St Joseph's in The Park is an IAPS for Girls and Boys aged 3 to 11years in Hertfordshire.
About the school
St Joseph’s In The Park is set in beautiful parkland in the village of Hertingfordbury near Hertford. It is an established independent school with a distinct family ethos, offering a vibrant education to boys and girls between the ages of 3 and 11. The school encourages children to discover, explore, develop and be happy and provides excellent pastoral care. It is special because of the relationships between the people that make up the community: children, parents, past pupils, staff and governors. Our ISI inspection report bears out this belief and judged us to be 'Excellent in all areas'. The school fosters a strong sense of belonging and prides itself on a child-centred approach to education. Learning is fostered in an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect, and within an environment where fear of failure is banished and reinforced by positive learning experiences. The school prepares pupils for their secondary school entrance examinations and secondary education. The children at St Joseph's In the Park achieve great success and leave school full of self-confidence, having developed the courage to discover themselves and most importantly, to be the best they can.
The Headmaster and teachers at St Joseph’s In The Park have been delighted to receive many messages of thanks from parents as remote learning returns in lockdown at the start of 2021.
20th January 2021 — Parents have sent messages of thanks to teachers for a good start to remote learning as the new year begins in lockdown.
“Most of our children will not be on site, but this does not mean that education, teaching and learning stops. The school day continues online. We have a proven virtual learning platform and teachers continue to deliver class lessons, much as a normal school day runs, live via Zoom from home or school. They are committed to providing the best possible learning experience for the pupils with creative, innovative lessons and by sharing best practice,” comments Douglas Brown who has received emails from grateful parents.
The school introduced a custom-tailored distance learning strategy in response to the first lockdown and is now using Google Classrooms as a learning platform for Years 1 – 6 to ensure continuity of education and to deliver innovative and engaging lessons. This virtual learning experience essentially replicates real school online and children can follow a normal timetable with lessons delivered face to face using Zoom. Children all have a live Zoom maths and English lesson each day. They have regular assemblies which the Headmaster pre-records and they also join in a collective worship on google classrooms with videos recorded by Reverend Stewart or Tracey Plumpton from the St Mary’s Church team in Hertingfordbury. Reception children have a weekly booklet of varied tasks and are following their timetable with daily Zoom lessons and a mix of home learning tasks to help bring the valuable practical aspects of Early year teaching into their homes. They also enjoy a daily story time with their classmates.
Each week a child from each class is nominated by their teacher to receive the Headmaster’s Award for outstanding work or for their positive attitude to online learning. Certificates are emailed home to the recipients each week. Music lessons continue virtually with peripatetic music teachers on a variety of instruments including piano, drums, guitar, brass, woodwind and violin. House competitions continue with the Headmaster’s ‘Lockdown Challenges’. Loyola, McAuley and Benet will try to win the John O’ Groats to Land’s End House challenge which encourages children to run, walk or ride their bike, record their distance and share with the class teacher. The whole school has 14 days to travel 874 miles from the top to the bottom of the United Kingdom. CrossFit and exercise sessions are enjoyed by all age groups.
Parents have commented on how they like the clear, simple and calm approach the teachers have taken. Class teachers collaborate with the children, assisting them to become independent learners and to take the responsibility for learning at their own pace. The use of technology helps to broaden the curriculum and helps children to explore new areas, to navigate and gather information.
The school remains open to children of key workers and the Kindergarten and Nursery department remains open as normal with the dedicated catering team still working hard and cooking delicious meals each day.
Thanks from Parents – Remote Learning
“We just wanted to say thank you for ensuring such a quick and smooth transition back to remote learning. Our daughter is really enjoying it and she has a real sense of control over her work…… Great for her and us!
“Although this term has been somewhat different to the norm, I am so thankful for your support and thank the teachers for making all the children enjoy school as much as they do. So very proud of how the school days have been structured and maintained throughout this time.”
“Dear Mr Brown and staff, I wanted to say what an amazing job you are doing, school communications have been clear, non alarmist and factual. Thank you for keeping the kids happy, safe and calm, teachers…… You and your staff always do a fabulous job, but especially at this time I wanted to say it is appreciated.”
“Mr Brown – thank you for keeping the children/school in a safe environment. The letters and updates that you have sent have been amazing. So much to keep on top of and these just make my life so much easier, knowing what is going on and coming up in the near future.”
“Thank you for sending the Headmaster’s award through. My son was so proud to receive it and it genuinely made the whole family’s day! Thank you to Mr Brown and all the teaching staff. Year 4 and Year 2 have had an amazing start to this term in challenging times. The thought, effort, patience and kindness from the teaching staff has been incredible – it’s hugely appreciated.”
“Please pass on our thanks to everyone involved in making such a special memory. Considering all the difficulties with Covid in 2020, we weren’t expecting a play at all, so to be able to join in remotely was just lovely and hugely appreciated.”
“I think you as Headmaster and all your staff are all doing a wonderful job at trying to keep our children as safe as possible. You all put yourselves at risk every day and have to go home to your families and I can appreciate that this is not an easy time for you all. We would just like to say a huge thank you to you and all the staff at St Joseph’s for all you are doing as well as all you have done since this all started.”
“Just a quick note to say how incredibly impressed at how you and your team have dealt with this chaotic time. My daughter has been calm, she has understood and not been upset with the changes made. This is down to you and her teachers at St Joseph’s In The Park.”
Teachers' Top Tips for Parents When Children are Remote Learning:
1. Create a space for everyone
Sharing the same space is never easy. Try and let older children have their own space, especially if you are also working from home and have telephone calls and meetings all day. Together, work out the most comfortable and quiet space for your child to take part in online learning and then let them take ownership.
2. Be kind to yourself
Incorporate self-kindness into your learning schedule. Parents and children should organise a timetable and structure your day so that you have specific slots every day for eating (maybe even together), exercise, staying connected and just relaxing. Resist the urge to feel that you should be working every minute of the day.
3. Eyes Down
When you are not involved in focusing your eyes at ‘online’ screen lessons, give your peepers a rest. Resist crashing out in front of the TV or reaching out for the games console. Instead, look ahead, notice the world outside your window, strengthen your eye muscles with simple exercises and let those eyes truly have ‘downtime’.
Keep a routine and schedule small breaks throughout the day.
Get outside for some exercise if possible, or if the weather is really bad exercise indoors, even dancing is great to do.
6. Focus on Relationships
Research shows that children will work hard for their teachers, be cooperative and follow rules and routines if they perceive parents to be supportive and caring.
7. Stay Positive
Children look to their parents to figure out how to react to new or intimidating situations so try to stay positive about distance learning. If a parent is enthusiastic about online learning, then the children will be more excited and motivated.
A Creative and Magical Christmas at St Joseph's In The Park
The Headmaster and teachers at St Joseph's In The Park adapted the Christmas celebrations so that children and parents could still enjoy the festive season despite Covid restrictions.
10th December 2020 — Parents and Grandparents at St Joseph's In the Park were still able to watch their children perform the traditional Christmas nativity. They joined the pre-school performance via Zoom in the classroom and the infant parents could watch their children on stage from the comfort and safety of home. The little ones could see their parents and grandparents join them on the screen in the classroom and occasionally couldn't resist a little wave mid performance. Each nativity was also filmed for the parents to download.
The traditional carol service moved outdoors from the usual parish church to a magical 'Carols by Candlelight' service in the school's woodland forest school setting, all lit by tea lights.
Children and staff also took part in a charity fundraising Christmas jumper day and raised over £1,250 for Save The Children. GSK have kindly matched this sum and made the total over £2,500. The school also donated new toys and presents for the Salvation Army's Christmas appeal which were delivered to the Salvation Army church in Welwyn Garden City and will be distributed to children who might not otherwise receive a Christmas gift.
The Headmaster Douglas Brown said that he was pleased that the teachers had been able to adapt the Christmas celebrations so that children and parents could still enjoy the festive season despite the Covid restrictions. "Thanks to the hard work, dedication and commitment of the staff, we have kept the school days as normal as possible for children and parents and we have enjoyed the magic of Christmas at the end of term."
The Reception Class of St Joseph's In The Park held a splendid Pre-Wedding Reception for their teacher and Head of Early Years Miss Ruth O'Brien.
15th October 2020 — Miss O'Brien has had to re-arrange and downscale her wedding plans seven times due to the Covid-19 pandemic so this was a wonderful surprise. She was even more delighted when her husband-to-be arrived to join in the celebrations.
Ruth O'Brien has worked at the school in Hertingfordbury for three years, and is marrying Sam Jack on Saturday 24th October. Sam is a medically retired veteran of the 33 EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) Royal Engineers who suffered a serious head injury and lost his right eye after taking a ricocheted bullet to the head in 2009 in Afghanistan. Sam was in the army for 3 years and then spent two years rehabilitating. He has done a lot for charity, particularly Help for Heroes who supported him on his long road to recovery.
The children wore their smart clothes and each brought a flower to make up a bouquet for their teacher. They enjoyed a feast, a game of Mr & Mrs, then watched Ruth and Sam cut a splendid cake and take to the dance floor for their first dance. The children joined in with the dancing and even had a disco and some formal wedding photographs. They made cucumber sandwiches for afternoon tea and enjoyed balloon games to round off the day. Headmaster Douglas Brown presented the couple with a card and gift from the school and wished them well for the upcoming wedding day.
Virtual Learning - How St Joseph's In The Park Responded to Covid-19
Headmaster Douglas Brown introduced a custom-tailored distance learning strategy at St Joseph's In The Park in response to the first lockdown and has now created a virtual learning platform in order to navigate the uncertainty surrounding Covid-19
6th October 2020 — The school was quick to plan in order to continue to give the best possible outcomes for children and over the Easter holidays staff accepted the challenge by setting up learning platforms to engage children in a broad and diverse curriculum. Additionally, the situation gave teachers the opportunity to teach small groups of children and to really cater for their individual learning. In the younger years teachers continued to hear children read one-to-one. The children also benefitted from a plethora of activities to stimulate their independent learning and they responded enthusiastically to the increased creativity allowed by thinking 'outside the box' to produce films and models or to send videos of their 'thinking' (especially in Maths) to showcase their learning. Examples of the wonderful learning taking place were then shared through class blogs so that peers and family did not miss out and were able to praise and encourage their ideas. Parents also reported an increase in their child's organisational and ICT skills as they had to manage their workload and upload their completed work.
Importantly, the platform also allowed direct communication with families and enabled teaching staff to support them during this difficult time or to draw attention to some aspect of their child's learning or to just give them an immediate, gentle reminder that their lesson had started on Zoom!
During lockdown classes prepared assemblies to deliver to the whole school as normal or the Headmaster led an assembly via YouTube. Even staff took part in their own short videos to highlight that, despite such unprecedented times, we could all still have 'fun'. Early Years even held their own virtual Sports Day! One-to-one peripatetic music lessons continued during lockdown for children learning the violin, piano, woodwind, brass instruments, drums and for singing lessons. Children were set fun music challenges such as to play their instrument blindfolded, balancing a book on their head or playing upside-down. Older children recorded their Stomp style rhythmic composition which was then merged to made a big class stomp. Younger children made their own instruments. Extra-curricular activities were not ignored. As well as posting daily challenges the school set up clubs to encourage the children to learn new skills and to develop existing ones. Clubs encompassed fitness, art, Lego, STEM and photography.
Throughout this time the staff team supported each other and collaborated on providing the best possible learning experience for the pupils. They have risen to the challenge and been creative, innovative and shared best practice.
The school is now using Google Classrooms as a learning platform for Years 1-6 to ensure continuity of education and to deliver innovative and engaging lessons as we navigate the current uncertainty. This virtual learning experience essentially replicates real school online and, when needed, children can follow a normal timetable with lessons delivered face to face using Zoom.
The day begins with registration and may start with an assembly. Whilst the children in Early Years may enjoy story time, older children have the chance to watch lively, age appropriate science experiments via Zoom. Crossfit sports lessons are also included in the timetable. Collective worship continues to be delivered by the local church team ministry each week via a short film. Speakers from local charities such as SafeSpace and The Diana Award Anti-Bullying Campaign have also produced video footage to be streamed to our individual classes.
The Headmaster has worked with Jane Simister, an educational expert who promotes intellectual character and independent thinking and the staff have benefitted from inset and continuing professional development run by Jane. He believes that it is important for children to be aware of the demands of the world that we live in to help them cope should they be faced with a 'panic' situation. This approach has proved more important than ever in the current pandemic situation and helped children to be independent learners, allowing them to solve problems for themselves rather than relying on others or adults to do the work for them.
The school continues to embed learning habits in the curriculum in order to build a 'growth mindset'. Five key learning habits - Flexibility of mind, persistence, reflectiveness, curiosity and good judgement help the children to think outside the box and explore their creativity, demonstrate a thirst for knowledge and have the freedom to make mistakes and adapt accordingly.
St Joseph's In The Park Appoints New Forest School Practitioner
John Mould joins St Joseph's In The Park to head up the Forest School. He believes learning in the great outdoors reaps huge rewards for children and that they learn through discovery, exploration and curiosity.
24th September 2020 — A new Forest School practitioner and Year 1 teacher has been appointed by St Joseph's In The Park. John Mould comes from Woolenwick Infant & Nursery School. He believes there are huge mental health benefits to outdoor learning. "The world outside the classroom offers a wonderful opportunity to play and learn in a stimulating environment and helps children to gain knowledge and understanding of the environment, sustainable living and the eco-system they live in."
As a qualified Forest School practitioner it is his aim to ensure that the varied natural resources in the school woodland are used to stimulate creative thinking, problem solving and skill development from an early age. Forest School takes a key role in the curriculum and the school places enormous value on the children being able to spend as much time outside and in the fresh air as possible. The school is fortunate to have woodland areas and extensive grounds in a parkland setting. Starting from Nursery and Reception age, the children's minds are ready to be 'flooded' with experiences that just cannot be taught in the classroom. The children learn early movement skills such as climbing trees safely and managing their own risk, whilst progressing up to lighting fires, roasting marshmallows, den building, knot tying, wood cutting and whittling. They can even use equipment such as saws and drills that in some cases, children would only access in secondary education.
"Studies have shown that children do not always learn best solely in the classroom environment and offering practical and outdoor learning can help keep them stimulated and physically active while learning." A study by the Forestry Commission identified positive benefits such as social skills, language and development along with physical skills.
"Providing opportunities to develop skills in co-operation, communication, problem solving, risk taking and leadership are all part of a child's development and outdoor learning facilitates this in spades," concludes John Mould.
A Special Prize Giving Event Thanks to Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE
Baroness Floella Benjamin made Prize Giving extra special for the pupils of St Joseph's In The Park this summer.
11th July 2019 — The children of St Joseph’s In The Park enjoyed a heart-warming and inspiring Prize Giving ceremony with a twist thanks to Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE. Floella used her acting skills, singing talent and natural warmth and generosity to make the event a very special day for pupils and parents. Each child who received a prize also received a ‘Floella hug’ – an uplifting change from the traditional handshake.
Baroness Benjamin told the children about her life lesson 3Cs - Consideration, Contentment and Confidence. If they can be considerate to others, content with life and have confidence in themselves and their abilities this will help them throughout their lives.
She explained how she had experienced bullying and discrimination in her early life and how the 3Cs had helped her to overcome difficulties and to achieve success and happiness. She used her considerable acting skills to tell the story of The Three Little Pigs. “Never do things by half and always do the best you can just as the clever bricklaying pig did.” She finished with a moving performance of the song ‘Smile’, composed by Charlie Chaplin, which also had a powerful message for children and parents.
Baroness Benjamin is Trinidadian-British and well known as the presenter of Play School and Play Away. She is an actress, author, broadcaster and parliamentarian who was made a life peer in 2010, has a strong interest in primary education and supports many charities. Headmaster Douglas Brown thanked Floella and said that it had been a truly memorable and inspiring day for the whole school.
Finding out more
St Mary's Lane, Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire, SG14 2LX