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First page of the PDF file: PLAYposterMay
The Fabulous St John's Cob Oven!

Over the past few weeks all of our children have been hard at work building an absolutely fabulous addition to our outdoor classroom - a cob oven. 'Cob' is a building material made of clay subsoil, aggregate and straw or dung. It is mixed (or puddled) with feet, and built by hand. In essence it is unfired brick - or rather brick is fired cob. In the Americas they call it 'adobe'. In Wales it is the onomatopoeic 'clum'.

On hand to lend his expertise was Matthew Lloyd of the Fabulous Cob Oven Company, who demonstrated how, with a few accessories and the odd recycled wine bottle or 30, something both beautiful and functional can be brought forth from the earth. Adorned with the glorious face of the St John's lion, this stunning structure can now be used to stone-bake pizzas and an array of other yummy food!




Roaming Reptiles!


Pre-Prep had a wonderful visit from Roaming Reptiles, where they held everything from corn snakes to scorpions, skinks and even a bearded dragon called Adam! We were very impressed at how brave they all were, and they learnt so much about these amazing creatures by meeting them in real life.

Earth Day 2022

Earth Day is an important event held every April to demonstrate support for environmental protection. Here at Dean Close St John's, the whole school have spent the day discovering, discussing and demonstrating the impact we have on the Earth - and what changes we can make for the better.

Pupils from Kindergarten up to Year 8 discussed a range of topics, including transport, food (where it comes from and how it's packaged), how and what we can change, and what pledge we will make as a school.



Pupils ranked different types of transport in order of what produces the least carbon emissions, and looked at how transport has changed over time. They discussed how they might be able to change their transportation habits to emit less carbon and be more environmentally friendly.


The impact of food

The children discussed the types of food they like to eat and how far they thought it might have travelled to our shelves. They had fun sorting a bag of shopping into distance travelled and were amazed at how far the whole bag of products had come (in case you're wondering, it's over 8000 miles!). They also learned about different forms of packaging, and the environmental impact that these can have. Plenty of food for thought when they next help with the shopping.


What can/will we change?

Pupils looked at other ways in which human behaviour impacts the planet - including destruction of habitats, deforestation, over-fishing and unsustainable use of the earth's resources. They made impactful posters on the changes people can make to help the planet, such as walking & cycling more, buying locally produced food, choosing products with less packaging, avoiding single use plastics, and going on holiday closer to home.


The Dean Close St John's Pledge

With all that they had learnt in mind, the children discussed in groups the three things that they think we can commit to as a school, which we know will make a difference to the environment. Watch this space for the Dean Close St John's Earth Day Pledge, which will be announced next week!





Sport in the Community


We are really excited to announce our new Sport in the Community initiative at St John’s. This will be led by Elliot Cracknell, who takes a lead role in Sport at St John's, which also includes the children’s physical, mental and social well-being.

We will be offering FREE sport sessions to all local children in Chepstow and the surrounding areas, inviting them to take part in what promises to be a fun-filled experience across many different sports and activities.

Each session will be dedicated to different ages and will involve different sports each week, allowing the children to sample a wide range of skills. All parents need to do is keep an eye on our social media for the timetable which will be announced every four weeks, contact Mr Cracknell to book your place (before all availability gets taken) and then turn up for the session which will run from 4.45pm – 5.45pm on Tuesdays of next academic term.

It promises to be an excellent experience and we hope you look forward to joining us. A special thank you to all the local businesses who have contributed towards this initiative, allowing it to happen. Due to their support, every child will receive a free t-shirt on arrival at their first session with us.

Hayesgate Osteopathic Clinic Chepstow

Moon & Co

Breakfast & Brunch

Chepstow Books & Gifts

Toytastik Toy & Children's Clothing Shop

Château Bonbon Chepstow

Starways Self Storage

Crown Estate & Letting Agents

Trims Town Gate Butchery

Café on The Hill Tutshill

Pig and Pip

The Chepstow Craft Collective

Apex Drilling Services

Small Furry Pet Holidays

St Tewdrics House

Catherine Gray Flowers

Planting for the future

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” 

The whole school got together for Flourishing Friday to plant 60 tree saplings, kindly donated by the Woodland Trust. Under gloriously sunny skies and armed with watering cans, smiles and muddy hands, pupils brought a tiny woodland into being. In a decade or so this small patch of school grounds, overlooking the River Wye, will be a flourishing copse of rowan, wild cherry and silver birch - under which many more generations of St Johnians will sit.


Zimbe! at Tewkesbury Abbey

A full Tewkesbury Abbey was treated to a wonderful concert presented by Dean Close Foundation on Saturday evening.  

The majority of the evening was dedicated to a performance of Alexander L’Estrange’s Zimbe! – a cantata which fuses African song and jazz. Dominic Franks, Director of Music at DCS, said “the aims of the performance are to promote community cohesion and collaboration across the Dean Close Foundation, through the power of collective singing, after a difficult two years”. Community we saw plenty of, as DCS Chapel Choir were joined by the Dean Close Choral Society and an invited Chamber Choir. Parents, students, teachers, friends of Dean Close, two school Headteachers and the warden were littered throughout the choir.  There was also a 70 strong children’s choir, made from the Dean Close Prep Senior Choir, the choir from Dean Close St John’s and the Tewkesbury Abbey Schola Cantorum. Accompanied by a wonderful 5 piece jazz ensemble, led by Dominic Franks on the saxophone and conducted by Simon Bell, Director of Choral Music, the African melodies from across the continent fused into our hearts as we sang about love, marriage, death, religion and freedom.  

The children’s chorus, decked out in Zimbe! t-shirts danced and clapped their way through with huge exuberance and lively tuneful singing, whilst the changes in emotion and rapture were superbly handled by the massed choirs. It was a wonderful feeling to take part and be part of something big and truly memorable, whilst audience members described the performance as “uplifting” and “simply sensational”.   

Other performances were given by the Dean Close School Orchestra, performing Bizet’s Farandole and Faure’s Pavane. The Sinfonia gave an accomplished performance of Brahms’ Hungarian Dance, before being joined by Upper Sixth Music Scholar Oscar Jack, to perform the beautiful second movement of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, to rapturous applause.   DCS Close Harmony also performed an arrangement of Everywhere echoing around the Abbey.  

This was a true evening of community cohesion with families and friends from across the Foundation coming together in performance and in the audience and we look forward to other opportunities to bring the Foundation together. 

Year 5 visit the mosque



Year 5 visited the Masjid E Noor mosque in Gloucester as part of their current study of Islam in Religious Studies lessons.  Imam Hassan taught the children all about the five pillars of Islam, the mosque, prayer (salah) and the washing ritual (wudu) performed before prayer. The pupils enjoyed trying on typical clothing worn by Muslims and practised the washing ritual too. It was a brilliant trip and the pupils really enjoyed finding out more about Islam.



The animals went in two by two

Kindergarten and Reception had an absolutely wonderful trip to Noah's Ark Zoo yesterday. In the morning, the children saw monkeys, birds, crocodile, lemurs, tortoises, meerkats, farm animals and pets.


They then explored the different layers of the rainforest, and were fascinated to learn that it takes a raindrop 10 mins to drop down from the emergent layer down to the forest floor. They worked together on a sorting activity where they matched different animals into the right layer of the rainforest to see where they live. They even met and got to hold some real life rainforest animals, and were all incredibly brave. They not only met a royal python, but also some hissing cockroaches who had very sticky legs! 


After a lovely packed lunch, they went to see the bigger animals and met elephants, lions, camels, capybara, giant tortoise, water buffalo and rhinos. Then, as a treat for being such excellent listeners and explorers, they enjoyed an hour in the soft play. Even Mrs Thrower and Miss Hennessey went down the slide!

What a dazzling start to Early Years' rainforest & jungle topic. Well done Kindergarten and Reception!

World Book Day 2022


World Book Day is always a treat at Dean Close St John's - we love seeing what our pupils come dressed up as and hearing all about their favourite books. This year our Pre-Prep pupils have made an amazing effort. They spoke so clearly and confidently in assembly, explaining what characters they dressed as and why they love their chosen books. It's clear that they have already developed a passion for reading (and being read to) that will set them in good stead as they move through school and beyond.


It's not just about dressing up - World Book Day has been going strong for over 25 years, changing lives through a love of books and shared reading. Today has been full of activities to celebrate books and authors, and encourage our young people to discover the pleasure of reading. Pupils have written poetry and stories, read lots of books and even interacted with the one and only MC Grammar!

  • Books
  • Reading
  • World Book Day
Save Our Seas!


Kindergarten have been exploring plastic pollution. After watching 'A Whale's Tale' - in which a whale helps smaller sea creatures who are trapped in plastic waste - the children discussed how the school could help to protect the animals living in the sea. They decided to go on a litter pick and could not believe how much litter they found. 


As a class they explored the effects of plastic on animals using their small world toys and, that afternoon, sorted rubbish from recycling. The children now plan to make posters to let everyone know about how harmful plastic waste can be. Well done Kindergarten!



Wellbeing Day

The whole school enjoyed a fun-packed and informative day of activities and workshops as part of Wellbeing Day. It kicked off in suitable style with an incredible circus performance from Lucas Jet, who wowed pupils and teachers alike with juggling, unicycling and amazing acrobatics before running a series of circus skills workshops throughout the day.


To experience the joy of doing a good deed without expecting anything in return, pupils from Prep-Prep to Year 8 ran a carwash café. Parents booked their cars in to be washed by the children, whilst they enjoyed coffee and cake in the Embassy. An unsuprisingly popular event!



The children also took part in laughter-yoga, music, art and internet-safety sessions to learn skills to keep them connected, mindful and safe.


Top Brass


Years 3 and 4 enjoyed a loud and fascinating day learning about all things brass, with Paul Mclaughlin of Brass Bands England. Paul engaged the children in music making by demonstrating a wide variety of brass instruments, before they all got to try out trumpet-playing for themselves!





Under the sea!


Kindergarten & Reception had a wonderful trip Bristol Aquarium. They loved going out on an adventure and riding in the minibuses.

At the aquarium, they had a tour and chat from Annie who talked to them all about the different fish and habitats that they live in. They met Mr Octopus, seahorses, turtles and even a massive eel!


The children explored all of the different tanks, spotting amazing fish everywhere they went. The children saw Nemo (a clown fish) and Dory (a blue tang) in the coral reef, they got to feed the stingrays at the Bay of Rays enclosure and even saw sharks! 


Making faces in the woods



Today our Early Years pupils made clay dragon or lion faces on the trees to tie in with Chinese New Year celebrations. The children worked with a partner and collected natural items from all around our forest school area to decorate their clay artwork with. We think they look absolutely magical!


Full STEAM ahead!


This term has launched with an array of STEAM activities for our Boarders. A trip to Bristol’s 'We The Curious' was a brilliant opportunity to see science in action. Back at the Boarding House, they explored motion and mechanisms with hot wheels cars, invented a ball rolling game on the pool table and were amazed at how high they could make a stomp rocket fly.


Last week’s Year 5/6 Science fair inspired our new Houseparents to buy electrical circuit materials for the boarders and these boys got straight to business connecting batteries to lights, adding switches and generally testing out the kits - experimenting with brightness and working out best solutions to meet needs.

Making the news

Year 8 showed off their artistic side in English when they produced some wonderful Blackout Poems. Inspired by the work of American Author Austin Kleon, the pupils ‘found’ words in newspaper articles and headlines and used them to form the basis of their work. Try it yourself – all you need is a newspaper, a pencil, a black marker pen and a dash of inspiration!


Junior Choir sing for their cuppa
Our wonderful Junior Choir brought some Christmas cheer to Castleford House Care Home with their recording of The Brussels Sprouts Blues, and all got to enjoy a lovely cup of hot chocolate after a fabulous performance. 
St John's Take Silver at Year 5 Maths Challenge


This year’s Year 5 Maths Challenge saw 16 different schools compete at Bristol Grammar School.  80 pupils (that’s 40 teams of 2) took part in the annual challenge run by Douglas Buchanan. St John’s entered 3 teams made up of Tom Billiald, Finlay Hillman, Eilidh Matthews, Sam Mott, Madeleine Voyce and Jack Ward. There were 6 different challenges in total, testing numeracy, problem solving and spacial ability. Dean Close St John’s boys Tom Billiald and Sam Mott finished 2nd, with the other St John’s teams finishing 13th and 29th. Which adds up to a fantastic effort all round!

New Beginnings


We are delighted to announce that Dean Close St John’s has a new Deputy Headmaster in place. Mr Philip Richardson will be joining St John’s from The Elms School in Herefordshire. Philip has been there for the last four years as Head of Safeguarding, Head of History and Head of Boys’ Games. Prior to that, he taught for a number of years at a prep school in Kenya, where he was the Deputy Head of Co-Curricular Activities, alongside being Director of Sport and the Houseparent of a junior boys’ boarding house. 

Phil comes with a huge amount of experience, both inside and outside of the classroom. He is a talented sportsman, having played both hockey and cricket to an excellent standard. He has taught across the prep school age range, managing the History department at The Elms, as well as teaching to scholarship level. He also completed a Masters in Educational Leadership in 2020.

Phil and his wife, Emily, will also be taking over the boarding house in January 2022 and will bring their experience and care to ensure that the house continues to be a home-from-home for all our boarders.

Headmaster Mr Nick Thrower says, “We are thrilled to welcome Philip and Emily Richardson to our school community. Phil is the new Deputy Head of Dean Close St John’s and joins us from The Elms, a similar sized prep school in Herefordshire. He brings with him a wealth of experience on a number of fronts.

His wife, Emily, will be our Head of Boarding and as a couple they will provide a warm and welcoming family atmosphere in which our boarding community will continue to thrive. Their arrival further strengthens the strong staff team at DCSJ and will allow us to develop our boarding opportunities for the children over the coming months.”

Mr Philip Richardson says, “We are delighted to be joining the DCSJ family. The school has a reputation for producing children who flourish and who embrace every opportunity they are given, but who are kind and well-mannered. This has been reflected in the warm welcome my family and I have been given by both pupils and staff. I am looking forward to working with Nick Thrower and our staff to build on the huge amount that DCSJ already offers its pupils, add some fresh ideas and contribute to an exciting future for the school.

Mrs Emily Richardson says, “I'm delighted to have started the post here at DCSJ and look forward to meeting more pupils and strengthening the boarding provision. I would love to see more children take up flexi-boarding to enjoy the fun and overall experience of boarding at St John's. 

I am a trained teacher of 15 years and have taught in Kenya and the UK. I have been Houseparent to both a boys' and a girls' boarding house previously and I look forward to using all my experience in this exciting role.”

Equestrian Success for Lara


Riders from Dean Close and Dean Close St John’s, came together to ride as one Foundation Team at the NSEA Grass Roots Dressage qualifier at Kings Equestrian. Fenella Cradock yr6, Nancy Mort 5yr, Beatrice Cradock yr3 joined by Lara Bennett yr5 from Dean Close St Johns, all rode confident and skilful tests achieve the following outstanding results.

Team 1 – Nancy Mort, Fenella Cradock riding two ponies – 1st, qualifying for the finals

Team 2- Nancy Mort, Fenella Cradock, Lara Bennett, and Beatrice Cradock 2nd qualifying for the finals.

Nancy rode two beautiful tests in the Intro and Prelim to take the individual win in both and her qualification for the finals. Fenella rode two tactful and quiet tests to take Individual 2nd and 3rd in the Prelim and secure her place in the finals. Beatrice did some excellent riding at her first dressage competition take 3rd place individually in the Intro and her place at the finals. Lara also at her first dressage competition showed excellent and calm riding to post a good score to support the team in their qualification for the Finals. It was a great day for these young foundation riders with lots to look forward to in the New Year.

“It was a busy day for these young riders, they not only achieved great results and showed some lovely riding, but they all supported one another and showed great team spirit with one another but most importantly had fun!”  – Fleur Cradock Director of Equestrian.

Don't forget your Boarding Pass!


Boarding at St John’s is more than just a sleepover – it’s a home from home where children develop skills for life and friendships forever. Houseparent Meghan Duncan tells us more:

“I love how boarding at St John’s is so different to my own experience of being a boarder. It totally feels like a home away from home – whereas I used to have to keep my school uniform on until bedtime, the kids here can change into their own clothes as soon as they get in from school, and there’s always something for them to do together. It’s so relaxed, we’re like one big family! 

After we’ve picked the kids up from school, taken them to dinner and helped them with their prep, we all get to hang out – which I love as I can stop being their teacher and be less serious. We’ll all bring our duvets down to the living room and choose a movie to watch and pick out popcorn flavours, or compete at Just Dance on the house Switch. Some bedtimes, the older boys will read to the younger boys which I find incredibly sweet”.

We’re delighted to announce that flexi-boarding is back. If your child is currently a day pupil and is keen to try out boarding for two or more nights, please contact to find out more.

Odd Socks Day!

To kick off the start of Anti-Bullying Week, St John’s pupils (and the odd teacher) all took part in Odd Socks Day to celebrate what makes us all unique and to spread kindness throughout the School and beyond. 

St John's Girls Picked for Gloucestershire


We’re very proud to announce that St John’s Year 8 pupils, Mali and Isabelle have both been selected for the U13 Gloucestershire Academy Centre for hockey. Their selection was confirmed following assessment centres last May and June followed by trials in September. They will train once a month with the county coaches and represent Gloucestershire in matches against other counties in the west region. This is the first year Gloucestershire Hockey has selected a squad at U13 level so both girls are delighted to have be chosen!

Flourishing Fridays


There have been some exciting changes to the curriculum this year! By moving from 50 minute to 45 minute lessons, we have been able to create an extra lesson each day (except on Wednesday when we have games and matches). This has allowed us to introduce Flourishing Friday, three lessons during which we extend learning beyond the usual classroom experience under the three broad topics of Wellbeing, Community and Wild World. Each year group will have two lots of 5 weeks on rotation of each topic. They might be working towards either the RSPB or John Muir awards in Wild World. In Wellbeing, they will be involved in the local community, discovering more about different communities plus learning essential life skills. The other lesson is called Learning to Learn. The aim of this is to equip pupils with skills to help them understand themselves as learners and develop strategies to improve their learning that they can use in their other lessons. The pupils have certainly been flourishing already – here are just a few photos.