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.
CrossFit Enhances Wellbeing at St Joseph's In The Park
St Joseph's In The Park prep school in Hertingfordbury is leading the way by fully integrating CrossFit into the sports programme, recognising that sport pays a vital role in enhancing children's wellbeing and mental health.
19th October 2021 — Since its inception twenty years ago CrossFit has been a popular form of exercise for people of all ages and fitness levels but is rarely practised in primary schools. It incorporates a variety of forms of physical activity including aerobic exercise, gymnastics and basic weightlifting and helps with all aspects of fitness including strength, flexibility, endurance, speed and stamina. The beauty of CrossFit is that routines can be tailored to suit each individual’s abilities so children can work together but at their own level and pace.
Paul Ross, Assistant Head (Teaching & Learning) and Year 6 teacher has practised CrossFit training for seven years and is a qualified CrossFit trainer. He recognised whilst teaching that not all children were keen on traditional sports like football, rugby, netball or hockey. He introduced CrossFit as a way of engaging all pupils in sports lessons and soon realised that it had huge benefits in terms of wellbeing, boosting confidence in those children who were not so happy on the sports field and less keen on team sports. CrossFit means that they can work as a team but at their own level. Children who were anxious became more engaged in the sports lessons in general and those with special educational needs like autism or dyspraxia particularly benefited from the new skills they learnt in CrossFit training which is all about finding enjoyment in movement and fitness for life. Children who are talented in sports also reap the benefits of CrossFit as it improves their general health and conditioning.
Headmaster Douglas Brown stresses the importance of inclusion and diversity in the curriculum and sees CrossFit as a key part of the Wellbeing initiative which the school has introduced.
“CrossFit has been ground-breaking in terms of helping the less confident children and those with special educational needs. Parents have told me what a huge difference it has made to their self-esteem, fitness, co-ordination and enthusiasm for sport in general. It is important that children learn to take care of their minds as well as their bodies as they have a lot to deal with in the current climate and need to build resilience.”
The school has teamed up with the Talisman Gym in Hertford. Each week a class ventures to the gym and the expert instructors there introduce new skills such as rowing, box jumps, rope climbs, handstand kick ups or skipping. The newly acquired skills are incorporated into a team WOD (work out of the day). This is an opportunity for the children to push themselves and to utilise the all-important team building skills in an environment that promotes confidence and demotes egos, helping the less able children to feel less anxious and to allow them to feel on an equal footing.
Exercise is widely recognised as being beneficial for positive mental health and one of the ways it is thought to boost mood is through the release of endorphins, which are commonly referred to as “feel-good hormones”. CrossFit is an ideal form of exercise for enhancing mood because it includes high-intensity bursts of exercise.
According to Paul Ross “A CrossFit WOD (Workout of the day) can sometimes be challenging. However, the sense of achievement the children get when they overcome these challenges and obstacles can really help to reduce any negative thinking and help build and develop mental strength. There is mounting evidence that CrossFit can help with a good night’s sleep which is known to be good for emotional wellbeing.”
The school places great emphasis on the importance of being active, offering a variety of sports lessons, dance, forest school and extra curricular activities from the age of 3 – 11. The children also learn about healthy eating and living as part of the PSHE lessons and are encouraged to select healthy and nutritionally balanced school meals which are freshly prepared each day by the school cooks. Cookery lessons also enhance the Wellbeing programme.
The Gruffalo surprised and delighted visitors by appearing in the Forest on the Den Day Open Morning at St Joseph's In The Park
29th September 2021 — A Gruffalo made a surprise appearance in the woods at the September Early Years Open Day at St Joseph’s In The Park and visitors enjoyed a morning of fun filled Forest School activities.
The sun shone and many families took advantage of the fine weather and were happy to make the most of the parkland setting and the great outdoors. The Year 6 pupils gave guided tours of the school and teachers ran various activities including den building, story-stelling, forest school art sessions and even marshmallow toasting on the woodland campfire. Families tucked into hot dogs and home-made Gruffalo fairy cakes in the café.
The school has a dedicated Forest School practitioner, John Mould who runs Forest School sessions as a key part of the curriculum, growing from the belief that children learn through discovery, exploration and curiosity. The school is perfectly situated in a parkland setting with a large wooded area. There are huge mental health benefits to outdoor exploration and studies have shown that children do not always learn best solely in the classroom environment. Offering practical and outdoor learning can help keep them stimulated and physically active whilst learning. A study by the Forestry Commission identified positive benefits such as social skills, language and development along with physical skills.
The school places enormous value on outdoor learning and children spend as much time outside and in the fresh air as possible. There is even a dedicated outdoor classroom area with seats and desks. 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. Older children even use equipment such as saws and drills that they would only have access to in secondary education.
Providing opportunities to develop skills in co-operation, communication, problem solving, risk taking, and leadership are all a vital part of development and outdoor learning facilitates this in spades.
Has your child fallen behind with their education? 5 Tips to help them catch up
Parents may be worried that the Covid pandemic and lockdown have caused their child to fall behind in their education, however teachers at St Joseph's In The Park have come up with 5 tips to help them to catch up and succeed.
23rd June 2021 — Many parents naturally have concerns that their child may have fallen behind in their education due to lockdown and are wondering about the continuing impact of the pandemic, but according to Douglas Brown, Headmaster of St Joseph’s In The Park in Hertingfordbury there are strategies to help them catch up and succeed despite challenging circumstances.
“Children thrive when they feel successful and we therefore need to make sure that we find time to fit in the lessons and activities that they really enjoy and that bring out the best in them. Sometimes a drama workshop, swimming session or music lesson is their time to shine and they must be allowed to demonstrate that talent and enjoy sharing it with others. We ensure that the timetable includes a wide variety of opportunities – the arts, sports, practical subjects and extra curricular activities form an important part of the day alongside the traditional academic subjects of English, maths, science and ICT. In my opinion the catch-up initiative which the government recently announced is just dipping a toe in the sea of education.”
“Our outstanding teachers treat each child as an individual and help them to reach their full potential. They want the children to achieve their best and so are willing to go the extra mile. Here are some of their top tips for parents who want to help their children catch up. Positivity is the key:
1. Help children to develop their own character rather than imposing your views on them. Nurture and encourage rather than stifling their inquisitiveness and exploration. Help them to be curious and to be investigative and observant; to notice, discover, learn and understand new things.
2. Encourage children to be independent, open-minded leaners but also to work collaboratively wherever possible. Ultimately this is the best preparation for the world of work where they need to work harmoniously with others.
3. Help children to be persistent and to have the grit and determination to stick with it when situations are challenging so that they develop the self-discipline to re-draft and improve rather than settle for a first attempt at something.
4. Create and maintain a list of daily positives as this is an excellent way to boost self esteem. A list like – I went for a run, helped a friend, completed a project. Keeping a journal is a good way to do this.
5. Exercise is crucial to wellbeing. Keep up a daily routine – even if it is just for 15 minutes a day.
Anyone who is concerned that their child’s education has stalled during lockdown may benefit from exploring what a private school can offer. Most independent schools are welcoming and offer individual tours all year round. Fees can be more affordable than parents realise and a valuable investment for a child’s future, bringing them more confidence and opportunities. The main benefits are:
Smaller class sizes with no mixed year groups
Continuous assessment means that all children should reach their full potential
Children will be taught by high quality, specialist teachers who bring an increased enthusiasm to their lessons
A full and varied curriculum - while some state schools have indicated they may return in September with a restricted range of subjects, private schools provide a full curriculum including Humanities, STEM, Sport, Languages, Music, Art and Drama
Excellent distance learning programme with a normal timetable, live lessons, daily feedback and engagement with teachers and fellow pupils, assemblies and extra curricular activities. Online education is ready to run whenever needed.
“For the third year in a row our Year 6 results at St Joseph’s In The Park have risen. In fact, the number of children making greater than expected progress across all year groups has risen considerably. The vast majority of our children are working above the national average for their age” comments Douglas Brown.
“While we will never move away from our core values of being a child and family-centred school, the changes in our teaching methods are starting to pay dividends. We are proud of the number of children gaining access to leading senior schools along with the number of scholarships achieved. All this during a pandemic and two years of disruption is a great accomplishment.”
Families enjoyed Forest School sessions as the summer term began and Covid restrictions eased.
29th April 2021 — St Joseph’s In The Park school opened its Forest School area to toddlers, parents, grandparents and carers as the Covid lockdown restrictions eased this Spring to run successful free outdoor toddler groups for local families.
“We thought how nice it would be to open up our Forest area for the little ones to explore with their relatives, carers and friends, particularly as they have not been able to socialise with other children in the lockdown period” said Headmaster Douglas Brown.
John Mould the teacher who heads up the Forest School welcomed everyone and encouraged them to explore the outdoor area and initially to walk around, climb safely and to gather sticks and leaves. He has planned a series of activities to sit alongside exploration including finger painting, craft, music and dancing.
He explained how the Forest School ethos is child centred, allowing them to learn through discovery, exploration and curiosity. The school places enormous value on outdoor learning and encourages the children between the ages of three to eleven to get outside to learn in all types of weather and all year round. Children develop early movement skills such as climbing trees safely and begin to manage their own risk in structured lessons. As they grow in confidence they can progress to den building, knot tying, wood cutting and whittling. Children who may lack confidence in a classroom setting often thrive outdoors as a new set of opportunities opens to them. Important life skills such as teamwork, risk management and independent learning are just some of the benefits gained from woodland activities.
Everyone was delighted to be able to get out in the fresh air and to do something a bit different. Some children were a little shy to begin with but soon grew in confidence and the carers said how good it was to see new faces and to have a chance to chat while enjoying the outdoor space.
Celebration of Scholarships and Secondary School Success
The Year 6 class of St Joseph's In The Park have recently celebrated being awarded scholarships and secondary school places at excellent senior schools across the county.
18th March 2021 — St Joseph’s In The Park is pleased to report a very successful year for the Year 6 pupils who have gained entrance into a wide range of independent and state senior schools across Hertfordshire. Five scholarships were awarded: Eden (Academic, Bishop’s Stortford College & Music, Haileybury); Elaine (Music, St Albans High School for Girls); Isla (academic, St Edmund’s College); Kerensa (sports, Mount House). For the third year in a row, the school gained a 100% pass rate for Haileybury which is a great achievement. Children will move on to St Albans High School for Girls, St Edmund’s College, Bishop’s Stortford College, Haileybury, Queenswood, Aldenham, Mount House, Presdales, Gosfield, Broxbourne, Richard Hale, Chauncy, Chancellor’s and the King’s School, Harpenden.
Headmaster Douglas Brown congratulated all the pupils. “The staff are very proud of the children’s achievements and recognise all the hard work they have put in this year. I really believe the scholarships awarded demonstrate that as a school we truly add value to all our pupils and offer an all-round education.”
“It is important for the school to provide a great deal more than just exam success. We are proud to be a non-selective school offering a wide and varied curriculum, enhanced by a diverse and complementary extra-curricular programme which is designed to equip children for the modern and changing world. Pupils are encouraged to develop learning habits; such as curiosity, persistence and independence which will stand them in good stead for future careers. The focus of any curriculum should not simply be on attainment, but on producing confident, well-rounded children who are adaptable and can contribute and have a value in society,” said Douglas Brown.
Lockdown meant that Year 6 could not make the trip to London to visit the Houses of Parliament and have a tour, but Julie Marson MP joined them by Zoom for a lesson to tell them all about UK Parliament.
10th February 2021 — Julie Marson MP for Hertford and Stortford visited the Year 6 class of St Joseph's In The Park via Zoom for an hour long lesson on the 5th February.
The class were due to visit the Houses of Parliament and to have a guided tour which wasn't possible due to lockdown, however Julie Marson gave them a fascinating insight into Parliament and her role as an MP.
The children were interested to hear Julie's story - how she became a Member of Parliament, what it is like to work in the House of Commons and the highlights of her work so far. A Q & A session followed where they had the chance to ask her questions on topics which particularly interested them.
Mrs Marson was elected as MP for Hertford and Stortford in 2019 and told the children that it is a very rewarding and interesting job as she represents her constituents in parliament and tries to help individuals and the community with problems or issues that arise such as flooding, crime, planning, education, health and welfare. She did not come from a political background, her Grandfather was a docker in the East End of London and she was born in Barking and was educated at the local grammar school. After university she had a successful career in the city working in finance. After having her son she ran charities, served as a councillor and then a magistrate which sparked her interest in politics. She wanted to do more for people who had a hard start in life.
She explained that few people watching politics on tv get to see how much cross party work goes on behind the scenes in parliament and in select committees. She sits on the Treasury Select Committee and has interviewed the Chancellor and the Governor of the bank of England.
Mrs Marson gave an in depth introduction to the Houses of Parliament including the history of Westminster Hall and a description of the House of Lords and House of Commons. She explained how the MPs in the House of Commons are all elected and represent their constituents. The House of Lords is the second chamber of UK parliament with around 800 members. The majority are life peers but many members are active in their careers whether in business, culture, science, sports, academia, law, education, health and public service. They bring this knowledge to their role of examining matters of public interest that affect all UK citizens. She described the last state opening of Parliament, where she was lucky enough to be in the right place to see the Queen sitting on the throne in the House of Lords and black rod walking through the corridor.
The Q & A session was very informative. Children asked some searching questions. Here are some examples:
Q: What is it like to work behind the scenes in the building itself?
A: Thousands of people work in the building. Julie has got lost in the corridors and offices but you know when you're in the House of Commons as the carpet is green and in the House of Lords the carpets are red. There is an underground tunnel which connects Portcullis House, the modern office building to the main Palace of Westminster. There are several restaurants, a hairdressers and a gym as the MPs have to live there all day while votes are going on and they need to be within 9 minutes of the Chamber. A division bell begins to clang throughout the Palace when a vote is called and there is a mad rush to reach the voting lobbies.
Q: What has been your toughest moment as an MP?
A: The first time I had to stand in a chamber and ask a question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I was nervous but it turned out well in the end.
Q: Do you feel as though you can make a big impact on the choices the government makes?
A: Yes. MPs do get to advise and give their opinion to government ministers every day and that can make a big difference to legislation.
Q: When will children be able to go back into school?
A: The government and every MP is working hard to get schools and education back to normal for everyone as we know it is very important and a priority.
Q: Do you get a chance to meet well known people?
A: I regularly meet the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers. When Priti Patel the Home Secretary visited Bishop's Stortford to meet the Chief Constable of Herts Police I accompanied her when she met new police recruits on a socially distanced visit.
Q: I am concerned about homeless people, particularly in the light of the pandemic situation. What is the government doing to help them?
A: The government have spent £400 million in 2020 on helping homeless people. Bob Blackman MP has introduced a Homelessness Reduction Act which means that councils now have a legal duty to look after homeless people.
Covid-19 has meant that many more constituents have needed help and advice and have contacted their MP for support. In 2020 her office answered 26,000 emails so they are very busy. Julie is immensely proud of sitting on the bill committees and seeing positive changes this brings for people.
The Year 6 teacher Paul Ross thanked Julie Marson for taking the time out of her busy day to join the class and said how much they had enjoyed finding out about the working life of an MP and how parliament works.
Finding out more
St Mary's Lane, Hertingfordbury, Hertfordshire, SG14 2LX