What a milestone it is to have all the children back in the school! The first week has been a delight, but also a week of adjustment. There is no denying that learning remotely is not the same as being in school. In particular, the practical subjects and the living social interactions which are such a valued part of our education, are not the same on zoom. I want to take this opportunity to thank all the teachers who have kept the curriculum going for children at home and onsite, for their enthusiasm and willingness to stretch beyond what used to be considered "Steiner-Waldorf". To keep the classes going both with the main lessons and other subjects has been inspiring; but this would not have been possible without the great input and hard work from the parents. I hope you can breathe out a little bit now that you are sending your children into school. The national lockdown has meant that every family has made enormous sacrifices. We are a large community with a variety of different experiences of lockdown, some have experienced the deep frustration of their children, some have enjoyed themselves, but all have felt the impact. Thank you all for your efforts- we are very grateful for your input.
St Paul's Steiner School is first of all a school for your children. But it is also a place of work for up to 50 members of staff, which bring further considerations that need to be respected. The health and safety during this pandemic must be taken seriously. Though we are making the guidance work for us, it is not possible to cherry pick essential preventative measures. In Middle School, face coverings will remain necessary where 2 metre distancing is not possible until we have been advised otherwise. From now on the onsite testing has fully moved to home testing.
We are now looking forward to the education as a whole for the remainder of this year. We always offer an incredible variety of subjects, as well as different ways of teaching those: intellectually, artistically, orally, through movement indoors and outdoors, through use of the hands as well as minds. Returning to the familiar rhythm of school and being together is what the children need and all the teachers are aware that pastoral care is particularly central to their role at this time. The teachers will also be assessing where the children are in their progress to ensure a programme to catch everyone up if and where necessary.
This year we are examining pre-literacy and numeracy as well as the outdoor craft, play and landscaping in Kindergarten. The overall theme to bring more diversity into our stories, festivals and material is continuous.
In school the same theme of greater diversity is continuing, and our discussions are currently focused on the History curriculum. All the class teachers had an inspiring training from SOAS to enhance our knowledge of African history and we are now working on how to embed it into our current offer.
We are also beginning discussions regarding the Language offer at St Paul's. You will soon hear more about this topic and I look forward to having a coffee morning to discuss this further. Invitations will come out separately.
We are always looking to prepare the children for the next stage in their education and much work has gone into mapping the Science Curriculum in the Middle school this year. We are delighted to have Mr Tsogkas working with the class teachers on this and the results of the childrens’ work is really impressive.
We are in the beginning of a major restoration project of the building. This is as exciting as it is necessary, as we have obligations under the lease of the building to fulfil. This will mean scaffolding on the North side of the school when you return from the Easter holidays.
Now that the children are back, I will look forward to the day when all families can be together and celebrate an end of term festival once again. But for now the classes will celebrate the end of Spring term in their wider bubbles.
Kindergarten will finish at 1pm and school at 1:15 on Tuesday 30 March.
Equality & Diversity Lead Update
Dear St Paul’s community.
I am excited to continue my work on diversity, equality and inclusion by becoming the school’s first Equality and Diversity Lead (EDL). I have been working in the kindergarten for over three years now and have been a member of the school’s diversity group since it was founded in 2018. Daniel Zylberzstajn-Lewandowski was also a founder member of the group and he has now become our diversity trustee. These new roles are part of our commitment to embedding inclusion within the school management structure.
I’m in dialogue with the Headteacher and my colleagues to implement our diversity strategy and gain an overview of what is happening in terms of our developing inclusive practice. A key part of this is communication with families and liaison with our diversity group, which is open to all parents, carers and guardians (further details on the school website). Your perspectives are invaluable and help us to understand the needs of the community.
Here is an update on St Paul’s progress since Sept 2021:
Sept 2020 INSET
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion – training in the Equality Act and inclusive practice from Equality and Diversity UK
Workshop on understanding LGBTQI+ and gender non-conforming identities – delivered by myself and Stephane Azarian, our French teacher, using Stonewall resources. This training was also adapted for Class 8 as part of their Sex and Relationships education curriculum and will be presented at the Steiner Waldorf Schools Fellowship (SWSF) Easter conference Mar 2021.
SWSF AUTUMN CONTINUING PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Online training in Relationships and Sex education, positive classroom discipline, and sensory needs.
Feb 2021 INSET
Class teacher training in Black History, to support review of history curriculum. We are also looking at Hackney Learning Trust’s Black History curriculum and the Black Curriculum’s art-based teaching as models to inform our practice.
Sensory Integration conference Feb 2021 discussing how to meet the needs of SEND children in kindergarten and those who are sensory seeking.
LOCAL AUTHORITY TRAINING
KG teachers training in anti-racist practice from The Black Nursery Manager, hosted by Islington Council as part of their Black History 365 campaign.
Bright Sparks, Islington training in speech sounds and assessing the need for referral to speech and language therapy within early years settings.
SWSF EASTER CONFERENCE 2021
St Paul’s staff will be contributing to, and attending, the upcoming SWSF Easter Conference, with the theme of diversity and inclusion. Steiner practitioners from around the world will be talking on neurodiversity, supporting students with English as an additional language, multicultural stories and music, decolonising the curriculum and developing a culture of anti-bias.
TEACHER TRAINING AND SHARING GOOD PRACTICE
SWSF have made diversity and inclusion a priority and are now hosting regular online workshops and training for the EDLs within Steiner schools. In Nov 2020 the focus was on how to diversify festivals.
At St Paul’s we have experienced kindergarten teachers who are now involved in the London Steiner Kindergarten Teacher Training and actively working to ensure inclusive practice is part of this course.
I have been invited to speak at the Easter Conference on the developing EDL role within Steiner schools.
I have also delivered workshops on inclusive practice at York and Cambridge Steiner schools, and for the London Kindergarten Teacher training course.
I have written an article for the Spring edition of Kindling, a journal for Steiner early years practitioners, on making space for the gender spectrum and diverse families within kindergarten, including an age-appropriate LGBTQ+ inclusive booklist.
Parent community and diversity group were consulted on Relationships and Sex Education policy in Autumn 2020.
Our application form for students has been simplified and updated to ensure we are using inclusive language.
Our admissions policy has been confirmed as fully meeting the Equality Act by a lawyer specialising in educational inclusion.
Policies such as our Anti-bullying Policy and Relationships and Sex Education Policy have been reviewed in Autumn 2020 to ensure they are inclusive.
I have developed a document outlining our inclusive practice in the kindergarten and reviewed our statement on Fundamental British Values.
Our website states that for all vacancies, for staff and trustees, ‘we encourage applications from individuals of any of the many BAME backgrounds’. We have taken action to place targeted advertisements to encourage applicants from groups currently under-represented in our workforce.
School website has been updated and includes information on our inclusive practice and the diversity group. Our aim was to make the website easier to navigate and give clear information eg about how parents can access government funding to subsidise the cost of kindergarten and lunch club.
I have worked with admissions to give them links for local playgroups, childminders and nannies to share with parents looking for wrap around care.
Parent and child groups have been closed over lockdown but, when we restart, we will be running two sessions a day Mon-Thurs to enable access for more families. We have also added two sessions on Saturdays, to make the parent and child group more accessible to working parents, carers and guardians.
All classrooms, including kindergarten have Lyra skin tone pencils so that students can accurately represent themselves and others in their drawings
Our library was re-organised and edited over the summer of 2020, with a new influx of books with LGBT+ representation in Sept 2021. As a practical response to the Black Lives Matter movement, we also sourced new books with black protagonists and books about Black history in Oct 2021. This included picture books for the kindergarten, which are being circulated around the four groups, to maximise access. These titles were shared on the school website, in recognition of the need to communicate our inclusive practice effectively with parents.
Empathy booklist Mar 2021– inspired by the Empathy Lab Book Awards, I have collated a range of titles to increase representation of people of different ages, cultures and ethnicities, including female protagonists, people with disabilities, neurodiverse characters, asylum seekers and books with an interest age that is older than the reading age. The booklist is based on my research and colleagues' suggestions including specialist publishers such as Knights of Books promoting black representation, This is Book Love and Letterbox Library for multicultural titles, and Barrington Stokes for dyslexic and reluctant readers. The school have purchased a copy of each of the books on this list, to renew our library and give staff and students chance to engage with the titles. Our next step will be for the EDL to meet with each class teacher to update our suggested reading lists for each age group, ensuring these are inclusive and meet the needs of the school community.
Kindergarten have created an updated reading list of suggestions for parents to share with sun children, ensuring the titles are inclusive. This includes suggestions of fairy tales from around the world, with active female protagonists, as well as ensuring diverse families and cultures are represented.
PARTNERSHIP WITH PARENTS, CARERS AND GUARDIANS
In kindergarten, we continue to work in partnership with parents, carers and guardians to bring the mid-Autumn and Lunar New Year festivals to the children, including a puppet show of the story of the Chinese Zodiac. Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah are also celebrated in kindergarten in partnership with Jewish families. We also support links with the classes to share their festivals, such as inviting the kindergarten children to see the Class 5 Diwali performances and rangoli in the Nave.
I regularly attend the parent diversity group meetings in my EDL role to act as a liaison between this group and the school.
DEVELOPING OUR PRACTICE
The school calendar has been updated to include a diverse range of significant dates. We have raised our awareness, and now recognise a wider range of religious and cultural festivals in our communication with parents. We have also developed our sensitivity around how we talk about and name our school festivals and events to ensure they feel accessible to all.
Diversity, equality and inclusion are regularly on the agenda of our weekly staff meetings in kindergarten and the classes.
In the Early Years, we have discussed inclusive, gender neutral language in relation to our stories and ringtimes, and how to balance our choice of fairy tales to ensure we are not perpetuating gender stereotypes. We are constantly adding to our repertoire of stories including West African, Chinese, Scottish and Irish stories in kindergarten and the home learning packs. In summer 202O we reviewed our inclusive practice and shared this with parents in a newsletter. We specifically addressed how we deal with conversations about difference among kindergarten children. In the summer term 2021 we will be revisiting this topic, to update and look deeper into challenging unconscious bias.
The class teachers ensure inclusive practice is at the heart of planning – recent topics include:
Class 1 – mutlicultural stories and songs from Tanzania, Kenya, Indonesia, and Scottish, Irish, English and Celtic traditions.
Class 2 – stories from the First Peoples of America
Class 3 – Shelter projects researching contemporary and historical homes from around the world, celebrating the Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot festivals.
Class 4 – Local geography – the diverse cultures within London, including a visit to Newington Green to see the new stature of Mary Wollstonecraft, writer, philosopher and advocate of women’s rights.
Class 5 – British Isles, looking at the diverse communities within cities such as Liverpool and Birmingham
Class 6 – migration of people into the UK .
Class 7 – Study of colonisation by the first Western explorers
Class 8 – The Transatlantic Slave Trade
I send out regular reminders and links about upcoming dates such as LBGTQ+ history month, International Day of Women in Science, Holocaust Memorial Day, Disability Awareness Week and class teachers include this in their planning. Our new books supported a biography project to celebrate Black History Month in Oct 2020, with posters on display around the school.
We are looking at the possibility of widening access to the school by reducing the lowest fee contribution and trialling a scheme whereby higher earning families can voluntarily contribute to our community supported fee assistance fund. All families are invited to apply in Feb each year and there is a calculator on our new website as a guide to eligibility.
Meeting with diversity group chair and deputy chair to re-evaluate roles and communication with the school
Continuing to develop strategies to diversity our recruitment of staff and students.
We aim to share draft Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policy with parent diversity group and wider school community, to invite consultation and feedback.
Investigating funding opportunities to widen access to parent and child as further step towards a more diverse intake of students.
Updating KG and classes open tours to ensure transparency around our inclusive practice, and highlight how we work in partnership with parents to ensure we meet each family and their children as individuals.
Creating guidelines for working in partnership with families to ensure our approach is inclusive.
In kindergarten, we will be addressing unconscious bias as a follow on from training in anti-racist practice.
Celebrate London Pride Festival and Stonewall anniversary in school with poster competition in June 2021.
Class III Shelter Projects
Over the past few weeks Class III have been working on their Shelter Projects at home. During the year we have been learning about different types of homes from all over the World. One aspect of this study is to learn how many cultures use the natural materials found in the local area to build their homes. Class III really enjoyed learning about the different homes and the people that live in them. Below are photographs of their own shelter models. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did!
Fantastic work Class III – Well done!!!
Class III Teacher
Kindergarten Sun Children during our gardening lessons
“I am bored!” perhaps is the most visible sign that a six year old child in the kindergarten has reached a new phase in his or her development. Four years ago, St Paul’s pioneered an outdoor program for the children of this age group aiming to incorporate a fun but challenging element to their kindergarten activities that sparked their interest. Alternating on every other morning, from 08:30 to 10:30, each one of the four kindergarten Sun Children join me to experiment in the boundless possibilities we encounter outside. These mornings are filled with liveness, enthusiasm and joy.
We usually start our session reciting a verse that offers already a variety of social, physical, spiritual and emotional skills:
“Down is the Earth, Up is the sky (then we add the trees, clouds, birds, squirrels… it is time to observe), here are my friends and here am I. Two eyes to see,two ears for hearing (“listening ears” - golden rule for listening to the teacher), one nose to smell especially the lovely things we are growing and one mouth to saykind words and to taste the lovely plants we are growing , two feet for walking and…(here I add some challenges such as hopping, running, standing with one foot as a flamingo who is trying to catch a big fish...). Here are my hands, give yours to me: Good morning everyone”!
At the start of this program in 2017, most of the activities were centred in the kindergarten garden; making toys, cleaning, planting, mulching and playing. Nowadays with the new structure of the groups due to the current pandemic, we spend much of our time in the Green. This expanded the vision of the curriculum and my own creativity in offering the children realwork. This does not only inspire them but supports their need for organised movements. Using the words of the North American kindergarten teacher, Ruth Ker: “Doing things for others can help to channel the will that we have carefully nourished through the early years, so that now a purposeful and moral activity can manifest and not frenzied, erratic behaviours”. From the book: You’re Not the Boss of Me.
When outside with their own age group, the Sun Children experiencethe discipline necessary for their next step in their educational journey. When reaching Class I they start to follow more direct instructions by the teacher facilitating self-regulation. However, the instructions are still delivered cautiously as what the six year old “really needs is for us to attach to his or her lively imagination”. Pictorial imagery is often present in words such as “blanket” for soil or a “beautiful ant’s line” when we are queueing to leave the school (creating a little bit of order before reaching outside). This is all while respecting the harmonious development of a young child through activities and instructions that balance contractions and expansiveness much like the breath.
The children love, for example, to go around the Green to manoeuvre the litter grabbers or push the trash trolleys. They collect even the tiny cigarettes butts and lollipop sticks. And there is a great satisfaction - at least for me - when at the end of our park-round we unload the trolley into the bin. Sometimes we discover good surprises during these rounds. On one occasion we found a long thick rope behind the Rose Bowl Community Centre and they all had great fun in turning the improvised rope into a swing. Another triumphant activity during the first few weeks of Autumn Term was planting new fruit trees in the community orchard. We dug large holes for making “lasagnes” with layers of compost –brought from the kindergarten kitchen cuttings – and top soil. We kept the “lasagne” cooking for a few weeks until the trees arrived just before the Christmas holiday; luckily just before those snowy days, the children fetched the leaves collected earlier in the season to mulch around the baby trees forming a lovely warm blanket. Usually, the work finishes around 09:30 when it is time for a snack of oat cakes, fruits, tea and water. “When is it play time?” they might ask, or “Can we play the fish game?”
As mentioned before, fun is important for a good sense of humour, especially for this age group when their imagination is rich and their desire for adventure is strong. Laurie Clark, kindergarten teacher, mentioned during a Sensory Integration Conference during half term, that the best games are the games we can make up. Is so true! The children love being chased. Any excuse I have to make them run, I do. Such as winter game: “look out, look out Jackie (me!) Frost is about, she is after your feet and toes...” As soon as they hear the first line, they run like a flight of pigeons! Lately they are asking when can we play the “fish game?” They are looking forward to this game at the end of our session in the Nave. This play involves another rhymefrom the summer ring time: “The fisherwoman rows her boat along, her arms are beautifully brownand strong, she throws her net into the sea and catches a fish as big as… (I say the name of the child I had caught with a soft white rope donated by my favourite rope selling shop in Covent Garden: Arthur Beale). The caught child must stay in my bucket until I catch another big fish.
Before they return to their classroom, we form a circle again to recite the same verse at the beginning of the lesson but with a minor change at the end: instead of flamingos, we have two feet for standing as big as an Oak Tree. A moment of silence and…. “Goodbye my lovely Sun Children!” They return to their room where they are met by a beautifully laid snack table and the scent of soup for the Apple Tree children, dhal and millet for the Chestnut Tree children, freshly baked bread for the Rosebush Children and apple crumble for the Mulberry Bush children. I usually leave them completely worn out, but often happy, very happy!
Kindergarten Gardening Teacher
Family & Wellbeing
The wonders of sleep
Bedtime routine is an important family activity; yet it can be one of the most stressful times of the day. The coronavirus crisis might have disrupted sleep patterns even if you had a good routine before. As children are back at school it will be a good time to start a new routine. Having a regular bedtime will make it easier for everyone involved.
Recently, experts have defined what a best practice bedtime routine should include to get children settled to sleep and promote health:
Brushing teeth before bed. This was considered the most important routine!
Time consistency for going to bed.
Avoiding food/drinks before bed.
Avoiding use of electronic devices before bed.
Calming activities with the child before bed, including bath, shower, talking and book reading.
Ensuring your child has enough sleep is essential for their health and wellbeing. Children who don't have enough sleep are more likely to be grumpy, irritable or hyperactive. Lack of sleep affects their growth, health, development, immune system, concentration and ability to learn. Children with inconsistent sleep schedules are more likely to be overweight.
If your child does not like eating green veg, try kale crisps! This is a great recipe children can do with minimal help: they can remove the stems, tear the leaves and message the oil into the leaves.
While they do that they become familiar with the vegetable and having made the crisps themselves they are more likely to try it.
1 large bundle curly green or purple kale or Cavalo nero
1 or 2 tablespoon olive oil or rapeseed oil
Seasonings of choice (i.e. pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon cumin, curry powder or paprika powder)
Pre-heat oven to 110C.
Rinse and thoroughly dry kale by putting it in a tea towel and rolling it up tight squeezing out the water.
Tear the kale into small pieces and discard any stems.
Add to a large mixing bowl, drizzle with oil and massage the kale. Add your seasonings and toss thoroughly to combine.
Spread the kale in a single layer over one or two baking trays and place it in the oven.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, then turn the baking tray around, and lightly toss the kale to ensure an even baking.
Bake for 5-10 minutes more, until kale is crispy and very slightly golden brown. You may want to turn the oven off but keep the kale in the oven a little longer if the kale can do with becoming a little more crisp. Watch closely as it can burn easily.
Remove from oven and let it cool.
Enjoy immediately as crisps or as a sprinkle on food. Best when fresh!
Recovery College - Online weekly webinars
To help you in your recovery from Covid 19, Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust and Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Mental HealthTrust are in partnership to deliver online webinars which include;
Coping with Covid - 16 March 12.30- 2pm
Managing Fatigue - 23 March 12.30 - 2pm
Managing Anxiety - 30 March 12.30 - 2pm
Mindfulness - 06 April 12.30 - 2pm
There is no need to register in advance and you can find more information on each of these sessions in the link below.