After an encouraging Ofsted report earlier this year, St Wilfrid’s CE continues to go from strength to strength, thanks in no small part to an inspiring group of children who want to make a difference to the people and world around them. Head of School Helena Miller explains.
Since St Wilfrid’s CE became a key part of the St James & Emmanuel Academy Trust, there has been an incredible amount of hard work by staff, children and parents to make the school the very best it can be. So it was quite an emotional moment when, earlier this year, those efforts were officially recognised by Ofsted, when it was rated Good in all areas.
Obviously we were delighted by this news and the results that came with it. Ofsted praised the quality of teaching and our strengths in key curriculum areas. Yet while these are fantastic results to measure ourselves by, it’s just as important to us that St Wilfrid’s has a secure, caring and nurturing environment. The inspectors noted “pupils enjoy coming to school and feel safe” and that the provision for their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development is “strong.”
We’re particularly proud of the initiatives the children themselves are leading. Our Eco Warriors group have not just educated their peers, but staff and parents too. Through their hard work, speeches to governors and sheer powers of persuasion, we’ve banned single use plastic bottles at school, arranged for everyone to have new reusable bottles and recycle crisp packets at lunchtime. Batteries and paper are recycled too.
“If we can make one person not throw a plastic bottle away, or maybe not even buy it in the first place, then our group will have been a success,” says Francesca from Year 5. “I feel really strongly about the Earth and our community, and how much rubbish and plastic we find,” adds Nicholas, who was also involved in a litter picking project in Rose Hill Woods. “We got loads of bags – it actually surprised me how many – but we’re making a difference.”
This amazing attitude to the world around them naturally impacts on their school work. The writing section of the Eco Warriors send letters to companies who supply the school to ask them to think about their environmental impact. Jacob from Year 5 wrote a fantastic letter to me, too, and I wanted to include a few lines here.
“I am here to talk to you about our future. Many people think that one small child can’t make a difference, but that’s not true. Think about all of the important children in history – like Ruby Bridges and Greta Thunberg – they stood up for their notions and I’ll stand up for our school! I am standing up to stop single
use plastic bottles. Imagine… we would be the best role models in Northenden. If we can change, the world can change too.”
It’s fantastic to see a boy like Jacob able to express himself in this way, and we were thrilled that Ofsted said we were “significantly above average in writing.” Our children’s work in creative writing is particularly impressive, and it’s clear that they enjoy it immensely. “When you’re in primary school imagination is really important to learning,” says Lexy from Year 5.
“It can take your writing to the next level, build up your vocabulary and make you try and understand what other people feel like when you write from their point of view,” adds Ellie. “It’s really fun.” Of course, creative writing is also a way for children to express their emotions, and another group have been working on an event for mental health awareness, where they made designs on hearts and tied them onto a bridge over the M56, singing songs as they did so.
“Hopefully, it made people feel better about themselves, because we’re trying to reach people that aren’t feeling so good, that need a bit of love,” says Ruby from Year 5. “It made me feel good, too, because I know I can help someone at school by treating them kindly and make them forget their worries.”
It’s crucial that this wasn’t a one off event, but that the attitude of caring and thinking about others could feed into everything we do at school. So we also offer midweek mindfulness, which can be colouring, yoga, relaxing music, stretches or meditation.
“It makes me feel really calm,” says Lexy. “It’s a break for your brain, and you also get to know your class a bit more through the partner activities. But I think it makes the school calmer and happier too – and you can use the techniques any time. Last time I was working through a maths problem, I thought about my learning powers, about persevering and not panicking when I didn’t immediately know the answer. It’s ok to make mistakes, after all. We learn about being ‘heart smart’.”
I hope some of this shows how we’re inspired as staff by the passionate, engaged and thoughtful children at St Wilfrid’s. In fact, the Ofsted inspectors told us they are “articulate, polite, confident and show concern for others.”
We are so proud of them, of this school and all the hard work that has got us to this point.