‘To have a sense of community is to have a place to stand (security), a part to play (significance) and a world to belong to (solidarity).’ Building School Communities - David Clark
One of our three school priorities this year is to enhance and develop our school community, a task that I am delighted to be intrinsically involved in. Establishing and building communities is such an integral part of our lives and needs to take place within each sector of society, so I’m excited to have the opportunity to be able to connect with staff, parents and the children and to help forge important links.
On Tuesday evening we held our first Music Tea of the year, a classic example of Gateway community spirit at its best. Our half-termly Music Tea provides an informal platform for children to perform a piece on their instrument for the very first time in front of an audience, as well as an opportunity for the more accomplished musicians to share their talents and support others. There were twenty children taking part and I loved witnessing the camaraderie between the performers during the concert itself, as they supported and congratulated each other. My thanks must go to the brilliant Year 6 team who asked if they could help set the room up for me and helped to serve the refreshments to parents, friends and performers. One of the highlights for me, as well as being able to hear some super performances, was being asked by one of the Year 6 girls if she could make me a cup of tea!
We actively encourage pupil participation, decision-making and child-led approaches and our newly rebranded School Parliament will give all of the children the opportunity to be part of a democratic decision-making process. Our four new committees (Food, Environment, Charities and Community) have met and discussed their priorities for the term and I look forward to observing how these evolve. This week, I have worked closely with a small group of staff and children from the Community Committee on our School Wellbeing Charter, a declaration of support for, and set of commitments to the wellbeing and mental health of everyone in the school community. This new framework will enable us to adopt a whole school approach so that we all work together to create a supportive school and classroom climate and ethos which builds a sense of connectedness, focus and purpose. We are fortunate that our school community is already built on a caring and respectful basis, but we are keen to ensure that we recognise and celebrate these qualities. As a school we will be working towards how we can include the important and wide-ranging aspects of wellbeing into our day-to-day routines, by focusing on a couple of our new ‘6 Keys to Wellbeing’ values each half term.
We work hard as a staff to make sure that we know the children well, and support them however and whenever they need it, whether through careful differentiation in class, mentoring, weekly pastoral meetings or assessing data from questionnaires which we ask the children to complete. We pride ourselves in involving parents too, making sure that we keep them up to speed with new and existing initiatives. We have already welcomed many of you to our whole school curriculum evenings this half term and more recently to workshops focusing on phonics and online safety. We will be offering more workshops over the course of the year, with a variety of topics covered, from maths to drugs awareness, because we feel the need to support our families and our pupils. Additionally, we have brought our community closer together through the purposeful dialogues in our Parent Forums where we are able to reflect on the positive aspects at Gateway School as well as discuss areas that will enhance the children’s experiences.
Later today, Friends of Gateway will be hosting an exciting Hallowe’en Evening of ‘Fun, Games and Spooky Things’. This inaugural event enables our families the opportunity to build new social circles and get to know additional members of the Gateway community. This and the other wonderful events that FOG organise provide a perfect opportunity to help create a more cohesive school community so that families know that they can reach out and feel connected.
As a school, we are looking to build relationships in the broader community in and around Great Missenden to enhance our experiences. Mrs Knight recently rekindled our links with Woodlands Care Home in Great Missenden when the children from Art Club made and delivered birthday cards to one of the residents, as part of her 100th birthday celebrations. As we approach the Christmas season, I will be taking a group of children to sing carols to the residents there.
I think we all realise that the pandemic changed the way we live our lives, and one of the positives that many of us noticed was that community spirit flourished. Community spirit is critical because it often creates an important source of social connection and sense of belonging. Living and working within the Gateway School community certainly does give us a sense of belonging, whether as a pupil, member of staff or parent, and being part of that community, bonded by attitudes, values, and goals is an essential ingredient to enjoying a fulfilling life.