Newsletter: 22nd March 2016

This has been a busy term – every term seems busier than before – so much is crammed into every week.  I spoke to a reduced number in prize-giving last Friday, not just because some had fallen prey to ‘sick bugs’ but because we have 25 children on tour in South Africa.  Another 39 are off on the School ski trip this week.

But we like ‘busyness’ when it is the by-product of our attempt to maintain a truly broad curriculum that offers the opportunity to recognise talents in all children at Cumnor.  All the academic subjects that Common Entrance will eventually examine: English, Maths, Science, History, Geography, French, Latin, RS and then DT, IT, Drama, Music, Art, PE, Swimming, Games, Dance and then all those Occupations as well.  A chance, we trust, for everyone to shine somewhere.  We follow up this idea of breadth of curriculum, activity and occupation with offering access to a huge range of senior schools – all with slightly varying situations, emphases and opportunities.  Each school creates its own community within which children are able to develop further.

During the course of this term, several parents have been to see me with concerns about their children’s use of social media, for example, is it appropriate that a child of prep school age should have an Instagram account and, if they do, how do you regulate their use of it?  Well, the answer to this and many more questions can be gained through attending one of our regular seminars held by Karl Hopwood of e-Safety and his details are as follows:

The most recent awards have been Sienna K’s Academic Scholarship to Wellington, Lucy and Madeleine A’s Eric Abbotts sports awards to Cranleigh, Alice M’s Millennium Scholarship to Brighton College, and Henry C’s sports scholarship, also to Brighton.  Then on the very final day of term we also heard of TJ M’s success at Ardingly in gaining an Ashdown Leadership Award and Reggie C., also at Ardingly, being given a Headmaster’s Award.  There are still a good clutch of academic and non-academic scholarships to be finalised next term but already we are matching our all-time record number won in a single year which once again shows the depth of ambition for and of Cumnor children.

So much of this term has been punctuated by the dreaded Y6 or Y7 pre-tests taking up children’s time and causing anxiety to children, staff and parents alike.  You will be aware that I am currently crusading to encourage public schools to bring pre-tests together into a single time in one particular term and indeed to standardise the test used so that one shot of information can, with suitable contacts, be used for any and all schools.

We had some Year 8s absent on Friday spending their ‘acclimatisation days’ at Hurst and at Tonbridge.  Brilliant.  We also had another 10 off for a pre-assessment at a senior school in Year 6.  This is not so brilliant.  They have already done a computerised pre-test and had written reports on their progress and potential.  Now they are having more tests to decide whether they can try Common Entrance – another test which may be failed – in Year 8.  The pre-tests that have been done, this term and last, have eaten into teaching time, promoted anxiety and even paranoia and have told us nothing we didn’t already know about the present achievement or future potential of the children involved!

Testing is necessary – it is needed to make sure we are meeting children’s needs and to help us plan how they can improve but their time at Cumnor should not be broken up 2/3rds of the way through with a whole string of tests that have nothing to do with a broad curriculum and which are then used to judge their worth!

I believe that the quality of the daily educational experience across such a broad canvas as Cumnor offers, with a quality of relationship between teacher and learner that leads to enjoyment and trust, is a far more important thing to spend time on than standardised tests.  We want deep learning over a period of time that promotes character – resilience, patience, perseverance, and consideration for others – we want the chance to know children thoroughly and to support them totally – and to be able to put the verbal or non-verbal reasoning scores into a context.  Children are not numbers – they are individuals – each different, each talented in their own way, and we think the world of them all.

A final reminder that we are running Easter sports camps for children from Years 3 – 8 for athletics, cricket and rounders on various dates from 5th-13th April.  Please visit to sign up before 1st April.  If any Prep School children would like to keep their mouthguards, please could they collect them from Mr Millard?

The Kalendar for the Summer term is available on the school website If you require a hard copy of the Kalendar, please apply to the School Office at the beginning of next term.  Please note one change in the Kalendar, namely that the Pre-Prep will not be doing Dance &Wiggle on Friday 24th June as this will now become part of their Olympic Day.

Next term, we will be celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 90th birthday with a “Déjeuner sur l’Herbe” at Cumnor.  The Queen’s real birthday is on 21st April but her official birthday is on Saturday 11th June.  The most obvious date for our celebrations here is Friday 10th June, and each child will be given a special Cumnor medallion to mark the occasion.

As we draw this particular term to a close, I am delighted to be able to say that the Governing body has given its final approval for the launch of our Cumnor Foundation and, even as you read this, local primary schools will be receiving full details of our two Foundation Scholarships being offered to Year 4 children in September 2016. Further information can be found on our website at this link  This is tremendously exciting and is bluntly an attempt to offer a range of opportunity to families, who are normally straightforwardly excluded by financial means, on a greater scale than I am aware of any other prep school being able to offer, linked as we are into the promise of the Cumnor education flowing straight through into one of our public school partners.

Belinda joins me in wishing you all a peaceful holiday and a very Happy Easter!





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