“It is the overlaying of the fundamental ways of being and doing that the vision lives to become ‘just what we do here’.”
Paula Ayto, Reid Street Primary School
Collectively written and agreed vision statements capture the essence of a school and enable the school community to articulate their shared ethos. However, it is in the overlaying of the fundamental ways of being and doing that the vision lives to become ‘just what we do here’. This article outlines the pieces of the jigsaw that build ‘The Reid Street Way’.
There has been a school on our site since 1912 and the decision was taken in 2011 to convert to academy status with the clear intention of ensuring that the curriculum offer, in its widest sense, was appropriate for the pupils of Reid Street. We have a diverse range of families, including over 40% eligible for Pupil Premium and 15% living in the most deprived areas. We have seen a steady rise in pupils with EAL, from 4.5% in 2013 to 12% in the most recent census.
Curriculum review has been a central part of school development over the last ten years and recent research is informing current developments. Along with many schools, we are grappling with the nuances around cultural capital but agree with Christine Counsell that, “A curriculum exists to change the pupil, to give the pupil new power. One acid test for a curriculum is whether it enables even lower-attaining or disadvantaged pupils to clamber in to the discourse and practices of educated people, so that they gain the powers of the powerful.” And with Chris Quigley that our provision must develop, “Powerful subject knowledge that gives pupils academic and intellectual ways of thinking, and powerful personal knowledge that gives them the character, dispositions, attitudes and habits to navigate their way through life.”
Specific subject knowledge alone will not provide our pupils with what they need to thrive in the future. As the saying attributed to Peter Drucker states: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” We see ourselves as ‘Magic Weavers’ who “exist in a tender network of interdependence.” Whilst the knowledge v skills false dichotomy fades, we do need to support our pupils to ‘cultivate humanity’. As schools become increasingly aware, and adept in the use, of metacognitive strategies, we also need to move from the compliance of pupils through to engagement and on to the ‘botherdness’ of Hywel Roberts. As Kurt Hahn tells us, appealing through compulsion or persuasion will not work, but attraction will: “You can tell them, You are needed.” Then we will have the ‘hopeful curriculum’ of Debra Kidd, where “empowerment is the goal.” This is where the vision statement comes to life and needs to be evident in the whole curriculum – the planned but also the hidden curriculum. As the quote attributed to Mary Myatt states, it should be ‘lived not laminated.’
The current research and support around pupils’ mental health, growth mindsets and development of character traits such as resilience can provide pupils with strategies for crucial self-regulation and self-empathy. Social and emotional literacy skills can be both taught explicitly and embedded within the ethos of the school.
In its 109 years, our school has been witness to a range of local challenges and ensuring our pupils have pride in their local community is vital to their sense of self. Our pupils are involved with a range of local events, projects and charities which not only enhance their knowledge and understanding of the place where they live but also provide them with opportunities to experience contributing to positive changes. These have involved: a joint walk of the distance to the top of Mount Everest in support of a local man who climbed the mountain in aid of a nearby hospice; donations on National Nurses Day to the hospital next door to provide toys for the Children’s Ward; support for the local Rotary Club via RotaKids in school; the provision of a new bench made from recycled plastic for the local park and many others. Recent technological developments have allowed for virtual connections to be made beyond the local community – across the country and, excitingly, globally. Key to our focus on making a difference is our commitment to supporting the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (the Global Goals). Work around these goals threads through our planned and hidden curricula. In 2015 we participated in the World’s Largest Lesson and introduced pupils to the Global Goals Explorers – characters who embody the characteristics we seek to develop in school. During ‘lockdowns’, restrictions curtailed local opportunities so we created an event called Kindness at Christmas during which pupils from each class chose, via votes, gifts from the Oxfam and CAFOD sites including water, a vegetable garden, goats, seeds, bees, footballs, toilets and plies of poo which were purchased for those in developing countries. A song was written detailing all of the gifts.
A wealth of opportunity to develop the skills needed to succeed
In the ways described above, pupils gain a sense of themselves as agents of positive change and this links to another crucial piece of the jigsaw – aspiration. As in many schools, we aim to provide our pupils with experiences which enable them to explore the world of work. Research illustrates that stereotypes are ingrained at an early age and these need to be challenged from Reception onwards – it is too late to leave career related learning to secondary schools. In 2017 we kick started our focus on aspiration through a full week in which children met a whole range of visitors sharing information about a wide range of careers including international rugby players, radio DJs and the ex-drummer from Status Quo! Determined to provide our pupils with experience of business, we entered a regional entrepreneur competition (The Big PIE) which we subsequently won. A year later – we won again! These competitions provided a wealth of opportunity to develop the skills needed to succeed, including teamwork. During ‘lockdown’ we entered the Teesside Trailblazer competition and won ‘The Most Profitable Business’ and ‘Best Marketing Campaign’ categories. Pupils were determined to share their profits and winnings by donating to charities, linking the pieces of the jigsaw together. We are now embedding our work around career related learning through our involvement with Primary Futures and Tees Valley Careers.
The golden thread through all of this curriculum development is empathy. As Ekani Empathy, the Global Goals character, teaches us: by getting to know and understand others, we are able to walk in their shoes. Pupils are then able to take action, to make a positive difference and to feel empowered. In need of a project to bring the community back together following school ‘closures’, we engaged with Empathy Week and subsequently entered the project produced. It really was the highlight of the year to win the primary award – our pupils love to tell others that they are the most empathic school in the world! We look forward to Empathy Week 2022 and know that through the work we undertake, we will live our vision, put compassion into action and aspire to make a genuine difference.
Chris Quigley – Cultural Capital and Powerful Knowledge webinar
The Magic-Weaving Business: Finding the Heart of Learning and Teaching. Sir John Jones July 2011