From the Headmaster's Study | Portsmouth High School

From the Headmaster’s Study

News from the Headmaster's Study
Mr Paul Marshallsay BA Education

What is it like to be a pupil at Portsmouth High Prep School?

Girls in Year 5 and 6 were asked to produce a free piece of writing about what it was like to be at Portsmouth High Prep School. Here is a small selection of their words:

At Dovercourt we all possess the freedom to find our own path in life, not to be restricted by someone else’s tracks. We have our own opinions voiced at the school council, listened to and immediately answered by the best suited and well thought through response.

I’ve been at Portsmouth High Prep School since nursery and have found it an inspiring place to grow up. What makes PHS a wonderful atmosphere is definitely the people. My teachers encourage me and help me to understand difficult questions.

I have made friendships that I will keep for the rest of my life, as well as helping new girls to feel welcome and become a part of the community. I can’t imagine life without PHS.

Moving up to Year 2 I got my first fountain pen,
I remember writing letters again and again,
Egg and spoon races and fun during Sports Day,
I burst out laughing when my egg rolled away.

The teachers all have our best interests at heart and are ready to give the appropriate help needed in any area. Being a part of Dovercourt, we work as a team and are always dependable, supportive and enthusiastic. That is why I love Dovercourt.

So my final year in the Prep School with a trip to Harry Potter,
There is also the play that is called St. Tabitha,
I look back at my time now I am age ten,
Oh how I would love to go back and do it all again.

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Evolving our provision to reach as many girls as possible

This academic year has seen a review of the provision at the Prep School.

You will have seen that changes are already occurring as a result of the evaluation and all of these are aimed at making incremental improvements. The analogy I use when thinking about evolving our provision is that of a high level cycling team. They will make many small adjustments to training regimes and equipment. Each one might only save a fraction of a second but the sum total will give them a significant enhancement.

The GDST has, as one of its core aims, to reach as many girls as possible. We have used this as a benchmark to assess how and when opportunities are available for the children in the school and for those that might be joining us. Rearranging the school day helps the girls that use school transport or are busy after school to be able to be involved in music, sporting and other activities. They will be able to take part at lunchtime whilst we still keep an active clubs programme on offer after school. The successful extended care at either end of the day will remain a part of the school fee and free to use.

The staff will be hard at work this summer incorporating the new PHS Explorers theme into their plans for September. This will be a further enhancement to the already strong teaching offer at the school and will augment our mission to produce inquisitive, resilient girls who are more than ready for challenges in the future.

The outside space has been enhanced by a new outdoor classroom and has been incredibly well received by girls and visitors. This summer a new multi use games area will be installed. Many will recognise the term as astroturf. It will allow us to host home matches in hockey, football and other sports, whilst also giving the senior girls an opportunity to conduct training sessions.

We are entering an exciting period for the Prep School and I cannot wait to see what the next year might bring.

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Changes at the Junior School

Following an extensive review of our provision across the junior school we are introducing some changes.

The first of these will be our new PHS Explorers programme, which will underpin the entire curriculum. This is about exploring across the full range of experiences at Dovercourt. It will involve building on the work we do with the girls to enhance their natural curiosity and take risks with their learning. They will become explorers in the widest possible sense, from investigating science to using enquiry inside and outside the classroom. The programme will be based around the learning wheel which focuses on core competencies and skills rather than narrow, subject-specific criteria.

The second change reflects our need to differentiate the junior school from the junior section of the senior school. Portsmouth High Junior School will become Portsmouth High Prep School, a name which better reflects the way in which we prepare the girls for the senior school and wider

life. We wanted you to be the first to know this as you will begin to see it in written communication and signage.

The prep part of the name stands for preparatory and this is very much how I see our role. We are preparing the girls for the challenge that is ahead both academically and in a much wider sense. Readers of Update will know the enthusiasm I have towards encouraging girls to learn from failure and take calculated risks. The changes outlined above encapsulate these values and the core beliefs that run through what is now Portsmouth High Prep School.

As part of our review we are also looking at the school day and how to tie this more closely with senior school. This is taking the form of a consultation and I would welcome the views of parents before we make our final decision. More details on this particular change can be found in an email communication that will be with you shortly.

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It is important not to protect our children entirely from failure

The Winter Olympics have captivated me over the last two weeks and, if it were possible, I am looking forward to our school ski trip even more than before. The margins between success and failure are so small and this has made me think about how we prepare our children as educators and parents.

A stark example of high and low emotion is that of Elise Christie, the outstanding British short track speed skater. In the Olympics of 2014 she crashed or was disqualified in all her races, leading to abuse on social media and even death threats. At the time she wanted to give up on racing entirely and was in a very dark place. She gradually worked her way out of her slump and used the disappointment as a catalyst to become even stronger. This culminated in her astonishing victories at the World Championships where she swept all before her.

 

On to the Olympics this year she was surely destined for greatness and to complete her tale of ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again’. But as I am sure you will have seen her races were as disastrous as those of four years ago, leaving her shattered emotionally and injured. But this time the nation has leapt to support her example of fortitude and she has had nothing but praise for her efforts. Will she give up now? I do not think so and we may even see her in another four years.

It is important that our children are not protected entirely from failure. We discuss this a great deal at the junior school and will always espouse it as a way of succeeding in the future. They need to be aware that life will not always work in the way that they want it to and that this need not be something to hold them back. How we react to disappointment is a mark of our strength.

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Developing courageous young women at PHS will make a difference to the future

There has been much discussion at the junior school over the last two weeks regarding equality and women’s suffrage.

It began with the release of the video which accompanied the rebranding of the GDST. There were several comments in the film about liberating the potential of girls and the part the GDST has played in educating girls to be independent in an age of prejudice towards women. I found myself in an intriguing conversation with Year 6 where I asked if they thought that that we had finally reached a point where men and women were equal. Not one of them believes that we have. This was a view that needed to be explored further. The explanations that were given staggered me in their maturity and rationality of thought; they were not simply

repeating the views of others. One cited television companies where a man and a woman might be sitting next to each other but paid a different amount. Another that women might not be employed due to the fact that she might be having a baby, or that she is not welcomed back into the workplace on level terms when returning from maternity leave. There were several other pertinent points to add into the debate.

With this and the hundred year anniversary of the first women to gain the vote the girls have had much to consider. It is right that they challenge the status quo and from an early age. By developing courageous women we do our part at PHS to make a difference to the future.

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Junior explorers will apply their thinking skills across the curriculum and beyond…

On Monday morning I spoke to the girls about the fact that some people may feel down at this time of year. The exhilaration of Christmas has been and gone, our resolutions are beginning to wane and the weather is cold and wet.

Despite this it was not a doom and gloom assembly, the main theme being one of hope. As a school we are looking forward with enthusiasm to the year ahead and there are lots of exciting things to look forward to.

A new outdoor classroom is being installed in our forest school area in February. Our gardens continue to be developed and this will add another element to an already successful part of the school. It will be a circular structure without walls to offer shelter and shade without losing the feeling of being outside. There will be a hole in the roof for smoke from the fire and it will be built from a seasoned wood that will not rot in the damp weather. The teachers are all looking forward to making use of the space. I would like to

thank the whole school community including parents, PSA and alumnae for their generous contribution towards this project. Extended outdoor learning is just part of a new junior school initiative this year. The PHS Explorers programme will be a focus for all children regardless of age. Staff have been working hard to develop ways of integrating the theme into the curriculum. Our vision is to have a junior school where intellectual curiosity is further developed and where girls enjoy learning through a range of opportunities both inside and outside the classroom. We will ensure that the girls in our school are explorers using thinking skills that apply across the curriculum and beyond into sport, music and drama.

Future updates will expand on how this will be implemented. The programme will build upon our strengths and develop further the opportunities we have here at Dovercourt.

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