West Didsbury CE continues to grow year on year. Head of School Hannah Large explains why one of the things she’s most proud of is the community and fellowship that has developed through a wide range of extra curricular activities.
There was a really powerful moment at our end of year assembly last July. There was a chance for the children to do a solo if they wanted, and one child just stood up and sung. Then another joined in, and then a few more. These were children from Year 3, who felt confident and secure enough to be who they wanted to be, in front of their parents and the rest of the school. We thought that was pretty special, and it’s just one example of how we believe in the potential of everyone who comes to West Didsbury CE.
Potential doesn’t have to be bound up in a narrow curriculum. Of course, reading, writing and mathematics are the core standards but at this school we believe in the bigger picture; how we develop the life skills and values of the children who come here is crucial.
One of our key ideas is to be a force for good in the world and we encourage that in so many different and exciting ways. We started a pen-pal programme with the older generation, and when they came to visit us, a choir of Year 3s sung to them and played ukulele. The children had the confidence to perform, but they also wanted to give something back to others.
So as the school grows, so does the wider life of West Didsbury. Other than singing, there’s gymnastics, drama, cross country, football and much more. The children love being part of a team and representing their school.
“I felt really proud of my team when I played against another school,” says one of our girls’ football team. “It’s fun, we don’t get embarrassed, and we learn new skills from the coach, Jess. Now I am a great defender – before I couldn’t really stop the ball.”
Away from physical activity, we also have a coding club, because in a digital age we want them to understand how to have fun but also stay safe online. “It’s a good way to calm down after school doing something I love,” says one of the Coding Club members.
Of course, not every child wants to be sporty and boisterous at playtimes or after school; they might want to be with their friends and relax. We have to cater for that. So our plan for this year is to invest with the PTA in a peace garden, reflection area and reading shed. We already have a Play Shed with old computers, scrap and cardboard so children can do some imaginative play, make dens or indeed anything they want. It’s really lovely to see Year 4s playing with Reception in this way.
Meanwhile, our Forest School provision will continue to develop, so we can make sure each unique person gets what they want from West Didsbury. And I do think it’s still incredibly exciting that, as a new school, each year someone does something for the first time here. Year 4 are going to Chester to study the Romans – we haven’t done that trip before so all those influences and ideas will come into the school. Year 4 books on the shelf of the library are now being greedily read by children.
So it’s incredibly gratifying that the plans we put into place four years ago are now coming to fruition. Naturally, results are important, and it’s also good that we can now track trends with three years of data. But it’s also fantastic to see the social interaction, creativity and imagination of children from Reception to Year 4. West Didsbury might not have a long history. What it does have in abundance is community.