senior Enrichment Programme (pupils choose to follow either our Sport & Fitness programme or our Creative Arts programme), and to the Year 2 families Mrs Porter and Mr Kelly (next year’s Year 3 dream team) spoke about a day in the life of a Year 3 pupil at ECS.  I offered a few thoughts on moving up through the School, and I thought it might be good to share those thoughts here.

Moving from Year 2 to Year 3 necessarily needs to bring with it new things.  Year 2 marks the end of Key Stage 1 (Reception – Y2), and the move to the Prep brings with it the start of the Key Stage 2 curriculum.  School should not always be ‘more of the same’, and it is absolutely right and proper that pupils moving to Year 3 should be afforded new opportunities, new challenges, new faces, and some new routines.  But – and here’s where the ECS journey works so well – whilst there will be elements that are unfamiliar and new, all of those elements are set very firmly within a very familiar context.  The Pre-Prep and the Prep are two sites, but they are one School.  They share, then, all of the important stuff: values, approach, habits, expectations, knowledge of the individual children and of families.

We have worked hard over the last two years or so to make sure that there is real ‘dove-tailing’ between Hall House and the Chantry: with pastoral care, with continuity of provision, with the curriculum, with expectations, with the look and layout of classrooms, with the core subjects v creative curriculum model, with the School-Home communication – in short, with the ECS feel.

More pupils than ever before are transitioning from the Pre-Prep to the Prep (we will be 2 forms in every year of the School come September), and I’m really pleased that the quality of provision, the child-centered approach, the extraordinary outcomes at the end of Year 8 (73% of leavers are leaving with a Scholarship to senior school – that’s 98% of those who sat for one), some exciting recent developments and appointments, and the close-knit nurturing family feel is continuing to make ECS the place to be!

It’s also been terrific to welcome back to School the Year 8s: they have been camping on Dartmoor for the last week as part of their post-Common-Entrance programme.  Our soon-to-be leavers have worked really hard in preparation for their public exams (the precursors, and helpful forerunners, to GCSEs) which they sat last week.  As their results begin to come in from their chosen senior schools, the pupils enjoy a stimulating programme of enrichment activities, visiting speakers, challenges and performances, as they finish their time at Prep School on a real high.  Do ask them about how they got on at Camp – the parents’ barbecue on Wednesday was great fun, and it was pretty clear that they were thoroughly enjoying their nights away under canvas and the team-building and adventure challenges that they were met with each day.  Huge thanks to Mr Pennington, Mrs Ball, Mrs Lake-Johns, Mrs Hamer, Miss Marshall and Miss Higham for giving up their week to accompany.

And the last mention of ‘welcome’ relates to this coming Monday when we shall be welcoming a whole host of senior schools to the Chapter House for our annual Senior Schools Evening. This is an event exclusively for our Year 6 and 7 families (by invitation), and offers a really good opportunity to visit the stands of some 15-20 senior schools from around the country and to speak directly with their members of staff, browse their literature, and perhaps to arrange a visit.  We have run this event for 2 years now, and it has been hugely popular.  Do come along if you can (see the poster elsewhere in the Newsletter) – if you time it right you can get round all of the schools, enjoy a cup of coffee, and still make it home in time for England v Tunisia.

James Featherstone

15 June 2018
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