Give thanks for our local schools
They say that your schools days are the happiest of your life. How about you? For me I remember them as a good time in many ways. Do you remember much about your primary school? I remember a few of my friends. I remember walking to school - I don't remember children arriving by car - but perhaps some did. I can recall the headmaster and just one or two of the teachers. It is all so long ago, the remembrance is dim. Yet I learnt all the basics of what I needed at that school - to read, write, basic maths and an interest in Astronomy.
People often achieve notable things when they are a bit older -and so it is the secondary schools which often get the accolades for their pupil's success. But the foundation work is done in the primary schools. In our ‘benefice', the area in which I as Rector and Vicar work, we have two primary schools; at Bayton and Far Forest. Nowadays thanks to all the reforms in education, schools are often competing for children to attend. I wish to reflect in general on our two schools together. If you are a parent deciding between them, you will not find this helpful!
I am not going to mention names except two. We have two excellent Headteachers in our local schools. Mrs Avis Pounder at Bayton and Mrs Tara Collins-Bullock at Far Forest have both enriched our local community by their wonderful work. Both have raised standards in their schools and both have a remarkable team of staff and volunteers helping. I pay tribute to them both.
I really begin with the children, the pupils. As Vicar I am a governor of both schools and I am really struck by the quality of the children whom I meet in the schools. They are invariably courteous and helpful to people such as myself. I notice that in the intimate setting of the rural school they often support and help each other -including helping those younger or older than themselves. Now I know that in practice things happen, incidents, disagreements - our local schools reflect life as it is - but I wish to focus on what is good. I have been here long enough to see children pass through our local primary schools and go on to secondary school and beyond. I have seen some of them do very well indeed - on the foundation given locally.
I've mentioned the dedication and skill of the headteachers. They lead the teaching staff who work so hard to help the children. Both our local schools are relatively small and this has lots of advantages. There is an intimacy and ability for people to know one another. But I was struck when I came here, on the challenges this gives to the staff. In a large school a member of staff can head up just one area of the curriculum, music for example. In a school with a small number of staff - one person may have to cover several areas. And we know that teachers may be teaching a class with more than one year group in it. The amazing thing is that our local teachers are able to do this in a way in which high academic results can be maintained. Remarkably our local schools can provide a place where all the advantages of small size are enjoyed, and results just as good as larger schools can be achieved too. It is amazing - and we in a debt to our local teachers.
There is even more in the team than this. Working with the teachers are the teaching assistants, whose contribution makes the success of our schools in coping with many challenges possible. I am amazed how close the progress of pupils is tracked in our schools these days - so there really is that emphasis that every child matters. In addition there are other members of staff as well. It is a team effort. There are also volunteers, parents or other friends of the school who help in various ways.
Lastly, there are the Governors, the ‘critical friends' of the school as we are told by the government. I pay tribute to them as well, working as volunteers, giving much time and energy to this work which can have its very difficult moments. As Governors we see just how many changes in education are brought in by successive governments and how this adds to the work and pressure on teachers.
People often tell me they wonder what religious input pupils get nowadays in our schools. Both our local schools are church schools. They welcome contact with the local church and provide a good input of teaching about the Christian Faith in a variety of ways. Of course they also teach about other religions, which is so important for community understanding these days. I think that the provision is good.
No school, church, village or family is perfect. My purpose in this article is to remind us of all the good associated with our local schools. I feel privileged to be involved in them and thank all involved.