Blog Post 88 (24th March 2017)
It’s not easy being a parent, or a Head Teacher for that matter and this week’s shocking news of incidents in London where 4 people lost their lives by a terrorist, who was then shot himself has not been easy for anyone to understand or process, especially children.
The media has been saturated with video footage of the incident, details of what happened and discussions about freedom, loss of liberty and the turbulent times we live in. The easy thing to do for a parent is to ignore it and pretend nothing has happened but the boys in this School, certainly from Year 3 upwards, were able to tell me in graphic detail what happened and they are full of questions that need to be answered. At lunch this week boys wanted to discuss the incident and understand why it happened and these were Year 3 boys, not Year 8 who you would expect to be asking questions.
In Assembly I addressed the matter, as for many boys this was the first terrorist attack they had heard about in the UK. Although they may have heard about the Paris bombings, for them Paris is a long way away and therefore less of a concern. Many parents work in London and boys are worried about them going to work every day. On the TV they see Policemen with high visibility jackets and machine guns walking the streets. Many of the boys had crossed Westminster Bridge or been to see the Houses of Parliament and so for the first time this was relatively local and real.
We are proud to be a multi-cultural School where one of our strengths is the ability for all races and religions to work in partnership. I emphasised that we are a community, that we all work together and that there are extremists in all walks of life - and that this incident had nothing to do with religion.
Given the situation, I felt that it was not appropriate for our Year 2 classes on Monday to visit the Fire of London Exhibition at the Museum of London. As a School we stand firm behind our values and customs of these Islands however young children should not be put at risk at any time as we shape the future generation into tolerant law abiding and productive citizens.
If you feel it is appropriate, I would urge parents to discuss their children’s anxieties over the incident in order to ensure they understand what has happened and the response.
Blog Post 87 (17th March 2017)
This week during Assembly I announced that Thibaut Courtois is going to be the guest speaking at the Lads’ and Dads’ Dinner. Many parents reading this may immediately ask themselves ‘Who?!’ Thibaut Courtois is the current Chelsea Goalkeeper who also represents his national team in Belgium. Aged 24 and being a celebrity, he is the ideal speaker for our last Lads’ and Dads’ Dinner. The excitement at the Prep Department Assembly was uncontainable and almost everyone wanted to attend.
The Lads’ and Dads’ Dinner over the years has been a popular event which the PSA organises. Guest speakers have included Alan Brazil, who played for Spurs, Ipswich and Manchester United and currently has a morning programme on Talk Sport; Nic Sestaret, who played for Exeter and Toulon; Brian Close, the England Cricket Captain; Mike Catt, a former England Rugby Union Player and Coach; and the famous Olympian, Steve Redgrave, to name a few.
Each of these celebrities spoke with passion and realism about how difficult it is to realise your dream and that the little talent that they had was developed by hard work and practice – a message that I’m sure Thibaut will relay to the Lads’ and Dads’.
I am most grateful to the PSA for organising the Lads’ and Dads’ evenings over the years and also to the dads who have come to support their sons on the evening, often having to rush home early from work due to the early start time.
As Thibaut is likely to be very popular, I know that tickets will go fast so if you are genuinely interested in attending, I suggest that you get your application in quickly as places will be limited. Your son is welcome to be accompanied by any male father figure (father, relative or friend).
As the PSA will not be moving forward to Banstead Prep in its current form, all proceeds will be going to the Children’s Trust, a charity close to everyone’s heart here at Priory.
I’m sure that the evening will be a great event and I look forward to seeing you all.
Blog Post 86 (10th March 2017)
As you may know if you are a regular reader of this blog, I am critical of the constant changes which the Government are making in Education. Constant tinkering is resulting in teachers becoming frustrated and leaving the profession. However, I was delighted to read that last week Justine Greening, the Education Secretary, announced that Sex Education in schools is to change, and frankly it’s overdue as it fails to address the risk children are being exposed to due to the exposure to technology.
Although the last change was in 2000, 17 years is a long time in technology terms and we have now cyber bullying, sexting, online pornography, sexual harassment and staying safe online. These are all major issues in schools. Currently Sex Education is taught in only a few state and independent schools.
Although we might want to ‘shield’ children in primary ages, it is important that the introduction of relationships and staying safe as children become adults starts at an early age. Otherwise we are creating problems for later in life. I am delighted that the SRE (Sex and Relationship Education) guidance suggests that SRE should be age appropriate and organised by the school as they see fit.
Senior Schools are finding that young people do not understand SRE and are having countless problems with a generation who may not have been taught at school. The new SRE Policy, which comes into effect in September 2019, is designed to equip children with the skills and knowledge to navigate into adulthood with support from school and home.
I have concerns about pupils growing up in a world where pornographic images are available to all ages and teenagers feel pressured to have a perfect body whether male or female. Dressing children as adults is causing confusion and giving a mixed message - and has consequences. As things change so quickly, teachers need to be aware of the issues and react to them at source and parents must take responsibility for supervision so that children can regulate themselves. Parents, teachers, politicians and industry all have a role to play.
Blog Post 85 (3rd March 2017)
As parents, you are probably unaware of the continual tinkering over educational policy, however it is relentless and often misguided. Continual change in schools by successive Governments is driving teachers out of the profession as they do not know where they are from one day to another, as schools take on more responsibility for society’s woes.
Last week, during most schools’ half term, it was announced that primary schools are to return to a times table test for Year 6 pupils, the first time since 1944. Current Year 4 and subsequent children will be required to sit the test in the summer from 2019. This is obviously being checked as times tables are an important part of mathematical knowledge.
On the face of it this seems a good idea, but further investigation questions why it is necessary. I am not quite sure what these costly tests will tell us that a good teacher in a good school does not already know and is likely to create even more stress and anxiety for some children than is necessary. To make matters worse, the test is likely to be against the clock. It will be fine (eventually) for those children who pass, but what about those who do not? This group will include children with dyslexia, test anxiety, those with slower physical responses or those who simply panic. I hope that it does not lead to retesting adnauseum until they pass, as some pupils simply will not pass. Indeed, how many parents would pass the test?
Added to this, the evidence of testing at Year 2 and Year 6 is that there is inconsistency on reliability of scores and there have also been breaches of security, all of which adds to the concern.
I would consider most boys at Priory to know all or most of their times tables during Year 3 and Year 4 and we give awards to those who can prove that they know them. However, some boys just cannot remember them and my concern is that they will feel very negative about themselves and their future; this cannot be right and lends me to return to the question, why do we need to do this?
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 84 (24th February 2017)
Welcome back after Half Term and I hope that you had a good break.
I am pleased to announce that we will be holding our Prize Giving Assembly on Thursday 6th July which will be followed in the normal fashion by a Leavers’ Dinner for Years 6 and 8. Invitations will be sent out next term. The final day, Friday 7th July, will comprise of a Final Assembly in the morning, followed by a celebration event on the field which will be organised by the PSA from 12 noon. Details will be revealed shortly, but please save the date as it promises to be lots of fun! There will also be a series of PSA funded events at School, for each year group. Look out for flyers in your book bag shortly.
Since the announcement of Banstead Prep School, we have been contacted by numerous Old Priorians (Old Boys) and their parents to see what we are doing about celebrating the School’s history. This week I have had a meeting with Andrew Wood, who is the Chairman of the Old Priorians. We are organising an Old Priorians Dinner at Priory on Saturday 17th June from 6pm.
On the night we will be offering tours of the School for Old Priorians who have not been here for many years, so that they can revisit the School which they attended many years ago as well as view the developments, such as the Glenys Clark Building. It is likely that I will be asking Prefects to volunteer to help with these tours. The event will be open to Old Boys and their partners. We will be hosting a sit down meal where we hope to have music, speeches and a lot of fun reminiscing. We have chosen a Saturday so that as many Old Priorians can come as possible and I would ask current parents to bring this celebration to the attention of anyone they know who either attended Priory School or who were associated with the School in some way over the years.
Further details will be sent out next week. We will be contacting as many Old Priorians as we are able using our database, but if you know of anyone who would like to come, please ask them to contact the School as soon as possible with their details. We will be highlighting this event in the local media and via social media. Invitations will also be available on the School website from next week.
We are expecting tickets to be in high demand and numbers will be limited. Should you be interested in helping out, please contact Jo Twyford, from the School Office, who will be co-ordinating this event.
With many celebration events happening, we are confident that boys from Priory, whether past or present, will be able to celebrate the School’s history and look forward to a highly successful and fun future at Banstead Prep School.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 83 (10th February 2017)
Last weekend Priory took three rugby teams to the National Rugby Qualifiers at Epsom College. We went with much expectation as we have been nurturing our boys to be able to compete at this level. I am delighted to report that two of the three teams qualified for the finals, representing London and the South East; the other team was just pipped at the post, although arguably they are our best team.
The boys were magnificent in giving their all, roared on by our passionate and proud parents. However, these performances are not totally unexpected as we have had a five year plan to achieve these results and we have done it in three.
I would like to pay tribute to Mr Ford, Mr Jones, Mr Bailey, Mr Jeens and Mr Jeffery. We decided three years ago that we would aim to get a group of boys to play and qualify for the National Rugby Finals. We targeted present Year 6 as they are capable sportsmen and went about nurturing their skills. We also started putting specialist sports teachers in the Pre-Prep to ensure that basic skills such as catching, throwing, running and spatial awareness were being taught to a high level. We started under 7 matches against other schools to give the boys competition as a team and start focusing on tactics and team skills. Although it is nice to win at this age, it is about learning the game. This investment is now showing success as our teams are now competing with some of the top schools in the area and further afield.
Such forward planning has also happened in other areas of the curriculum such as reading in English, verbal reasoning, ICT skills and French speaking, and we are seeing huge strides being made by boys in these areas. Success does not just happen, it needs quality staff, the right resources and children who listen and learn, supported by parents.
The success that we are experiencing on the sports field is being replicated in the classroom as our boys pass into the top local schools; details will be advertised soon as all results are yet to be received.
I am very proud of our achievements and would like to congratulate all of our boys and staff on their continued success and look forward to enjoying the excitement which such success brings.
Why not come down to Epsom College on Sunday 19th March and cheer our boys on as we play teams from the North of England, the Midlands, the South West and the East. It promises to be an interesting event and we will be able to see how much progress we have made and what we need to do to become National Champions in the future, if not on the day!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 82 (3rd February 2017)
As I drive in to school each day I listen to the radio and this week has been ‘sleep week’ on Radio 5 Live. There have been a series of reports on how valuable sleep is to everyone, but especially children. I am often asked by parents about bedtime as it is often a source of ‘lively debate’ in many homes in the evenings. I list below the amount of sleep that a child is recommended to have by the NHS. A simple calculation will enable parents to work out when their child needs to go to bed based on the time they are expected or actually wake up.
2 year olds: 11 hours 30 minutes and 90 minutes in the day
3 year olds: 11 hours 30 minutes – 12 hours and 0 to 45 minutes in the day
4 year olds: 11 hours 30 minutes
5 year olds: 11 hours
6 year olds: 10 hours 45 minutes
7 year olds: 10 hours 30 minutes
8 year olds: 10 hours 15 minutes
9 year olds: 10 hours
10 year olds: 9 hours 45 minutes
11 year olds: 9 hours 30 minutes
12 year olds: 9 hours 15 minutes
13 year olds: 9 hours 15 minutes
Mr Malcolm 8 hours! And 8 hours in the day!
It is important that children devise a routine, or that parents provide a framework for them. Jessica Alexander of The Sleep Council (yes there is a council for this!) suggests ‘keeping regular sleeping hours, a bedtime ritual teaches the brain to become familiar with sleep times and wake times’.
There is strong evidence that night time sleep is just as important as healthy eating and exercise. Children who do not get enough sleep are likely to be overweight, irritable, overactive and do not concentrate well. Such symptoms can be mistaken for mild ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) when all the child needs is to sleep. A depressed child can be a sign of not enough sleep.
Some children find it difficult to go to sleep (50% in my assembly in the Prep Department on Wednesday when I asked). Parents can help with this by encouraging a routine which relaxes the child both physically and mentally. Examples would include a warm (not hot) bath or shower before bed followed by reading a book or listening to a story to relax the mind. The bedroom needs to be dark, quiet and tidy. Keep temperatures between 18° – 24°C. Fit thick curtains and double glazing if possible. Consider earplugs if you live in a noisy place and ensure the mattress is comfortable.
As the bedroom is supposed to be a quiet relaxing place, avoid stimulants such as TVs, videos, telephones or games consoles. The lights from screens will keep children awake as they may be tempted to reply to friends getting in touch or playing games through the night (10% of boys in my assembly admitted to playing games or using social media when their parents were asleep next door. Do not bother asking them as they will obviously deny it!)
If your child is getting too little or too much sleep, consult your doctor.
The pressures of life for children are becoming more and more difficult. Parents often ask me how to improve their son’s scores or educational skills. The answer is often a question, ‘Are they getting enough sleep?’
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 81 (27th January 2017)
There has been a lot in the news recently about Mindfulness and mental toughness. To be honest, when ‘Happiness’ was first introduced into the curriculum at Wellington School I thought that it was the then Headmaster, Anthony Seldon, using it as a marketing technique to promote his school, however, I am changing my mind.
I think that the pressures which Anthony so eloquently described of his 16 to 18 year old pupils has dropped down the age groups to the Prep school aged children. The pressures and expectations of exams and social media, the lack of direction and self-discipline in some homes and the pressure on parents’ family life in general is leaving many children feeling overwhelmed and isolated.
In a recent study by teaching psychometric test publisher AQR, it concluded that “Pupils in independent schools are controlled, committed, confident and like a challenge.” This research was looking into soft skills and mental toughness of 32,000 pupils across the country and at a variety of schools, both state and independent. The results fell in to 4 broad categories:
I believe that this is exactly what a school like Priory provides in the ‘hidden curriculum’. It enhances self-esteem through different experiences for example, public speaking, boys develop an ability to ‘have a go’ and not to worry about failure due to the strong support pupils have. The rigour of our curriculum ensures high expectations alongside the high expectations of staff and parents.
This is all achieved in a warm and friendly environment where there are lots of opportunities to enjoy a variety of activities. Working in collaboration with parents we are able to produce well-rounded and confident young men. The outcomes therefore will be that they can face an ever changing world with confidence and enjoyment as they progress through their life. The partnership and trust developed between school and home in the formative years is therefore critical to the success of the child and something that Priory does well. This ethos will be created in the new school as it is fundamental to the well-being and success of our pupils.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 80 (20th January 2017)
Thank you to those parents who come to last night’s ‘Meet the Governors’ meeting. I hope that you were able to have all of your questions answered and were able to see the quality and rigour of United Learning and the opportunities which it will provide for both the boys and the teachers. I hope you saw the passion and expertise of Vicky Ellis, the new Head.
There is an Open Morning tomorrow on Saturday 21st January, see timings below, of which I shall be present and I will be happy to answer any questions over a cup of tea and generally have a chat about the future.
My experience of United Learning so far has been very positive. Since the announcement, I have been meeting with the Heads of the other two schools to discuss issues that are coming to light and to ease the transition for all pupils entering the new School. As you will have heard, joining the United Learning Group offers us a large support network in a variety of ways. Already we are beginning to see the benefit from help in training of teachers, human resources, H&S and general organisation which previously we would have to have sourced ourselves.
Coming up shortly will be opportunities for the boys to visit Banstead Prep School with a variety of team building events which will be advertised shortly. If you are unable to attend tomorrow’s Open Morning there will be further opportunities to visit the School which will be advertised in Priory Post.
At the recent PSA meeting, parents and boys have suggested numerous ideas for the use of the PSA money which are child focussed, educational and fun. The PSA will be contacting you soon to inform you of the agreed activities which I’m sure everyone will enjoy.
With speculation in the air, parents may wish to check what they are hearing is correct. A simple email to the School Office, or catching someone like myself at the gate, may be able to clarify things for you. If in doubt, ask! We are expecting a lot of parents to our Open Morning on Saturday and I look forward to seeing you then.
There is much interest in the new School so if parents are interested for sisters or younger brothers, they will need to register interest with Su Brailey at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone the School Office. If you didn’t get an introductory brochure, copies will be available at the School reception and to assist with further information from last nights’ meeting we will be pulling together a FAQ document shortly.
I hope to see many of you tomorrow.
Future Age groups
9.30 – 10.30
11.00 – 12.00
Years 1 and 2
12.30 – 1.30
Years 3 and 4
2.00 – 3.00
Years 5 and 6
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 79 (13th January 2017)
One of the difficulties of being a Headmaster of a School is knowing when to close a school due to extreme weather. This week has been a good example! Firstly I had to postpone the ‘Meet the Governors’ meeting on Thursday evening. I had to make a decision when there was no snow on the ground, only a forecast of it. Parents had made arrangements for childcare, were travelling long distances or finishing work early in order to guarantee to be there. The kitchen had to prepare refreshments and staff that were due to attend had to make arrangements for their own family circumstances.
Thankfully it did snow and therefore made my decision, which was shared with the Governors, seem obvious. My fear was that it wouldn’t snow and that parents would have been frustrated by the postponement.
Like most of you, I was up early on Friday morning listening to vague forecasts of potential snow and ice. I always telephone the local schools to see what is happening in Banstead so that we co-ordinate as best we can. Parents need to know early to make arrangements. Some of my staff travel long distances to come to the School and so we have to ensure that we can supervise the pupils upon their arrival. We also have to ensure that the site is safe and that fire escapes, walkways and emergency exits are all clear in the event or situation such as a fire.
Catering staff need to provide lunch and I need to ensure that ambulances and fire engines are able to access the site. The Horseshoe car park, although not our responsibility, has to be accessible so that parents can drop their children off safely. So in order to do this, people like Mr Smith, our Caretaker, need to be here early to advise me of the situation, we have to clear the site and finally alert all the parents and staff that the school is open. As you can see, if the sun comes out I could be criticised on making an early decision based on the facts I have at the time. On this occasion, keeping the School open was clearly appropriate but with more snow forecast in the weeks ahead we will have to go through it all again.
My priority throughout is the safety of the boys and their families. We always say we will look after the boys whatever happens and I would like to thank the After School Club ladies for staying last night until 8pm, when the last boy was picked up. Such is the dedication of my staff.
I am pleased to inform you that the rearranged ‘Meet the Governors’ meeting is due to take place on Thursday 19th January at 7.30pm. Let’s hope it does not snow again!
Of course through this the boys are ecstatic that it has snowed and cannot wait to go out and play in it. This seems to be the main difference between children and adults! I hope that they have a great weekend playing in the snow and that it all disappears by Monday morning!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 78 (6th January 2017)
Welcome back to school, I hope you had an enjoyable Christmas and a fun New Year. I am sure that you are digesting the announcement about Banstead Prep and our involvement. In this week’s blog I am going to pass on more information and some of my views and will continue to do so in the weeks and months ahead.
It is ‘Business as Usual’ at Priory Prep and everyone here is totally committed to ‘Bringing out the best in boys’. Indeed, I will ensure that standards remain high and your sons will remain our top priority. Everything will go on as usual.
I direct you to the e-mail sent out a day or so ago inviting you to a ‘Meet the Governors’ session on Thursday 12th January at 7.30pm here at school where Ashley Head, the Chair of Governors, will explain the rationale as to why Priory is moving. The new Head, Ms Vicky Ellis and Mr Jon Coles, the Chief Executive of United Learning, will be present to answer all your questions. Ms Ellis will be visiting the boys at school shortly and so on this occasion we ask that you do not bring the boys to this meeting.
Although I am not a Governor and so do not technically form part of the decision making process, I am 100% behind the decision. Banstead Prep will be the foremost school in the area; it will have amazing facilities, high standards of teaching and care and with exactly the same ethos as Priory has today. Parents will clamour to join the school; indeed we have a growing number of enquiries already.
I encourage you to attend the meeting on Thursday in order to make an informed decision.
Part of my new role as ‘Senior Education Adviser’ will be to ensure the smooth transition of the boys into the new school and to support Ms Ellis in giving all the pupils the best opportunity to be successful. So, I will still be around to advise parents on schools, write references and help sort out issues; expect to see me in the Autumn! Also expect to see many of our teachers, TAs and support staff, but in a different venue.
On Wednesday 18th January the PSA will be holding their first meeting of the new term. Money raised by Priory parents and boys will be spent on Priory Boys. On behalf of the PSA I would ask you to suggest ideas of how to best spend the funds; your money. I will also be asking the boys in assembly to suggest ideas. Please put these ideas in the PSA box in the porch by the 18th January and the PSA committee will consider them. Ideas have included a fantastic fun fair for the boys, really good ‘days out’ and visits from interesting people.
The new term ahead continues to provide a wealth of opportunities for our boys including trips to Hindleap Warren (Y4), a Rugby Tour to Bath (Y5 & Y6), Y3 visiting Epsom College with their newly acquired violin skills, Nursery and Reception visiting a Chinese restaurant as well as Book Week and Science week. I look forward to welcoming you at the PSA Quiz Night or seeing some you at the Lads’ and Dads’ evening. The calendar is action packed and we are looking forward to a busy term ahead.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 77 (9th December 2016)
No doubt, many parents are looking forward to receiving their son’s effort and progress grades and CE Mock results in the Prep School and I know that all parents look forward to their son’s summer report. Two years ago our website crashed when we announced the date and time of their release, such was the demand.
However, perhaps parents would not be so enthusiastic if they knew that their performance as a parent was graded as well! A school in Nottinghamshire has been doing just that since 2011. Parents are given A, B, C or D grades based on their involvement with their children’s education. That system is intended to improve the pupil’s performance by encouraging parents to attend events such as parent’s evenings, plays and completing homework.
I can feel a line of parents forming outside my study to complain about being given a ‘D’ for ‘parenting’ as I write, however is there merit in this grading? Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Head of Ofsted, says that there is. He explains that telling a parent the impact their lack of engagement is having on the life chances of their child is not easy, but for many children at this school it is making a huge difference!
As a teacher, it is often frustrating when you see the talent of a child being lost due to the lack of interest or engagement of a parent, however if both parents are working long hours it can be very difficult. Perhaps if we are grading parents for their support of their child, we also need to allow parents to be able to grade the teaching of their teachers. I can feel another queue forming outside my office!
Such initiatives must be applicable to the individual school and its circumstances. Clearly this school in Nottinghamshire was ‘requiring improvement’ as Ofsted would judge. The Head felt that something radical had to be done to improve standards. I have friends working in inner city schools who will only get a handful of parents at parents evening out of hundreds or one family for the nativity play.
Clearly Priory is not like this as almost 100% of parents attend parents evenings, plays, concerts and so on. However, it does make you realise the importance of supporting your son or daughter at school and the effect you can have on them.
This is my last blog of 2016 as next week we break up. There is still a very busy week ahead, especially for Santa as he prepares for Christmas.
I hope that you have an enjoyable and peaceful Christmas.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 76 (2nd December 2016)
Christmas is a magical time of year, only to be matched for children by their birthday or going on holiday. Unfortunately the lead up to all of these events can often lead to rather fractious and demanding children whose expectations can be extremely high and often unrealistic.
Every year toy manufacturers compete for the best toy, or rather the most lucrative toy. At lunch last weekend I asked what some younger boys wanted for Christmas. Apart from the bar code, they knew everything about an exhaustive list of toys adding up deep into the hundreds of pounds, if not more. It seemed they thought Father Christmas is a multi-millionaire!
Although many years ago, I can see why my parents made me write a list to Father Christmas. It allowed my parents to dampen my expectations for Christmas Day. Indeed, I was left hoping that I would get my main wish, but rather uncertain if I had been good enough to deserve it.
My best ever Christmas present was a Batman Suit and my brother got a Robin Suit. We rode around our road on our bikes saving the good people (and cats and dogs) of Gotham City until our mother called us in for tea.
The reality was somewhat different. My father had been on strike and my parents had literally no money. My mother made our costumes whilst we were asleep and my father got some second-hand bikes and painted them up. It was clearly a tough Christmas for them that year, but for my brother and I, it was brilliant! The Caped Crusader and Robin had a fantastic time despite the austerity of the time.
Although they may think they do, children do not need hundreds of pounds spent on them; they need attention and love. Often ‘time’ is something that is at a premium. Children are only young for a brief time; enjoy it because it soon goes.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 75 (25th November 2016)
A study has confirmed that ‘play’ helps boost children’s language development, problem solving, risk management and independent learning skills. The Children’s Play Policy Forum found that ‘play’ improves physical and mental health and could enhance academic skills and attitudes.
But what is ‘play’? Play to me is the uninhibited and unorganised ability for children to engage in an activity for enjoyment and recreation rather for a serious or practical purpose.
But how much ‘play’ do children actually get? I am aware of some pupils in schools having a timetable of activities structured for them from the moment they get up until they go to bed. Football, tutoring, swimming lesson, tennis lesson or piano. Their whole day is structured, but does not allow for ‘just being children’.
Last week there were some boys outside my study who were organising how they were going to get to Mars. The ship climbing frame was to be the rocket and they had agreed who were to be astronauts and who was to be ‘mission control’.
In order to organise the successful mission, the boys had to agree who took each role and what the role involved. Each boy would have had a different idea in his head of the mission. Unfortunately they never got to Mars as they were called in to lessons; perhaps they went at lunchtime?
As adults we often over-organise our children’s activities; when my children were little more than babies, Grandma bought my children some expensive toys which were abandoned for the box in which it came and the paper it was wrapped in!
The Woodland School which the Pre-prep children attend is a good example of how ‘free play’ can be so educational. Children run about (PE), they explore (Science), they express themselves to their friends (Speech & Language), they count sticks or stones (Maths) and see all the wonderful nature around them (Science); it is an outdoor school.
The Sports Tours, which are residential, help pupils have the confidence to stay away from home. You have to get on with your room-mate and be organised so that you have the correct things at the correct time. The sport is often only 1% of the tour. Much of the tour is in the room with your friend playing or having ‘free time’ to discover the hotel and its amenities.
The power of play, at all ages, is so important. With computers, laptops, smartphones and smart TVs, children are playing less and less and schools are having to sort out all sorts of social problems which could be improved by just letting children play and learn how to sort out their problems themselves.
Why not just go out for a walk this weekend, kick the leaves and relax?
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 74 (18th November 2016)
So, Donald Trump is to be the next President of the United States. Just like Brexit, the Polls were wrong and just like Brexit it has thrown people into confusion and anxiety.
In order to try to keep the boys abreast of what is happening outside of Priory and the privacy of their bedroom I decided to discuss the results of the US Election in assembly last week. I was truly amazed at what I heard, and concerned at their answers to my questions.
My assembly was to Year 3 boys and above. Normally Year 3 boys (not just this year’s Year 3, but most years) are aware of very little that is going on in the outside world, unless it involves Pokémon, Manchester United or what is for lunch! Actually this is a bit unfair, but their experience of the world is somewhat limited in most cases. Their experiences have in respect grown by Year 4 and have developed significantly by Year 6 when often they are interviewed by senior schools as part of the Admissions process.
Imagine my surprise when they knew all about the American election! We firstly agreed that Donald Trump must wear a wig and that we would love to see him without it! However, quickly things got serious.
Firstly it became clear that in following the election they did not like the hateful and vulgar behaviour that he demonstrated. ‘Sir, you would have told him off if he was at Priory’.
Perhaps the most alarming thing was that many of the boys were frightened about what he might do to anyone who was a Muslim, non-white or even women. They felt that this wall which he says will be built between Mexico and America was silly and that Mexico, which is a poor country, could not afford it anyway.
Some of the boys were genuinely scared about the future, despite Mr Trump’s consilatory words since being elected. It was agreed that someone else probably wrote his speeches and that he was just trying to settle everyone down.
I would urge parents to talk to their children, who clearly are not as naïve as perhaps we think they are due to their age. At school we do not tolerate bullying, and we do not hate or fear people based on their gender, race, religion or orientation. We are a community who respect each other and move forward together.
This assembly made me understand that children do pick up things and that they need to process and digest this. As parents and teachers we must be careful of what they hear and see, but also help them to understand and synthesise this information so that they can develop their morals and beliefs for adulthood.
Of course, there are those who voted for Trump, indeed the vast majority of the US populous, and as a democracy he must be allowed to represent his people. We may not like it, but that is how it works. Let’s see what happens.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 73 (11th November 2016)
I hope that you had an enjoyable break. Certainly, there can be no question that winter has arrived!
I must admit that I had a little chuckle when Michael Gove, MP, was accused of leaving his 11 year old son alone in a bed and breakfast for six hours to go to a party. Michael Gove was formerly Education Secretary and had been telling us (parents and teachers) how to educate our children. Apparently the boy was found wandering the hotel at 1.30am in the morning searching for his parents.
Many parents will find themselves in a similar position as their children get older. Do they stay by themselves or do you take your children with you, or not go out at all?
The law does not give an age of when a child can be left alone but states that children must not be neglected or abandoned ‘in a manner likely to cause them unnecessary suffering or injury to health’. By not having a specific age it is difficult to know when a child can be left alone. The NSPCC suggest that parents need to consider children under 12 being left along for long periods. They need to be mature enough to cope in an emergency and certainly children under 16 should not be left alone overnight.
Politicians of all colours rallied round Mr Gove suggesting that his was not much of a story and that the boy had a mobile telephone and would be fine. I disagree! If my staff who were looking after your children decided to go out partying on a rugby tour or French trip for example, I would expect social services to take a very dim view on the matter. What would happen if there was a fire or an alert? Having the maturity to get the bus to secondary school at 11 is different to being responsible for your own actions in unfamiliar surroundings.
A mother from Thames Valley was recently cautioned by police for leaving her little child with her 14 year old son. She was away for less than 30 minutes and the time passed was without ‘incident’.
At the heart of the matter is the fact that one child’s maturity and reliability can differ dramatically from another. There is no age which specifies when a child can be allowed to babysit, however if the babysitter is under 16, then the parents remain legally responsible for the child’s safety. Punishments range from a fine to 10 year imprisonment.
Sue Palmer, author of ‘The Toxic Childhood’, believes that this is society’s fault; ‘children are becoming less competent because they are being treated like carefully protected pets’. Attitudes in Germany and Switzerland are much different to the UK. It is common for children as young as 8 to walk to school by themselves and pop to the shops for a carton of milk. Sue continues, ‘unless you let them take on chores and take responsibility for their own behaviour and learn to deal with real time, space and people, you won’t be able to leave them in charge of another child’.
This fear of leaving children alone has come about with the threat of criminal record checks and the perception of a very unpleasant world. It means that people are not using the common sense and losing their own ability to judge.
I am pleased to announce that Mr Gove’s son came to no harm and that all was well, all except Mr Gove’s reputation as a dancer which seems to have plummeted lower than Ed Balls, but that’s another issue!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 72 (21st October 2016)
In these difficult financial times I often get asked by parents if sending a child to an independent senior school is worth it. State schools seem to be catching up independent schools and money could be saved by going to one of these. On the face of it, it would seem a sensible argument. As a parent of two children who went through the independent system I was ever keen for my children to enjoy their childhood and education and my wife and I decided to give up the luxuries of life to enable them to benefit from the opportunities that independent schools provide, especially music, sport, drama, art and exam preparation.
I always hear parents saying that they want their children to be happy but as they approach external examinations it is more about performance. Lots of sports pitches, dance studies or swimming pools with adjustable floors are all very well but what do you get for your money? How do independent schools stack up against state schools when is actually matters, in exams?
Statistics change every year and schools and regions vary. The Independent Schools Council (ISC) publish examination results every year and I will run through the headlines with you now, but more detail can be gained at www.isc.co.uk.
Let’s take GSCEs first.
34.5% of all GCSEs in ISC schools were awarded A*, nationally it is 6.5%. 61.9% of ISC schools got an A* or A (20.5% nationally). 90.8% of pupils in ISC schools scored A-C, including English and Maths (nationally 76.2%). These figures are skewed somewhat as a growing number of schools are sitting IGCSE which is generally considered to be more difficult, but better preparation for A Level.
Now A Level.
Half of A Levels in ISC schools are A or A* (48.7%) which is twice the national average (25.8%), a staggering figure.
Most boys who leave Priory go on to an independent school at the moment, although this may change in the future with the possible growth of Grammar Schools and Academics. Intelligent, driven and focussed students should do well wherever they go, but for average students (slightly above or slightly below) the statistics show that going to an independent school does make a difference, a large difference. Every family has to look at their own circumstances and make a choice, which I respect, but do look at the statistics as it can help. Look at senior schools’ record which they must publish and I think that you will be surprised how some schools in the locality who do not necessarily have the ‘bells and whistles’ of others actually do extremely well given their intake.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 71 (14th October 2016)
Next Monday (17th October) we have a talk for parents entitled ‘How to keep your child safe on the internet’. It starts at 7pm and will finish at 8.30pm and I urge at least one parent if not both to attend. David Blake, who recently came to talk to the staff about Safeguarding, will be giving practical ideas of how to help your child. I feel it is essential that parents are made aware of online threats which children face and of all the associated dangers, as well as the advantages that the internet can provide.
Are you truly aware of the hidden danger of the internet? Instant messaging, chat rooms, emails and social networking sites, can all be the cause of difficulties form cyber-bullying to gambling, to inappropriate material and even exposure to sexual predators.
The NSPCC state that 1 in 4 of children (up to 11) have experienced something upsetting on social networking sites. 1 in 3 children have been a victim of cyber bullying and 1 in 4 have come across racist or hate messages online. 1 in 7 of young people have taken a semi-naked or naked picture of themselves and went on to share it with someone.
Each week I receive CASPAR, which is a free weekly email from the NSPCC which is sent to staff. It provides us with the latest Safeguarding and child protection news. Parents can sign up to it on nspcc.org.uk or you can follow on Twitter, follow @NSPCCpro.
With such shocking statistics, as parents and teachers we have to educate our children but firstly educate ourselves. The problem is that often the children are ahead of us in their understanding and we are too busy to take this seriously. Do come and listen to David Blake as this is an opportunity to protect your children. Please do not miss it, even if your children are very young. They will have a smartphone in their hands very soon, which is a powerful computer, given to them by you!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 70 (7th October 2016)
At some point in our lives it is likely that we will all have childcare costs. Here at Priory we try and take a sensible approach where we allow parents to book in at short notice in After School Club or Breakfast Club. This helps with parents’ day to day arrangements. We also charge by the 15 minutes to keeps costs down. We are trying to provide a service to parents, aware of the costs of independent education.
In some schools parents have to pay for the whole term, in advance, whether they use it every day or not. The costs are considerably higher than Priory charges and often the standard of care can be somewhat erratic. However, for working parents they have little choice as partners need to work.
This is no more evident than in the Nursery and Early Years. Many families join us because we are not only good value but we run an ‘outstanding’ Nursery, according to ISI. This is even more attractive as we take Childcare vouchers to assist parents with the cost.
Last year, in the lead up to the election the Conservative Party promised to increase the Childcare Vouchers from 15 hours to 30 hours per week. Although the Government announced that they were increasing the hourly rate, most councils are seeing a fall in funding.
Nurseries around the country are facing closure as they cannot provide childcare at a loss or subsidise funding places out of their own pockets. This is simply unsustainable and will inevitably lead to closures or a massive hike in charges to parents.
Added to this lack of funding, the Government have recently insisted on all new nursery staff having a ‘C’ in English and Mathematics at GCSE before commencing training. Although this is good in theory, it is not practical. In the last year this has brought about a 30% drop in student training. This impending recruitment crisis is likely to damage the quality of childcare on offer for parents, driving up salary demands which will be passed on to the customer: the parents. The small ratios of children per adult are also, in some cases, likely to rise.
Neil Leitch, Chief executive of the Pre-School Learning Alliance, said, ‘It seems completely counter-productive to persist with a policy that is actively blocking… passionate practitioners from entering the sector’. It is difficult to argue with him.
The new education minister, Justine Greening, needs to look at what is happening in Early Years education and act quickly to avoid problems in the future as we are sleep walking into a childcare crisis. Costs will rocket, demand will continue to increase and standards will fall.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 69 (30th September 2016)
Unfortunately I have been out of school this week at the IAPS Conference in London and also re-training as an Inspector for the new style Inspection so I have been unable to write a blog, however, you may find this interesting reading. The Times Educational Supplement ran a survey amongst 2,500 Year 6 pupils to list what you should do at school by the age of 11. Although some of the ideas are silly or daring most are really quite sensible and heart-warming, enjoy!
1. Call a teacher mum or dad
2. Make good friends
3. Tell the teacher to "chill out"
4. Get covered in paint/mud/chalk
5. Laugh hysterically when someone farts
6. Take part in a school production
7. Have a water fight
8. Go swimming
9. Be made to sit next to your enemy
10. Forget your homework
11. Have a nickname
12. Do something silly and realise a teacher is standing behind you
13. Laugh so much that drink comes out through your nose
14. Throw a paper plane
15. Fall out with a friend
16. Take part in a sports tournament
17. Draw a face on a rubber
18. Go on a school trip
19. Get a certificate
20. Get told off
21. Experience other schools
22. Learn how to get on with everyone
23. Invent something
24. Make a fool out of yourself/embarrass yourself more than once
25. Work with children from older year groups
26. Grow some flowers or vegetables
27. Fall off your chair when you swing on it
28. Learn to feel confident in front of your class
29. Be a leader of a group
30. Feel like you can trust someone
31. Raise money for charity
32. Have a party in school
33. Run a stall at a fair
34. Teach part of a lesson to your class
35. Make a best friend
36. Take part in outdoor learning
37. Forget you have homework until the day before it’s due
38. Deal with a difficult situation
39. Watch a film in class
40. Have a pyjama day
41. Take part in a class assembly
42. Tell a joke
43. Ride a bike and take cycling proficiency
44. Pretend to be the teacher
45. Have a huff and get in a mood
46. Be in the local newspaper
47. Kick the ball over a wall
48. Fail so that you can improve on your mistakes
49. Feel happy and safe
50. Eat school chips
51. Have a class pet
52. Go to an after-school club
53. Play "Heads Down Thumbs Up"
54. Find out that you are good at something
55. Find out about different cultures
56. Be caring
57. Discover your favourite author
58. Take part in a special event
59. Attend a school disco
60. Create an exploding volcano
61. Be part of a team
62. Be inspired by a teacher
63. Have a play day
64. Make a card for a special person
65. Fall asleep in a lesson
66. Call a male teacher "Miss"
67. Run round a corridor corner only to smash into a teacher
68. Lose an item of clothing that does not have your name stitched into it
69. Hatch chicks in an incubator
70. Get to see inside the Headteacher’s office
71. Read a book on the grass on a sunny day
72. Be kind to someone who needs a friend
73. Run around in the rain
74. Play conkers
75. Make a daisy chain
76. Listen to a ghost story
77. Visit Santa in his grotto
78. Go pond dipping
79. Dress up for World Book Day
80. Try different types of food
81. Learn to skip
82. Learn basic first aid and how to dial 999
83. Film and edit a movie
84. Have a pen pal
85. Graze your knee in the playground
86. Eat your lunch in the rain on a school trip
87. Freak out when the fire alarm goes, secretly hoping it’s actually the real thing
88. Help younger pupils at school
89. Make up a dance routine in the playground
90. Have your parents come to visit the school
91. Get to spin on the teacher's chair
92. Be sick in the classroom
93. Laugh during sexual health lessons
94. Have a wasp in the classroom
95. Come into school with a new haircut
96. Forget to write your name on your work
97. Be sad to leave
98. Learn to look after yourself
99. Throw a custard pie at a teacher
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 68 (23rd September 2016)
Imagine my consternation when I saw ‘AniMalcolm’ on billboards as I traipsed around Bluewater Shopping Centre this weekend. Closer inspection informed me that ‘AniMalcolm’ is in fact a new book out from the brightest new star of children’s books and winner of the Collies Award, David Baddiel.
‘AniMalcolm’ is a laugh out loud book. Malcolm (not me!) does not like animals, which is a problem as everyone in his family loves them and he has a house full of them. Unfortunately everything Malcolm likes, such as laptops, his parents ban. David Baddiel, of TV fame with Frank Skinner, has also written ‘The Person Controller’, ‘The Boy Who Could Do What He Liked’, ‘The Parent Agency’ and ‘The Death of Eli Gold’.
I got much of this information from a bookstore in the shopping centre. I was amazed to find lots of children with their nose stuck in a book while their parents drank coffee in the cafeteria area of the store. Many of the children were boys and very keen to tell me about David Baddiel books and how they were looking forward to his new book. It was truly enlightening to see boys dressed in football kit, having just come from a match, reading children’s books. They were not geeks or strange, but normal children being entertained by books. I explained that I was a Head and they soon began reeling off recommended reads for our school.
Authors included John Green’s ‘The Fault in our Stars’, The comedian David Walliams for ‘Mr Stink’ and ‘Gangsta Granny’ to name but two. Others were Anthony Horowitz who wrote the Alex Rider series including ‘Stormbreaker’, Eoin Colfer for ‘Artemis Fowl’ and Oliver Jeffers for ‘How to Catch Star’.
It soon became clear that there is a wealth of books out there for children and if your son is not accessing them at the appropriate age he is missing out and so are the parents who are not reading them with their children.
Next time you are looking for a cup of coffee, go to a bookshop and have your coffee and let your children discover the wonderful world of children’s books.
‘AniMalcolm’ is released on September 29th in Hardcover by Collins and Harper.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 67 (16th September 2016)
It has been beautiful week weather wise, although not so good today. I am sure that our lawns and gardens could do with the rain, but it certainly came as a shock this morning as I got soaked getting out of the car. Many boys had similar experiences it would seem judging by their dishevelled hair and soggy socks!
As a child, school represents an opportunity to make friends and play. I like to think that all boys come to school to learn and be ‘filled’ with knowledge, however, for most the reality is that they look forward to playtimes and being with their friends. It has been a joy to watch the boys running around and just having fun. For many of the younger boys, peripheral vision, body awareness and their awareness of others is still developing. Boys will run into each other and bang heads, run into walls or fences, trip up or fall over their own feet! For the most part these are genuine accidents and due to clumsy movement or a lack of awareness. Unfortunately, sometimes boys will hit their heads. I have a strict rule that parents should be informed, even for the slightest knock. This often alarms parents, but I do believe that we should be safe, not sorry.
The brain is a very sensitive organ and needs to be looked after, so any possible damage needs to be carefully monitored. By letting parents know that boys have had a slight knock it ensures that this is being monitored. If a boy develops a headache or is sick then we recommend that you take him down to A & E for assessment.
All of our staff at Priory Prep are first aid trained. This is unusual for a school, but we take our ‘duty of care’ very seriously.
If the school office feel that after assessing your son he needs to go home or to hospital immediately they will contact you, therefore an email letting you know that he has bumped his head in some way is most likely to be cautionary. However, if you are worried and need further information, please ring the school office.
The rain slowed the boys down a bit in the playground today, but they still had fun with their friends. Parents should feel comfortable and reassured that we will always look after them. It is the Priory Way!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 66 (9th September 2016)
A warm welcome back to School, especially to our new parents who join us. There are many tears on the first day of term - very few from the boys, but mainly tears from parents for whose sons it was the first day of school ever, or those parents who were overjoyed the boys were back to school! Each week I write a blog associated with matters of the moment or issues which affect your children.
I was somewhat alarmed to read that there was a riot outside a school in Margate as pupils did not conform to the new Headmaster’s rules. This included the wrong socks and shoes. Obviously the new Head was trying to make his mark but he probably went too far as he hit the national media. The school in question is a senior school and one trying to raise standards in all areas. I can see that the Head was trying to make a point but feel that he chose the wrong topic.
School uniform is a very sensitive subject but one which reflects our British values and in many ways is envied around the world. Certainly the Priory Prep School uniform looks lovely on the first day of term and has no doubt been the subject of many photos, however after a few football matches in the playground and being left out in the rain, school uniform can become almost like ‘work overalls’ for some boys.
Some boys get very worried about not having the right kit of being different from others. Staff are very sympathetic and no boy will get into trouble for not having the correct kit at the beginning of the year, but we do ask parents to provide what is missing. The School Shop is very good and its staff are always happy to help and let us know if they have run out of stock or parents’ comments on quality or practicality.
It is the intention to have the boys looking smart, be proud of their school and what their uniform represents, and be ready to work. Most boys have had haircuts for the new term (as have I!) but we would ask for sensible haircuts - nothing too short or too long - and haircuts which do not make them stand out from the crowd like a sore thumb.
By now your sons should know their form teacher, have their timetable and know where to go for lessons, lunch or the toilet. If you have any questions please ask your son’s form teacher who will be happy to help.
We have sent home a ‘Data Sheet’ with your son’s details which needs checking and should be returned, even for a nil entry. Please add anything you feel is missing or we need to know. You will also have a ‘Parents Handbook’ which should help you with the practicalities of life at Priory Prep. You also have the ‘Parent Portal’ with specific information on your son as well as access to the ‘Parent Zone’ on the School website which is password protected (please telephone the School Office if you have forgotten the password). Regular emails and texts are sent out as necessary to keep parents informed of events.
I look forward to another successful year and to meeting parents on the touchline, at a presentation or at the School gate sometime soon.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 65 (6th July 2016)
It has been an incredibly busy and wet term but we have finally come to the end of another academic year. Our minds turn to holidays and childcare.
There are lots of camps and activities which have become the norm for busy or working parents. Included in this list is ‘FunZone’ which is held here at Priory. It has proved extremely popular but some places are still available. http://www.funzoneatprioryprep.co.uk/.
‘The summer is a long time not to be at School and children soon forget what they have learnt’ I often hear. I cannot agree with that as I feel that everyone needs a rest and children need to play and relax. It is also a time for parents to spend more time with their children and enjoy their company, although I realise that this can sometimes wear a bit thin!
Certainly it is an opportunity to catch up on a number of things which boys are behind in or need to practise. Although highly unpopular, learning tables over the summer is a must if your son does not know them. He should be reading every day, especially if at home with nothing to do. Build it into your routine so that it is expected.
If you are going on holiday boys could research where they are going and what they might do. They can produce a project on their holiday or on a particular interest and bring it into school at the beginning of next term and I will give them a reward. Boys in Y5 will have specific work for Pre-Testing and 11+ preparation. There is always My Maths (online) and CBBC educational programmes. So there is no excuse for not keeping things ‘ticking over’.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank parents for all their support over the last 12 months and also for the generosity towards both myself and the staff. I hope that you have an enjoyable holiday and that you return refreshed for another year at Priory Prep!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 64 (30th June 2016)
Well, the boys were wrong! They voted to ‘Remain’ within the EU, but as we all know ‘Leave’ won. To me this was somewhat of a shock as like many we went to bed thinking that we were staying in the EU and woke up to find we were leaving.
In Reigate & Banstead 81,200 ballot papers were counted. 40,181 voted to Remain and 40,980 voted to leave, a majority of 799.
In Sutton the turnout was 106,630 with 49,319 voting to Remain and 57,241 to leave, so a majority of 7922 to leave.
In Epsom & Ewell 23,596 voted to Remain, whilst only 21,707 wished to leave, a majority of 1889 to Remain.
So locally there was not much between the two campaigns, which was reflected nationally. It was good that the boys were able to see democracy in action.
Whatever your views, we are now constitutionally working towards leaving the EU. It is still very early to start speculating, but scaremongering has already started in the world of education. Speculation suggests that there will be less money for schools and universities as the UK looks to re-establish itself in the new markets.
What is clear is that a good education is likely to be more critical than ever before and that we will need leaders, business people and community workers just like now. It is also clear that we live in a global market which values education. Pupils of today in future will need to be able to be flexible and adaptable to respond to a rapidly changing world, as demonstrated in the last week. Schools will need to be able to respond to these changing requirements to best fit the needs of our country and beyond-whether we are in the EU or not.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 63 (24th June 2016)
On Friday night we held our first ‘Dragon’s Den’ evening. Boys in Y5 and Y6 have been working towards this presentation for the past term. The idea was to put together ideas which would make money for a chosen charity, pitch it to the dragons and win money to put that idea into action. The evening took the format of the TV programme with the Chairman of Governors, Ashley Head, supported by a true-life venture-capitalist, Tom Onions, and the founder of the Green Bean Café in London, Prue Freeman.
The whole idea was to get boys working together in a common cause, be able to present an idea using Powerpoint and then answer questions on it. This is exactly what many parents might be doing next week as part of their work so it seems obvious that our boys should practise this at an early stage. The practical use of their literacy and numeracy skills came to life as the boys spoke passionately about their chosen charity and how they intended to raise money. The Dragons asked the teams probing questions which clearly demonstrated that a lot of research and effort had been put into their bid. Indeed, each team had a finance manager, a marketing manager, an administration manager and a researcher. Each boy had taken their role very seriously and each group really wanted to win.
‘Wateraid’, the group wanting to raise money to provide clean drinking water for children in Africa, came out as winners. Dragons were invited to drink muddy smelly water, just like children have to do in parts of Africa; they declined! Strong presentation skills and a plan to raise money in a football tournament supported by refreshments and ancinary activities got the Dragon’s vote, however all boys did very well and gave us a glimpse of the future.
Thank you to Mrs Knell and the boys for a most entertaining evening. I was amazed at the abilities of the boys and how some boys who are often quiet stood out. Such experiences, although often nerve-racking, are essential to a child’s development. Last year this group were telling jokes and acting in funny sketches in Priory’s Got Talent; the progress to ‘Dragon’s Den’ has been amazing. Y3 and Y4 are busy rehearsing ‘Treasure Island’ which is a step up from the Christmas Nativity they performed last year. I look forward to enjoying their performance along with all their parents.
I would ask parents to encourage their sons in getting involved in plays and drama, as it is so good for the boys’ confidence. We run ‘Speech and Drama’ and ‘Drama’ clubs which boys can enjoy. We also give boys the opportunity to take prospective parents around on Open Mornings and tell them about our school. Such opportunities are often missed as boys just play sport and little else. All children need to be rounded and have experiences outside of their comfort zone in order to develop. With activities about to be released for next term, I would urge parents to discuss having a balanced activity programme with their sons before booking.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 62 (17th June 2016)
I don’t know what you feel about the EU Referendum but I feel bamboozled and somewhat confused as either side of the ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ parties make claims and counter claims. It seems that the ‘Remain’ party are using scare tactics to maintain the status quo whereas the ‘Leave’ party are talking up being totally independent of Europe and ploughing our own furrow. I find it very confusing, especially when statistics are banded about but are trashed by the other side.
There is no doubt that the EU Referendum will cause a lot of damage whatever the result. If we ‘remain’ we will have a Government totally divided and probably unable to function; I cannot see David Cameron and Boris Johnson shaking hands and becoming sweethearts, although in politics, anything can happen. If we ‘leave’ I can see it taking a decade to negotiate our exit and begin to establish ourselves. David Cameron will go and probably Boris Johnson will be in charge, having not been elected by the country.
This week the boys and staff had an EU Referendum at school. The debate demonstrated that young children are capable of understanding political issues and can question what it all means. It is this age group and their children who will be subject to the decision made on the 23rd June. Although highly confusing, it is important to all of us that we understand the debate as it will have long-lasting and far-reaching effects.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 61 (9th June 2016)
Did you read or see on the TV the story of the little Japanese boy who was left by his parents in woods as punishment for throwing stones at a car? When they went back for him, he had disappeared. This sparked a massive search which kept the nation, and most of the world, riveted.
I can only imagine how the parents must have felt as they must have feared that he was dead. They must have gone through agony as they blamed themselves for his fate. However, Yamato Tanooka was found 3 miles from where he was abandoned six days later inside a hut at the Self Defence Forces training facility.
Although only 7, Yamato had found water from a nearby tap and slept on mattresses spread on the floor. He was suffering from mild dehydration, a light rash and malnutrition, as he had not eaten anything. He had worked out that eventually someone would find him.
The father was quoted: ‘I think my actions were very excessive, and I deeply regret it, we have raised him with love all along’. The parents have not been arrested and are not being criminally investigated.
I was not surprised of the resilience of the little boy as children are more capable than parents think. Yamato had to think on his feet, fend for himself and ensure that he would be found. An adult in a similar situation could not have done better. I do not wish to put our boys deliberately in the same situation, but how would your son get on?
Japanese parents are traditionally very strict but loving. I cannot imagine the parents not being prosecuted if a similar incident happened in this country, it speaks volumes about how the Japanese see the role of the family and how they control their children. I have thought many times of abandoning my children as they were driving me mad; however, I never actually did it. I sympathise with the parents who were trying to teach that boy a lesson, but it obviously back-fired on a catastrophic scale.
I am sure that we are all delighted that Yamato is back home safe and sound, but it does question how we discipline our children. I would suggest that sometimes we need to think things through before taking action, especially when we are very cross, as that is the time when we do not think clearly – ask Mr and Mrs Tanooka!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 60 (26th May 2016)
So what are you doing over the half term break? With the weather set fair and the expectations of the boys sky high after exams, the pressure is on parents to provide something entertaining or special.
Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures and Thorpe Park are likely to be packed and overpriced and you will probably have to face long queues to enter the park, to use the toilets and to buy a burger. So what else can you do?
Very often it is the simple things in life that children enjoy most. Certainly they usually want to be with their friends, so perhaps join up with another family.
Perhaps you could go to the coast (about an hour) and let the children play in the rock pools. You will be surprised how often even older children love the beach and will spend hours just playing and investigating.
Have you ever planned a walk on a map? Box Hill is quite good for a walk with lovely views. Again, children like being with their friends and investigating in the woods. A promise of an ice cream or chocolate may be the incentive that you might need to keep them going.
In previous blogs I have mentioned the use of bikes. If done safely this can be great fun. There are literally hundreds of cycle rides in the South-East; go to www.cycle-route.com to find one near you. Often the routes go along disused railway tracks with easy inclines with coffee shops or pubs along the way. A cycle along the Thames is also lovely, but be careful of falling in!
You may be fortunate enough to be going away on an organised holiday, but wherever you are, remember that children need to relax, have fun and be safe.
Enjoy the break and we will see you after half term for all the fun of the summer term, sports days, visits, concerts and so much more!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 59 (20th May 2016)
Sometimes I despair with our Government! I can feel the battle lines being drawn over taking children out of school for holidays when common sense should prevail.
Last week Jon Platt from the Isle of Wight appealed a fine for taking his daughter to Florida during term time. In a landmark decision the High Court said that parents would not break the law if their child’s attendance over the rest of the year was sufficiently ‘regular’.
This may lead to a rush of holidays in term time at cheaper prices and the increase in the cost of holidays in term time. It may also lead to over 200,000 parents re-claiming their fine for taking their children out of school. This is known as a Truancy Penalty and is anything from £120 to £200 depending on the circumstances.
Personally I think that Government officials have ‘lost the plot’. Parents have been effectively taking ‘a tax’ of £120 per child against the cost of their holiday at a cheaper time of year. Up until September 2013 this ‘authorisation’ was in the hands of the school Head. Previously parents at Priory would write in to request permission for absence. I would check our records to see how much time the child had off, see how they were doing and speak to the parent. If it was in an examination year or period I would say no to parents.
I can think of many occasions when boys have visited their grandparents in London for the first time or have been invited to Holocaust exhibitions which their family was specifically invited to. These are rare opportunities of life-long learning and not to be missed. How can you put a price on this? However, there is evidence that any absence from school, even short term, can have a detrimental impact on their education.
Some families go on holiday without permission and their child misses school. These are the families that should be reported by the Head as the school will have looked into their individual circumstances.
Now Government officials seem to be running about making all sorts of threats about what they might do, including jail for those parents who flaunt the rules; then who will look after the children?
Common sense must prevail, but unfortunately I cannot see this happening as Sir Michael Wilshaw pursues ‘raising standards’ at all costs. Madness!
*At Priory we try to coincide with other local schools. At half term we have two weeks in the Autumn Term and we break up earlier than most schools in the summer; this allows parents to get slightly cheaper holidays. Very few parents ever ask to take their children out of school for holidays, also because they are paying and probably because they have this alternative.
Costa del Sol:
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 58 (13th May 2016)
Wow! What a weekend we had last week! It was 25°C in Banstead and those frosty mornings and the prospect of snow were soon forgotten as we all got out our sunglasses and shorts. Apparently it was hotter in Banstead than in parts of Southern Europe. Sadly, the clouds gathered later in the week and we saw rain once again.
We British are famous for soaking in every ray of sunshine but we need to be very careful as damage from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can penetrate deep into the skin and damage cells. These cells are then at risk of becoming cancerous. You cannot feel these rays but they can cause damage even when the sun is behind the clouds and it doesn’t feel hot.
Cancer Research UK states ‘Sunburn in childhood can greatly increase your risk of developing skin cancer later in life’. It is therefore the responsibility of parents and the school to prevent sunburn.
So, what can we do to protect our children (and ourselves) from sunburn?
Firstly, we need to recognise that between 11am and 3pm from March to October there is a risk of sunburn and we need to spend time in the shade to prevent sunburn occurring. Secondly, suitable clothing should be worn, such as wide- brimmed hats or caps (such as the school sun cap) and long sleeved tops. Sun cream should be matched to your skin type and you should choose one that blocks both UVA and UVB. Look for the letters UVA in a circle logo accompanied by at least a four star UVA protection rating. SP15 is the minimum protection required to protect against UVB. ‘Water resistant’ sun cream should be applied if going in or near water.
Long term exposure to sunlight increases the risk of a type of cataract and so a hat or sunglasses (wrap around are ideal) can help.
Here at School, we ensure that boys do not spend too long out in direct sunlight and we also encourage them to find shade. Our gazeebo is erected in the Headmaster’s garden during the summer months, to provide extra shade. Boys are encouraged to wear hats at cricket, and they are sat in the shade when they are not batting.
Due to potential allergies boys should not bring sun cream to school. I would encourage you to use a ‘Once’ style cream that lasts all day, to avoid the need for reapplication.
Like most things in life, too much of anything does you no good. The sun is exactly the same, and although a nice tan can make you feel good, it can often be causing all sorts of problems. Let’s work together to keep our children safe, but let them have fun!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 57 (5th May 2016)
The dreaded word ‘Revision’ will soon be on everyone’s lips as we approach exam season. As a School, we base our recommendations and judgements upon firm data, which has to be examinations and tests, not on gut feelings.
So, which revision techniques help best? What can be done to improve memory, mood and concentration? Here is a list which I believe can help most pupils.
1) Eat breakfast - Research shows that 27% of boys and 39% of girls miss breakfast. Skipping a meal, especially breakfast, significantly reduces attention and the ability to recall. Simply eating a bowl of cereal will give pupils the concentration and memory boost they need.
2) Put the mobile phone away – Phones can be distracting. Texts pinging and social media comments draw the pupil away from their studies. Researchers found that the mere sight of a mobile phone was enough to reduce a person’s ability to focus.
3) Start early and spread revision out – To commit anything to memory takes time. Small, but regular chunks, assists the memory (e.g. 10 x 30 minutes over 10 days is more effective than 5 hours in one day). Start well before the exam is due and space out the short but sharp revision periods. Researchers have found this to be the best type of learning to assist memory.
4) Test yourself – Testing yourself to improve your recall is very effective. Look over practice papers and see if you can do them. Check you have covered all the topics of that you need to.
5) Teach someone else – After testing yourself, teach someone else. This will help your recall and understanding as you explain in your own words how to do it or give details.
6) Don’t use highlighters – Often whole chunks are highlighted which simply cannot be learnt.
7) Don’t listen to music / TV – Researchers have proved that those who listen to music during revision do not do as well as those who study in a quiet environment.
8) Revise in a suitable room – with the correct equipment. Returning to the same suitable room gives a feeling of calm, routine and security in what can be an anxious time.
9) Get exercise – You cannot work all day, in fact it is counterproductive. Going out and getting some fresh air or even exercising keeps things in proportion, reduces anxiety and increases self-esteem.
10) Sleep – This is critical. Go to bed earlier. No mobile phone, no TV or computers. Just sleep! You will feel much better the next day and you will perform better.
11) Parents must relax – Anxiety can be damaging. A pupil who is constantly told they are not doing enough or told they are poor will find it difficult. A pupil who has a structured approach, praised and encouraged will relax and is likely to do better.
12) Enjoy the subject – If pupils engage and really enjoy the subject revision becomes less of a slog and more enjoyable, improving performance.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 56 (21st April 2016)
Last week Mr Abbott tackled the thorny subject of collection cards and stickers albums. In assembly this week I spoke to the boys about it.
With EURO 2016 (a football competition in France) coming up I am sure that children all over the country will be collecting them in the latest craze. Panini Stickers are likely to be the most common as the collectors’ albums and a few stickers were given away free last weekend in some Sunday newspapers.
The first Panini sticker book was published in 1961 and since then plenty of people have bought or swapped them. As a child I loved swapping the stickers and was very proud when I finished my collection, however this year’s album contains a massive 680 spaces and with stickers costing 5 for 50p it could be a costly exercise to finish the album. Panini suggest that it may cost anything from £68 to £374 on average. You would need to buy 136 packets, assuming you had no duplicates. In fact, mathematics suggests that you would need to buy at least 747 packets at a cost of £374 to complete the album.
Clearly, the more people collecting stickers the better. Indeed a Professor from Cardiff University suggests that the larger the group the better. Two people playing reduces the number of packets by 30%, five players by 57% and ten players by 68%.
Here at Priory we have collectables such as Loombands, Go Gos, Pokemon and Panini stickers all on the go at the moment, all aimed at different age groups. However, when I discussed this with my son at home, he told me that they are collecting them in his office. Friends of mine, who have no children, are also collecting them as it reminds them of their youth. It would appear that mothers and fathers are swapping them at work so that their children can fill up their albums. Statistically therefore, it should cost a lot less to achieve all 680 stickers.
Is it worth it? Well, I remember selling my soul to my parents so that they could bribe me to do things, like my homework or tasks around the house. I must have spent an awful lot of my pocket money, my grandparents’ money and hours negotiating swaps in the playground.
Apparently you can buy large boxes of the stickers to speed up collection or even buy the whole lot online at a discount and save yourself money. Although I can see the financial sense, the thrill of collecting them, talking to your friends and pouring over them is such good fun. ‘How sad is that!’ I can hear some people saying and it is entirely true, but ‘you pay your money and you take your choice’ in most things in life.
There is one certainty, and that is that Panini will make a lot of money!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 55 (16th March 2016)
Deputy Headmaster's Blog
Pokemon cards and the 3 ‘R’s
“But the boys love them!”
“But they’re causing too many problems…”
I paraphrase, but a number of times last term I was involved in conversations with staff regarding collectors’ cards. We have had cards go missing and then show up again and, sadly, cards ‘disappear’ for good.
At the end of last term I had a conversation with a Priory parent which clarified my thinking about the value of Pokemon cards in school. Sadly, it seems her son’s high value Pokemon cards were mislaid causing much anxiety. However, the difficult conversation that I anticipated became a revelation. After we discussed the frustrations of the missing cards, she made it very clear that she did not want us to ban these cards.
Experiencing social interaction, dialogue, negotiating, conflict and conflict resolution are benefits that we don’t always value. Yes, our focus on the curriculum is often centred on the 3 ‘R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic – however I prefer the life skills of Respect, Resilience and Responsibility. The playground at break times is the perfect environment for boys to develop these skills as they interact around collectors’ cards Children need to have the opportunity to try, lose, fail, and try again – with adults standing back and only providing supportive intervention when necessary.
Some collectors’ cards sell for what seems like silly money on e-bay. If boys bring in these more sought-after cards, or even the more common cards, it is entirely at their own risk. Please emphasise this to your son; no cards should be brought into school unless boys can accept that they might lose them!
The easy answer is to ban collectors’ cards (which, with mixed feelings, we have now done with Match Attax cards and may need to reconsider with all collectors’ cards). However, recognising the ‘invisible learning’ which is going on among children in their subtle and complex interactions will allow them to learn and grow as well-rounded, confident individuals – even if we don’t notice obvious results until they become adults!
My experience is collecting cards, having fun, swapping with friends, if done properly has enormous benefits, but boys can take it too far. Money must not exchange hands for the cards and if it gets out of hand, I will have to ban them, which I don’t want to do. With Match Attax we had so many issues, the simplest way forward was to ban them.
Indeed, I collect cards myself because it enables me to talk to shy children and takes me back to my youth.
Blog Post 54 (24th March 2016)
It has been quite a term as Priory continues to punch well above its weight.
The boys in Y6 and Y8 have managed to achieve 12 Scholarships between them with the prospect of more to come. This is the most awards the School has won in its 95 year history and is a tribute to both the boys and their teachers. In addition, we have successes to schools like (in no order) KCS, Epsom College, Trinity, Whitgift, St Johns, Reeds, Kingston Grammar, Dunottar, Box Hill, Ewell Castle, Caterham, Cheam High, Worth, COL Freemans and Cedars. Parents can see that we are highly successful at 11 and 13 and that our boys tend to go into the higher sets in their senior school and do exceptionally well at GCSE and A Level.
Our Music and Sport is recognised as extremely strong with high achievement across the board, especially in Scholarships. I must mention David Nguen who has just passed Grade 8 in piano and in percussion, plus Grade 5 theory. This is the highest anyone has achieved in my time at the School. Our Under 9s and Under 10s have had an undefeated season and the Seniors have won the Jersey Silver Salver. 53 boys toured with Mr Ford and the Games staff and obviously had a great deal of fun.
The Chess boys continue to excel with two boys in the England Squad and significant numbers learning Chess, I believe this is extremely valuable for their future, not as Chess players necessarily but to learn strategic thinking.
Next term we have the usual fun in the Summer Term organised. There is one initiative that I am particularly looking forward to: Dragon’s Den. Y5 and Y6 will work with the Youth Enterprise to develop a product which they will present to selected Dragons one evening next term. The idea is to encourage entrepreneurial skills but also to develop public speaking skills and presentation skills. It promises to be fun.
Woodlands School has been very popular in Nursery and so Mrs Filer and her team are extending this through the rest of Pre-Prep. Boys will be learning through discovery based upon different themes. The Woodland School has really captured the boys’ imagination and has encouraged oral skills aswell, with boys having the experience of nature at first hand.
It is our intention to develop the activities in the Nursery next term and we will be introducing ‘theme afternoons’ such as ‘fun with French’ and ‘exploring Science’. The favourites such as Chelsea Football will continue but there will also be Mini Crickets to enable our boys to develop their sporting and physical skills. In September we aim to add more activities to the Nursery programme.
As promised by the Chair of Governors in his summer speech at Prize-Giving last year, we will be introducing tablets in the classroom. Over the holidays we are having Wi-Fi installed into various buildings in the School. We aim to have a trial period to iron out any problems with the teaching and learning plus any technical issues before investing in wider use of ICT across the age groups.
After 12 years at Priory Prep, Mr Wright has decided to semi-retire to concentrate on Peripatetic teaching and directing the odd musical which he cannot do whilst working full-time. I know that Mr Wright will be sorely missed and we wish him well in the future in the knowledge that he has done a great job at Priory.
Mrs Bilborough also moves on after 5 years, to become Head of Science at Hazelwood School in Oxted which is near to where she lives. Like Mr Wright, she has made a significant impression on the School and the pupils and will be missed. However, a door opens and new staff will take their place. I will be advertising shortly for both posts and will announce their successors in due course.
I hope that you have an enjoyable Easter and return ready for all the fun (and hard work) of the Summer Term.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 53 (17th March 2016)
Did you ever fail at anything? The answer has to be “Yes” as we are not all successful in everything we do. However, there are always those pupils who always seem to do well. These ‘Golden Children’ always seem to find things very straightforward, are good at exams, are popular and just find life easy. I was not like these children and I had to work hard at school.
As I look around my school I do see some pupils who fit this profile and I worry about them. You see, I think that all children need to fail at some time because an important skill in life is being able to pick yourself up and start again. The former Head of Eton, Tony Little, calls it ‘bouncebackability’.
Indeed, I would go as far as to say that schools should ensure that all pupils fail at something in order to learn from their experience. Our society is obsessed with success; alongside this there is a rise in the mental health problems in the young. Surely there is a link? In simple terms, being dropped from a sports team or not getting all your spellings correct in a test is about how you respond. Being told off or serving a detention are ways in which society starts to harden the young for the realities of adulthood.
Parents can also play their part, by not driving a pupil to learn but by supporting a pupil who has tried hard but not necessarily achieved. Things need to be kept in proportion and the adult can help to assimilate their mature understanding to support a child’s well-being. I have seen many children excel when younger and then plateau out later in life as they could not maintain the effort required to stay ahead. I have also seen teenagers with ability turn to drugs to support their fragile mental state during GCSE’s and A Levels.
“The education system did a great job in the past to focus on the top six inches of our head, but we need to address the needs of the student a little lower – the heart – to teach children about their emotional and social happiness”.
(Adulla Al Karam, Director of Dubai’s Knowledge and Human Development Authority.)
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 52 (11th March 2016)
Last week saw the media get all excited about ‘contact rugby’ and the health risks for child and teenage players. A Board Member of the RFU, England’s official administrator of the game, came out in favour of a ban on tackling in school games.
As you read this I am in the Channel Islands with our senior boys on a rugby tour! You would think therefore that I am totally in favour of contact rugby, but I ask you to read on.
First and foremost, as an Educationalist, I have a duty of care to ensure that all children in my School are Safeguarded. This means that we are doing our best to ensure that we do our best to keep them safe and that we continually review our procedures. As usual, the press have got hold of something, blown it out of proportion produced sensation headlines and then moved on. It is schools, clubs and parents that are left to pick up the pieces.
I played rugby to a reasonably high level until the big boys started to ‘get me’ and common sense suggested that I play football or cricket as I was getting hurt. And I feel that this is the issue. Teachers and coaches need to know what they are doing, first aid needs to be readily available and winning at all costs needs to be carefully considered. As the RFU states: ‘Rugby is a fantastic sport for children, bringing many physical and social benefits, including increased confidence, self-esteem and self-discipline; sentiments with which I agree. But I am also concerned about the serious injuries which players get. In Prep Schools these injuries tend to be minor compared with strong teenagers bashing into each other in the name of their club or school.
Other sports have changed their procedures due to reasons of health and safety. In cricket for example, players have to wear a helmet if batting or field near the bat. This is very sensible as a hard ball flying around can cause serious damage. The use of a soft ball, plastic bat and plastic stumps for younger children has not only approved the appeal, but also the safety.
Tackling and contact in general needs to be addressed by the RFU. At the present time non-contact (tag rugby) stops at age 8. Why? This could be extended to higher age groups. Scrum caps, gum shields and body armour should perhaps be made compulsory. Scrummaging is where many of the accidents occur. The RFU needs to address this area to avoid problems.
All staff dealing with children should receive coaching and make all sessions fun rather than smash the opposition into submission. Staff teaching sport at Priory Prep are fully trained to teach all the sports we play and also in First Aid.
I have my concerns about football also. Every time a child heads a football, what is it doing? There was a campaign to ban children heading in matches but like many initiatives it has been kicked into the long grass(!!).
I definitely think that we need to be mindful of the medical statistics in all the contact sports such as rugby. I believe that it is the responsibility of the governing bodies of these sports to respond to these statistics to make their sport safer by making adaptations and to ensure that all clubs, schools and parents not only understand their responsibilities but apply them consistently.
My concern is also that we need to introduce children to ‘risk’ but in a very controlled environment which focusses on technique. Rock climbing or kayaking for example can be dangerous but the feeling of satisfaction and achievement as well as enjoyment can have positive and far reaching repercussions. I feel to ban tackling is far too simplistic. Let’s find out more and adapt so that everyone can enjoy the sport in the knowledge that it is as safe as it can be.
Blog Post 51 (4th March 2016)
Once again, it is Mother’s Day on Sunday! I am sure that mothers are hoping that arrangements have been made to celebrate the day. Every year I remind the boys to have a quiet word to prompt their fathers that they need to do something for Mum, however, with the commercial side of Mother’s day making millions for retailers and restaurants, it is very difficult to miss it (although, some father’s will!).
I am grateful to the PSA who this week organised a ‘Gift Sale’ for the boys to purchase items which were already wrapped up and ready to go. In the Pre-Prep, boys have been making cards and presents for weeks now and in Art, Mr Ayling has been encouraging boys to make creations for their mothers.
However, mothers are not daft! In most households it is the mothers who multi-task and keep the family functioning. The boys probably asked mothers for the money for their PSA Gift Sale and many would have bought gifts for themselves or their husband’s mother so that they appear caring and loving but in reality have forgotten. Very often the Mother’s Day meal is either booked up or even cooked by Mum.
I am constantly amazed by the number of things which busy working mothers are able to achieve in a day; having to juggle children and a husband or partner must be difficult! Most men would simply be unable to cope with all those tasks. I recognised a long time ago that females are the stronger sex!
I would also like to pay tribute to those single mums who do such a great job bringing up children on their own. Mother’s Day is a special day for you as any gift from your children must be extra special.
Ladies, enjoy your day and I hope that your gifts please you, although I am sure that anything given with love is very precious.
Blog Post 50 (25th February 2016)
As Headmaster one of the nice things to do is to congratulate boys on their successes. I present all sorts of certificates and medals for all sorts of worthy achievements such as music, swimming, tables tests or speech and drama. School, however, is fundamentally about academic results. Firstly, there is preparation, then there is practice (or revision) and then the test itself. Often emotion can impede a child’s achievement because they are too nervous or lack confidence.
The boys mentioned in this week’s Priory Post deserve congratulations on their achievements as we head towards the largest number of scholarship awards we have ever had at the school. Congratulations go not only to the boys but also to the teachers and their parents, all of whom have played a significant part in the boys success. Their names will go on a scholarship board and they will rightly get lots of praise. There are also boys who have won places at some extremely good schools who may not have won awards but deserve praise and congratulations also. In fact, for some, their achievement is greater than that of the scholars. Priory Prep is very good at taking boys and making something of them, providing a framework in which to operate. Praise and encouragement in partnership with parents has always been our mantra and will continue to be so.
At this week’s parents evening, older boys attended with their parents and a few home truths were discussed with boys and their parents. It is this open and honest assessment that has been the key to the boys’ success. We all learn from our mistakes, not only from constantly getting things correct.
So, as the school moves to finishing at 11, I am delighted to say that the results have gone extremely well so far and there are some to be announced. Congratulations to all our boys; whether they were recognised as scholars or not, we are all extremely proud of you - well done!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 49 (11th February 2016)
On Thursday I watched tearful mothers waving off their Year 3 sons as they left for a one night trip to Hindleap Warren at Ashdown Forest. In contrast to many of their parents the boys were extremely excited about the next two days and being away with their friends.
I believe that having a residential experience at school, away from your parents, is extremely valuable and an experience which children will always remember. For the record, we always risk assess the venue and the activities so that the boys are always safe. We send staff to the venue before the boys go to ensure that any changes from the last visit are noted and that activities are still safe and that staff are properly qualified and experienced. Any doubts we withdraw.
Year 3 boys will be away from home overnight; for many this will be for the first time. Staff are used to ‘homesickness’ and the odd tear but also they are able to calm boys down when they get too excited.
In Year 4 boys spend two nights at Sayers Croft in Ewhurst when they make camps in the woods, climb ropes and learn to climb through a spider’s web. This is all very exciting for 8 and 9 year olds and helps with their confidence and self-esteem.
In Year 5 and above boys go on sports tours, language trips and field trips where they stay away overnight. By this time they are more confident about staying away from home and tend to love every second! I take boys to the Channel Islands on a sports trip, but I also try to get to Sayers Croft or go on some of the other trips to see boys in a different environment, having fun.
Priory Prep boys always do well in interviews when applying for senior schools as they are confident without being cocky. They draw on a variety of experiences including residential trips. I would encourage younger children to stay overnight with grandparents or relatives as this helps with their confidence. Sleepovers at friends’ houses which can be reciprocated is another way of engineering children leaving their comfort zone and having new experiences. It goes without saying that safety must remain the priority.
The Year 3 boys will return from their trip, a little taller and a little wiser for the experience and full of stories about their activities. This is an important part of growing up, which every child needs to have to be a fully-rounded and well balanced member of society.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 48 (4th February 2016)
I am really looking forward to the weekend as on Sunday our U9 (Year 4) and U10 (Year 5) rugby teams are competing in the National Rugby Competition held at Epsom College. Last year we entered our U9 team and they had some very tough competition against some very strong schools, but their performance was outstanding recording some wins and suffering some narrow losses to the likes of Cranmore and eventual winner Shrewsbury House.
This year we are entering two teams, from Year 4 (Under 9), who are having a good season with some talented players being asked to step up to the mark and play at a higher level. I must pay tribute at this point to the Games Staff who have worked with the boys through Pre-Prep to enable our teams to have the skills and technique to be able to compete at this level as we are one of the smallest schools to participate.
On Monday our elite swimmers took part in a gala at Parkside School in Cobham. Although Parkside have an excellent reputation for swimming, our boys performed really well winning lots of races and making a good impression on the hosts.
Today, the Prep school had their inter-house cross-country which is always an interesting affair as some boys take it very seriously, others skip round and others plod, but all finish.
All of our events are supported by our travelling band of parents who cheer our boys on come rain or shine, success or defeat. Thank you to all of you who encourage our boys and create such a supportive atmosphere for Priory to compete. I am often asked if I pay our parents to attend as so many come along! With the opportunities the Games Staff provide and the sheer number of boys participating, it is no wonder that parents come along. The boys try so hard, the teachers have passion, but also provide technical support and they all have fun - why would parents not want to come and join us?
The rugby on Sunday for spectators starts at 11am at Epsom College and if you would like to come along and support us, or your son wants to see his friends, please look for the pink and blue gazebo which the PSA has kindly bought for the school for such events. I am sure that we will not be far away!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 47 (29th January 2016)
This week I played the proud parent as my wife and I attended the Graduation of our son Ross when he received his Masters at the Barbican after a successful year at CASS business school. Ross came to Priory and then went to Epsom College and Cardiff University to read Economics. It was a proud moment for us as parents, but also it was the culmination of years of study for him and support from us, both financially and emotionally. It set my mind wandering back to his Priory days and how his friends have achieved.
Ross still keeps in contact with his old Priory classmates, which is lovely in itself. Most of them have degrees from top universities with a couple training as doctors, one as a lawyer and two as pharmacists. Although we do not advertise too much how our old boys achieve later in their education, Priory boys do very well; perhaps we should shout a little louder?
We continually have a stream of old boys returning to inform us of their progress and waning to see their old teachers; one of them recently was Timothy Lazurus. He told me how he had applied to Cambridge to study computer sciences and I am thrilled to announce that he has won a place at St John’s, Cambridge. I worked very closely with his parents to ensure that he went to the right school for him as I do with all parents and I know that they will be absolutely delighted. It is also highly motivating to staff to know that the talent which we nurture here at Priory is recognised and developed. We have some very talented boys in our school and it is our intention to bring the best out of them. It may seem a long way off, but you too maybe sitting in a Graduation reflecting on your son’s success which started here at Priory prep. Only 7% of all students go on to graduate with a degree but they are integral to our country and economy. Education is the one thing other, than love and support that you can give your children that lasts.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 46 (21st January 2016)
I have vivid memories of when I was a little boy going to restaurants or cafes and my mother disappearing into the toilets whilst my father, brother and I gazed at the menu deciding what to eat. Often my mother would come flying out declaring “We are not going to eat here!” snatching the menus from our hands and flinging them at the bemused waiter. It was all highly embarrassing but when my father plucked up the courage to ask why she would inform him rather aggressively that the ladies’ toilets were filthy and that if the toilets were filthy, what were the kitchens like? My poor father was then accused of choosing a restaurant when he knew it was unhygienic and the next time he should check first. I have visions to this day of my father going into ladies’ toilets to see if they were clean! I don’t think he was arrested!
Fundamentally, my mother was performing an Environmental Health check to see if eating at that restaurant or café would make us ill. Last week Debbie Pulham, our Head Chef, and the ladies in the kitchen had a surprise visit from Environmental health. They had a thorough check to ensure that the school is compliant. They checked the refrigerator for dates of foods and temperatures, general cleanliness, safety, that correct clothing was being worn, paperwork was in order and areas in the kitchen were used correctly. They checked that all food is probed to ensure that it is the correct temperature before storing and that all surfaces were continually sanitised.
I am pleased to announce that we once again got 5 stars, which is the top award for hygiene. Parents, teachers and boys can rest assured that our kitchen is very clean and no one will become ill due to bad practice. I am sure that everyone would like to join me in congratulating Debbie and her colleagues in the kitchen on their achievement. It should come as no surprise that they have achieved such an accolade every 2 years since 2002 when Brookwood took over our catering. Brookwood have recently been rated second in the Sunday Times top 100 companies to work for in the country and hygiene is the top of their agenda.
For the record, the environmental health inspector did check the toilets, but certainly not as well as my dear old mum, God bless her!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 45 (15th January 2016)
Sugar Smart is a ‘Public Health for England’ campaign, aimed mainly at children, that counts the sugar in food. Using the ‘Sugar Smart’ app you are able to scan the bar code of a given product to check the sugar levels before they are bought or consumed. It measures the amount of sugar in a product but relating it to sugar lumps, which weigh 4 grams each.
The maximum recommended daily amount of sugar for 4-6 year old is 5 sugar lumps (19 grams). For 7 – 10 year olds it is 6 sugar lumps (24 grams) and above age 11 it is 7 sugar lumps).
There are surprisingly large amounts of sugar in some of the drinks we give to our children. Some are more obvious, such as a 300ml can of cola (9 sugar lumps). But did you know that a 500ml bottle of ready made Ribena considered as a better option than cola contains around 19 lumps of sugar. Juice drinks, squashes, cordial and energy drinks (a bottle of Lucozade contains 64grams of sugar) can all contain high levels of sugar. The Ribena and Lucozade drinks are so sweet that children would exceed their recommended sugar intake for a day with just one serving. Honey, syrups and even fresh fruit juice all contain high levels of sugar. It is not of course just the drinks. There are hidden sugars in everyday foods such as Heinz Baked Beans (4.9 sugar lumps), Ketchups are sugar-rich, with Heinz Tomato Ketchup (5 sugar lumps per 100g or ½ a sugar lump per serving) and white and wholemeal breads (can contain 2 to 3 sugar lumps per loaf). Kingsmill Gold Wholemeal Bread, for example, contains almost ½ a sugar lump per slice. The list goes on and on.
In Prep assembly on Thursday I went through some items which the boys liked and showed them how much sugar they would consume by eating or drinking that item. Even the boys were staggered!
So, what damage is too much sugar doing to us and our children in particular? The most obvious is that it causes tooth decay and this is usually the reason we give to our children to avoid sweets. However there are other reasons to cut back. Sugar causes a craving for more sugar and it affects the reward centres in our brains. As the body releases insulin to absorb the sugar consumed it can leave children feeling shaky. Sugar is addictive. It causes obesity if more calories are consumed than are needed, which could then lead to problems later in life such as heart conditions, stroke and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
So what can you do to help your children eat less sugar?
Talk to your children about sugar, download the app and use it when shopping, show them how much sugar is in certain foods and explain why it is bad for them. Try cooking together so they can see what goes into their food. Look on the NHS change for life website, there are some great tips for reducing sugar for the whole family. https://www.nhs.uk/change4life-beta/campaigns/sugar-smart/home
Fizzy drinks are a big issue and cutting down on these and making them a special treat will make a huge difference and your child will probably enjoy them more when they are allowed them.
Here at Priory our Caterers, Brookwood, were selected by me personally because of their commitment to healthy eating. Brookwood say “Ensuring that the meals we provide are both healthy and nutritional is a critical part of our service and what Brookwood has always advocated. Our Beat the Sugar Beet initiative is just one of the ways in which we help pupils consume, and become used to less added sugar whilst at school. We will always advocate a balanced diet by encouraging pupils to eat fresh and healthier food options. Our puddings are sweetened using 50% fresh fruit by volume, and fruit sauces/coulis are made from fresh seasonal fruit. In addition, all sauces, soups and breads are made from scratch without adding any sugar, salt or high levels of fat that are found in bought products. Fruit juices if used are diluted but we also encourage pupils to drink water or low fat milk over other drinks. Research suggests that children eating high levels of sugar will become used to the sweet taste and find choosing healthier options less palatable. This is why we like to do as much as we can to have pupils enjoy the taste of ‘real food’ and getting them used to less sugar.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 44 (8th January 2016)
Welcome back! I hope that you had a Joyeux Christmas and a fun New Year. I hope that all those mince pies and endless chocolates have not taken their toll on you and that you returned to school refreshed for a new year. Certainly the boys were excited to see their friends again and to be honest it made our first day back quite lively, however, by Tuesday we had slipped into our usual routines and classes returned to normal.
I would like to welcome two new members of staff. Firstly, Mrs Knell who will be teaching Year 4 and secondly Mrs Twyford who will be working in the school office in the afternoons as an additional office assistant.
You should have received an e-mail about our severe weather policy and what to do if it snows. Please read this so that the office is not inundated with questions when it does snow.
I was somewhat dismayed when the Government announced over the holidays that they were introducing a times tables test at the end of Year 6. The learning of tables is undoubtedly very important but to sit pupils down in front of screens and under time pressure is going to make some pupils fail despite the fact that they know their tables. It concerns me that low attainers, who schools have already identified and are supporting, will be feeling even more negative about themselves moving into secondary school.
Here at Priory Prep we expect pupils to know their tables by the end of Year 4 not Year 6! We start gently in the Pre-Prep with the easier tables and move up as they get older. By the end of Year 4 boys are given random tables to answer at speed; they are also given the answer and are expected to know the table for it. Tables are also linked to division and this is also checked. By the time boys move into Year 5 and Year 6, which is ‘setted’ on ability, they are able to apply their tables knowledge to the task in hand, not having to think about the table calculation.
There are lots of ways of learning tables out there and it is very important that boys learn them off by heart. There is no quick fix and it does involve boys being checked regularly, which is where parents can help. We issues stars, certificates and other ‘incentives’ to encourage boys to learn them but it is certainly true that those who know their times tables by the end of Year 4 do well in maths tests. Fact! Teachers are growing weary of the amount of initiatives which come and go in education. It is obvious that children need to know their tables; teachers, parents and even the children recognise this. Why have another test at 11 to check this? It is too late and not required. This is more about politics than education.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 43 (8th December 2015)
Last weekend I took my Apple iPad to the Apple Store as it had crashed. I thought that Apple never crashed which is one of the reasons why I bought it. According to the ‘Apple Guru’ it had not crashed, it ‘had a malfunction’. I await to see if they can repair the ‘malfunction’. Whilst I was waiting I became aware of the number of young children in the store, all playing with iPads or such devices. Children were begging their parents for these ‘toys’. I became more concerned when I saw a young father give his baby, in a buggy, his iPhone to play with. Clearly the baby could not walk yet, but knew how to play simple games on an iPhone. He placed the iPhone in a buggy holder specifically designed for it. What happened to a rattle or a set of keys to entertain a baby? Is this progress or regression?
A Head of a school in Redbridge has been concerned about how iPads in the hands of very young children is causing them all sorts of problems. He feels that 4 year olds arriving in Reception are too weak to grip a pencil and it is more noticeable in boys than girls. The time spent on iPads or tablets means that they are not developing their upper body strength because of lack of activity. He feels so strongly about this that he has started ‘boot camps’ to improve muscle strength for the under 5’s.
Certainly here at Priory we have noticed that boys love iPads and iPhones and that a growing number in the Pre-Prep claim to have one. I feel that it all depends, like most things, on what they use them for and for how long. If they are used before bedtime this cannot be useful, it can only stimulate the brain when it is supposed to be relaxing. Parents have to exercise control.
I disagree with many of the criticisms of the use of iPads and tablets as they can be a wonderful tool for learning and there is no doubt that a child who is not comfortable using information technology in the future will be at a disadvantage. However, news that Google are storing children’s information for future use is somewhat worrying and will no doubt hit the wider press shortly. As the Chair of Governors announced last summer we are actively seeking to bring an IT solution into the school which is both safe and beneficial. I am visiting schools next term to view what is presently considered the best use of tablets and will report back to the Governors on the way ahead.
As Father Christmas begins to stock up on his presents for your children this Christmas, I am sure that he is taking into account the parents’ wishes as well as the children’s wishes, as parents must take their responsibility for controlling their children’s habits and activities and not just go with the flow. These devices must be monitored very carefully.
*Many thanks to the PSA who raised over £2,500 with your support last weekend. One of the external stall holders said to me that it was the nicest school that she had ever been to and that the parents and pupils were lovely. Indeed the Mayor of Reigate and Banstead was bowled over by the parental support and the confidence and ability of such young boys.
As another year ends I would like to thank all parents for their generous support of the school and attending school events in such numbers. The boys here are happy, thriving and successful due to the partnership between school and home – long may it continue!
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 42 (3rd December 2015)
Last week the BBC confirmed plans to extend broadcasting on CBBC until 9pm. Currently CBBC switches off at 7pm, but from February 2016 it is likely to be 9pm. For many parents this is very bad news, as the argument about going to bed will now be extended. CBBC switching off at 7pm has been a cut off for parents to naturally get their children off to sleep. It is generally recognised that the brain needs about an hour to relax after the stimulation of television and so young children being asleep by 8pm is a good habit; for some children it is earlier as they need their sleep. 11 hours is the recommended sleep a young child needs to learn and function.
I am not going to wade into the ‘What time should children go to bed’ debate, but I am concerned about sleep deprivation and arguments at night. Teachers find that many children come to school tired and often unable to learn as they do not get enough sleep, and yet parents have high expectations. Very often at lunchtime children describe films or programmes which are on very late at night and show off to their friends about ‘staying up’. Psychologists agree that sleep deprivation leads to behavioural problems and damages children’s ability to learn.
However, the BBC insisted that parents have the ability to turn the television off and that it is the role of the parent to exercise some discretion. With BBC iPlayer, videos and regular television there is a plethora of opportunities for children to ‘stay up’ outside of CBBC and many children do, but at what expense?
I feel for parents, especially mothers, who are busy trying to get tea, complete homework and get their children to bed; it can be a nightmare each evening just getting everything done. The BBC should recognise their social responsibility and help parents, if only in a small way by maintaining a 7pm shut down; otherwise just turn it off!
A good habit to get in to is for a parent to read to the children a story before they go to bed. It is a nice way to calm everything down. Older children should be able to read for 30 minutes before the light goes off. Children do not need TV to imagine, they can do it for themselves. Children who read before bed tend to be better behaved, more successful academically and sleep better. The odd treat of staying up late at the weekend makes it all the more enjoyable and exciting. Control of bedtime during the week also makes life for Mum and Dad more enjoyable and not a slog and an argument.
Graham D Malcolm
Blog Post 41 (27th November 2015)
Over the past three years the school has been working towards the National Safety Certification scheme for schools, known as Safety Mark. Schools which are accredited with the Safety Mark award are recognised as having ‘excellent’ safety standards. Each week the Senior Management Team meet to plan and organise affairs regarding safety.
The School also has a Health and Safety Committee which meets each term to ensure that the environment is safe and a healthy place to work and play within. This committee reports to the Governors H&S committee and the Premises Governor. It was the Governors’ desire to achieve the Safety Mark Award, as it would signify that Priory Prep would be amongst the leading schools for safety standards in the country.
After a rigorous independent audit the school was able to demonstrate that it has first class levels of safety management and compliance. At the recent Governors meeting the staff were congratulated in establishing a robust health and safety system and culture with this prestigious award.
I would like to recognise the work of the Premises Team - Bob Smith, Joe Millerand Marco Ferriera who have created the platform for this success but also to Hilary Russell, the Bursar, and Sharon Newton, the staff H &S Co-ordinator.
Health and Safety is not necessarily the most exciting topic, but it is essential to all of us that it is in place. The Safety Mark Award can assure parents that we take the safety of their sons seriously. We can now display our Safety Mark logo with both satisfaction and confidence, however we will continue to be audited and it is our intention to maintain our exemplary standards.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 40 (20th November 2015)
No one could have ignored the news of the terrorist attacks in Paris last weekend. The attacks were on innocent Parisians who were going about their normal daily lives and have effectively been an attack upon western culture in an attempt to put fear into people’s everyday lives. It was shocking, alarming and frightening as it could so easily happen here in the UK. Indeed, it brought memories of July 7th 2005 when 53 civilians were killed and over 200 more were injured.
For some reason as adults we seem to think that children will not understand or will not be worried as it is an adult concern. This could not be further from the truth. This week we have had many boys, from both the Pre-Prep and the Prep, asking various questions about the attacks and if it might be their home or school next. Like 7/7, many Muslim boys find themselves being blamed by wider society for the attacks and they fear for their safety. They feel happy and safe in school but not so much outside. So how do we support all of the boys at Priory Prep?
All staff have had training about radicalisation and the signs to look for. The Government introduced this into schools this year and all schools should be paying attention to the possible radicalisation of its pupils through this training. You may have noticed ‘British Values’ posters around the school for example. At the time I felt that it was just another training programme for staff, but it has now taken on more relevance. Staff have been supporting boys who have questions, sometimes individually and sometimes within the class setting.
I encourage you to talk to your children about their understanding of the incident, their worries or their concerns. Let the form teacher know if there is an issue. This is a prime example where the close partnership between school and home is beneficial.
As a society, we need to stand firm against such onslaughts to our very existence and we need to ‘educate’ our population, as this is to win ‘hearts and minds’ as the military puts it. This is why as adults and teachers we should combat these attacks by hardening our resolve and supporting each other. Please do not make the mistake that young people do not understand or have concerns over it all. They do.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 39 (12th November 2015)
I regularly get requests from parents for my permission to excuse their children from school so that they can go on holiday. I am, however, now no longer authorised to give permission for such requests. Since September 2013, Schools Minister, Nick Gibb has withdrawn the right for any school to authorise such absence in a crackdown to tighten the rules about absence from school. Gibb felt that there was an impression that every parent was entitled to two weeks leave to take their children out of school for a holiday and that it was increasing.
According to DFE figures there has been a surge in the number of fines and prosecution of unauthorised absences. As Head, I can only authorise absence for exceptional cases such as a funeral. Heads had previously been able to authorise up to two weeks term time leave for pupils with good attendance records. Now parents can be fined up to £2,500 or receive jail sentences of up to three months in extreme circumstances, although these usually involve extended absence or truancy. Most fines are £60 per child rising to £120 if the fine is not paid within three weeks.
This Government Policy came under threat last week after a magistrate on the Isle of Wight threw out a case against a father who argued that his daughter had an excellent record of attendance but took her on a holiday to Disney in Florida. However, for now the clampdown continues.
It is in my opinion that the Government are using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. We need a reasonable, common sense approach to the taking of holidays in term-time, which in effect gives the Head the right to grant permission. In the past I have refused planned holidays as boys had too much time off and it was affecting their learning, however, most parents are quite sensible and value their son’s time in the classroom and realise how important it is. Normally it is the odd day at the end of term which saves hundreds of pounds and so £60 is small beer. I cannot remember a parent asking for time off school just before an examination as it is counterproductive and insulting to parents to even suggest that they would do it.
However, what about the poor teacher who can only go on holiday during the school holiday, by definition. High costs, hoardes of people and lots of delays. I do not let a teacher have a week off to have a holiday; parents would quite rightly go mad! Perhaps rubbing salt in the wound is asking for work to be set while you are on holiday. It is rarely done properly, leads to lots of work for the teacher and in my mind is unfair which is why I have told my staff not to set it.
It is my conclusion that a child going to India, for example, to see his heritage and to drink in the culture is extremely beneficial. A parent who through no fault of their own has no flexibility in their holidays (such as a professional footballer) must be given the option, however, if it is just to save money I have arranged a two week holiday in half-term and we finish before the state schools in the summer. Use these dates, keep your children in school and enjoy the holidays when they come.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 38 (4th November 2015)
In recent weeks the Government has started to create ‘Titan Schools’. These are vast schools of thousands of children. There are clearly economic advantages with economy of scale, but simply ‘slapping on extra classrooms’ cannot be the answer. The trend to ‘go large’ is the response from councils all over the country in an attempt to create the extra 900,000 school places needed in the next five years. Earlier this year a primary school in Slough registered 1200 pupils and aims to grow to accommodate 1800 pupils. It is one of 10 primary schools of over 1000 children.
Schools in our locality are enlarging rapidly to meet the demand for school places. Some secondary schools are planning to have 16 classes in each year group.
During my early teaching career I taught in some very large secondary comprehensives in south London. One in particular had 5,000 children in it. Lunchtime alone was a major logistical nightmare let alone children moving around school between classes. Behaviour was poor, results were poor and teaching was poor. You would not see a child from your class from one week to the next. When the bell went at the end of the day it was like leaving a football match as the crowds left the school. There was no community, little individual care or pride. Such establishments do not tend to build confidence and resilience; children should feel safe, comfortable and known.
There is no doubt that children need to be nurtured and challenged, but it is my experience that ‘Titan’ schools find this difficult by their very nature. Class sizes are gradually increasing as the Government turn a blind eye to it. Recently I had a visit from a parent whose child was one of 42 in his class! With teaching consistently among the top three most stressful professions such ‘Titan’ schools will only increase anxiety, stress and depression amongst an increasingly disillusioned teaching profession. There is a perfect storm looming of rising pupil numbers, falling teacher recruitment and poor teacher retention.
Here at Priory we remain a school of two classes in each year group, where every child is valued, known and cared for by the staff and is supported in a partnership between school and home. Expectations of behaviour, studies and opportunities remain high. We recognise that we do not always get it right, but we try to fulfil the needs of each child. Teachers are also well supported, encouraged and made to feel valued and respected by all.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 37 (14th October 2015)
This week I wish to discuss ‘Tutors’. As many parents are aware, I have my reservations about tutoring as often it can be counterproductive to the performance of the child as it can often create confusion or tension.
There are no qualifications or checks on tutors. Anyone can put a card in a newsagent and claim to be a ‘tutor’ with no actual qualifications. Schools are legally obliged to carry out checks on adults they employ, reducing the risk of inappropriate people teaching children. Schools like ours rigorously check qualifications and employment history and have enhanced DBS checks.
Latest figures from the NSPCC suggest that 1.5 million children are regularly tutored and numbers in this area are mushrooming simply because of the competitive entry for schools in both the maintained sector and private sector. As parents you need to know that you may inadvertently be putting your child at risk. Before employing a tutor I suggest you perform the following:
Next month I am part of a group including the NSPCC and Enoughabuse, who are going to Westminster to lobby the Government about tutors. Since September three paedophiles have been caught exploiting the gaps in the law by setting themselves up as private tutors. The Government is aware of this gap but refuses to act over it. Schools are strictly monitored over recruitment of staff but private tutors have no code of practice or validation. Parents may be dropping their children into ‘untrained hands’ or having their child groomed or abused and are completely unaware of what they are doing.
I am not for one minute suggesting that all tutors are bad or inappropriate but I am suggesting that if you are putting your child into the hands of someone in a responsible position and leaving them alone that you check them out before doing so.
Robert Mitchell was a respected and admired private tutor who had many children on his list and was always in demand. He was jailed in 2012 for four years for possessing thousands of indecent images of young children, including many of those that he taught, yet he was convicted ten years earlier for a similar offence. This has to stop and I feel that legislation is needed to regulate private tutors.
If your child is seeing a tutor I suggest that you check them for their suitability by going through the list above to ensure that they are safe.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 36 (7th October 2015)
Like millions of people all over the country, I settled down to watch England beat Australia in the Rugby World Cup - unfortunately it did not happen and we were unceremoniously dumped out of our own competition. Very disappointing but frankly Australia were much better than us and deserved to win. We got knocked out through our loss to Wales the week before because we could not defend a winning lead.
So on Monday lunchtime I sat down to lunch, sitting with the boys as I usually do. A smiling - no smug - young man made it his business to sit next to me. Harrison is Australian, very Australian. I have been pulling his leg about the Ashes cricket as England comprehensively beat Australia. It was now Harrison’s turn to return the leg pulling. He looked at me and smiled and off we went: “Did you watch the rugby , Sir?” For lunch I found myself eating a lot of humble pie as Harrison quite correctly got his own back!
To be honest, I love the banter and competition which supporting my country brings. I love the passion and knowledge the boys have towards their team or country. For a teacher it is a way of talking to a shy boy and encouraging him to express himself. For example, during the last football World Cup I was able to swap stories with boys who would normally think twice before talking to me.
‘British Values’ are very much part of the political agenda at the moment and as a school we need to respond to the Governments ‘Prevent’ initiative to prevent radicalisation. Although our boys are still very young, we are expected to actively promote British values such as tolerance of others, democracy, the rule of law and individual liberty.
Here at Priory, we offer a fully rounded education where boys learn life skills as well as their studies in the classroom. We celebrate the fact that we are multi-cultural as we can all learn more about each other with respect and tolerance and boys can take their learning into adult life more informed and enlightened.
Good luck to Australia in the next round of the Rugby World Cup; you deserved to win although it hurts me to admit it!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 35 (2nd October 2015)
Mrs Hammad, who is the new Chair of the PSA, came to me at the end of the summer term and suggested that we organise an Oktoberfest. She described a really fun event and was highly enthusiastic and so I agreed. Well, here we are one week away and tickets are selling fast, however the PSA could be caught out by their own success. Why? Let me explain.
It was a few years ago now that we had a week to go before a quiz night and 4 people had bought tickets. The Chair of the PSA came to see me to cancel the event. I refused as I knew that with life being so hectic people organise themselves at the last minute, except perhaps for holidays or birthdays. It was certainly a risk but in a week we sold 110 tickets and we had to turn people away on the night! We had a similar experience with our Bollywood Night which was also packed to bursting. It does, however, make planning difficult if not impossible if parents do not commit until the last minute.
The Oktoberfest promises to be an exciting event. There will be lots of beers which I am sure the dads will particularly enjoy, a live band and DJ which everyone will enjoy, a children’s entertainer (which both parents will enjoy!) and fairground rides which all the children will enjoy. There will be food available (at 5:30 and again at 7:30), games and much more. Bring along your friends and family!
For those of you who aren’t aware, Oktoberfest is the world's largest Volksfest (beer festival and travelling funfair. Held annually in Munich, Bavaria, Germany, it is a 16-day folk festival running from mid or late September to the first weekend in October, with more than 6 million people from around the world attending the event every year. Locally, it is often simply called the Wiesn, after the colloquial name of the fairgrounds (Theresienwiese) themselves. The Oktoberfest is an important part of Bavarian culture, having been held since 1810. Other cities across the world also hold Oktoberfest celebrations, modelled after the original Munich event. Large quantities of Oktoberfest Beer are consumed, with 7.7 million litres served during the 16 day festival in 2013. Visitors may also enjoy a mixture of attractions, such as amusement rides, sidestalls and games, as well as a wide variety of traditional food such as Hendl (roast chicken), Schweinebraten (roast pork) and Schweinshaxe (grilled ham hock).
A new PSA committee, who have lots of exciting ideas, have put much effort into organising this event. Please support them by purchasing tickets asap as it will help their organisation. There are various ways of doing this: firstly you can buy through ParentMail, which is a new way of paying for PSA events; you can also purchase from the PSA table in the car-park each afternoon (let’s hope it will stay dry for them); and lastly you can pay by cheque and pop it the PSA box in the lobby with a note of your name and tickets required.
I look forward to seeing you at Oktoberfest as I weave my way through the crowds of Priory parents supporting the PSA!
Have a great weekend.
If your son (Y3 and above) is helping out at our Open Morning, do pop into my study and have a cup of coffee and chat to prospective parents or staff. It is always nice for prospective parents to hear what you think of the school and how your son is progressing.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 34 (25th September 2015)
In the first few weeks of term I am usually inundated with training courses and this year has been no exception. On Tuesday last week I went to the Institute of Directors to a Conference on Practical Strategies. I was privileged to listen to Barnaby Lennon, former Headmaster of Harrow who is now Chairman on OFQUAL and ISC. I know Barnaby from numerous visits to Harrow as occasionally we send boys there.
Barnaby, as robust as usual, outlined changes to GCSE and A Level, something of which I have a general knowledge but something which I think parents need to know about as after all, it is your children that will be affected by the changes.
It has been recognised by Governments of all colours that education in this country is in decline. We are rapidly sliding down the world league tables and Michael Gove, love him or hate him, decided to do something about it. Basically it was felt that we do not have enough scientists and mathematicians.
So there is a change in GCSEs and A Levels, focussing on grade inflation and dumbing down. Changes will be phased in over 3 years. The GCSE and A level syllabus is changing: there will be little or no modular teaching. Many schools will not test in the first year (A2s) but teach in the summer term. Project works will disappear in many subjects as it was felt that either plagiarism or too much parental input was influencing and inflating grades. Grades will change from A – F to 1 – 9 which will give greater differentiation. GCSE standards will be closer to A levels and A levels closer to University.
Will these reforms work? I hope so - but I worry about the focus on academic prowess when, nationally, so many pupils are simply not that academic. However, final day testing generally favours boys as does the focus on maths and the Sciences. For boys at Priory, I feel in general that they will benefit from these changes.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 33 (18th September 2015)
In this week’s blog I wish to inform you about some medical issues which are very important.
As the weather changes and bugs start to circulate, I wish to bring to your attention our policy on children who are sick. In recent communications with parents we have made reference to changing the period of time a boy needs to be away from school if he has been sick or had diarrhoea. This has now been changed from 24 hours to 48 hours or one school day to two school days. It is in accordance with NHS guidelines and Surrey Education Authority.
I understand that this is going to cause parents, especially working parents, great inconvenience but it is necessary. In the past we have had boys returning to school who have not recovered from their illness and passed it on to others including their teachers, who are then off sick. This is not fair to anyone.
My staff also inform me that there are occasions where boys have been sick outside of school either overnight or on the way to school and parents have forced them into school as they needed to go to work. Again, this is not fair to anyone, especially the child.
I would suggest that working parents have a plan set up so that it does not come as a last minute shock when your child is ill.
On returning to school the boys have become very excited meeting their friends and tend to run about and not think, often bumping into each other, falling off things or falling over. It is school policy to inform parents of any knocks to the head that your child may receive irrespective of the severity. You will be e-mailed so that you know what has happened and that you can keep an eye upon them when they get home. Any concern and you should take them straight to A and E. You can ring the office to see if they are okay if you are worried, however, if it was a bad knock to the head we would have contacted you or taken the child to hospital.
Parents should have received a paper copy of all the details we have on file. We would ask you to check them, add or amend as necessary and return the form to your son’s form teacher. We will then update the information we hold. It is the parent’s responsibility to keep the school informed of any changes so that we can best support your son.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 32 (11th September 2015)
Welcome back! I hope that you had a great holiday and that your first week at school has been enjoyable and productive. A warm welcome, especially to our new parents and their sons; I hope that you are managing to make friends and begin to understand the way things work at Priory Prep.
Inevitably there are lots of new routines and different expectations in your new year group. Meetings held in the Pre-Prep Department last academic year should have helped parents with making this a smooth transition. In the Prep Department (Y3 – Y8) we are holding Parent Information evenings to give you an idea of what is required of you and your sons this year. The evening will focus on your specific year group and so at least one parent will benefit from being in attendance; please consult the school calendar for dates and times of the meeting for your son’s year group. I expect the meeting to last about an hour.
On Wednesday Marilyn Hawes came to talk about the sexual grooming of children and about 80 parents and Governors attended this extremely powerful and informative presentation. Previously the staff had extensive training and Y4 and above had a workshop. Latest figures from NSPCC suggest that 1 in 5 children are being abused. Marilyn went on to discuss how to recognise Grooming and what to do to prevent it. In the partnership between school and home we need to work together to maintain the safety of our children. Mr Abbott will be sending out more information for you to digest and act upon.
From the surveys and comments of the boys, there are a large number of boys who have a Facebook account, despite the face that they are supposed to be 14. These boys are chatting to people they do not know on the internet. They are doing this in the privacy of their bedrooms when their parents are not there. Many are playing games and streaming videos which are inappropriate for their age, which is illegal. Some boys have received texts from people they do not know which are totally inappropriate. We are encouraging your children to talk to you about this; perhaps you need a consultation with them.
As a parent, I believe that you should keep an eye on what your children are doing and monitor their behaviours. I recommend that you closely monitor use of laptops, tablets and PCs and certainly do not let them have them alone in their bedroom.
The internet is an amazing tool and will certainly be a central part of our children’s lives in the future but if used inappropriately it can cause severe damage.
If ever you have any concerns about your children, been abused yourself and want to discuss it or just do not know what to do please contact me as I can help you or put you in contact with those who can. Let’s work together to keep our children safe.
Finally, I draw new parents’ attention to our ‘New Parents Evening’ on Friday 18th September 7 – 9pm. This is an opportunity to meet the teachers, the Parents Association (the PSA) and some of the Governors. You will hear about the school and how you can get involved and support your son. You will also be able to informally chat to people whilst having nibbles and a social drink. I do hope that you can join us on this initial meeting and introduction for new parents.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 31 (2nd September 2015)
As we prepare for the new term we are sending out Priory post in its new format, a week early to help parents prepare for the new term.
I hope that you had an enjoyable and peaceful holiday. The many parents I have met in the school shop or in the high street have all enjoyed the break but are all looking forward to their sons returning to school! If you are joining Priory for the first time you are warmly welcomed and I look forward to meeting you soon. A warm welcome is also extended to our new staff, Miss Arnold in Yr 1, Miss Malcolm in Yr 2 and Miss Baker in Yr 4. I am sure that everyone will help them to fit in and so become part of the furniture.
I would like to congratulate Mr Ford on marrying Amy over the summer and also to Mr Jeens who is the proud father to Matilda (9 lb 2oz) and to Mrs Holmes who gave birth to Ethan (7lb 5oz). There is more on these stories in this week’s edition of Priory Post.
FunZone (our summer camps) has been extremely successful and I would like to thank Mr Jones and Mrs Spence for organising such a professional and enjoyable set of activities. The Facebook and Twitter antics looked as though the boys and girls (yes we had girls at Priory!) looked to be having great fun. We are planning to have FunZone at half-term and at Christmas for working parents or just for some extra fun activities in the holidays. Details will follow shortly.
Over the holidays a vast amount of work has been undertaken to improve the facilities and experiences for everyone at Priory Prep. Nursery 1 and 2 has been completely decorated and new lighting has been installed. It is looking very smart and has definitely brightened up the two rooms. New toilets for staff and parents have been installed in the Rowe Building. The changing rooms have been refurbished and re-designed and should make changing easier for the boys. Year 4B has been decorated and the lighting in the school dining hall has been upgraded. We have also improved the lighting at the front and the back of the school for those dark winter evenings. However, the most obvious developments have been in the playground. I would like to thank the PSA for their donation of a ‘Pirate Ship’ climbing frame, I am sure that it will prove to be very popular, especially with the pre-prep boys. The other development which will be popular is the new ball court. Boys will be able to play football under more powerful floodlights without having to fetch the ball all the time. We have also invested in upgrading our sports field with better management of the grass and surrounding areas and the installation of an additional container to store our additional sports equipment.
I hope, like me, you are looking forward to another exciting year at Priory Prep. We have lots planned and I am sure that we will have a lot of fun! Roll on Monday morning!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 30 (3rd July 2015)
With all the beautiful weather we are experiencing recently I am sure that you are thinking about the summer holidays, like many of the boys and the teachers however, I wish to bring to your attention a meeting we are holding at school, shortly after we return to school in September.
Marilyn Hawes is coming to speak to parents on Wednesday 9th September at 7pm. Marilyn will be talking about Grooming and how to recognise it in order to protect your children. Marilyn has regularly been on TV and Radio and is a very passionate speaker.
Online exploitation of children is a massive issue – the NSPCC estimate that over half a million children are abducted each year. Cyber bullying is an increasingly common form of bullying which happens through social networks and mobile telephones. It can happen at anytime and anywhere and at any age. ‘Sexting’ is the exchange of exchanging selfgenerated sexually explicit images, through mobile picture messages or webcams over the internet.
I can hear parents saying, “My son would not do that!” They may not at the moment but statistics show that they might in the future as they get older. In a recent assembly almost every child in the Prep Department had a smart phone, or access to one and all had a PC or access to one. This is therefore an issue which parents need to know about and not just ignore which is why we have organised this event. I urge you to put a note in your diary to attend our Grooming meeting in September. You will hear from Marilyn Hawes about how to identify the issues and how to prevent your child becoming involved.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 29 (12th June 2015)
Today we had the Governors in school for Governor’s Day. Firstly I am most grateful that Governors give up their time to be a Governor, but especially for giving up their time to come into school. We have a variety of professional people who serve on our board and so to give up a whole day to see the school demonstrates their commitment; usually they are taking a day’s holiday to join us.
Governors come into school to see the boys; they talk to them and listen to them. The boys are usually very keen to share their ideas and to make suggestions once they realise who they are and what they can do. Governors also go into lessons and follow a typical day of a pupil in various age groups so that they understand the school when I discuss developments or requirements. For example, we are installing a new climbing frame for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 shortly and they can see where it will go and their thoughts on it.
Governors also meet staff and listen to their comments and suggestions and get to know them. They chat over coffee at break time or over lunch. Very few schools are as open to this sort of event and I am delighted that the Chairman of Governors, Ashley Head, is keen for us to do this. It means that when Governors meet they all understand the ethos of the school, the way the school is developing and how their specialist role impacts us all.
Last year I was presented with some lovely work from a Governor who went into the Nursery and made me a lovely card (not as good as the boys) and another who informed me about the details of the Fire of London which Year 2 were studying. Such ‘hands on’ experience can only help and I wanted to let parents know in this week’s blog that they are not a faceless, unknown group of people who make decisions without any knowledge of the school. They are highly committed, keen to be involved and have the best interests of the school at the heart in all decisions. I am most grateful for their support and guidance. I hope that everyone enjoyed the day.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 28 (22nd May 2015)
Now and again I visit schools outside of the area to take a view on how they organise themselves in different areas and also to see if the school will suit any of our boys. Almost all of these schools are boarding schools and as such present a completely different atmosphere to those in the South-East. In recent years I have visited Gordonstoun (Scotland), Bedford Modern, Millfield, Warwick and Haileybury. All these are excellent schools, but all completely different.
Last weekend I was invited to Taunton School in Somerset. I spent an enjoyable couple of days finding out about the school and the pupils. A co-educational school of 800 pupils from 3 to 18, it is one of three independent schools in Taunton.
A surprising number of pupils come from London and the South-East to the stress-free, open fields of this part of the world. Being within five minutes of Taunton station helps as pupils can travel from London in under two hours. The Headmaster explained to me that many parents are rejecting the pressure of schools in the London area and sending their children to their school where they can thrive. They still send to Oxbridge and the top universities but pupils board all week and then go home for the weekend. Taunton had impressive Craft, Design and Technology, were linked to Bath Rugby Academy and Arsenal FC and have strong language links with European Schools. Despite their high standards, there are no entry examinations, only a Headmaster’s Report and an interview.
The trend of sending children out of London and the South-East to be educated is nothing new, it has been happening for decades. However, the boarding schools are reporting that there is an increase in demand for ‘weekly boarding’ and ‘flexi-boarding’ (one or two days a week).
Marcus Trescothick, the England and Somerset cricketer, coaches at Taunton School and hopes to come to Priory to meet the staff and the boys and coach cricket in a masterclass and we hope to run a sports tour to Taunton School to take part in their sports tournaments.
Somerset seems a long way away, but if the school suits your son and he can thrive it is worth considering. The schools in this area are excellent but it is worth looking further afield, especially if your son has a specialism which cannot be met locally. Imagining your child boarding when he is little is very difficult but when he is 16 you may wish that he was! My point is that it is courses for horses; just because a school has a good reputation and you live close by does not mean it is the right school for your son.
BLOG POST 27 (15th May 2015)
This week I write to inform you of our latest exciting development and how it will benefit everyone within our school. By now you should have received an e-mail asking you to join our Parental Portal. This will help enhance the school’s communication between pupils, parents and staff. There is a self-registration system which I hope you will have opened by now; if not please do so. The portal will provide a secure connection and will allow documents, letters and school reports to be uploaded for you to view with an ongoing archive being maintained. You will be able to view your son’s timetable, marks and grades, rewards and sanctions, school reports, and interim reports instantly. You will be able to view your son’s achievements sitting on a train using your smart phone or perhaps lying on the beach!
It is our intention to put your son’s summer report onto his portal and so we are allowing parents plenty of time to login and register. We are not expecting problems, but if you do experience difficulties please email the school office and it will be passed on to our technical team who will try to solve any issues. I find this particularly exciting as the Senior Management Team at School have been working very hard at creating a reporting system which is easily accessible to parents and highly informative. As we all get used to the new portal we will populate it with more information which will make communication and day-to-day organisation much easier. As always, I welcome feedback so that we can further improve our service to parents. Either catch me at the gate (if it is sunny!) or write to me at school if you would like to pass on your thoughts.
We are also adding ‘photobox’ to our school website. This can be found in the parent zone which requires a log-in, which you would have been given when you joined the School. At present the Colts Rugby Tour to Bath (Years 5 and 6), Jersey (Years 7 and 8) and Sayers Croft (Year 4) have been uploaded. If your son has been on one of these trips you will have been e-mailed with the password for that album only. As the boys go on various trips or we have interesting occasions which are photographed we will inform you so that you can view them.
I must point out that all photos are for personal use only and should not be used on social media such as Twitter or Facebook. With photobox you can order prints, canvases, mugs, fridge magnets etc with images of your son. Do have a look at the website as I am sure that they will make nice gifts for grandparents or for you.
Exams next week!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 26 (8th May 2015)
As you probably know, over the weekend the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge had a baby daughter. She was born on Saturday in the Lindo Wing of London’s St Mary’s Hospital and weighed 8lbs 3ozs or 3.7kg. Again, as you probably know, she has been named Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Charlotte is the feminine form of Charles.
Indeed George III’s queen was called Charlotte and it was he who bought Buckingham Palace. The name caused great excitement in our household and brought back memories of naming our own children and the politics involved. As a new father it all seemed very straight forward to me, but on the contrary it caused much debate. Names I liked my wife did not and vice versa. The Duke and Duchess have not been controversial and have included the grandparents in their daughter’s names, which seems a sensible ploy. Charlotte is the 21st most popular girl’s name with 2,241 babies named so in 2013, Elizabeth is 39th. The top girls’ name in 2015 is Sophia with Emma second and Olivia third.
However, we are a boys school and although very interested in girls names, perhaps as Headmaster of a boys school we should be looking to see the popular boys names. The top name in 2014 was Oliver, with Jack in second and Harry in third. Next I looked at the school roll to see the most popular name at Priory Prep. Oliver, Jack, Harry, Charlie, Thomas, Oscar, George, William all feature but the most popular is James. Alexander is a popular name but with older boys.
During the Easter break I spent a most enjoyable few days in Edinburgh. I was very aware of my Scottish roots from my father and so drove my wife mad trying to finding my Scottish Malcolm Tartan. I am pleased to state (and so is my wife!) that I found a spectacular Malcolm Clan tie which I proudly wear to school sometimes. Our family crest is in the hallway at home.
So there is more to a name than meets the eye. Being labelled from birth with a name is important but says more about the decade, the politics and recently celebrity. Princess Charlotte is barely a week old and yet she is the subject of much conversation. As is the fashion, Charlotte will no doubt become the most popular girl’s name in 2015. Let us hope that she is fit and healthy and has a wonderful life.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 25 (1st May 2015)
I had the pleasure on Monday morning of going to the Pre-Prep assembly. There was a presentation from the boys in Year 2 on what they had done this year and then an opportunity to see the castles they had made. It was a really good assembly.
Speaking beautifully and with no nerves, Year 2 boys told all the boys in Reception and Year 1 plus about twenty parents and teachers about what they have been up to this year so far. Using PowerPoint they explained about their trip to London and Pudding Lane and dressing up as Samuel Pepys, about their science project and of course their football matches. It seems like only yesterday that they arrived as Nursery boys and yet here they were speaking with total confidence and about to enter the Prep department.
I was most impressed with the castles which they had made. Clearly there had been much help from parents and friends as the standard was extremely high; one castle was actually made of small bricks and mortar! Such a project had brought the family together and boys told me about how mothers, fathers, aunties and even an art teacher had helped them. The designs were all different but it was obvious that a lot of hard work and an eye to detail had been afforded to these castles.
The previous week the boys had brought them into school and they (and Mrs Filer and Mrs Haines) had carefully placed them on the floor in the playground before going into school. The castles created much interest as the boys came into school that day. Boys from all year groups were asking questions about how they were constructed, what material was used and what style they had tried to copy. It was fascinating listening to the Year 2 ‘Experts’ who confidently answered the questions. All this before school began and lessons had started!
And there we have the secret to a good lesson and children learning – motivate them, get them involved and creating something, support them and encourage them and finally praise them. This is not always possible but it is usually the best way to engage children and it is a method which we use often in order to promote learning. I am sure that Year 2 boys will remember what is a keep, a curtain wall and a portcullis through this project as they enjoyed it so much.
It is a Bank holiday this weekend so no school on Monday – I hope that you enjoy it.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 24 (22nd April 2015)
We had a lot of fun in last week’s Headmaster’s Assembly! I took a clean bucket into the hall and proceeded to put it on my Head; this brought laughs from the boys. I took it off and asked if they normally walked around with a bucket on their heads – they all looked at me as if I was mad!
I am sure that you are aware that there is a General Election on shortly. The TV, Radio, Papers and Social Media are all full of it! We are being bombarded by it and yet most of the boys were totally unaware of it. I proceeded to ask questions such as ‘what colour is Conservative?’ but only a few boys knew. ‘Who is the Prime Minister?’ Again, only a handful knew. Of course, I put the bucket on the heads of the boys who did not know, to the delight of the audience and also the boys themselves.
My point is that boys should be aware that there is an election coming up and know the parties, their colours and their leaders. When I asked ‘What is happening on May 7?’ two boys said that it was their mother’s birthday and another that there is a poetry recital at school. Again, only a handful knew the date of the election including the older boys who may well be asked questions in interviews at senior school about this very topic.
Part of being a child is being protected from the ‘big-wide-world’ and all its evils, however we also need to ensure that our children are gradually integrated into this world; it is called ‘growing up’. With so many distractions in life, children can miss major events or experiences and with busy lives parents rush from ’pillar to post’ and overlook the necessities.
I am grateful that ‘Citizenship’, which was forced upon schools to include in the curriculum, has lost momentum as it was taking valuable teaching time away from teachers, but it is our responsibility to ensure that our children grow up in a democratic and free society. The fundamental roots of this must be to play a part in the decision making in General Elections, whichever colour they eventually vote.
Dependent on the age of your son, I would therefore ask parents to support the school in introducing them to the idea of voting and to watch the General Election unfold and to answer the questions the boys may have. By the way, Happy Birthday to those mothers who birthday it is on 7 May!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 23 (15th April 2015)
Welcome back! I hope that you had an enjoyable Easter. It would appear that summer is upon us as the weather seems to be improving and everyone is feeling positive as we start to venture outside to enjoy the sunshine and put away our pullovers and heavy coats.
As usual we held a staff meeting and training day on Monday before school began, preparing ourselves for the new term. The summer is always fun but very busy. By now you should have received your Calendar with all the various dates such as Sports Days and Grandparents Days which need organisation.
I am sure that parents would like to join me in congratulating Mr Jones whose partner has given birth to their third child, a little girl Isla. Mr Jones has been on paternity leave this week but I know that he is very excited in having the addition of a daughter to his two sons. Mother and baby are doing well, I am not so sure about Mr Jones!
Mrs Holmes (Year 4) is expecting her second child in the summer who will join her daughter and she is planning to have most of next year on maternity leave so I will be advertising her post shortly so that next year’s class have a teacher for the whole year. Mrs Holmes is planning to teach until the end of this term.
Both Miss Frisby and Mrs Davis (Year 1) have decided to leave at the end of the term, Miss Frisby to further pursue her music career and Mrs Davis to further support her family. I am sure that parents will join me in thanking them for teaching their sons over the years and wish them well for the future. I shall be advertising the post shortly and will keep parents informed, as usual.
During the Easter break Mr Smith and the premises team were very busy decorating Nursery 1 which now looks very smart. The Clark Building also had the walls in the corridors, hallways and toilets painted. The kitchen was deep cleaned, windows were cleaned and gutters cleared. The minibuses were serviced and MOT’d.
Now for some housekeeping. Have you signed up your children for Funzone yet? Go to www.funzoneatprioryprep.co.uk for further details.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 22 (27th March 2015)
Last week I heard the sad news that one of our Priory boys was killed in a car crash. Rakesh Joshi went on to King’s College School, Wimbledon from Priory and was in his first year of a law degree, aged 20.
Rakesh was a really lovely boy, very popular, very talented and always great fun. He did well in the classroom but sometimes was a little lazy, like so many boys, and was often at a loss to find his pencil or pen. I remember lost property being a bit of a problem. Rakesh enjoyed music, a love instilled by his parents and encouraged by Mr Wright. Rakesh was the first boy to play the sitar in school and mesmerised his school friends as he played. Indeed, he returned to our Bollywood Night last term to sing and play the guitar. He was also a great rugby player and cricketer and was in my first teams.
It seems so unfair that such a talented boy has been taken away from us and all the teachers past and present are shocked and devastated by the news. My mobile has barely stopped with phone calls or texts of sympathy. Kings have also been very supportive.
As I look into the playground I see lots of ‘Rakeshes’ running around. This is every parents’ worst nightmare and my heart goes out to Dillip and Nutan and his sister Ipsa. It makes me think how important our children are to us and how we must look after them, but also allow them to be independent and let go. It is a difficult balance and one that we must all make as parents at some point.
As Headmaster, parents often look to me to give them the answer or solve a problem. I have no answer or solution to this. All I can say is that it was a great experience teaching Rakesh and a privilege to have been his Headmaster. If your son does half as well as Rakesh he will have done well. Omshanti (God grant peace)
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 21 (20th March 2015)
I have received some lovely letters from an 89 year old lady from Epsom. She wrote to me about her time at school and how she met her husband. She attended Priory Prep School in the 1930’s when the school was in Lyme Regis Road on the A217. I drive past this building and it is being refurbished and made into apartments.
She went on to write that in 1935 she and her husband to be, who was also a pupil, moved to the new site in Bolters Lane. She moved to Wallington Grammar School in 1936 and she topped the entrance examinations. Three other girls in her class also won awards to Rosebery. Her husband went on to Sutton County. There were only two classes in the school; it was obviously co-educational and finished at 11. She writes that they were very good at sports and that under Mr Charles Poole their education was wide and interesting. She went on to become a teacher herself, and her husband worked for the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA).
She wanted me to know that she loved the school, as did her husband, and that they were very grateful for everything the school did for them.
I found this to be a very moving story but also there are strong parallels with today’s school and its ethos. It is interesting that in the 1930’s the school finished at 11 and we also intend doing so, although we have no plans to take girls! What I loved most about this story is that the lady took the time to write to me and express her love of the school. The art of letter writing is dying out with the advent of e-mails and texts but a letter can still evoke emotions and a sense of belonging that an e-mail cannot do.
I am hoping that this lady will be able to come and visit us shortly.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 20 (13th March 2015)
As you read this blog I will probably be in Jersey with Year 7 and Year 8 on a sports tour. It is about trips and tours that I wish to talk about this week.
Going on trips and tours is an important part of growing up. Staying away from home, sleeping somewhere strange and having to change your routine and often having to think on your feet are important experiences for all children to have.
Here at Priory we start this in Year 3. Boys are soon to find out that they are to go on a whole day outdoor pursuits course in preparation for a two night stay in Year 4 at Sayers Croft. For many boys, Sayers Croft is the first time that they stay away overnight. It can be an anxious time for parents and boys but is a valuable one. Staff are used to coping with events such as home-sickness, wet beds or different dietary needs. Indeed Year 4 have just had an information evening about Sayers Croft and everyone is looking forward to going. They will be building camps and bonfires and climbing ropes as well as making tea for staff in the mornings and making their beds (well, almost!).
Years 5 and 6 have just returned from a highly successful trip with the Games staff to Bath where they played and won two matches, went to see Bath v Sale and had a fantastic time. For parents it was a quiet weekend, a romantic dinner and time to gather their thoughts together. For the staff it was full on for the whole time!
Years 5, 6 and 7 are off to France for a few days next term to a language and activity camp which looks to be great fun and extremely valuable. Year 8 will be off to North Wales after examinations to canoe, rock climb and more at an outdoor pursuits centre.
It is not the activity that is important I feel, but the fact that they stay with their friends, have fun and learn to be independent. All these experiences are reflected in their growing confidence, increased maturity and a widening understanding of the world and their role within it.
I wish to thank my staff for continuing to provide such opportunities, often in their own time, so that boys at Priory can grow into positive and well-rounded young men. It is highly unusual for a school to offer such a comprehensive programme of residential activities and is a tribute to the dedication and commitment of staff at Priory.
To further continue to prepare your son for the future, dependent upon his age, I would encourage play days in friends’ houses, sleepovers and parties. The key to such experiences is to leave your son to fend for himself and sort out his own problems. In this way he will become an independent free-thinker who has opinions and preferences and the ability to function properly in an ever-changing world.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 19 (6th March 2015)
I introduced Homework Diaries a number of years ago as there was often confusion over homework. To be totally honest I do not think there was confusion, I think some boys were trying to get away with not doing it. I soon stopped that one!
However, in recent weeks I have noticed a slack attitude by some boys towards their Homework Diaries and I am not happy about it. Some boys are not completing them properly and being very slapdash. Handwriting is sometimes virtually illegible and clearly no care has been taken and I find this unacceptable; for some boys things need to change, and fast!
I expect neat handwriting, the various boxes filled in correctly and the corners of each page cut at an angle with scissors. Mr Abbott and I will be doing ‘spot checks’ to see that boys are doing this properly. Form teachers will also be monitoring what is going on.
Parents, you have a role here as well. Firstly, make sure that boys are doing their homework, secondly that the environment is suitable to concentrate and thirdly that you sign off the homework each week to show the school that you have seen it.
Expectations of success are high, quite rightly, but often without support or encouragement. I believe that you need to keep a close eye on boys and make sure that they are constantly giving of their best. If you give them an inch, they will take a mile – especially with homework!
BLOG POST 18 (27th February 2015)
Welcome back after half term, I hope that you had an enjoyable break.
This week has seen Year 5 on their Bikeability Course. A team from Reigate and Banstead Council normally train our boys on how to ride a bike carefully, how to maintain a bike and how to be safe on the roads. ‘Bike It’ takes the same sort of format as the old ‘Cycling Proficiency’ which many parents may remember.
I brought ‘Bike It!’ into school almost ten years ago as I felt that boys should be riding their bikes more and that if they lived locally that they should ride into school. A decade later I feel that things have not improved in society in general.
I am shocked by the number of children who cannot ride a bike. Riding a bike is a skill which I feel every child should have. Most boys like to take their bike apart, get greasy and put their bike back together. The joy of being able to ride it again having taken it apart is enormous and is the beginning of thinking for yourself (verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning!) and simple engineering (spatial awareness). Putting your bike into Halfords for repair or service is expensive and is a missed opportunity. Fathers can help boys who struggle to put parts together and it is part of the bonding between father and son.
Going out on your bike, meeting other people and having some independence is a very important part of growing up. I realise that some roads are dangerous and that there are some strange people out there but we should not cosset our children too much.
I feel that too many children are obsessed with computer games and that real life activities such as riding a bike are being lost. I would encourage all parents to go out cycling with their family and enjoy the fresh air and the beauty of our world and also get fit. There are some places locally like Box Hill or Epsom Downs where children can ride a bike in safety and have fun; usually there is a coffee shop nearby! Enjoy the weekend.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 17 (13th February 2015)
Last week at the ‘Meet the Governors’ meeting, the Chairman, Ashley Head, announced that Priory Preparatory School will finish at the end of Year 6 in September 2016. This coincides with both Epsom College and St John’s Leatherhead announcing that they will both be starting a ‘Lower School’ taking boys and girls at the age of 11. At the same time Kings’ College Wimbledon announced that it will admit 44 11 year old boys into their Senior School at 11. This now brings all the local schools into line so that they all take at 11 – Whitgift, Trinity, Caterham, Reigate Grammar, Box Hill, Dunnotar, St John’s, Reeds, Claremont Fan Court, Ewell Castle, KCS, Ardingly, Worth, Epsom College and St John’s, plus all three local grammar schools.
All the schools which Priory Preparatory School has been serving are all available at the age of 11. With numbers gradually tailing off in Years 7 and 8 over the last ten years the Governors felt that it was in the best interests of the school and the boys to make this move.
As Headmaster it saddens me that we have had to do this but I feel that it was inevitable. My predecessor, Ian Chapman, in 2000 told me that the school would ‘go to 11’, so the writing has been on the wall. Places will still be available at 13 in some schools but there will be far more at 11 and I can see this increasing in the not too distant future with entry at 13 decreasing if not disappearing completely in some schools. However, there will always be boarding places available at 13 as many parents do not wish to board their children at 11 as they feel that they are too young. Senior Schools are very sensitive to this and so full boarding is disappearing or reducing as flexi-boarding takes hold for local children.
For Priory Prep therefore, it means that we have to continue to excel in preparing your sons for examinations at 11. We have changed much of the curriculum already to reflect the requirements of the pre-testing at 11 and we will continue to do so, however, the Governors have made it clear that they do not want the ethos or type of boy leaving us at 11 to change. We will continue to provide a balanced curriculum with lots of opportunities to thrive and allow boys to enjoy their childhood supported by good teaching in a close partnership with parents.
I have often been asked if we prepare for the 11+ to grammar schools and the answer is ‘yes’. As more parents want this more we will focus on what a boy needs, however, as we are a non-selective school there is no guarantee that we can take a below average child and make him into a scholar overnight, but we will always do our best.
I am very excited about the future as I feel that we have a clear mandate and that by acting decisively the Governing Body have taken the lead and many schools will follow us in the months and years ahead. I wish to reassure all parents that Priory Preparatory will continue to put the boys first in all decisions to enable them to be both successful and well-rounded, bringing the best out in the boys.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 16 (6th February 2015)
One of the things that makes Priory Prep different from many other schools is our community spirit. Certainly when your son moves on to Senior School there is not that unity amongst parents which you get in a school like Priory. This week has highlighted the strength of our community.
On Friday night we held the PSA Quiz Night which is always a popular event. It is a chance for parents and teachers to mix informally but also for parents to meet other parents. I am delighted to report that the Teachers’ Team won; however the only round in which they got 100% was identifying different bars of chocolate which worries me somewhat!
On Sunday our U9s (Year 4) played in the National Rugby Festival held at Epsom College. The boys played exceptionally well against some very large and very strong schools and I congratulate Mr Ford and the boys on their committed and brave performances. On the side, encouraging boys every step of the way was a vast number of parents and teachers. When Priory played the volume increased and Priory Prep certainly made their mark.
Last week the PSA meeting, supported by a goodly number of parents, voted to financially support the boys, teachers, and TAs who are deciding how they would like to develop their playground.
The St David Cake sale was very popular and raised funds towards the boys’ chosen charity. A number of parents went to St John’s School to support the orchestra and listen to the concert in the evening. I could go on and on as week by week our school community all join to have fun and support the boys.
For parents of new boys or younger boys I encourage you to join in. I realise that many parents work and that it is often difficult, but please try to come along as the boys love it when they can share their experiences with you. You will look back on these ‘golden years’ and realise that they are over. Please do not miss these opportunities as you will really regret it – ask the boys’ grandparents who will agree, I am sure.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 15 (30th January 2015)
In conversation with boys at lunchtime I have become aware of the amount of time boys are spending on games like ‘Minecraft’ and ‘Fifa 15’. These are children’s video games and are most entertaining and the subject of much conversation at lunchtime between the boys. The more I discuss these games with the boys the more I realise how many hours the boys are spending on these games. For some boys they are obsessed with them and spend three or four hours each evening playing them and more at weekends.
In some of these games boys have the opportunity to ‘talk to their friends’ online as part of the games. I hear them saying at lunchtime that they ‘will talk tonight’ having been together all day. Some, and this is a major concern, are making friends online. Who are these friends? What are they asking? If your sons PC or tablet is in his bedroom parents have little idea what their son is doing.
‘Call of Duty’ is an extremely violent and disturbing video game for over 18’s and yet boys are playing it at home. Not only is it illegal, but it may be damaging your son.
I believe that many of these games are really good fun but parents need to monitor how long their children are playing for, what they are playing and who they are playing games with. I would suggest that such video games are used as a reward for good behaviour or rewarding success at school. The video game industry is highly lucrative and is developing at am amazing speed and often parents and teachers are unaware of the capabilities of games. It is quite common to log on and play a game with a child in Mexico – or are they?
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 14 (23rd January 2015)
I am delighted to announce that Old Priorian Tom Williams (2000-2007) has been awarded a prestigious Moelat-Jones Scholarship for his outstanding academic work at Balliol College, Oxford. Tom left Priory Prep to go to Epsom College after winning an academic scholarship.
Tom is now in his third year at Balliol and is reading Chemistry. He is particularly interested in organic chemistry and is looking to pursue a career in the petrochemical industry. This is Tom’s second academic award as he won a scholarship following his first year examinations.
Tom is also a talented Sportsman and earned a Blue when he represented Oxford University against Cambridge University in the 2013 varsity match at Lords. He became a double Cricket Blue in 2014 when he repeated the feat. He is hoping to add a hockey Blue this year as he is currently a regular member of the Oxford University Hockey 1st XI.
Tom is not the only academic success we have had as many boys have gone on to become dentists, lawyers, doctors or onto other similar professional careers. Priyam Patel (1997-2006), who recently came to school to talk to the boys in assembly, was one of only five students in the UK to get 140 out of 140 in his International Baccalaureate (IB) at King’s College School, Wimbledon. Priyam is now studying dentistry.
It was also good to see Adam Thompstone (1992-1999) score a try for Leicester Tigers in their cup match against Scarlets on Friday night. Adam went to Whitgift School in Croydon from Priory but also went through the youth teams at Sutton & Epsom Rugby Club before joining Harlequins Academy and then moving onto Leicester Tigers in 2007.
The nice thing about all of these boys’ successes is that their parents all live locally, that the boys (now men) have followed the same path as your sons. I know that when I tell the staff about Tom’s success in this week’s staff meeting that they will be thrilled.
I do hope that your sons will join the Old Priorians when the time comes as parents and boys alike can keep in contact, despite their lives taking them in different directions.
As teachers we plough away, doing our best to ‘bring out the best in the boys’, but it is often very difficult to imagine that the talented little boys in front of us will grow up one day and become trusted professionals. Let’s face it, your GP, Dentist or Solicitor was once at school taught by teachers similar to us. So, why can’t it be your son who is sitting in that chair – no reason!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 13 (16th January 2015)
Over the past twelve months the staff have been engaged in considering the best way to mark boys’ work and to get the best response from them. They have consulted other schools, discussed their experiences and have come up with our new marking policy.
The idea is to keep it simple with a clear focus on progress. We have introduced the smiley stamps which are designed to be child friendly but also simple. Your son (and you) will be able to see if the teacher feels he has understood the work (smiley face with teeth) or if he is still to get there (smiley face, no teeth). The foot stamp represents next steps, in other words what to do to improve or understand.
The teachers will not mark all work in this way but work which they feel is important or is a suitable time to review their progress. For example, a year group may be spending two weeks on studying castles; it would be inappropriate to mark the boys work every step of the way using all the stamps, however at the end of the topic the boys should get a feedback which should help them improve.
Already the staff are reporting that it is motivating boys to improve and so I ask parents to support this innovation by looking at the boys’ books when they come home for homework. Parents will be able to get an idea of their sons’ progress by looking at the stamps, although parents’ evenings and reports will remain the official way that we will report to parents.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 12 (9th January 2015)
First, welcome back to school! I hope that you had a really enjoyable Christmas and a really fabulous New Year. Like me, many of you have probably eaten and drunk too much and the scales are suggesting that you need to think about what you eat. Unfortunately I still have a mountain of chocolate and endless bottles of wine to drink which parents kindly gave me for Christmas.
January and February can be difficult months for children after all the fun and gifts over the Christmas period. The dark days, rain and the cold will soon be over as spring will arrive before we know it. There is always a special word which I mention this time of year which is guaranteed to get the boys excited – Snow! The boys love the snow, especially when they are young. They love playing in it, throwing it, making things out of it or simply sliding in it. However, to us adults it can cause disruption and confusion. I am sending out our ‘Severe Weather Policy’ by e-mail to all parents but would ask you to read it in advance of the arrival of snow or other severe weather conditions so that you do not get caught out. The Golden rule is to check the school website for the latest news. I will put on regular updates to keep parents informed. Banstead is the highest point in Surrey and so we are prone to get snow which often stays longer, although sometimes we avoid it when others get hit. Interestingly, the Woolpack Pub and the emblem of the village signify the grazing of sheep on this high land.
The cold weather brings extra clothing which does not normally come into school such as gloves, wellington boots or hats. To help us I would ask you to ensure that everything is named. I realise that this is an inconvenience but one black glove is the same as another and my poor teachers can spend hours looking for a solitary glove.
From the beginning of this term the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulations (EU FIC) came into force. The EU has listed 14 allergens that need to be identified if they are used in a dish. This information can be requested of the caterers by parents via the school office. If the school has been alerted that your son has an allergy to any particular ingredient our caterers have already been dealing with it, however if you are new or unsure please contact Debbie Pullen (Chef Manager) via the office. It is the parents’ responsibility to inform the school in writing if a child’s medical condition changes.
The school kitchen is introducing Halal food at lunch times. If you would like your son to start receiving Halal Food please contact the office for a form to complete and return. We hope to start this next week.
I look forward to working with you all this term, especially your sons!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 11 (5th December 2014)
It is amazing that we only have one week before the end of the Autumn Term - it seems as though we have only just come back after our summer holidays! The mild autumn weather has probably fooled us all as we have had some beautiful sunny days; let us hope that the mild weather continues.
This week has seen our Nursery Nativity and our Pre-Prep Nativity plays. I would like to thank the vast numbers of parents who have supported us and their sons and hope that they enjoyed the whole event. I am always amazed that the little nursery boys are able to follow the teachers’ instructions; certainly they are capable of more than we think at this age. However, the step up from Nursery to Pre-Prep appears vast. The confidence and skills displayed are much greater and parents often take this for granted but this is due to the enormous amount of work which the teachers have invested in the boys, encouraging, cajoling and insisting as classes practise both singing and speaking roles. ‘Rock around the flock’ is a particularly enjoyable version of the traditional Christmas story.
We recently sent out a list of all the Christmas events and so I hope that you will join us at the Christmas Fayre on Saturday. It runs from 12 noon until 3pm and I would like to thank the PSA for organising this. The PSA Christmas Fayre Committee has been having meetings, getting sponsorship and making bookings since September so that they can raise funds to support the school. Their latest project is ‘The Playground’. We hope to add to the climbing frame for the younger ones as well as add benches, greenery and even shelter from the sun with the year’s fundraising. Please join us and have fun as all profits will benefit all our boys.
On Tuesday evening at 7pm we have our Carol Service at All Saints’ Church in Banstead. This is for Years 3-8 inclusive and is always well supported; indeed in recent years it has been difficult to get a seat so please arrive early to avoid disappointment.
Have a good weekend.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 10 (28th November 2014)
One of the nice things about Priory is that we have lots of Old Boys returning to the school to inform us of what is happening in their lives or how they have performed in public examinations. It is always particularly nice to welcome Old Boys’ sons to join the school. I think that there is something particularly nice if a father wants his son to follow in his footsteps; we must be doing something right!
This year we have had a 72 year old from Australia (who I did not teach!), many of last year’s Year 8 who left and several boys who have recently finished their GCSEs or A levels. They always speak highly of the school and how well we taught them and how small it looks compared to when they were here.
Last week we had two visits. Priyam Patel, who was Head Boy in 2005, came into assembly and told the boys about the charity he has set up for the homeless in India, called Husti. He went on to KCS, Wimbledon where he was one of only six boys in the UK to get 45 out of 45 at IB, an amazing achievement. Priyam is training to be a dentist but told me that it was Priory which first enthused him about helping others with all the charitable activities which he got involved in. He had the boys transfixed as he went through his presentation. Husti.org is the charity which Priyam showed the boys. You are encouraged to have a look at it.
Nick Candy is a luxury property developer who used to live in Banstead. He and his brother went on to Epsom College. Nick and his brother Christian are famous for buying One Hyde Park, Chelsea Barracks and Beverly Hills 9900 Wiltshire development. Nick, who came to have a look round at his old Prep School with his celebrity wife, Holly Valance, spoke fondly of his time at the school. He was amazed at the size of the school as it seemed much larger to him as a child. I gave him an Old Boys’ Tie and told him to wear it next time he is on TV!
Not all our old boys are rich and famous but they all speak highly of their time at the school. The ethos of the school has not changed and will not change.
I hope that when the time comes, your son will join our Old Boys’ Association, the Old Priorians, and join us in the future for reunions and celebrations as it is great to catch up with old classmates, not in competition but in friendship. More information on our old boys is available on the school website.
Have a good weekend,
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 9 (21st November 2014)
As I drove to work this week I listened to the news and heard that schools are not doing enough about e-safety. I was staggered to hear this. As an Inspector it is one of the first things which I look at when inspecting a school and schools are generally very careful. The important issue, however, is that schools should have a working partnership with parents over lots of issues, e-safety being one topic of many.
At Priory Prep we do our best to keep the boys up to date on the dangers of the internet and what harm it can do. We also run parents evenings on e-safety and provide links to useful websites; however, schools cannot police children 24 hours a day. I therefore suggest the following as a quick guide for parents at home:
1) Do not let your child have access to a computer which is on the internet in their bedroom. You do not know what they are doing; some are up all night using them.
2) Let your child use a computer in a public area, like the kitchen. This enables you to keep an eye on them.
3) Do not let your child have a social media account until they are older; most have an age limit but children lie about their age.
4) Engage child filters to prevent them from getting into difficulty or trouble. If you cannot use them, find a parent who can help you.
5) Take the use of the computer as necessary but keep checking what they are doing by looking at their ‘History’. If they delete this, ask why.
All boys at Priory Prep have to sign an agreement known as the ‘Acceptable Use Policy’. We also have strong filters to ensure that inappropriate sites are not visited. If boys try to visit such a site, the Headmaster is alerted and he speaks to boys privately about their behaviour; parents are also alerted.
Unfortunately most children know more than their parents about the use of ICT and can run rings round them, however, if parents get more involved in their children’s use of ICT at home they will be able to understand more and prevent their child from getting into trouble.
For more information about e-safety, visit www.saferinternet.org.uk, then click on ‘Parents and Carers’.
Alternatively, visit the Priory Prep School website and select ‘Useful Information’ (towards top right of screen), then choose ‘Internet Safety’ (left-hand menu).
Have a good weekend.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 8 (14th November 2014)
This week we acknowledged the start of World War 1 (1914-1918). A war that saw a senseless waste of life, a change in social order and rapid strides in technology. All the boys were lined up in the playground with their poppies on, the Pre-Prep having made giant poppies. Year 8 recited the poem ‘The Soldier’ by Rupert Brooke, Mr Wright played the last post on his trumpet and we tried to listen to the guns going off in London. It is real theatre and something that the boys will always remember but will not necessarily understand until later in their lives.
As a child I remember listening to endless stories of how my father won the war, single-handed it seemed at times. He was in the 8th Army and was known as a ‘Desert Rat’. This illuminated all sorts of images in my mind of him with a long tail and a gun in the sand. Sadly, my father has passed away and all I have of him is my memories and his World War II medals of which I am very proud. My abiding thoughts about Remembrance Day are that he always said to me: “Son, war is terrible. Do everything you can to prevent war. Everything!”
I did the same lining up in the playground as your sons and listened to my Headmaster talk about how terrible war is and how we must do everything to stop it. I bowed my head and thought about lunch or what I was going to do as soon as this boring line-up was over; the last thing I thought about was preventing war. I seriously doubt that any or your sons are doing anything else. So why do it?
Some years ago I listened to Terry Waite, who spent four years as a hostage in the Lebanon (1987-91). He was an envoy for the Church of England and tried to secure the release of four hostages, including the journalist John McCarthy. During his four years in captivity he was hardly spoken to, physically abused and treated poorly. He said that he ‘returned to his school days’ to Stockton Heath County Secondary School where he became Head Boy. He was able to recite things that he learnt there such as his tables, hymns, poetry and plays. He stated that it was this that prevented him from going mad but also made him realise the importance that school had in creating his moral fibre and his values. Such occasions as our Remembrance Day Service are occasions that boys can draw upon later in life, not as hostages like Terry Waite, but as adults, husbands and fathers.
It saddens me greatly that schools are not maintaining this respect for the past in a pursuit of rising up a European League table for education. It is exactly what we need to maintain our identity, wherever we are from. Everyone needs to know where they come from, what it means, and celebrate it.
So as our little Priory boys stand with their poppies, we are investing in the future from what we have learnt from the past. What is for lunch today?
Have a good weekend.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 7 (7th November 2014)
Although parents have been put under pressure by their children, I am sure that most of you are waiting for the weekend for ‘Fireworks’. That sense of anticipation for fireworks is almost explosive. In assembly I asked who would be having a fireworks party of some kind – every hand went up! Including the staff!
About two thirds of the Prep Department expect to go to an organised event. This obviously poses less danger from fireworks but there is always the prospect of children getting lost in the darkness amongst the hundreds or even thousands who attend such events.
The third who were having fireworks in their garden or at a friends were equally excited, especially if they were teaming up with another family because ‘we can get double or treble the normal amount!’ My experience is that normally boys are relatively safe and each year boys return after ‘Firework Weekend’ talking about Christmas, however, occasionally a parent has been injured. So, please be very careful and follow the firework code.
Have a good weekend.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 6 (17th October 2014)
In recent years Priory Prep has seen established teachers retiring to be replaced by younger teachers. The likes of Mr Martin and Mrs Clark will always have a special place at the school as they were not only strong personalities but also superb teachers. However, they have been replaced by strong teachers with new or modern ideas. Whenever a teaching post is advertised, as Headmaster I am always flooded with applications and I am able to appoint the cream of the crop. These new teachers come with new ideas and a desire to succeed.
Within the last 12 months we have introduced new innovations which have seen us leap ahead as a school. The introduction of French this term in the Pre-Prep has proved very popular and swimming in the curriculum in the summer term, also for Pre-Prep, has been fun. The introduction of a dedicated reading period every day during silent registration in the Prep School is already starting to pay dividends, with reading levels rising and boys genuinely enjoying the books they are reading.
On Monday I went round the classes and watched ‘paired reading’. Boys in the Prep School visited classes in the Pre-Prep for twenty minutes or so and ‘buddied up’ with a younger child and read to them. The little ones loved it as they had the full attention of ‘a big boy’ and were able to listen to a story. The older boys liked to read and show off. They displayed all the techniques which teachers encourage in classes – emphasising words, using accents, different paces and lots of expression. Friendships between year groups have started to form and boys had a lot of fun; we will repeat this experience again after half-term. We call this activity ‘Reading Buddies’.
We are including our annual appeal from Samaritan Shoeboxes in this blog post. This is where we ask parents and boys to fill a shoebox with presents for either a boy or girl, wrap it up with a donation and send it into school. I really like this idea as our children tend to have lots of unwanted toys which we can pass on to another child and literally make their Christmas. It all seems rather early but we have to send the shoeboxes off to various parts of Eastern Europe and Africa, so this all takes time. The boys really got involved in this project and I would encourage parents to explain what it is all about to their sons as we think about the plight of others at Christmas. I am most grateful to Mrs Bilbrough for co-ordinating the collection. I believe that 109 shoeboxes is our record, so perhaps we can beat that! All shoeboxes should be brought into school by Thursday 6 November. Thank you everyone for your continued support.
We now have a two week half-term before we return to Parents’ Contact Evenings, Book Fairs, The Bollywood Event, Examinations for Years 5-8 and all the Christmas Activities. It promises to be a very busy time ahead; I do hope that you are able to join us.
Have an enjoyable half term break.
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 5 (9th October 2014)
As the Headmaster I am in the privileged position of being able to watch the boys grow up and gauge their development. As the boys will tell you, I often walk around the school and see what they are doing, chat to them and look at their work. In Nursery Mrs Fell was going through a reading book with a boy. He was reading beautifully, prompted by Mrs Fell in places. When finished he received a massive ‘well-done!’ from his teacher. He ran out to the play area with a big smile and was eager to tell his friends how well he had done, however, the boys outside were busy finding out about ’The Tiger who came to Tea’ and were not interested in his news at that moment; no doubt his parents were told the whole story when he got home.
Year 1 were busy making Christmas cards with Mrs Newton. “Isn’t it too early for Christmas cards?” I asked. I was promptly put into my place: “Don’t be silly Mr Malcolm. We design the cards, colour them, review them, improve them and then send them off to the printers for Christmas. This all takes time you know!” I left them to it - they obviously didn’t want me in the way!
Year 2 were having a French lesson with Miss Murray who was introducing ‘Ca Va’ and ‘Ca Va, Bien’. She was showing them a video on the inter-active whiteboard of French people meeting and greeting. They did find it funny when two men embraced as it is not an English form of greeting. By the end of the lesson they had got the greeting very well. I hope that parents enjoyed it at home and the boys can use it in France.
I had lunch with some senior boys. It was pasta that day which, as the chef will tell you, is not my favourite, but I had it anyway. It was pouring with rain and the boys were likely to be on an ‘indoor break’. However, the cross-country teams were about to run at a large cross-country festival at Ripley Court. Fighting the mud, wind and rain was not a prospect they were looking forward to. When they returned, flush faced and very excited they told me that Mr Ford had said, ‘The faster you go, the sooner you finish’. Wise words, especially as he stood in his tracksuit and coat on the side! Overall, they came second out of 13 which was an excellent achievement, with 5th our best individual place. Well done to Callum Noonan.
Later that afternoon I had the pleasure of trying to chair a meeting organising our ‘Bollywood’ event. I say trying, as last week it was decided that we had to try the food! A large range of Asian food was neatly assembled before me and I was invited to try the food but I am very wary of very spicy food. Mrs Howell kindly offered her services as my taster! The food was truly delicious and all the parents are working hard to ensure that ‘Bollywood’ is a success. With all the food, entertainment and dancing I am sure that it will be great fun – I hope that you can join us.
The life of a Priory Prep schoolboy is varied and often challenging, whether trying to impress in the classroom, in the mud in Surrey or dancing at a Bollywood event!
Have a great weekend!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 4 (2nd October 2014)
This week I would like to tell you about chess at Priory Prep as it is such a great sport and so good for your son’s development. At present we have 45 boys playing chess; some for fun and some competitively. Chess enables boys to develop their thinking skills, strategy and creative thinking.
Last year Priory Prep won the Elmbridge Borough Chess Championship for schools, based on a very young team. Already Aringan and Vithushan Varatharaj have won the Surrey 100 (a district competition) and we have plans to enter more competitions in the year ahead, as well as continuing our internal competitions.
I am delighted to inform you that Adam Choudhury in Year 7 won the Surrey Under 12 championship last weekend and will progress to an England trial shortly. Adam is such a lovely boy and is a role model for many of the younger chess enthusiasts and has agreed to help Mrs Gledhill coach the boys in lessons. As the boys prepare for future games, I am aware that we have so many supportive parents who travel far and wide to take their sons to chess for which I am most grateful.
During our Open Morning on Saturday, boys will have the chance to play chess. I do hope that they will take this opportunity, or look to play chess in the future.
Have a great weekend!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 3 (25th September 2014)
I have spent most of this week at the IAPS National Conference in Brighton and Mr Abbott has kindly stood in for me as Headmaster.
About 500 Heads converged on the Brighton National Conference centre and we spent three days discussing educational issues such as developing the school curriculum, new forms of assessment and the impact and control of social media. It was good to meet up with other Heads and discuss the issues which are affecting schools at the moment.
Last week Mr Abbott met the School Council, a representative elected from each class to put forward the views of the boys in their class. Often boys will come up with some really good ideas; unfortunately they can also come up with some impractical ones like the underground games pitches for inclement weather or the now famous school helicopter! Usually food is high on the agenda and the boys once again did not let Mr Abbott down. The request for more chicken wraps and more chocolate biscuits at lunchtime was agreed afterwards by the kitchen. Other ideas, such as having My Maths Competitions with other schools and a crate for drinks bottles in the minibus, are being looked into. Next term each class in the Prep School will have a new rep.
Finally, with Nursery Open Morning on Wednesday and School Open Morning next Saturday, I would ask parents to recommend us to any families who are looking for a school for their son. We will also be needing boys to take tours around the school, talking to adults they do not know, and practice their verbal skills. Visiting parents are always amazed by the confidence and beautiful manners of our boys and it is this sort of opportunity that moulds our boys. Please encourage your son to join us!
Have a great weekend!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 2 (18th September 2014)
This week has seen our boys continue their success on the football field. After some stunning results against Belmont last week, our teams outperformed Kingswood House. In the last two weeks our boys have scored almost 100 goals between 41 boys. Although we all like to win, what pleases me is that some boys who normally do not score have done so, increasing their confidence and self-esteem. I have also been thrilled to see the fun the boys have been having. I am sure that there will be tougher matches ahead but it is good to see our boys enjoying themselves and well done to the Games Department!
This week has also seen the culmination of our Information Evenings for Years, 5, 6, 7 and 8 on Pre-Testing and Common Entrance and Scholarship. I am grateful to Mrs Bilbrough, Director of Studies, for her hard work in collating all the material required. If parents have any questions or queries please do not hesitate to contact the school. You should by now have received via ParentMail details of the Year 5 and 6 presentations.
Last week I was at KCS and this week I have been to Epsom College to hear about their plans for taking boys and girls at 11 in 2016. They are also introducing football as a major sport after Christmas instead of hockey. Mr Piggott, the Headmaster, was also keen to inform me of their extremely good GCSE and A level results; I think that KCS may have competition! Next week I am off to Box Hill to meet the new Headmaster. If ever you need to know more about these or other schools please make an appointment to come and see me.
Finally, I do hope that many of you can join us at school next Friday for the Macmillan Cancer coffee morning. It will be a chance to catch up with other parents and raise money for an extremely worthwhile cause. Just join us in the Dining Hall after drop off at 8.30am.
Have a great weekend!
Graham D Malcolm
BLOG POST 1 (11th September 2014)
I hope, like me, that you have had a good start to the term. Clubs have started, matches have been played and homework has started going home! Soon there will be a rhythm to each week and everyone will be able to plan their week comfortably.
In assembly this week I took the Prep School boys through their homework diary and my expectations of them. Please look at your son’s diary regularly and sign it off for the Monday morning checks. I also explained about our anti-bullying policy which is explained in the homework diary and on the school website. Every boy has the right to be happy in life and it is our intention that every boy is happy at Priory Prep. Occasionally we do have incidents and I encourage boys to tell their teachers, parents or friends about what has happened so that we can help them. I will not tolerate bullying of any kind.
This week I was invited to dinner at King’s College School, Wimbledon. KCS is a very academic school and was voted IB School of the year due to its impressive results; 140 was its average score at IB which is amazing! This means that all boys (and girls now) were capable of going to Oxbridge; 56 actually went this year. They have just started an extensive building programme to upgrade their facilities with two sports halls, a new swimming pool and new teaching blocks. It looks like a building site at the moment but in a couple of years it promises to be stunning. I had a lovely evening and was delighted to see so many old boys and be told by the Headmaster that they continue to be impressed by the boys that we send to KCS.
Finally, I would like to welcome all the new boys and their parents to Priory Prep. I do hope that you will join in our activities and have fun. If you have any problems please contact your son’s teacher and we will try to sort them out.
Have a great weekend!
Graham D Malcolm
Graham Malcolm is the Headmaster of Priory Prep School, Surrey; a Governor at schools in Berkshire and Kent; and an Independent Schools Inspector.