St Wilfrid’s has taken great care over recent months to ensure that emotional, social and educational support is available to everyone. Head of School Helena Miller explains how.
Ithink we can all agree that schools have been a vital hub for the community as we have navigated our way through the pandemic. The lessons we’ve learned at St Wilfrid’s over the past 18 months are ones that we hope will be building blocks for an even stronger partnership between ourselves, children and parents or carers. So when two of our PTA members, Louise and Rachael, set up a series of parents’ coffee mornings in school, it felt to us a real sign of a thriving support network outside the classroom.
“What we’re finding,” says Louise, “is that parents might not talk directly about school in these meetings. “But they do want to open up about any issues they might be having that could affect their child’s happiness at school.”
“During the pandemic,” adds Rachael, “people might have lost work or had incredibly stressful jobs. They might have grieved or had a change in their family situation. So the coffee mornings are about encouraging fellow parents to – for example – take advantage of the after school activities we have here so they can catch a break, or work extra hours. To allow them to feel that there is a supportive network looking out for them.”
We’re very lucky at St Wilfrid’s to have such a dynamic and caring PTA who can both fulfill a fundraising aspect but also have a social remit – outside of activities for their children. It’s really important that as a school we are here for spiritual, emotional and social support, alongside our educational provision. We listen to our parents, too. We’ve got a new approach to homework starting in the New Year based on feedback from families; we’ve got to be mindful of what they can do in order to help their children.
I’d like to think that’s the Belonging part of our Belonging, Believing, Becoming ethos in action;
if we can make those deep, profound relationships with each other, then school will be a happy place to which children, families and staff will want to belong.
That ethos was something we really fell back on throughout the pandemic, to the extent that during the last period of remote learning some of our children worked together to express creatively what Belonging, Believing, Becoming means to them. A small group from Year 6 who had been here since nursery reflected on their journey through the school in song, writing a Belonging, Believing, Becoming anthem on ukulele. It’s so good, so catchy, Executive Headteacher Matt Whitehead is considering making it the St James and Emmanuel Academy Trust song!
On a related note, our music curriculum has been enhanced dramatically by our new Music Lead Gillian Maiden. We think music – and creativity generally – has a really important impact on wellbeing, and most mornings children now listen to a piece of music from a vast array of genres, and think about how it makes them feel.
“Actually, we’re finding that this small act of listening each day is really helping children with regulating their emotions,” says Gillian. “We listened to an African drumming track with the repeated line ‘do not worry’ in it. Before long they were singing it to each other – and there was something quite moving in witnessing that.”
“Music is fun and it makes you feel happy,” agrees Jasmine, from Year 2. “But then, you can also dance to it,” adds Phoebe. “Or do actions,” smiles Kobi. “Music isn’t just something you listen to, it’s in you, all around you.”
Which was definitely apparent when we used music to complement the work we’ve been doing to enhance our foreign language provision in school. The Spanish numbers the children had learnt were built into a full song they could sing. Charlotte Cornall has been overseeing a scheme to ensure all teachers are able to include Spanish in their classwork – which not only helps the children learn a new language, but also enables them to have a far broader cultural understanding and appreciation of other peoples. The way they are learning collaboratively is really positive too; there’s a collective enthusiasm for Spanish now which means it feels embedded in school life rather than a curriculum point to tick off.
In a way, the success of the Spanish and music schemes are part of the same idea as the coffee mornings. It’s that sense we have fostered a happy community that thrives off each other – and belongs to each other.Visit St Wilfrid’s CE website