Aim High!

The Croft’s maroon blazer (with accompanying child!) is often spotted dotted around town, especially after school or at special events, such as the Shakespeare Birthday Parade. I am sure you will agree it is a distinctive form of attire representative of a quality educational establishment. I have previously written about Croft pupils being important ambassadors in and out of School, and I reiterate their significance.

The Croft uniform also symbolises the unity of every member’s idea of what we want to achieve in our school, ie the School Aims.

Formalised 5 years ago, the 6 School Aims encompass The Croft’s long-standing ethos. Every pupil and staff member are aware of what it is we are aiming to achieve. By following the aims, everyone has a shared benchmark of expectations, academically, pastorally, and in and out of school. The School Aims can be found on the website under the Parents’ Zone tab - Policy and Important Documents/Mission Statement and School Aims - and are displayed in each classroom and around the School.

It is important to set ourselves targets, formally and informally, large-scale and small-scale. We can then work towards our goal, by having to learn new facts, or practising more, for example in sport or music, or for exams

Pupils’ school reports include targets in each subject which inform the pupil and parents of what they need to do next to reach their potential. I speak with each Prep pupil individually about their report and discuss how they can improve further in key areas highlighted by their teachers. Encouragement and support are vital for children who embrace advice to help them achieve their goals. A little explanation can help to remove the idea of the unknown and even a fear if they imagine they may be incapable.

Overcoming our fears and being outside of our comfort zone is an example of personal aims which our Year 6 experienced last week on their residential week at PGL Osmington Bay in Dorset. Please take a look at our twitter feed to see pupils in action, facing and conquering scary situations head on. Participating in never before experienced activities at great heights or on water is a challenge that most pupils relish, but even those who accomplish a small aspect of the challenge are achieving highly, as they have pushed themselves to their max – they have aimed high for their level of ability.

From Little Crofters’ first performance on stage, to practising for a Grade 1 Music exam, to the PGL trip in the great outdoors, every experience at The Croft builds on from the one before, teaching us that achievement is within our grasp, as we build skills and develop confidence with each step towards our goal.


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Learning to Learn

Thankfully, things have moved on since the days of the blackboard (although blackboards do conjure up good memories for many!). Technology continues to develop at speed, yet our methods of learning remain the same. That is, most people’s learning style is either visual, auditory or kinaesthetic, or a combination. We all process information differently which influences our ability to learn, not just in school, but throughout our lives, and at The Croft, we ensure all learning styles are catered for.

Little Crofters 2-year olds enter our doors wide-eyed, excited and yearning to learn everything around them. Their learning journey begins straight away, led by our Early Years professional teachers as part of The Croft curriculum with age-appropriate tasks and play activities. Little Crofters and Little Crofters Pre-School pupils, aged 2 – 4, all receive actual teaching in contrast to, for instance, a toddler group setting. However, their learning is steeped in fun, adventure and exploring, so they love their experience in school each and every day. Little Crofters Pre-School pupils also begin learning Music and French by specialist qualified teachers, a somewhat rare practice in schools for this young age group.

You may be familiar with this historic proverb: “Give me a child until the age of seven and I will show you the man” – we have since learned that 90 per cent of the brain’s growth happens in the first five years of a child’s life. Education in the pre-school years is therefore paramount to building firm foundations for optimum successful development, and our 2 - 4 year olds benefit profoundly, as confirmed by our recent ISI report. Pupils in Reception and Year 1 are therefore well placed to flourish, as our attention to individually tailored teaching continues through to Year 6, to ensure that all pupils receive the best education as individuals.

Study Skills is embedded within the curriculum to ensure pupils know how to learn independently, which is crucial when preparing for entrance exams and for keeping on top of their workload. In addition, The Croft is one of a handful of schools nationally to teach emotional intelligence – Packtypes – which is a psychometric based game that enhances self-awareness, self-esteem, confidence, understanding and relationships. Year 1 to Year 6 pupils profit greatly from this amazing resource.

We encourage curiosity, questioning and a can-do attitude, and, in turn, pupils reward us with their thirst for knowledge. If you have a curiosity about what The Croft is all about, and want to question me about what we can do for your child, please arrange to have a personal tour with me, or you are warmly welcome to attend our Open Mornings: Early Years and Key Stage 1 (2 - 4 year olds) on Saturday 18 March, or Whole School (2 – 11 year olds) on Tuesday 28 March, both 10am until noon. You may not find any blackboards on your visit, but you will find a rich history and an exciting future – there’s so much to learn!


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Priceless Presence of Mind

The commercialism of Christmas seems to start earlier each year, provoking the perennial pester power! Yet in recent years, there has been a refreshing change of attitude by some of the well-known shops and supermarkets who seem to be tapping into the highly emotive spirit of togetherness and kindness in their advertising, as opposed to a particular product. The epic 3-minute blockbusters reinforce the act of giving selflessly or doing a good deed for someone as the principal message, which can only be a good thing.

Random acts of kindness are just as, if not more important than, the gifts themselves. This will be recognised at Mark Reading with the presentation of The De Coubertin Award for the very first time. This award takes inspiration from the medal occasionally presented after the Olympic Games for competitors embodying the true essence of the games and acts of selflessness.

It costs nothing to give a helping hand, or a smile, or words of encouragement. We often speak of the ‘well rounded pupil’, meaning a child is taught other qualities in addition to the general curriculum. The Croft’s family ethos and Christian based philosophy are the bedrock of everything else we do, and it pleases me that our pupils possess an innate ability to demonstrate compassion and kindness.

These virtues are reinforced in class and other activities, subliminally or otherwise, from the youngest pupils upwards. The pinnacle for many pupils is to aspire to become a Year 6 Peer Supporter, the epitome of these qualities. Peer Supporters help pupils in the playground in all manner of ways, from rushing over if someone hurts themselves, to seeking out children who have no one to play with and helping them to join in games with others. We also have a buddy system for pupils new to the school to help them find their way in the school day and to help make friends.

Croft pupils often have a smile on their faces and a joy in their hearts. They love what they do in and out of lessons and it clearly shows. As the Michaelmas Term draws to a close, the pupils experience joy in many ways, such as watching Pre-Prep pupils in their Christmas plays, by the excitement and happiness of joining in the festivities and games at Christmas at The Croft, by tucking into Christmas lunch, by celebrating awards given at Mark Reading, and by absorbing the magical moments of the Christingle Service and Carol Service. They share these moments together and build a memory bank of happiness.

During a recent assembly, I discussed a variety of Christmas traditions with the children. These ranged from the Legend of the Christmas Spider, a story from Eastern Europe and Scandinavia, to kissing under the mistletoe. When I asked them, “What do you expect to find on your table on Christmas day that is not normally there – but a turkey is not the answer I’m looking for?”, naturally the first answer was, of course, Brussel sprouts, swiftly followed by candles and a variety of others. I was, however, hoping for the response, ‘Christmas Crackers’ and I was left lost for words when my final volunteer proudly stated, “a knife and fork!”. Oh the simple things in life are clearly what Christmas is all about, and you can’t put a price on that!

I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas!

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The Right Fit

How do you choose the right school for your child? This is a question parents may begin to ask themselves early on in their child’s life, sometimes from the child’s birth, but usually from Year 4 or 5. Many factors contribute to the ultimate decision - the more practical issues of proximity to the school, parents’ place of work, finances, logistics regarding work and siblings’ schools, local friends, etc often influence the first step into making the choice. Parents sometimes relocate to be in the catchment area or to ensure easy transport links. Researching the school’s credentials via its website and prospectus, ISI or Ofsted reports, and publications such as The Good Schools’ Guide and Tatler Schools Guide are a good starting point.

My advice is to research several schools in your chosen location and attend their open days, and, in addition, make a personal appointment with the Head. It is imperative to have a tour of the school and experience it on a working day for you to absorb the feel and atmosphere. The ethos of the school and interaction between the staff and pupils, the pupils’ behaviour and their happiness are important factors which cannot be gleaned from a prospectus or website.

Whilst most schools offer a broad curriculum and extra-curricular activities, some are more nurturing, maybe because of their small size, and others are sport or music focused. Children’s personalities, abilities and talents need to dovetail into the school’s ethos and provision. For example, a child who is of average academic ability may feel intimidated at a school that is listed high in the league tables which may impact them detrimentally in the long-term. However, this child would flourish at a good state school or well-chosen independent school, as they would feel comfortable with their peers and happy with the right level of teaching, and therefore more open and receptive to learning.

Children with drama, artistic, sporting or musical talent may be better suited to a school which has a strong department in these areas, and some independent schools offer scholarships in these subjects where there is a greater provision of resources and opportunities. Single sex, co-educational and faith schools are also factors to consider and each have their merits and advantages. Learning Support is also a considered area for pupils requiring support and it is advised to also meet with the Learning Support Manager (SENCo) to ascertain appropriate personalised interventions are provided.

Parents obviously know their children very well, and teachers also know the child well, and, with research and consultation, the right fit can be found for the unique individual. The Croft has links with many local schools and some schools further afield and is therefore well placed to provide impartial advice. The aim is to find the school that matches the profile of the pupil, rather than the pupil matching the profile of the school. I am happy to meet with parents of Year 5 pupils, should they request guidance, regarding the schools that my colleagues and I recommend through unbiased opinion.

The Croft also hosts a Year 5 Parents’ Evening Talk about the 11+ and secondary education, followed by a biennial secondary school open evening exclusively for Croft parents, the next one being on Tuesday 7 February 2017. The event is like a one-stop shop attended by local secondary school representatives who are pleased to discuss their school and offer advice to parents.

Talking to schools, listening to recommendations and doing your own homework will go a long way to drawing a shortlist. We all want our children to be happy in their education, from nursery to university, and together, we can help to ensure that the most important choice is the right choice and the right fit.

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Dulce et Forte

“Hello, Mr Cook, do you remember me?”, beamed a familiar, friendly face, as the confident young man strode towards me and eagerly shook my hand in a local restaurant. I was delighted to recognise a former Croft pupil who I had taught in a previous school, some 16 years ago. We shared tales of our experiences and I was delighted to hear that he was now embarking on a teaching career.

Our conversation was swiftly interrupted by the same scenario, but this time, by a pupil who had left The Croft in Year 6 and who had just finished their first year at university, who joined in our reminiscing. Unbelievably, a third former pupil of The Croft from some 10 years ago also approached me; so the four of us were chatting, catching up on the years in between. It was most surreal, but I gained a lot of satisfaction and pleasure in seeing how these young pupils had grown and matured and become successful in their individual ways.

It is interesting to see people still having connections with The Croft and we are delighted that there are second and third generation families who attend. Their experience testifies that the high educational standard has stood the test of time from the school’s beginnings in 1933 by the founder, Miss M G Phillips, and which has evolved into an enriching curriculum and multi-faceted extra-curricular programme in the 21st century.

Thousands of pupils have benefited from this extraordinary heritage. Many of our current Year 6 pupils have spent 9 fruitful years here, growing physically and mentally, to become strong, confident, happy young people. They started their learning journey with solid foundations and their roots are now spreading into secondary education, university and beyond. We wish our Year 6 girls and boys all the very best for the next chapter of their education – they are prepared and ready for the next stage.

In September, our first cohort of 2 year olds, as the newly named Little Crofters ‘Caterpillars’, will begin their 9-year learning journey. They will be nurtured to develop into ‘Butterflies’ the following year, from which they will be ready to launch fully into the brilliant world of education. Our Caterpillars join us as sweet, inquisitive children and, in time, will leave as strong, well-educated, well-rounded individuals.

Miss Phillips had the wisdom and foresight to create the school motto, dulce et forte – meaning sweet and strong - which our pupils continue to wear with pride on their maroon blazers today. Her words know no bounds and are as applicable now as they were 83 years ago. The ethos of dulce et forte ingrains a balance and resilience in pupils to catapult them to success with a combination of social graces and inner strength.

Success presents itself in many guises, of course, and everyone can celebrate one form or another, be it academia, sporting, artistic, music or anything else that is your personal triumph. So, if you should see me around town in a few years’ time, please do say ‘hello’ - I’d love to hear your successes, however big or small, sweet or strong!

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The Croft Preparatory School
Alveston Hill
Loxley Road

CV37 7RL

© 2015 - 2017 Croft Preparatory School. v17.0317