Front Cover: T1 Nativity ~ Inside Front Cover: Rowing Club on the River Cam (photo courtesy of Lucie Milton) ~ Back Cover: Schools Regatta Sailing Event
Headmaster’s Introduction 2
Emotions for Learning
Creativity as Practice
Learning through Play
Digitally Enhanced Learning 24
© St John’s College School 2021
Exec Functions & Philosophy 12
STEM & Science
Sustainability & Eco
Clubs & Enrichment
63-75 Grange Road, Cambridge CB3 9AB
Headmaster’s Introduction "The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members." – Coretta Scott King “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” – Leo Buscaglia The core philosophy of St John's is to see everything through the eyes of children. We want children to feel supported and feel happy in their environment and on their educational journey so that they can build those foundations which allow them to be their best selves. Throughout the last year, with the country and the world continuing to live through the effects of the pandemic, we have sought, more than ever, to understand the children’s response to this from their point of view. For a school that understands the importance of connection and relationship in helping children become the best learners they can, the restrictions imposed on us all have presented their challenges. Despite this though, there has been so much to celebrate and be thankful for. Above: ‘Action Story’ - Peer-to-peer massage in T2
If, as in the words of Coretta Scott King, the greatness of the St John’s community is indeed measured by the compassionate actions of its members, the acts of kindness, care, thoughtfulness and compassion we have all witnessed throughout this year, from our littlest charges in Kindergarten, through to our departing 6th Form, ready to embark on new adventures, have shown us that the ties that bind the St John’s community are as strong as ever. The year has not been an easy one and we have all struggled with the long national lockdown in the Lent Term, separated from our friends and loved ones, but it is the small acts of kindness, between the staff and the children, between parents and staff, and most importantly, between the children themselves, seemingly unobserved, which have warmed my heart and reassured me that all will be well in the end… a gentle hand to guide, a quiet word of encouragement, a smile, a compliment, an invitation to play. Government guidelines, staggered timetables, face-masks, social distancing, bubbles, home learning, lateral flow tests and lockdowns are not the sort of vocabulary which one would want to associate with a school, a community, which thrives on personal interaction, on affection and acts of care at its core. And yet, while a second year of the pandemic has indeed brought all of these things, it is the resilience which the children develop, be it as a result of our Emotions for Learning programme, so central to our philosophy, their adaptability and resourcefulness, fostered by our focus on creativity and uncapping children’s learning, and the excitement, awe and wonder generated by for example, our childled learning topics or learning through guided play, which I hope you will see in the pages which follow. While we all still process, each at our own speed, our responses to the pandemic, there has still been so much for which to be thankful. I will remember the wonder and joy of the first day of school for our new Kindergarten children, all those months ago in September, exploring their new environment and forging those friendships with their teachers and classmates, across the whole year group as they mingle and flow from the classrooms to learning outdoors. I will remember the plays and concerts filmed or streamed live, not to mention the fantastic success of our green-screen Service in Preparation for Christmas which helped to bring us all closer together and feel that connection with the wider school community at such a special time of the year. More recently it has been a particular joy to see the return of some limited sports fixtures and the reintroduction of a range of after school activities. Throughout this unusual year, as ever, there has been so much more to celebrate than can be encompassed by the pages of this publication, but as the year draws to a close and we look forward to the lifting of all restrictions, I would like us all particularly to celebrate the achievements of our departing 6th Form. They embark on their senior school careers buoyed by the strong friendships they have formed, able to rely on and apply the skills and mindsets they have learned to all the new challenges they will embrace, safe in the knowledge that while they may have physically moved on, they are still very much connected to the community of St John’s, a community which holds them in deep affection. Once St John’s, always St John’s.
E4L ‘Action Story’ - Peer-to-peer massage in T2
Emotions for Learning (E4L) Emotions for Learning (E4L) is a curriculum and an approach to learning and relating at school that has been developed uniquely at St John’s. We have created an entire social and emotional curriculum for our youngest children based on research and evidence about how children’s minds and brains develop. It is designed to encourage children to express their opinions and feelings and give them the knowledge, skills and understanding they will need to be able to think creatively and problem solve effectively in all areas of their lives. This year, in addition to various outreach activities with local state schools, twice annual E4L training was also provided for St John’s parents online. One of the core principles in E4L is that a strong positive connection between a child and their teacher allows them to feel secure, take risks, explore the world around them and develop confidence in their own abilities. The children’s return to school in the Michaelmas Term, following the lockdown in the previous Summer Term, was a chance to reaffirm those strong positive connections and build new ones with their new Form Teachers, tutors and classmates.
When planning for the return to national lockdown in the Lent Term, new and innovative ways to continue the strong relationships in a virtual world between children and school were at the top of the list. Children had access to see and speak with their Form teachers and tutors on a daily basis during Google Meets for morning registration and informal lunchtime virtual ‘drop-in’ sessions for a catch up and chat with Miss Pipe and other members of staff who dropped in regularly. Mindfulness club continued online in a lunchtime club and regular Stilling and Mindfulness videos kept children in touch with the practices to support self-regulation, resilience and calm. On returning to school in the Summer Term, time was allocated for the children to reflect and process their thoughts and to spend time being with their teachers again in their year group ‘bubbles’ before going back to the set curriculum. While the pandemic has affected us all in different ways, the strong foundation of the Emotions for Learning curriculum and way of being continues to provide the children with the skills to evaluate and understand their emotions and get ready for learning.
“If we have a ‘big’ feeling E4L helps us know what to do; we take a deep breath, say the feeling and then we think about how we feel.” “We take time to look carefully at something like a marble, rosemary twig or a beautiful petal, noticing how it feels, smells and what it makes us think about. It calms our minds.” “Stilling is a time to relax, focus your mind and help your body and brain to calm before the next part of the day. We listen to calming music and lie in our own spaces to listen to the stilling story.” Top: Practising ‘cat-curl’ to help problem solve and calm Middle: ‘Stilling’ and bottom: Sensory reflection
Creativity as Practice (CAP) Our work on ‘Creativity as Practice’ has been a strong foundation this year in our second round of online learning. Continuing to explore how teaching and learning approaches in arts subjects can be used to enhance learning and nurture creativity across the curriculum, we have enhanced our online as well as classroom provision through the four strands that we have focussed on as important to us at St John’s:
This page: T2 researching types of coral in the Great Barrier Reef after studying different oceans and layers Opposite: Top: Form 2 matching symbols to maths sums; Bottom: T2 studying the parts of a flower and their functions insired by ‘The Mystery of the Golden Wonderflower’
Pupil Choice: giving children greater ownership of, and leadership in, what and how they learn, how they express their learning as well as the environment in which, and the tools through which, they learn. The Creative Arts: using the creative arts more richly in an interdisciplinary way to enhance and deepen learning in other subjects, in particular to nurture children’s imaginations. For example in Form 5 Religious Studies lessons, children discussed the interplay of ‘congruent’ and ‘divergent’ thinking. In divergent thinking the brain explores multiple possible solutions in order to generate creative ideas; in congruent thinking the critical part of the brain develops a concrete solution, or makes a decision. Using this principle, children worked on a photography challenge in which they thought about how they might represent the key meanings in the story of Cain and Abel with objects from the home. They took time to explore ideas and possibilities before making decisions on the arrangement of objects into a ‘still life’ to create a visual representation of the meaning of the story. In T2, children used art and design to explore the parts of a plant and used their imaginations to create their own plant on the scientific principles learnt, such as one that tasted of vinegar to put off predators. Once their plants were designed and created using a wide range of materials, the children wrote descriptive diaries of their creations. Play: how to nurture the naturally inquisitive and exploratory approach of children to the world. For example, in T2 children found a dead dragonfly in the Forest Garden; they used this as a stimulus for explorative play including writing recipes for medicines that might heal the dragonfly; carrying out research into dragonfly anatomy; doing observational drawings of the dragonfly. ‘Slowliness’: this involves giving children more time to reflect and develop ideas, allowing the brain time to process various ideas and establish connections. For example, this might involve taking time to be outside, actively listening to the sounds of nature, watching cloud patterns, or the effect of light and shade. Through these four strands, children are given permission to explore the unexpected, to re-imagine the familiar, and to discover powerful imaginations and fantastical possibilities.
Learning Through Guided Play At the outset of our play-based learning development, we knew that young children would be more motivated if they were given more opportunities to direct their own learning through play. We know that through play, children are involved in active, engaged, mindson thinking that is fun and driven by intrinsic motivation. Over the course of the year we have also clearly seen several other outcomes of learning through guided play in the Pre-Prep: greater independence, willingness to take risks, collaboration, creativity and confidence. Independence and confidence: in guided play, children not only choose the direction of their learning, following carefully selected inspirations, but also select their own resources, methods and presentation. This results in children who are able to take the initiative to solve problems and learn for themselves. Risk-taking: we frequently hear from employers and university lecturers that they want their students / employees to be able to take the initiative without being fearful of getting things wrong. Learning through play offers children a fun, unthreatening environment in which to lay the foundations for free exploration and play with ideas that removes the threat of ‘getting it wrong’. Top: Exploring minibeasts in the KG Garden Bottom: Testing different volumes in the Forest Garden
We have seen, for example, the confidence of young children in writing improve. Children who struggle most with writing are no longer afraid of putting pen to paper and children who excel at writing are no longer afraid of exploring hard and open ended ideas where there is no ‘right answer’. Collaboration: in guided play, children are actively taught and encouraged to ask each other for help and support, working together to share ideas, rather than always relying on the teacher. Comments such as, ‘I will help you!’ from one child to another are heard frequently. Creativity: young children are naturally creative. A school curriculum that narrows this creativity is one that fails them. Learning through guided play has proven to be a good way of nurturing their natural creativity. For example, in one T2 class children’s imaginations were ignited with some tiny keys – what could they lead to? What worlds might open up? Children used their discovery time to paint, explore, discuss and write about their new worlds.
“We read ‘The Mystery of the Golden Wonderflower’ and I made a botanical collage inspired by the artist Eileen Agar. I wrote a diary entry about my ‘wonderflower.’” “We made a massive map of the UK on the classroom floor. I made the Tower of London from recycled materials and a fact file too. I want to see the Tower in real life now!” Top: KG inspired to write creatively from observing flowers in the KG Garden Middle: T1s handling fossils on loan from the Sedgwick Museum in Cambridge Bottom: T2 dissecting a daffodil and researching about pollination
Child-initiated Learning (CHIL) In Byron House, the children in Form 1 and 2 continue to be motivated by choosing their own topic for one term each year. This year, subjects covered have included Mexico, the Olympics, Under the Sea, Australia, Sweet Foods and Marine Structures. The children are given the freedom within the topic to further their learning in areas that interest them and planning by teachers responds to this. As in previous years, high levels of motivation, engagement and involvement have been observed. Our research into ways of nurturing children’s intrinsic motivation has found that two of the key ways of achieving self-motivated learning are autonomy and purpose. These are both natural features of the child-initiated learning style. The children have ownership of what they are learning and how they are learning it. As topics are chosen and directed by the children they can immediately see the purpose and additionally create their own purposes. For example, in the topic on Sweet Foods, the children’s interest in different types of chocolate fuelled an exploration into the work of Fairtrade and other similar organisations. The two marine related topics in Form 1 and 2 this year both went in different directions reflecting the children’s diverse interests. In Form 1 the children explored the strange creatures of the deep oceans and coral reefs and their research on this led to work on plastic pollution in the oceans. In Form 2 the children looked at the geology of the ocean floors which led to an interest in mysteries of the deep and from their work on the Titanic, an exploration of rust-eating bacteria. Child-initiated learning also takes place at Senior House in History, Music and Art. In Music during the lockdown the children listened to recordings from a wide range of composers before selecting one to investigate. They were given a free rein to research whatever aspect of the composer or their music they were interested in and were not constrained in any way when presenting their findings.
In Art, the children visited Wicken Fen Nature Reserve and The Backs in Cambridge for the wildlife and drawing topics and drew from inspiration around school and from their own memories for the clay CHIL topic. The child-led topics also provide opportunities to further embed thinking skills, covering questioning, information gathering, critical thinking, creative thinking, decision-making and memory skills. Fostering these skills and encouraging independent, active thinking and learning, equipped the children well for the home learning experience. For example, despite not being in school to collaborate face-to-face, many children in Forms 1 and 2 were able to employ the skills learned through CHIL to choose a medium to reflect their learning, select their resources and present their learning in different ways. The children also suggested topics for their own research and presented this to others, sometimes leading their own registration times with the teacher taking a back seat!
“Child-led topics are a type of learning that gives us, the children, control of the path we take our learning and this works well as each person in the class might want to discover a different part of each chosen topic. It gives us so much freedom to explore and take responsibility.”
Opposite top: Form 3F art trip to The Backs and bottom: Form 3M’s art trip to Wicken Fen Nature Reserve This page: Form 1H working collaboratively to create and label a 3D relief model of Mexico from salt dough
Executive Functions ‘Connections in Mind’ is a family of organisations committed to raising awareness of executive function skills and their impact on children’s development and relationships. In their words, executive functions are a family of top-down mental processes that make possible: mentally playing with ideas; approaching unanticipated challenges with flexibility; taking the time to think before acting; resisting temptations and staying focussed. Executive functions are interrelated, and they depend on a neural circuit in which the prefrontal cortex at the front of the brain plays a prominent role. They help us to filter distractions, prioritise tasks, set goals and control impulses. They include working memory, emotional control, time management and metacognition. We are not born with all of these skills, rather they develop over time and on average reach full maturity when we are in our mid-twenties. As a school we have undertaken this new development this year, in collaboration with Connections in Mind, as we recognise that where teachers have an understanding of executive functions and the rate at which they develop, they can better understand a child’s development and how each function will affect their learning. At the start of the year, all St John’s teachers received training in executive functions and how to attune their teaching. Following this initial session, three members of staff representing a range of subject areas undertook further training and coaching to increase their understanding and became Executive Functions ‘champions’. This team will then train new staff and assist current staff in the ways that their teaching can be tailored using their knowledge of the neuroscience. An expert from Connections in Mind also provided an online parent workshop on Executive Functions to thirty parents and the children at Senior House have all received lessons in Executive Functions as part of the My Mind Curriculum.
Mindsets for Learning (M4L) The Mindsets for Learning (M4L) are now deeply embedded across the school and are referenced in every lesson. The M4L are designed to help nurture effective learning dispositions in the children, encouraging them to think about how they learn as much as what they are learning. The twelve characteristics that we feel underpin such effective learning (focus, collaboration, curiosity, risk-taking, flexibility, reflection, linking, perseverance, compassion, imagination, rigour and enjoyment) are part of the language of every classroom and are incorporated into all areas of teaching and learning with language appropriate to the age group. These dispositions help support the development of a ‘growth mindset’: the belief that, with effort, a person can develop their abilities, become a more successful learner and therefore achieve more. Children are encouraged to identify those dispositions which they feel are a strength and those they feel they need to work on and, together with their teachers, look for ways to develop and improve these.
“I am often a ‘focusing frog’ in school which is helpful because many of the subjects require you to listen to instructions, think about what skills you will use and then use these for independent or collaborative work.”
“We will use all these mindsets not just in school and for the rest of our education but in our jobs and throughout life. They are important for interacting with the world.”
Form 6 Philosophy lesson
Philosophy The teaching of Philosophy has been an important part of the St John’s curriculum for children aged eight onwards for some years. We aim to teach children to think logically and critically, to reflect on their own thought processes and to question the world around them. Pupils are encouraged to think flexibly and to examine their own reasons for thinking what they do, with the intention that they can understand and therefore explain their viewpoints. Philosophical thinking is invaluable in an age of information as it teaches the children to evaluate what they hear and form opinions on it, giving them the tools to be active, thoughtful members of society. The skills are learnt through a range of topics and stimuli, utilising many different branches of philosophy including aesthetics, logic, ethics, metaphysics and epistemology. Children transfer skills learned in philosophy lessons into critical and analytic writing in Religious Studies, History, Geography and English, learning how to support arguments with evidence and to consider opinions before reaching a conclusion. To further the use of these questioning tools in different contexts, Senior House teachers took part in a workshop with members of the Philosophy Foundation to consider how different questioning styles could be used to enrich the children’s thinking in all subject areas. Following this, four members of our staff took part in ongoing training and collaboration with a ‘resident’ philosopher from the Foundation to become Associate Teachers of the Foundation.
“Discussing Plato’s allegory of the cave helped us to question every assumption we have about the reality we call ‘real’. It was a powerful way to develop the skill of thinking for ourselves and discover our own unique solutions to any problem.”
“It makes your brain work hard when we think about logic puzzles in Philosophy, also when we consider what is beautiful, ugly, important or not as it helps you rethink your opinions and question your ideas.”
Mindfulness Mindfulness continues to be used across the school as a way of slowing thinking down, bringing attention to the present moment and reducing stress. Practising mindfulness has been shown to help at each stage of the creative process and therefore in addition to starting lessons with a mindful moment, mindfulness activities may also be used at different points of lessons or events, such as in preparing for a drama production. We use different mindfulness exercises to help children bring attention to the present moment, including focusing mindfully on breathing (using different taught breathing exercises), the body (using a body scan), an object, a piece of music, or our thoughts themselves. Mindfulness helps train your attention to be more aware of what is actually happening, rather than worrying about what has happened or might happen. We learn to bring greater curiosity to whatever it is we experience.
‘dots’ Mindfulness Programme A further addition to Mindfulness in the school is the introduction of ‘dots’ sessions, the final part of the Mindfulness in Schools Programme (MiSP). This is written as short 15 minute lessons, perfect for younger minds. ‘dots’ is currently being trialled in the T1 classrooms with much success. Each ‘dots’ session is expertly crafted to teach a distinct mindfulness skill or concept and is based around three key interconnecting themes: Awareness, Connection and Emotion. Aspects of these themes include: awareness and attention, focus and concentration; connection and an awareness of others and the world, developing empathy and emotional compassion and regulation. Top: Form 2 mindfulness; Bottom: T1 ‘dots’ lesson Opposite: Form 4 ‘.breathe’ lesson
‘.breathe’ Mindfulness Programme As part of the Mindfulness in Schools Project, ‘.breathe’ sessions began for Form 4 at the start of the Michaelmas Term. This is a continuation of the ‘Paws b’ programme which Form 2 participate in and pre-empts the ‘.b’ sessions in Form 6. ‘.breathe’ is a four-session programme that explores issues around working with the capacity of attention; exploring how Form 4 can work with a wandering mind. It also deals with why humans worry, and how to support ourselves when we do so; sleep – why it is important and what to do if we struggle to sleep well and being with others – the opportunities and challenges of working skilfully with friendships and other relationships, both in person and online. Each session includes: an exploration of the function and structure of key areas of the brain involved in daily experience; an introductory mindfulness practice; animations, discussions and exercises the children can try in their own time.
“It helped me to stop worrying about getting to sleep at night and gave me calming strategies to relax. We also learnt how important it is to get enough sleep when we are growing.”
“It was really interesting exploring the function and structure of the different parts of the brain and how mindfulness helps to cope with worries.”
Tai Chi In Forms 2, 3 and 4 children continue to have a sequence of Tai Chi lessons as a way of helping to focus the mind through the use of the body in reflective and intentional movement. While practising Tai Chi, the focus of your awareness in the present moment is on the movement of the body. This nurtures the connection between body and mind. Tai Chi’s low-impact, repetitive motion of the exercises relaxes the nerves into ‘letting go’ and this releases any physical and mental tension. The continued focus links the breath and the controlled movements.
“Tai Chi represents the Supreme Ultimate System, the movements are short and help maintain strength, flexibility and balance.”
Just as physical exercise keeps a body fit, the mental concentration required for Tai Chi exercises the brain. These sessions develop the ability to help retain more information, stay focussed on the task at hand, and make quicker decisions. During the remote learning, the Tai Chi instructors from Cambridge Kung Fu continued with the sessions online as a way of offering another outlet during lockdown for the children to re-focus on the present moment.
“Practising Tai Chi enables me to let go of any stresses I have that day and to re-energise my mind into a positive mindset.”
Intrinsic Motivation What motivates us to do well? Why is it important to help others? What inspires us to do our best in learning? For many children, as for many adults, the answers to these questions are complex, but often the dominant strand of motivation can be traced to a desire to ‘not get it wrong’ or looked at from the other direction, an internalised need to always get it right, coupled with a desire simply to ‘win’ or ‘be the best’. Traditional school rewards systems have focussed for too long on scoring points and coming first, all with the objective of gaining a prize, an accolade or title; some physical symbol that we have beaten others to achieve the top spot. As a school, while still embracing healthy competition and celebrating personal successes, we wish to challenge this notion and help children to gain a sense of achievement by recognising the personal journey they have been on and how they’ve become their best selves, embracing the mistakes we all need to make along the way and freed from the idea that to do well personally we have ‘beaten’ others at all costs or that there is only one right answer. We have therefore introduced a new development to analyse the School’s system for extrinsic rewards to discover whether it can be replaced with a system based on intrinsic motivation, where children acquire a sense of achievement by understanding the progress they have made, the benefit they have given to someone they’ve helped or the way their thoughts, words and actions have supported those around them. The team leading this development have carried out research, held discussion groups and organised surveys with the staff and children. The staff were fascinated to learn that the children did not value the ‘star’ or points-based system to measure achievement and gained more in terms of self-worth and an understanding of their progress from feedback from their teachers and by measuring their own progress. We have therefore trialled the removal of extrinsic motivators such as stars and instead are focusing on ways to nurture intrinsic motivation. For example, the children increasingly use progress grids or self-reflections and editing to understand, see and celebrate their progress in learning; they are given autonomy and choice in relation to topics studied, or the level of work tackled (through challenge by choice) and we provide them with real contexts for learning in a collaborative way which allows them to master their subject.
International Outreach Ayensuako School, Ghana Despite the ongoing restrictions relating to the pandemic, our link with the Humanitas charity to support Ayensuako School in Ghana, continues to be a strong one. This year Humanitas has been working hard to protect the pupils and their families against the spread of coronavirus, which is a huge challenge for a community that does not have the resources of the western world. With very limited access to the most basic health provision, and a three hour drive to the nearest hospital, the community is extremely vulnerable to any medical emergency. The charity has been delivering vital supplies to the village and every family now has medication, soap, vitamins, cleaning wipes, hand sanitiser, rice and other non-perishable foods to help them to stay safe and well. Ayensuako School welcomed students into the new secondary school buildings this year and they are thrilled to be learning in their new classrooms. All of the school uniforms are handmade by local seamstresses. The pupils have spent a lot of time in the new library which was funded by a family who chose to make donations in memory of a loved one. This year Humanitas is launching a fundraising appeal to set up and run sewing courses in the secondary school with the aim to give pupils, and people in the community, the opportunity to learn new skills so that they can make their own clothes, bags, etc. and set up their own businesses. They are now seeking funds to buy the sewing machines and employ two teachers.
“At Humanitas, we would like to extend a huge thank you to all of the staff, students and parents at St John’s College School for your continued support. The past eighteen months have been incredibly tough and we are so grateful to have you alongside us.”
International Outreach, St John’s College School, Nanjing The School’s international outreach programme which aims to share the St John’s philosophy with others is now in its third year with the steady growth of a nursery school in Nanjing, China, for children as young as two years old who will move on to a Chinese primary school when they are six. The Nanjing team have fully adopted the St John’s ethos and are determined to give young Chinese children the educationally positive start in life of which our School in Cambridge is so passionate. The architect designed building and landscaping has been created very much with the St John’s ethos in mind, linking in the indoor and outdoor spaces, creating a vegetable growing area and a forest garden for the children to learn and explore their outside environment. The E4L curriculum for the youngest children has been written and started last September.
“I like the lessons on making friends the most because if I don’t learn how to make friends then how will I play with them?”
“E4L has been a self-reflective and cerebral learning journey for both students and teachers. It makes you constantly ask questions as you think about what you are saying and doing in your interactions.”
Creativity in English
All six participants who entered the fifth annual ‘Mind’s Eye’ creative writing competition curated by the King’s School, Canterbury, have been published in the latest edition. Despite the unpredictability over the past year, all our writers spent lockdown looking up with optimism, all writing with passion, skill and wisdom. ‘Mind’s Eye’ is an opportunity for the older children to develop their creative writing skills, research and write about a topic that interests them or is close to their hearts outside the school curriculum with themes: ‘Lemming Myths’, ‘The Magic of Trees’, ‘Scary Thought’, ‘Cotton Off’, ‘Country Living’ and ‘On Charge’.
Book Week is a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and reading across the school and this year was no exception. The children enjoyed virtual visits from authors Gillian McClure and Joseph Coelho at Byron House; Chris Bradford and Matt Dickinson at Senior House and Onjali Q Raúf for Forms 1 to 6.
Many creative projects in English are based on novels, such as Lois Lowry’s ‘The Giver’ where Form 5 worked collaboratively to create their own utopian society which strives to provide the perfect life for the people who live there with information about laws, education and family groupings. Form 4’s study of Polly Ho-Yen’s ‘Boy in the Tower’ provoked discussions on mental health issues, loneliness and the power of children’s positivity. Other projects have taken inspiration from current affairs, such as the research and presentation project about Marcus Rashford who raised awareness with regards to child poverty and free school meals during the pandemic.
Much to the younger children’s delight, the Byron House ‘Book at Bedtime’ and whole school ‘Dress as a Book Character Day’, which were due to take place in the Lent Term, were both rescheduled for a date when these popular events could be enjoyed when the children were back in school, as was the Book Fair. As a new online challenge all the children were encouraged to get creative and recreate a famous children’s book cover using items from home- they could also include people or pets.
Poetry Poetry writing has continued to flourish throughout the school. Pupils in T2 focussed on compassion and peace, Form 1 pupils wrote ‘MORERAPS’ poems based on Joseph Coehlo’s online workshop, Form 2 pupils wrote ‘cloud’ poetry using linguistic devices, Form 3 pupils explored the possibilities of free verse, Form 4 created their own ‘Magic Wood’ poems based on works by the poet Henry Treece, Form 5 pupils created a reminiscent and reflective mood with their ‘I remember’ poems and Form 6 pupils used etymology (the origin of words) to research the origin of their name. Pupils in Form 6 also delivered their annual Poetry Evening at the end of the academic year.
Peace sounds like a whistling wind as it twists round and round like a pure, white dove. Peace feels like a warm, soft, cuddly hug. Peace looks like a frosty, starry night. Peace smells like the swishing, salty bright sea. Peace is an incredible detailed dream filled with the wildness of nature… Maria Watson (aged 6)
Comforting leaves plunging down slowly, Willows whispering in the night, Smooth trunks standing up bravely, Towering everything, in majestic sight, Water drops flying from heaven, Skies lit up and bright, Everything is happy with trees. Peregrine Brice (aged 8)
Clouds are Happy
The cloud ran past me, like a dog chasing a bone Making amazing shapes and patterns Filled with light inside them The cloud ran past me like a wolf Viciously chasing a sheep Making rain and lightning wherever it went, But in the end from light to dark All clouds are happy. Davi Saibrosa (aged 8)
Artwork by Isabelle Egerton (aged 12)
Anthea Bell French Translation Prize
Pupils in Form 5 have made it through to the final of the Queen’s College, Oxford Anthea Bell Translation Prize. In the earlier rounds of the competition the children produced French calligrams (designs formed by rearranging the letters of a word) and cartoon strip translations. Anthea Bell OBE was an English translator of French, German and Danish literary works, including many children’s books, who won numerous awards including the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2015. The Translation Prize is a way of honouring Anthea’s great work, and her commitment to encouraging young language-learners and translators.
A select group of Form 6 children wrote and produced their own Latin play to be performed during the last week of term. With creative licence to make their own theatre piece, the action took in disco-dancing zombies, a TV documentary crew, and – of course – Caecilius and co.!
“Taking part in the Translation Prize has been a fantastic way to practise our French and to also have the chance to use our skills in a creative way.”
The annual ‘Ludi scaenici’ Latin Play competition was unable to take place due to ongoing Covid restrictions but the group were keen to go ahead and perform to their peers. The play was written in the vocabulary and using the grammar introduced in the first book of the Cambridge Latin Course (CLC). The pupils created the storyline and wrote the script themselves from language and situations that they encountered while studying the course book.
‘Spirited Arts’ Competition In the Lent Term, during the national lockdown, pupils in Senior House produced works of art inspired by their thoughts and reactions to Religious Studies. The project gave the children the chance to bring an element of creativity to their studies and express their thoughts and feelings about the subject in an imaginative way. The themes were: ‘Where is God?’ (Form 3), ‘Inspiring!’ (Form 4), ‘God’s good earth?’ (Form 5) and ‘We have far more in common with each other than that which divides us’ (Form 6). There were many thought-provoking and interesting contributions and after careful deliberation, 10 were selected to represent the school in ‘Spirited Arts’, a national competition organised by the National Association of Teachers of Religious Education. The results of the competition are not anticipated until after the end of the academic year. Artwork by Luca Harris (aged 12)
“My reason for not putting any facial features on my work is because when you are born you are a ‘blank canvas’ and you are not directed to religion and you have no connection to life. I believe all life comes from the sun and that is why the religions I have chosen are on the road to life, just as we are when we are born. That is why I think we have ‘more in common than that which divides us.”
Digitally Enhanced Learning The use of digital technologies to enhance the children’s learning at St John’s has been embedded in our curriculum for a number of years. The wide range of tools at the children’s disposal allows them to work collaboratively, communicate effectively and to be creative in their thinking. In Form 5 the children have developed their digital research skills further with bespoke lessons on Thursday afternoons and all children are encouraged to use digital tools to present their ideas in creative ways. Our digitally enhanced learning programme is underpinned by the principle that new technologies are trialled before implementation and an evidence-based evaluation system measures and quantifies the benefits to the children’s learning in advance of roll-out. Google Suite for Education is used across the site from KG to Form 6 and has proven to be a reliable platform for delivering the diverse curriculum during lockdown and within the classroom. In the Pre-Prep the use of iPads and other technologies is fully integrated in the Learning through Guided Play approach. Through the use of new applications offered on the Google platform, the children can quickly post suggestions and links to the class that can be used in research, presentations and discussions. The children have particularly enjoyed the auditory feedback applications enabling the teachers to verbally feedback on children’s work. These tools have come into their own during the lockdown as not only a means for pupils to share content remotely with their teachers, but also to share their ideas and findings with the rest of their class in an open and collaborative way which encourages creativity and diversity of thought and promotes the exchange and debating of ideas. Remote learning has also provided direct evidence that our aim for digitally enhanced learning to develop the children’s responsibility for their own learning has come to fruition. During this time when the children, with the support of their teachers, parents and peers, have had to maintain their own momentum in their learning, often sitting independently at home in front of a screen, the School’s approach about the appropriate use of technology and the flexibility the children have to research, discuss and present their work have provided them with the freedom and confidence to take responsibility for their learning and move at the pace that is right for them. Top: T2 using iPads to research their child-led learning topic of Oceans Bottom: Form 6 using micro:bit pocket-size computers
Form 2 learning how to code with Raspberry Pi mini computers
“Computer coding is not just for those who love computer science, it is a necessary skill for all our futures. Python Programming club teaches us these skills. Scientists use Python to work with large data sets and software engineers build networks and artificial intelligence with this programming language.”
Computing The aim for computing in Pre-Prep is to build confidence using computers by using a range of different devices and apps. Form 1 and 2 computing lessons are hands-on. The children are taught how to apply logical reasoning to computing problems and learn how to create algorithms to plan their solutions. In their programming Form 1 children learn how to sequence, select and use repetition in programs, later on adding variables and various forms of input and output. To ensure they understand how computers are used to build the Internet of Things and for control, all of the Form 1 children have carried out some physical computing, learning how to program a set of traffic lights. As part of their STEM Lighthouse project this year Form 2 children were given the task of programming a Raspberry Pi computer to control systems involving inputs from electronic sensors. Computing lessons continue in Forms 3 and 4, building on and extending the skills of computational thinking and programming learned at Byron House. The children investigate a number of applications including digital images, video and audio editing, data logging and data handling, control systems, databases and website creation and publishing. Computing lessons cease for the Fifth and Sixth forms but computing continues, particularly in Science lessons which make extensive use of the micro:bit. From Form 1 upwards children can further explore and develop their interest in Computing and computer science by joining the many clubs on offer.
Below top: Lighthouse project and Bottom: Orienteering and map skills
STEM (Science Technology Engineering & Maths) Our Form 2 classes benefit from a Wednesday afternoon of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) every week throughout each of the three terms. During non-Covid circumstances, the children are able to use the extensive facilities on offer at Senior House in our two Science labs and computing suite. Since returning to school they have continued with the STEM project they began during remote learning on plants and plant growth. This has been combined with two other projects, one centred around coding with micro:bit mini computers and the other on using teamwork to create a structure.
“STEM lessons are good for developing our critical thinking; we don’t just rely on logic but also use our creativity to solve problems.” “STEM encourages us to experiment, make mistakes and learn from our experiences to reach our own conclusions.”
National Science Quiz Three St John’s teams again took part in the National Inter-Schools Science Quiz Championships for pupils in Years 5 and 6. Both Year 5 teams reached the Finals after battling for 1st and 3rd places respectively in the Area Heats. As always, the questions were above and beyond the knowledge of the National Curriculum but the children took the challenge in their stride. Each quiz comprises 40 multiple choice science questions covering subjects such as human biology, astronomy, great inventors and inventions, physics, zoology, ecology, earth science, oceanography, geology, meteorology, botany and chemistry. The annual competition is a challenging and rewarding way for children to broaden their scientific knowledge as well as for young scientists to showcase their abilities as part of a team representing the school. From the solar system to the smallest creatures on earth, from inventions that transform the world to science on everyday lives, the quiz encourages participants to explore science in a fascinating, engrossing and educational way. With more than 400,000 Key stage 2 children taking part each year, the Quiz Club National Championships are the largest inter-school competitions in the country.
Form 3 (left) and Form 4 (right) teams participating in the National Science Quiz
“It was exciting meeting up as a team to take part in the Science Quiz as we had done all our preparation online with Brainpop quizzes and sharing research tips.” “We decided the answer by asking everyone and then if we weren’t sure we would ask our team expert and we would each have our specialities, mine was space. I think we did really well because we all worked as a supportive team.”
Environmental Awareness Children across the school have been involved with various projects to promote awareness of environmental issues such as World Water Day, Earth Day and Ocean Day. Form 6 focussed on climate change in many of their subjects for a week prior to their Leavers’ Programme, T2s wrote letters to the planet on why it is important to look after and nurture our world and many of the older children took part in The Big Draw’s ‘Climate for Change’ which focussed on the relationship between people and our living environments and ecosystems; highlighting how we live today and the ways in which we do and do not harmonise with nature. Pupils at Senior House also gave their own Assemblies on environmental matters that were important to them and Form 5 decided to raise money for the plight of Northern White Rhinos.
Sustainability All people have a right to thrive, develop to their full potential, and live in a sustainable world. While the children are surrounded by many influential role models in society who champion sustainable goals and action on issues such as climate change or fair-trade, we aim to provide them with the opportunity to explore these complex problems, debate and discuss solutions and form their own views about what we can each do to live in a more sustainable world, for everyone’s benefit. Learning about sustainability at a young age, in its fullest sense, not simply limited to issues of say climate change, promotes a habit of taking responsibility; it creates a culture of showing respect for the natural environment and gives the children the chance to learn how to be active participants and bring about social change. Topics relating to sustainability are explicitly covered in Geography, Science and PSHEE lessons, are often the subject of debates in Philosophy lessons and also feature in cross-curricular projects such work on the UN’s ‘Global Goals’ and child-led learning topics. The children develop their understanding of the subject through direct observation, participation in collaborative activities and through the sharing of the results of their own research. Our hope is that through these learning experiences, the children gain an appreciation of how to formulate sustainable goals and give them the skills to take forward the debate.
Top: ‘A Sustainable Future’ by Lottie Dely (aged 11) Bottom: Artwork by Henry Watson (aged 4)
Cambridge Schools Eco Council - ‘Build Back Better’ Mural A small group of St John’s pupils are involved with the Cambridge Schools Eco Council, a group of young people who care about the environment and the climate crisis. The Eco Council works with other organisations for main events and also helps organise the Youth Strike 4 Climate events. After the last lockdown, the Council started painting a big mural with the theme of ‘Build Back Better’, portraying a large city thick with grey smoke. Then there is a rainbow separating this from a large green forest inhabited with many animals, that is inviting and mysterious. A second canvas shows a vision for a ‘green’ Cambridge, with biodiversity, bicycles, an electric car and charging point. One St John’s member of the Council decided to extend the project to school with our own school mural.
“I started to wonder if we could do something similar with the SJCS Eco Club as a big summer project. I thought we could stick to the same theme of ‘Build Back Better’ but focus on St John’s, since we had just come out of lockdown. I am excited to see what we manage to produce as a team, as a school community.”
Design Technology Design Technology has continued to thrive with a wide range of exciting projects across all year groups; a sample of these is shown here. Design Technology is a practical and valuable subject. The wide range of projects have included: catapults, dizzy dowels, puppet theatres, shadow puppets, fairground rides, ball mazes, pencil holders, vehicle racers and Form 5 had the chance to enter a national competition to design a sustainable snack box.
This page top left: Form 3 electronic matching game; Top right: Form 1 catapults; Bottom left: Form 3 motorised vehicles; Bottom right: Form 6 clock by Clover Cockburn (aged 12)
“We use all the mindsets in our DT but ‘perseverance’ is important as you have the confidence to keep thinking and to keep challenging yourself.” “DT gives you the confidence to solve tricky problems independently and to learn new, practical skills which you can then use in other subjects and outside school too.”
Top left: Form 6 acrylic pencil tidies by Maya Soufani, Ella Szembel and Louis Wright (all aged 12); Top right Form 4 fairground rides; Bottom left: Form 2 dizzy dowels and Form 5 lamp by Milton Saibrosa (aged 11)
Creativity in Maths In addition to learning the fundamentals of mathematics, the children across Senior House have participated in many different activities to broaden their understanding of how the subject underpins many other disciplines. Through a varied curriculum children were encouraged to think creatively, plan investigations, communicate reasoning and problem-solve. They took part in ‘Problem of the Week’ where they attempted challenges that varied in difficulty and concept. The ‘Puzzle of the Week’ was extremely popular and allowed children to learn about Sudoku, KenKen, Futoshiki and Sugura puzzles which developed their strategic thinking. Form 4 children created beautiful designs as part of the ‘Mystic Rose’ investigation which focussed on developing an understanding of circles, sequences, constructions and rotational symmetry. At Christmas time, children designed and constructed their very own Christmas Transformation Jigsaws, applying their understanding of symmetry, translation, rotation and enlargement. The challenge concluded when their peers had to try and piece together the masterpieces. In the Fibonacci Sequence project for pupils in Form 5 the children learnt about its link to the Golden Ratio and the part it plays in many areas of life including plant biology. They constructed a Fibonacci Spiral that allowed them to communicate a visual representation of the sequence whilst adding in their own artistic touch. Pupils in Form 6 broadened their experience of maths by taking part in a range of investigations and projects during the Lent and Summer terms. These included a statistics project where they carried out experiments looking at fitness tests, taking measurements and analysing data on lung efficiency; a geographical bearings topic which involved interpreting and drawing bearings and planning a route using maps; a circle theorems project including evaluating proofs and problem-solving, culminating in creating their own piece of art work inspired by circle theorems. Top: Form 4 Mystic Rose investigation and bottom: Form 5 Fibonacci Sequence project
“I loved making the Fibonacci Spiral! The actual planning was really interesting, and the creative side was so much fun. We used tracing paper to accurately cut out the right shapes, and make sure everything was symmetrical. I really liked seeing it properly framed on the wall.” “We took part in a crosscurricular maths and sports project where we participated in various different fitness exercises and used our maths skills to measure and analyse the results.” Top: Maths investigations; Bottom: Form 6 Physical fitness statistics project
Concrete, Pictorial, Abstract Maths at Byron House In Byron House, children are introduced to a new mathematical concept through the use of concrete resources, which may range from everyday objects such as fruit or toys, to mathematical resources such as bead strings, Dienes blocks and place value counters. Once they are comfortable solving problems with these physical aids, they are given problems with pictorial representations of the concrete objects they were using. As their confidence and ability grows, they move onto to solving problems where they only have the abstract information (the numbers and symbols). Using this CPA approach (concrete, pictorial, abstract) across a lesson or series of lessons, can help children better understand the relationship between numbers and the real world and so helps to cement their understanding. Rather than just thinking about a question, the children are encouraged to ask themselves what they could do or draw to help them and to be open to a range of methods. The goal behind this approach is to develop the children’s mastery of mathematics by instilling in them a feeling of confidence which in turn enables them to persevere, take risks, make links and be flexible learners, all key St John’s Mindset for Learning dispositions.
“I made a mistake at first and then we drew bar models which made it much clearer. We were doing thirds and quarters and then I became far more confident.” “When you run out of fingers to count on you can use Dienes blocks to help you find out the answer. Part/whole models help to explain how numbers can be split.” Top: Form 2 investigations and bottom: T2 directions investigation
Artwork by Issy Drokov (aged 11)
National Maths Challenges The Primary Maths Challenge is a national competition designed for pupils in Forms 3 and 4. Pupils enjoy preparing in teams or small groups and use diagrams, number lines, pictures and charts to help solve a wide variety of interesting questions, which encourage them to use of higher order thinking skills and to think creatively in order to find solutions. Top scorers who were awarded gold certificates, of which there were 9 in Form 3 and 24 in Form 4. Five pupils performed exceptionally well in the first round and were then invited to attend the bonus round.
“I took part in the Primary Maths Challenge. The questions were not super easy or too hard. I really enjoyed it because I like to challenge myself. I think this opportunity is good for your maths because it goes through lots of different areas and it also makes your brain work really hard.” “The Junior Maths Challenge was fun and helpful. The questions were challenging and in some we had to make an educated guess but it was still great fun. You realise that the questions get slightly harder as you go through, but it really helps to build your confidence and gives you strategies for ways to cope with new tests in the future.”
Parents’ Association Our committed Parents’ Association used a ‘flexible’ mindset when it came to organising their programme of events for the school community to enjoy in this unique year. Many events helped to raised money for the Red Hen charity, a small local charity that has been working with primary school children in North Cambridge for over 20 years. Their family workers support children and their families to overcome barriers to learning, providing a link between home and school. One hugely popular idea, in light of restrictions curtailing many ‘normal’ PA events, was the inaugural ‘Family Favourites’ cookbook which raised £776 through the sale of 117 copies, the lockdown ‘Lock-in’ event in November raised £795 and was attended by 60 people and the Christmas lunch box collection which raised £1,050, enough to fund the purchase of 15 boxes for local families. In February, the Parents’ Association organised an arts and crafts collection which raised around £500 worth of supplies for local families. In total, £2,621 was raised for the Red Hen charity and £710 for Macmillan.
Top and bottom left: PA Macmillan Virtual Coffee Morning and Bake Off and right: SJCS ‘Family Favourites’ Cookbook
Charities The school continues to be committed to raising funds for various charities throughout the year. Due to restrictions on gatherings, we were unable to bring year groups together for the normal diet of charitable events we would have hoped to host in a normal year. Nevertheless the spirit of giving has continued and the children and staff raised money for the following good causes: £275 was raised by the staff and £710 by the Parents’ Association at their respective Macmillan Coffee Mornings and the PA baking competition. £540 was raised for Humanitas on ‘Silly & Odd Sock Day’. You can read more about the charity and its activities on page 18. Christmas Jumper Day and the Service in Preparation for Christmas raised £490 for the Red Hen charity, a small local charity working with five primary schools in North Cambridge. The Byron House Harvest Collection raised £246 for Newmarket Open Door, a charity that supports homeless people, particularly homeless young people. £815 was raised for Comic Relief on ‘Hot Hair’ Day.
“Silly Socks day was a fun way to raise money for charity. Some of my friends turned socks into animals by sewing on faces! I hope we raised lots of money for Humanitas.” Top: Silly Socks Day for Humanitas; Bottom: ‘Hot Hair Day’ for Comic Relief
Extra Curricular Clubs The school is proud to be able to offer a rich and varied programme of extracurricular events across the year, a sample of which is shown below. On average over 90% of children in T1 to Form 6 take up the offer to participate in a wide range of activities before school, during lunch breaks and after school. Nearly half of the children participate in three or more clubs each term, in addition to after school play rehearsals and music ensembles. While the full diet of clubs was partly curtailed due to restrictions of the pandemic, the School was thrilled to still be able to offer a wide range of clubs in the Michaelmas and Summer Terms. Forms 5 and 6 Football Club
Book Club Chatterbooks Debating Free Writing Model UN Poetry Greek Italian Mandarin Spanish Art Cookery Design Technology Jewellery Making Kitchen Garden Knitting
Aquathlon Athletics Boys’ and Girls’ Football Boys’ Rugby Boys’ and Girls’ Cricket Boys’ and Girls’ Hockey Football Golf Kung Fu Mini Tennis Multi Sports Netball Rowing Running Softball Squash and Fives Swimming Tennis
Forest School Mindfulness Ballet Drama Shakespeare Schools Festival Strictly @ SJCS Grade 5 Music Theory Music Composition Musical Theatre Pop Choir Potential Music Scholars Year Group Choirs
Card Games Lego Mathletics Maths Puzzles Tabletop Games Warhammer Digital Craft Game Maker Programming Club Programming
“There is something for everyone; you can learn a new skill, develop existing ones and have fun with your friends too.“
Enrichment Afternoons Thursday afternoons for children in Forms 3 to 6 offer ‘off-timetable’ time during the school day to cater for a wide range of enrichment activities in addition to the regular schedule of lessons in the ‘My Mind’ programme (incorporating Philosophy, Tai Chi, Mindfulness, Critical Thinking, Study Skills and Online Safety). While the number of events was reduced by the restrictions of the pandemic, we nevertheless were able to enrich the children’s learning with the events and activities shown below. During the national lockdown in the Lent Term, the enrichment programme moved online and was still as varied and as interesting as normal for all Senior House year groups.
Research Skills .b Mindfulness Virtual Mosque Visit Child-led Art Trips to Wicken Fen & The Backs, Cambridge Reasoning Skills Workshop RSE Workshop for Sixth Form Humanitas Workshop House Debating Finals Languages Faculty Afternoon with parent speakers Sports Coaching Activity Trips Week Form 3 Greek Plays
RS Talk on Hinduism by Mrs Patel ‘The Big Draw’- the world’s largest drawing festival .breathe Mindfulness Executive Functions workshop Fireworks Night Science Talk by Tristan Igglesden Virtual Synagogue Talk Northern White Rhino Art project Humanitas Tai Chi sessions Design Technology workshop with Michael Brennand-Wood World Toilet Day Sustainability Workshops
Philosophy - Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’ Online Tai Chi Online Author Talk with Onjali Q Raúf for Book Week STEM Egg Drop Challenge Snack box Design Competition RS ‘Spirited Arts’ Project Research Skills German Sessions Notan Designs Origami Book Marks for Humanitas Form 6 Textiles Workshop with visual artist Michael Brennand-Wood
Art The Art department has continued to flourish this year with the children producing a wide range of work in multiple media. The children’s freedom to experiment and sense of creativity were very much in evidence both in school and during lockdown with projects such as weaving (right), watercolours inspired by spring, clay dragons and studies of famous artists. Form 4’s summer project focussed on the artwork of abstract expressionist Sir Frank Bowling, in particular on his ‘map paintings’. The children created their own artwork using the freedom of powder paints, combined with PVA glue and cut out materials to form maps in order to make their own splashes of bold colours and unique arrangement using fewer plastic-based products as possible.
“The art room was a flurry of brightly coloured powder paint as we explored adding colour to our Frank Bowling inspired large-scale artwork. It was such an incredible sense of freedom and you can see this with the uniqueness of our work.” Artwork: top by Antigone Axon (aged 10) bottom by Louisa Egerton (aged 10)
Artwork (from left to right) Top: Clover Cockburn (aged 12), Eliza Robson Brown (aged 11) and Ella Szembel (aged 12); Middle: Felix Emerson (aged 11), David Edgington (aged 12) and Isla Cochrane (aged 12); Bottom: Lottie Dely (aged 11), Martha Sangster (aged 11) and Carmen Navarro (aged 9)
Music At a time when attending live musical events in the wider world has very sadly been brought more or less to a standstill for much of the last year, our approach at St John’s has been characterised by imagination, creativity, resourcefulness and adaptability. As a result, silver linings have been found, for example through the use of live-streaming technology, and several of our recent innovations will be embedded into our modus operandi in the future, even when something closer to normality returns. The ongoing restrictions of the pandemic have reminded us of the many great benefits of a musical education, partly through continuing activity and partly through the absence of some of our usual opportunities: on one hand, our Visiting Music Teachers have adapted brilliantly to online teaching and many pupils have been progressing even more quickly than usual, given increased practice time, and our Class Music teachers have continuously inspired the children during periods of online learning and in school; on the other hand, though, we have greatly missed our usual singing, ensemble and performance programmes in recent months and very much look forward to engaging more fully with them again soon. We have focussed on maintaining the fundamentals in curricular and extra-curricular Music at as high a level as possible, so that we are ready to hit the ground running as and when restrictions are fully lifted.
Curricular Music In spite of the challenges of Covid restrictions and the lockdown, Class Music provision at St John’s has grown in breadth and depth as we have sought ever-more creative ways to inspire the children’s experience and learning. At Byron House, pupils in T2 and Form 1 have enjoyed using British Sign Language for songs while joining together for Assemblies. In Form 2 pupils have worked on a collaboration between Music and Drama, taking as a starting point poems which the children had written in English. The children embraced the creative process and performed the compositions at the event at the West Road Concert Hall at the end of the Summer Term. In the Michaelmas Term at Senior House, pupils in Form 5 and 6 studied the influence of the African American slave trade on western music, a module which was added into the curriculum as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. They began by looking at spirituals and gospel music, had a go at improvising over 12-bar blues, writing a blues song and finished the term learning the Lindy Hop. In the Lent Term lockdown, we were keen to keep the children moving and using their practical skills. ‘Noteflight’, online music notation software, was used to create singing and rhythmic exercises the children could do together live during online lessons or in their own time. Later in the term, the children then used the software to compose their own pieces to be performed at the end of the Summer Term. Being back in school in the Summer Term, the older children carried on the strong tradition of writing and performed songs together in small groups with themes such as ‘Diversity’ and ‘Climate Change’. For the children in Forms 3 and 4, returning together to practical class work was especially positive. Many of them returned with stronger and more independent musical skills as a result of having done so many exercises at home, where all they could hear was themselves and the guide track.
Extra Curricular Music In the Michaelmas Term, we were thrilled to present 12 informal lunchtime concerts through a live-stream. The concerts were given by individual year groups from Form 1 to Form 6. Feedback received was tremendously positive and we will continue to offer the live-streams even when restrictions are lifted and live audiences are welcomed back to school. In the Lent Term, despite the national lockdown, children from across the School were encouraged to continue their performances at home. Nearly 100 performances were recorded and shared with the whole school community. The leading exam boards, ABRSM and Trinity College London, introduced their own innovations over the course of the year, most notably by adding the option of remote exams. This new opportunity allowed the children to video record and electronically submit a performance of a programme of a number of pieces. Over 83% of children who sat external music exams this year achieved merits or distinctions. Of the ABRSM distinctions, it is worthy of mention that three children gained scores above 140/150, a rare and remarkable achievement, the highest of which was in Grade 6 Piano.
Opportunities Outside School Each year a good number of children take advantage of musical opportunities beyond the school community, both locally in Cambridge and nationally. Among the many musical endeavours outside of school, this year four pupils have sung in Jesus College Choir, three have sung in St Catharine’s College Girls’ Choir, five pupils are members of the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and three pupils are members of the National Schools’ Symphony Orchestra.
St John’s College Choir
New CD ‘Magnificat 2’
The restrictions of the pandemic have had a particular resonance in the College Chapel this year as the internationally-renowned Choir sought innovative ways to ensure the strong and centuries’ old foundation of the choral tradition to support worship in the Chapel could continue in ever evolving circumstances. The scientific community’s uncertainty about the safety of singing and the restrictions on large indoor gatherings have called on the ingenuity, resourcefulness, perseverance and creativity of the Choir to maintain the highest levels of musical achievement.
The College Choir and its Director of Music, Mr Andrew Nethsingha, released Magnificat 2, the second volume in their highly-praised Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis series. The album features nine settings of the Evening Canticles. The album continues to explore the breadth of imagination with which composers have approached the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis texts, having been utilised in Christian worship for over 1,000 years. This repertoire is the lifeblood of the Choir, who sing settings of these texts on a daily basis. The album features a world première recording of Julian Anderson’s Evening Canticles and a booklet introduction by former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams.
At the start of the year, services were initially sung as normal with only College Fellows and students in residence able to attend. As the year progressed and indoor gatherings were banned, the Choir continued to sing to an empty Chapel, broadcasting their services online. Further restrictions during the lockdown in the Lent Term forced rehearsals and music lessons to move online and, as had worked so well in the first lockdown, the revival of a ‘virtual’ Chapel using previous recordings of services. The Choir, and the choristers in particular, were delighted to be able to return to singing live in the Chapel in the Summer Term, eventually in front of a congregation.
Christmas Services with Green Screen Technology Our festive Service in Preparation for Christmas, scheduled to take place shortly after the second national lockdown in December, was sadly but inevitably not able to take place as usual in the St John’s College Chapel this year. Our response once again demonstrated our school’s extraordinary ability to combine creative, resourceful and collaborative forces to put together an online Virtual Service in Presentation for Christmas, whose preparations and process afforded the meaningful learning experiences our pupils are accustomed to and whose results could be enjoyed by family and friends not just in Cambridge but all over the world. With the School’s choirs lying dormant in the first half of the Michaelmas Term, new year group choirs were set up and many children enthusiastically put themselves forward for a project which would be rather different from usual. Instead of our usual sequence of rehearsals in school and college, we had limited rehearsal time in school and then recorded on a giant green screen which had been erected in the Hinsley Hall at Senior House. The live footage was subsequently superimposed onto photos of the College Chapel and the recorded service appeared as if coming directly from the Chapel.
Drama In Drama we encourage the children to express themselves. Mistakes are seen as opportunities and improvisation is encouraged as part of the development of any play. The giving of a stunning performance, the mastery of oneself and the expression of oneself through a performance are all deeply memorable experiences that remain with children forever. The children learn the vital skills of collaboration and communication, resourcefulness, responsibility, rigour, resilience, risktaking. We utilise the collective imagination of the children and share and develop ideas, ending up with performances that are full of physical and visual energy and go far beyond words on a page. The restrictions on gatherings which have been in place this year have presented the School with opportunities to explore new adventures and find innovative solutions to communicate with and connect with audiences. The children have embraced change with their usual enthusiasm, adaptability and creativity and have grown and matured together, supporting each other along the way.
T2 Poetry in Motion
The Michaelmas Term saw the live-streaming of the Form 6 Shakespeare Schools Festival performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream as well as the much anticipated KG and T1 Nativity Plays. The latter were broadcast to both children in other year groups watching in their classrooms and to parents and families at home. The success of these broadcasts was felt throughout the school, bringing a much needed moment of cheer. During the national lockdown in the Lent Term and the return to remote learning, the children again benefited from live online drama lessons, a varied range of drama podcasts which featured members of staff from other departments as guests to play drama games and share anecdotes in the ‘Pod’, and ‘Planet Drama’ recordings for the younger children, made using green screen technology again and animations. The term concluded with the Form 6 Passion Play filmed on Zoom with each of the children in their own homes, acting and interacting online in front of a range of 24 virtual backdrops. This unique and fresh interpretation of the retelling of the Passion story, which normally concludes the Lent Term, was then shared with the rest of the school, parents and family members around the world. Top: Kindergarten Nativity Whoops-a-Daisy Angel and bottom: T1 Nativity Christmas with the Aliens
With the lifting of some Covid-19 restrictions allowing a limited number of socially-distanced guests to attend events and performances in person later in the Summer Term, pupils in Form 3 were honoured to be the first year group to be able to perform to a live audience. The children in T2 instead created a fantastical blend of poetry and music in their film produced with the aid of a green screen and animations. Form 4 choreographed movements to Victorian Limericks which were then filmed. The term concluded with the Form 6 Leavers’ Poetry Night. It is with much anticipation that the School community looks forward to the Form 5 production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe which it is hoped can be performed live to a full house without restrictions in September.
Top: Form 4 Limericks; Bottom left: Form 3 Greek Myths and right: Form 6 A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Form 6’s Zoom Passion Play Every year the Passion Play is performed by the whole Form 6 year group at the end of the Lent Term. This important milestone for children who are midway through their final year before leaving for their senior schools, is not only a retelling of the Easter story itself, but also a significant step in their development as communicators, learning to engage with serious subject matter in a thoughtful and sensitive way. Undaunted by the restrictions of the pandemic and the national lockdown which closed schools across the country for over two months, the children and staff instead created a film version of their play, recorded with each actor in their own homes, using virtual backgrounds and Zoom technology. The result is a film which delivers the pathos of the Easter story while demonstrating the creativity of a school which values the contribution each child can make.
Arts Award Children in Form 6 have again had the opportunity to participate in the national Bronze Arts Award, which is moderated by Trinity College London. The programme invites children in Form 6 to submit a portfolio of work for accreditation in this nationally recognised qualification. The Bronze Level Arts Award involves 40 guided learning hours plus 20 independent learning hours and the children need to collect in an individual arts log or portfolio of their experiences of: developing their interests, knowledge and skills through actively participating in any art form; experience of at least one arts event/ experience as an audience member and their review of that event/experience; researching the career and work of an artist or crafts person that inspires them; passing on an arts skill. Arts Award inspires young people to grow their arts and leadership talents and is particularly suitable for children who are self-motivated to pursue artistic endeavours in their spare time. In much the same way as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award places a strong emphasis upon young people’s ability to take the initiative as part of a team and individually, the Arts Award aims to inspire candidates to devise their own programmes of activities and self-manage their workload. This early taste of independent responsibility is the perfect preparation for managing the demands of life at senior school and beyond. This year’s participants have entered with the following subjects: Art, Dance, Drama, Craft, Graphic Design, Music and Photography. Their achievements are to be particularly celebrated given the temporary closure of theatres and performance venues and the challenges the performing arts sector has faced in moving to performing online or live in restricted capacity venues and to socially-distanced audiences.
Left: ‘Still Life’ by Henrietta Allpress (aged 12) and right: Arts Award presentation afternoon
Trips Week After what has been an unusual year for the children, with the Lent Term spent at home during the national lockdown, or in school in key worker ‘bubbles’, the School was delighted to be able to provide children in Forms 3 to 6 with an opportunity to experience a residential trip within the UK. Each year group benefitted significantly from the chance to come together and strengthen bonds and experience new adventures, be it climbing, kayaking, sailing, coasteering, hiking, walking nature trails, or simply enjoying time at the seaside. Pupils in Form 2 also had the opportunity to mark their transition from Byron House to Senior House with a daycamp on the playing fields, learning bush-craft skills.
“Being away somewhere new with all our friends after being in lockdown for part of the year was such a feeling of freedom and excitement. Out in the open air, trying new activities and building some great memories for years to come is what trips week is all about.” Top: Form 5 trip to St David’s, Wales and bottom: Form 5 coasteering
Top left: Form 2 Bushcraft Day; top right: Form 3 trip to Aylmerton, Norfolk; bottom left: Form 4 trip to Rockley, Dorset and right: Form 6 trip to the Brecon Beacons, Wales
Sports One of the aims of the Sports Department is to help each child to discover a sport which they will enjoy and hopefully pursue at senior school and beyond. The School strives for excellence in attitude and caters for everyone, regardless of ability, by providing a high standard of opportunities to train and compete with high level coaching for each sport. St John’s nurtures the sporting values of good conduct, respect for players, discipline, excellent sportsmanship, leadership and teamwork, learning the merits of winning and losing and, most importantly, having fun. The children have demonstrated their energy, focus and adaptability in PE and Games lessons while Covid-19 restrictions have been in place this year. Undaunted by the limitations to contact sports and matches, they have participated in a wide variety of activities, both consolidating their skills in the main team games as well as learning new skills with activities such as ultimate Frisbee, pop lacrosse, mixed netball, capture the flag and other adapted and problem-solving games. These have proved popular and the children have developed their teamwork skills, physical and tactical awareness and critical evaluation as a result. The children have also benefited from sports such as swimming and rowing which have been able to continue for at least part of the year.
In the Michaelmas Term, the focus was very much on fun and enjoyment, teaching teamwork and tactical awareness through adapted games activities as well as utilising sport as a method for reintegrating friendships and social activity. Lessons were taught in a mixed gender setting and it was wonderful to see the children using all of their transferable skills in new sports. The tactics took centre stage and pupils were encouraged to critically analyse their performances in order to improve. We also piloted the SJCS Fieldrun which we hope to launch fully in the new academic year. This is an exciting initiative, based on the popular Parkrun model, where the number of runs recorded and personal best performances are used to motivate each children to improve. During the national lockdown in the Lent Term, each pupil in Senior House was provided with a physical development assignment and a skill-specific assignment each week, tailored to accommodate varying degrees of access to facilities and equipment at home. The former focussed on fundamental movement skills and the different components of fitness, while the latter concentrated on transferable skills, often including balance and hand/eye coordination. Children at Byron House benefited from a weekly live PE lesson, a recorded fitness video and an instructional lesson to do in their own time. Highlights included ‘Super hero’ training and a World Book Day workout. Parents also got involved and there were many wonderful self-recorded gymnastic routines. The focus throughout was on fun, engagement, transferable skills and improving levels of fitness.
“We have tried so many different sports alongside our normal games lessons, such as lacrosse, capture the flag, Frisbee, field runs and football, all in mixed teams.”
Rowing photo courtesy of Lucie Milton
In the Summer Term the children benefited from the gradual easing of some restrictions which allowed for cricket fixtures played against other local schools to go ahead. Children in the 5th and 6th Forms also took part in an inter-Form cricket competition in 6-a-side teams with each team’s results counting towards the overall Form result. Small boundaries and modernised rules (such as no balls hit off a tee, 6 over matches and everybody having to bowl) made for an exhilarating competition. The usual focus on athletics has thankfully been unaffected and the children were able to take full advantage of the wonderful facilities on the playing fields in preparation for a slightly revised version of sports day at the end of term which saw children competing on different days within their year group ‘bubbles’. Some opportunities for sport outside of school have also continued. In the Summer Term six pupils took part in the Schools Regatta in the Under 11 and Under 13 category in Weymouth, organised by Millfield Prep School in conjunction with the Andrew Simpson Sailing Centre. In total, 21 boats competed over four races.
Leavers’ Destinations & Awards 47 Form 6 boys and girls are leaving for Senior Schools. They are proceeding as follows: 8 each to The Perse Upper and The Leys ; 6 to King’s Ely; 3 each to Oundle and Stephen Perse Foundation; 2 each to Bedford, Gresham’s, Oakham, Rugby and St Mary’s Cambridge; 1 each to Ardingly, Eton, Northstowe Secondary College, St Edward’s Oxford, St Mary’s Ascot, Uppingham and Winchester. One to Bullis School, USA and one to the English International School of Padua. At the time of going to press, the following 19 awards were achieved as follows: Henrietta Allpress Paloma Bargh Matthew Chippington Sam Clarke David Edgington Isabelle Egerton Felix Forsberg Austin Gardiner Luca Harris Misha Kaminskiy Lydia Kopanou Jamie Kruppa Harry L’Estrange William MacLean Jonathan Mews Adekoya Okusaga Ewan Tatnell Louis Wright
Art Scholarship Music Scholarship Music Scholarship Art Scholarship Academic Scholarship Art Scholarship Academic Scholarship Sport Scholarship Headmaster’s Award Drama Scholarship Drama Scholarship Academic Scholarship Music & Sport Scholarships Sport Scholarship Music Scholarship Music Scholarship Music Scholarship Drama Scholarship
Gresham’s The Perse Upper King’s Ely King’s Ely The Perse Upper St Mary’s Ascot The Perse Upper King’s Ely Gresham’s King’s Ely Stephen Perse Foundation The Perse Upper Bedford Rugby Oundle Bedford Ardingly Uppingham
Where a child has gained an award in the same discipline for more than one school, only the award for the destination school is recorded.
Highlights is written by St John’s College School staff and designed, produced and edited in house by Mrs P Dely and Mr A Loria.
© St John’s College School 2021
A selection of highlights and achievements from the academic year 2020-2021 at St John's College School (www.sjcs.co.uk).