Our extensive range of specialisms is crucial for developing ‘the whole child’Children have extensive opportunities to foster their talents and skills in a wide range of activities and subjects. We introduce specialist peripatetic instructors from the outset of the Reception Cycle for music, PE/sports, French and dance. Other prominent subjects like outdoor learning, art, drama, IT or woodwork are taught by our class teachers and overseen by dedicated coordinators.
One of our ultimate aims is to instill in our children a love of being outside, which we hope will last them for their lifetimes. We believe strongly in the benefits of taking the learning outside across all areas of the curriculum, for the children’s physical and emotional wellbeing. But also because children learn differently outdoors.
We like to use nature as our teacher, giving children the chance to explore its many resources – such as leaves and pebbles, but also water, insects, plants and much more – and to learn from them.
We have two outstanding spaces for our outdoor learning: a carefully designed naturalistic garden at our Kindergarten site, and a wild woodland area at our main site.
In summer 2023, we were awarded Gold in the Woodland Trust’s Green Tree Schools Award for our efforts to inspire the children to learn about trees, woods and wildlife.
We are mindful of the children’s substantial physical development during their time with us and therefore put major emphasis on sports and physical education. All children have several sessions each week encompassing gym, dance, individual sports and many team games. Through this broad range of activities, we aim for them to:
- Develop their physical abilities such as coordination, speed, strength and ball skills
- Enjoy fitness and physical exercise, on site and at local facilities
- Appreciate the contribution of physical exercise to a healthy lifestyle
- Discover their sporting talents and passions
- Respect all levels of ability
- Be disciplined as individuals or as part of a team.
Music plays an integral role in our curriculum. The voice is every child’s first instrument, and singing is developed extensively by our Director of Music, who also teaches weekly lessons in the theory and appreciation of music. The children have many opportunities for singing in our play performances, at school-wide events such as our festivals and in assemblies.
Regular recorder lessons are introduced from Year 1 by a specialist teacher, which are frequently taught in half-classes to maximise the children’s progress. In addition, Key Stage 1 pupils can sign up, for a reasonable additional fee, for optional individual piano, cello and violin tuition delivered by excellent peripatetic teachers. This is a popular service through which we arrange to take the pupils out of their timetabled schedule for weekly 30-minute lessons during school hours.
We firmly believe in the advantages of learning foreign languages, especially from an early age. We already introduce French from Pre-Reception because at this age children can pick up the basics of a foreign language effortlessly. It also exposes them to the concept of other languages and stimulates their appreciation of different countries, cultures and communities, hopefully motivating them to pursue learning foreign languages in the future.
In Pre-Reception, children are exposed to the sounds of the French language, through for example singing French nursery rhymes and playing games. From Reception, we take this further and work on children’s understanding of the French language, their listening and speaking skills, and in Year 2 on their writing skills too. Two French lessons per week ensure that the children’s conversational skills and vocabulary continue to build at a steady pace throughout Key Stage 1.
Dance helps children develop not only physically but in all other domain areas. It encourages them to express themselves in different ways and be more creative. It also gives them the freedom to channel their energies and emotions in a safe environment, therefore helping them grow in confidence and self-esteem.
Our dance classes are linked to the topics that the whole school works on each term, ensuring that learning is cohesive and mutually reinforcing.
During the year we create performance opportunities for our children, bringing together drama, music and dance.
We also offer Hip Hop after school clubs for Year 2 children, which are incredibly popular.
Trees are magical. They allow us to broach the crucial subject of sustainability, and help the children to understand and appreciate nature and caring for the environment.
At Herne Hill School, we embrace trees as a rich, natural learning platform. Every class is named after an indigenous species of tree, and at our main site, our two buildings besides the Old Vicarage are also named after trees – Mulberry and Oak.
Most importantly, we are uniquely privileged to have a large, wonderful woodland area at our main site and a naturalistic play (and tree!) garden at our Kindergarten. Both of these nature spaces provide countless cross-curricular outdoor learning opportunities for the children.
We are proud to have been awarded Gold in the Woodland Trust’s Green Tree Schools Award in summer 2023 for our efforts to inspire the children to learn about trees, woods and wildlife.
From the Reception Cycle, we bring technology into the classroom, making it a natural part of everyday life rather than teaching it separately in a computer lab. Although IT will never replace the inspiration and stimulation provided by our teachers, it is a fantastic tool to support learning and help connect with sometimes reluctant learners.
We were early adopters of interactive whiteboards ant large touchscreen computers in all classrooms and make extensive use of online education programmes to complement our teaching. Class sets of iPads and laptops allow for hands-on experience, both working individually and as part of class computing lessons. We also utilise various programmable ‘toys’ and software to provide opportunities for basic coding.
We have a strong tradition of teaching fine art, with pupils from all year groups routinely winning prizes in the annual Independent Schools Association’s competition. In 2022, we won the ISA Award for Excellence and Innovation in Art and Design, something we are extremely proud of.
Fine art is a great way of enhancing young children’s development: it provides them with perseverance, communication and team-work. All children are naturally creative and imaginative, and art is critical in enabling them to develop these gifts and express themselves freely. They use colours, forms, textures, patterns and different materials and processes to communicate what they see, feel and think.
Art is part of everyday school life at Herne Hill School, from mark-making in Kindergarten to recreating famous artists’ painting techniques in Year 2. Children are taught specific skills within a wide range of media and given the freedom to express and advance their own creative ideas.
From Pre-Reception onwards, children also have regular woodwork lessons, where they have the chance to make their own 3D creations and learn how to use tools safely and independently.
Woodwork is unique in its ability to captivate young children’s interests and keep them engrossed for literally hours. It has huge benefits across all areas of their learning as it requires dexterity and strength, problem solving, mathematical and critical thinking skills, as well as, a can-do attitude. It is an engaging, alternative form of creative self-expression for many of our children.
Woodwork also offers children a unique opportunity to manage risk and recognise and assess hazards in a safe, supervised environment. We introduce them to hammers, screwdrivers, drills and saws as they are developmentally ready and feel a sense of empowerment at being trusted to work with real tools. There is something magical about witnessing the Reception Cycle and Key Stage 1 children working on their woodwork projects, on our woodwork benches, in our wonderful woodland area.
‘Drama’ in its many forms like pretending, acting, reciting poetry, miming, etc. is omnipresent at Herne Hill School as it provides for effortless and enjoyable ways to reinforce many skills such as self-expression, imagination, speaking, listening, self-confidence and teamwork.
There are rich role-play corners in every classroom, and from the Reception Cycle the children participate in a carefully thought-out progression of performances including the Pre-Reception Nativity play, the Reception play and the Year 1 and 2 summer play.
Plays are usually written and composed in-house to ensure that they are tailored to every class’ and even child’s needs. In addition, our school wide events such as our Harvest, Christmas and Easter Services provide further performance opportunities.