Monthly Archives: October 2013

Harvest Festival shake up!

The school calendar is an interesting one.  September heralds the beginning of the new school year, with all the excitement and preparation that brings.  Newly polished shoes, full pencil cases and full glue sticks! As we trot into October, the mood is changing.  Just as the leaves on the trees begin to fall so the girls’ energy begins to dwindle a little in the run-up to their half term break. Nevertheless, today – our Harvest Festival – was one day the girls gave not only their energy to but also their time because this year we decided to shake things up a little bit!

In the past, many a Harvest Festival has consisted of a few bags of pasta, tins of soup nearing their sell-by date and perhaps a couple of bars of soap. So often, Harvest gifts are given as an afterthought, something that we don’t need any more or will never use.  However, NOT TODAY.  At Heathfield, our Chapel is full to the brim with gifts for the harvest to be so proud of.  There are piles of toothpaste, shampoo, tea, coffee, baby drinking cups, washing up liquid, rice, tinned vegetables, pulses….

Why the change? Simply because we needed to.  How? Through the kindness and generosity of our parents, girls and staff. Where will our Harvest goods go to?  To local food banks near our school to benefit local families in need on our doorstep.

Let me explain.. Through the generosity of our parents and staff, each girl was given a set amount of money to take to a local supermarket to purchase as much as they were able for a family of four.  All the girls, from First Form to the Upper Sixth have been taken over the weekend in small groups by our wonderful staff to a local supermarket, and the girls chose a selection of products to give as their harvest donation.

Let me be really clear here, this whole activity has been a huge success for our  community.  It is generous but easy for those who have it to give financial donations to charity, however, my girls have given something even more, they also given of their free time and put some thought into what they have bought and, hopefully, taken some time to consider the daily struggles many families face to put food on the table.

As a Headmistress, what they have done makes me proud, and is something that at Heathfield we wish to continue to nurture; selflessness with time.  Many young people today are so wrapped up in social media or computer games, that they are unable or unwilling to give of their own free time.

The girls spent time and put real consideration into ensuring that what they were buying was nutritious, especially as they were also told to buy the best bargains available to them ( useful skills when trying to make a student budget stretch as far as possible)! The willingness to make things a little better for a while for those that are less fortunate than the girls shone through in the way all of the girls approached this Harvest task and in their proud faces at today’s Harvest Festival.

This is a simple and effective way that we, as a Christian community, have found to challenge ourselves a little more, for the benefit of others.  I would recommend this to other Head teachers as a possible activity for the future. It has taught our girls so much about giving, and on many levels.


Parental Choice

Whatever happened to parental choice? This week I have been watching the debate at the HMC Conference (Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference) with interest as its chairman Dr Tim Hands hit back at private education detractors who, he claims, have turned parents into effective ‘social lepers’ for choosing the independent path.

Dr Hands is right when he says that it is ‘illogical’  for parents to be criticised for paying for an independent education for their child or children when it was deemed acceptable for them to buy an expensive home next to a top state school to secure a place.

It is about time someone stood up to the hypocrites who criticise other parents for paying when they themselves have paid by subterfuge by buying a house in the catchment of an excellent state school or sanction those that have simply because ‘at least it is a state school’.

But let’s face it – when some of our top politicians past and present – only pay lip-service to the state sector themselves, no wonder we are straining to hear that chorus of disapproval!

Stand up Messrs Blair and Clegg and others of their ilk for ‘doing the right thing’ by sending their children to state school but not just any state school, of course – one of the most socially-exclusive schools in the UK – far more so than many independent schools – the London Oratory. They and others have just paid lip-service to the pro-state school and anti-independent school brigade by choosing a state school which, let us be blatant, might as well be a private school! And don’t even get me started on Nick Clegg, the ‘atheist’ and anti-faith school politician, and his choice of this Roman Catholic faith school.

Dr Hands’ speech came in the week the independent school sector faced yet further opposition from the Ofsted Chief Inspector of Schools Michael Wilshaw who criticised independent schools for ‘offering crumbs from the table to state schools’.

It has become fashionable in certain sectors of the establishment and the media to knock not just independent schools but also the parents who choose them.

Let’s be candid here – criticism is the last thing such parents should face. As other Heads of independent schools will know, many of the parents who choose to pay do so at great financial sacrifice to themselves because they believe education is the greatest gift they can give their child. These parents should not be attacked; they should be applauded. Parents have a right to choice – whether that is independent or state education – and whichever path they choose – they should be respected for that – well, perhaps unless they start to criticise the opposite camp!