St Margaret’s Preparatory School: Brave Adventures

PUBLISHED: 09:00 22 April 2014

MARTIN PHELPS

Headmistress Karen Cordon says she wants her pupils at St Margaret’s Preparatory School, Calne to be brave and adventurous, ready to take on whatever new challenges face them.

I believe that even very young children will respond positively if they are encouraged to do things for themselves. We put a very strong emphasis on children being independent so we ask parents of our three year old pupils to encourage their children to manage their own personal hygiene, to do up a zip, to have a go at putting on their school uniform and recognise their name. This gives them the confidence to go on and do other more adventurous things. We ask parents to focus on the ‘practical’ elements and let us do the rest. The importance of this becomes apparent when, for example, a child has spent hours and hours being made to write their own name, but cannot put on their shoes, or more importantly communicate with others. Creativity is also very important for children as this helps them to feel confident, which then puts them in a very strong position to learn. We would much rather see a young child ‘create’ something from a pile of cardboard boxes than recite the alphabet or their times tables.

Parents are often surprised that we take the Kindergarten children swimming each week, because of the potential difficulty of looking after them in the water. When the children are in the pool there are rarely any problems. In actual fact the greater challenges start when they get out of the water and cannot dry or dress themselves. They are so used to having someone do it for them at home, but it is always amazing just how quickly they learn this skill, on their journey towards increased independence.

Food can be a tricky subject – not usually for the children but for their parents. We decided to reduce the choice available at lunchtime for our younger children to encourage them to try new things. Some parents were worried that their children wouldn’t eat, but they been amazed at the variety of foods their children have been trying, as they now all eat whatever is the main choice of meal.

Meal times at home should be an opportunity to help develop children’s creativity and knowledge. Children, like all of us, won’t always be in the mood for questions after a busy day, but the opportunity to discuss their activities and experiences, should they wish to, must be there. I believe that one of the most important things for children is for them to become ‘brave adventurers’ who are resilient and willing to give new things a go. When children are aged four to five we want to give them a broad foundation of learning and to build self-esteem so that they are ready to ‘have a go’ and are not afraid of failing.

The school encourages children to explore their different talents and operates a system of positive rewards rather than focusing on the negative. They like to have boundaries so that they know where they stand, they understand what is expected of them and consequently feel safe and able to face new challenges - whether that be performing in front of an audience, reciting their times tables or, just as importantly, tying their shoelaces!

This article appeared in the Spring issue of the A+ Education Guide South West. Click here to see the whole magazine.

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