St Elisabeth’s CE in Reddish officially joined the St James & Emmanuel Academy Trust in November 2019. Headteacher Bev Burrows thinks everyone in the Trust will benefit from this ‘new arrival’.
It might seem a strange thing to say at the end of a year when St Elisabeth’s received some difficult news from Ofsted inspectors, but this is a genuinely exciting time for everyone connected with the school. As we join St James & Emmanuel Academy Trust, I feel sure that the links we make, the good practice, knowledge and resources we can share and the plans we put in place mean that we can push onwards and upwards.
I’ve been at St Elisabeth’s for 18 months now, and though it’s been hard work, our “tenacious” approach to improving the learning in the school and enhancing its community, that the Ofsted report noticed, is already beginning to bear fruit. We very much understand the St James & Emmanuel Academy Trust’s ethos of Belonging, Believing, Becoming – and in our school that means children have a sense of belonging to our school and the community they are in, believe in themselves and become the best that they can be. Effectively, we want children that come here to feel proud of their school and themselves.
That was evident at last term’s book fair in school, which raised a staggering £800 – an incredible amount given Reddish is demographically a little different to the other schools in the Trust. One of our Year 6 pupils told me “it really encouraged my love of reading – I got a book by Charlie Higson and it was great!”
Of course, the book fair was also crucial because it underlines our commitment to literacy and high quality vocabulary – the money raised went to enhance the library for reception and nursery. We immerse children in text to support them with their writing – and some of the results in the Early Years Foundation Stage have been hugely encouraging.
There’s a similar focus, too, on improving numeracy and we’re buying Mathletics, the online platform which helps, challenges and most importantly perhaps, captivates mathematics learners throughout the school. Interestingly, it was trialled by our Year 6s; they loved it and it was so important to have their feedback – not just in terms of the content but also because it gave them the responsibility to make suggestions for their school.
Naturally, our focus is on teaching and learning, but it’s also really important that St Elisabeth’s understands there is a bigger picture for our children too. So we had a film night recently, we’ll have a Christmas Fair which will raise money for a school trip, and we’ve got a residential trip booked for next year. There’s a French club at lunchtime, street dance, Gaelic football and so much more – and we pay for all of these sessions for children so they can have a range of different experiences outside the classroom. Manchester City even come in – not just to do football but offer cooking classes.
In a way, all these activities are about seeing school in a different light, as a central component in the community. So when children learn to play steel pans and then absolutely rock St Elisabeth’s Church next door, that says a lot about their desire to represent themselves and their school.
“It was so much fun – I got to learn new songs and I’m learning a new skill in an exciting way,” one of our year 5 children said.
We do cherish the links with St Elisabeth’s Church. Being next door it’s wonderful that Key Stage 2 can go there for an assembly every Friday, and Rev Angie Stanton comes over every week for collective worship.
“Going into school every week, has been a joy,” she says. “Working far more closely together than we ever did, the church is able to make a real contribution to school life, through worship, after-school activities, and our recent Prayer Week. And the children have responded with real enthusiasm to this new relationship.”
The aspirations that Angie has for St Elisabeth’s are shared by everyone here. The experience of St Wilfrid’s in Northenden, who can now see light at the end of the tunnel in their journey, boosts our morale and confidence. Working in partnership with St James & Emmanuel Academy Trust, we also all know exactly where the school needs to be. We’ll get there!