Community is an interesting concept when it comes to schools. A quick look around school websites and you will find it somewhere – whether it be in the values, the information about the school or even, like my own school, in the vision statement. But what does this all even mean. Is it just white noise that is thrown around or is it really part of what schools do?
At the end of the last academic year, when Corona was just a beer, we decided that we didn’t like the Ofsted headings and so changed them. The idea behind it was to make sure that our school plan aligned more with our own beliefs than the ones bestowed upon us from ‘on high’. Two of the areas that we chose were both heavily invested in community.
I strongly believe that a school should be a central part of the community. It brings people together. The school that I am fortunate to lead has long since held the reputation of being a friendly and welcoming place. I knew this when I joined and saw it grow and develop over the last 4 and a half years but nothing could show how strong the community really was until school closed.
In the final week before the announcement, we were already working hard to prepare for the inevitable. We had managed to get packs out the week before, just in case, and were working through various scenarios. On Wednesday, whilst working with the leadership team on scenario X, Y or Z (?) a parent who manages a local Nandos phoned and asked how many staff we had working. He then preceeded to feed us all as a thank you for what we were doing. This coincided with a parent bringing in donuts for the same reason. Little things like this in a community matter.
Since the closure, our priority was focused on holding the community together and remaining the pillar of strength that it needed to be. We started this by ensuring strong communication, but in varied ways – to show an attachment to the community that we serve. This has ranged from email updates, 2 minute assemblies and varied twitter updates. These have also varied in content – possibly the most popular, and arguably most important for the community at this time, are the silly challenges (usually set by my colleagues, parents or children) that I complete every day. This helped bring the community together, if nothing else, to laugh at my expense.
But it hasn’t stopped there. Staff have been working tirelessly behind and in front of the scenes to keep the community together. Many of the activities we have encouraged children to do have been more to do with community than curriculum. For me, and for all of our community at this time, I think this is more important. Perhaps serendipitously, today, some of our staff (at a social distance of course) put up some ‘Palace Wood Bunting’ on our fence. The two pictures below for me show the importance of community.