I can hardly believe that the academic year has almost come to an end! It has been another wonderful year and this last half term has been particularly busy. The weather has been kind to us so we have been able to enjoy Sports Days and the wonderful Summer Fayre organised by the Parents’ Association. Girls in all key stages have taken part in end of year Enrichment trips, visits and activities. I was lucky to be able to join girls in Alice House to see the “My First Ballet” production of “Coppélia” at the Birmingham Royal Ballet. In addition, I spent a week in Andalucía with Year 7 and 8. The girls had a busy and action packed itinerary learning about Spanish culture whilst practising their language skills. Similar language trips were organised to the Loire Valley and Munich as well as the Year 10 History and English trip to the Battlefields of Northern France and Belgium. I would like to thank all the members of staff who were generous of their time, and planned, led and supported all the enrichment activities.
It is with great sadness that we say farewell to two members of staff at the end of this year. After teaching at Saint Martin’s for two years, Mr Cordelle has accepted a position overseas and will continue his teaching career in Dubai. Mrs Gibney, after 22 years’ service has decided to retire. I am certain that there are many “old girls” reading this blog who will still be able to remember their French lessons with Mrs Gibney. She has been a wonderful colleague to many members of staff as well as inspiring girls to continue learning a foreign language. I would like to thank Mrs Gibney and Mr Cordelle for all they have done for Saint Martin’s – we will miss them but wish them well in the future.
In September we welcome two new members of staff to Saint Martin’s. Mr Grove will join to replace Mr Cordelle in Junior School and Miss Platt will join Ms Simmons in the Latin and Classics department. In March we said farewell to Miss Hodgkiss who decided to leave teaching. We were lucky to replace her temporarily with Mrs Howard until we could recruit a permanent Classicist.
As the end of the school year approaches, for many of us our mind turns to the long Summer holidays. The school holidays provide the opportunity for families to spend some quality time together and give the opportunity to travel both within the UK and further afield.
On the topic of travel and holidays, I recently read an article in “The Telegraph” on how holidays allegedly make children happier and smarter. As adults, we countdown to our summer holidays and use them as an opportunity to recharge our batteries. But holidays are also a profoundly beneficial time for children. Parents are focused not on work, but on play, thereby giving their children the prized gift of time. What is less widely known is that holidays can also advance brain development in children. This is because on a family holiday you are exercising two genetically ingrained systems deep in the brain’s limbic area, which can all too easily be “unexercised” in the home. These are the PLAY system and the SEEKING system. The brain’s PLAY system is exercised every time you build sandcastles, play cricket in the park or paddle in the sea. The brain’s SEEKING system is exercised each time you go exploring together: the forest, the beach, a hidden gem of a village.
These brain systems were discovered by Professor Jaak Panksepp, a world-leading neuroscientist at Washington State University. Once your family holiday experiences activate these systems in your brain and your children’s brains, they trigger well-being neurochemicals. Panksepp calls them “nature’s gift to us”. They reduce stress and activate warm, generous feelings towards each other and a lovely sense that all is well in the world. With all the anti-stress aspects of these systems firing, family members get to emotionally refuel.
As a linguist and part time geographer, holidays and travel are really important to me, and so the stimulation of being in new and different places, making links with other areas of interest such as Art, History, Architecture and different cultures fires me up. Holidays are good for the body as well as the mind. The current interest in wellbeing and mindfulness, which is regularly reported in the press and embedded in the pastoral work undertaken here at Saint Martin’s, is an effective way to reduce stress, and manage our feelings, particularly around examination times. It seems to me these areas, wellbeing and mindfulness, are linked: one looks at how our mind works, the other seeks to help us to manage it in the best way possible. And I suppose this is where we come back to my belief in the power of a good holiday.
With that in mind, this Summer I hope that you will be able to spend some quality time with friends and family doing activities that you most enjoy, or have the opportunity to visit new places. The next seven weeks should fill you with positive energy so that you and your daughters are ready and enthusiastic about the next exciting term ahead.
I would like to end this blog with one of my favourite quotations about the benefits of travel and holidays.
Have a wonderful Summer!