I’ve just been to my last ever Star of the Week assembly. Ruby is in Year 6 and will be off to high school next year. So that’ll be the end of primary school for us.
Actually they don’t call them Star of the Week any more but after attending 20 or so that were it’s hard to warm to the new ‘official’ title.
I sit on a small seat at the back of the hall, with a handful of other parents, as rows of children file in – many of whom look far too small to be at school. The Head Teacher, Mrs Jennings, says good morning to all the children and they reply in a slow dirge like tone “good morning Mrs Jennings, good morning friends” (that’s us). Several parents glance at their watches wondering how quickly they will be able to get away…..back to work or the washing up.
But almost as soon as Mrs Jennings starts to announce the first of the Pride and Respect Awards (see I told you the old name was better) everyone is gripped.
A tiny five year old in Reception nervously makes his way to sit next to Mrs Jennings as she tells us all that Josh has done really well this week and has tried lots of new things to eat at lunch time and eaten every last scrap. Josh beams from ear to ear.
Next up is 8 year old Lily who gets her award for being, well, just a lovely kind person who is always helping others and looking out for younger children.
Ruby gets her award for the work she’s done for Black History Month and Mrs Jennings reads out a piece of creative writing about a Moroccan bazar full of wonderfully descriptive passages. Ruby squirms in her seat but looks pleased to be recognised for something that is important to her.
And so it goes on until finally Jack gets his award for being an independent learner. Mrs Jennings pauses and asks the whole school if anyone can tell her what an independent learner is? Dozens of hands shoot up.
Pointing to a small girl with bunches, a tiny voice announces that an independent learner is someone who does three things before they ask their teacher for help:
- they re-read the question and think about what they already know
- they look around the class and see if there is anything there that might help
- they phone a friend
Modern teaching methods come under a lot of flak – not least from Michael Gove and his cronies – for not teaching the basics – grammar, spelling, the dates of great British military victories. But from what I’ve seen of my kids’ education they are learning some far more useful and transferable skills that will see them through life. They are learning how to think. They are learning to be resilient, to use the resources around them and to work collaboratively with others to share skills and knowledge to solve problems and achieve goals.
Being an independent learner looked a heck of a lot like the sort of thing we are trying to achieve with the Bromford Deal. We know that many of our customers come to us via a system that encourages them to focus on what they can’t do….on the problems they have and the events or life experiences that have knocked them back. Not surprisingly many lack confidence or self belief and tend to look to others to solve their problems or meet their needs. From the outset we try to help rebuild that self belief in our customers – belief that they have many skills and talents – that they can overcome barriers and obstacles and achieve the goals that perhaps they have never thought reachable.
They don’t have to do it on their own.
Through Tenancy Ready we help them reflect on all the things they can already do, the skills they may have forgotten about or not used for a while.
We encourage them to look around their community – we help them connect with the resources within their neighbourhood that may be able to help.
We help build neighbourhoods where people share ideas, share skills or time or tools or a bowl of sugar or a friendly smile.
Of course some people do still need support or input from us but we always aim to keep this to a minimum; to avoid creating dependency. We want to help build an individual’s confidence; to help them establish their own support networks of friends and neighbours. We want to inspire people to be their best and that means being a connected and contributing part of their street, their community, their town.
Every year, every child at Ettington gets to be Star of the Week. Every child gets their moment of glory in front of their peers, their teachers and their mum or dad. Every child gets to be celebrated for something special about them. You can see them grow an extra inch as they shake Mrs Jennings’ hand and turn to the school to take the applause. Being told you are good at something….something that is important to you….makes you feel like a million dollars.
Whatever frame of mind you are in when you sit down at the start of one of these assemblies you feel incredibly moved and uplifted by the end. It takes a hard man to avoid having a tear in his eye by the end.
I’m glad I made it to Ruby’s last one……they don’t stay this sweet for very long.