After seven years of new intakes, the brand new school we opened in 2015 is finally full from Reception to Year Six. Head of School Hannah Large reflects on West Didsbury CE’s incredible journey – and vision for the next seven years.
My entire time as Head of School at West Didsbury CE has been lived though our ethos of Belonging, Believing and Becoming. It certainly feels, as we prepare to bid goodbye to our first set of Year Six leavers at the end of this academic year, that the last of those aims – Becoming – is more relevant than ever. It will be an emotional time, but also a moment of great pride and joy.
When we opened with two reception classes in 2015, we were clear about our aspirations for those first amazing childre. We wanted them to be a force for good in society. We hoped they would feel equipped to change and challenge the world around them, have a sense of purpose and be well-rounded and self-aware. I clearly remember sitting on a mat in the parish centre with these four year-olds and their carers, because the school had yet to be built. It’s not exaggerating to say that you could feel the energy in the room; all these hopes and dreams – and some fears – bound up in a vision for the children and their new school.
And now, those same children will be leaving, many able to work at greater depth. In many ways they started out as pioneers and have become inspirations; their commitment and attitude to school life shaping the whole way in which West Didsbury CE feels. Looking back now at the children on the front of the first Together magazine, and seeing how they’ve developed into engaged, proactive leaders at this school is such a cause for celebration that we’ve recreated that cover image for you on these pages. How they’ve grown!
As have we, each year adding two new classes until we were finally full this September. Yet I’m so pleased that we’ve always kept the heart and focus of our close-knit community. I liken it to how you feel as a parent if you are about to have another child. There’s always that bit of you which fears not having ‘enough’ love to go around. But you soon find that love isn’t finite. It grows.
Now that the school is full, though, it’s by no means the end of this incredible journey. West Didsbury CE Primary will have developed again in seven more years’ time – and the school and the people involved will develop along with this journey. Working as part of a Trust has been so beneficial in that sense; sometimes when you’re in a stand-alone school, you follow tried and trusted formulas and don’t look to see what’s out there. But within a Trust there’s always new ideas and initiatives you can borrow from your sister schools.
It’s not just the children who have grown and thrived over the past seven years. So have the staff, some of whom have gone from being newly qualified teachers to senior leaders and colleagues. Yet it’s also been exciting employing new staff each year – external candidates always bring new ideas and keep us innovating, and developing fresh thinking.
And when I show fellow teaching professionals around the school they are always really impressed by how it looks and feels inside. What makes a new school isn’t the building, it’s the people. Shaping and creating the loving, caring and nurturing personality of a school is really all I’ve ever wanted to achieve.
That personality certainly comes out in collective worship, and it was a great thrill to be able to bring the whole school together again this September after all the lockdowns and bubbles. It’s was actually only then that I could truly appreciate for myself how much this school has grown. Back in that first year, when the paint on the wall of the hall felt like it was still drying, Bishop Mark came to lead a special assembly. We invited some Didsbury CE Primary School children to come so it would feel more of an occasion. Now, if we wanted to do another special service with parents, we wouldn’t have enough room!
Bishop Mark talked of growing a loving school community, and while the numbers have obviously increased, the original vision that the Trust had for the school has spectacularly come true. Our children have always felt a sense of Belonging to each other, their school community and their world. They have always been encouraged to Believe in their gifts, abilities and potential. And, over their time at the school, they have made West Didsbury CE Become what it is today. I couldn’t be prouder.Visit West Didsbury CE website