Living Our Vision
Our School Vision - 'Community, Challenge, Care'
In 2021, at the end of the last lockdown of the coronavirus pandemic, we knew we had a job to do to reconnect our school with our core purpose. We wanted to make sure we were working in fellowship with our community, we wanted to reignite teaching and learning and we wanted to make sure that everything we do comes from a place of love and relational practice.
We decided to remake our school's vision and make sure we all knew who we are, what we want and how we do it. We consulted widely with parents and families, children, staff and the wider community and listened hard to everyone's aspirations for the school.
As a church school, we wanted to base our new vision in scripture and we found, in Hebrews 10 verse 24 a verse that spoke to us.
"And let us consider how we may spur each other on to love and good works" NIV
This short verse comes from a letter written to a community of early Christians living, perhaps, in Jerusalem. They are going through a time of persecution and the author of the letter encourages them to stay true to Christ's promise, to continue to meet regularly, to support each other and to stand for the oppressed.
In verse 24, the writer speaks as a member of that community ('let us') and uses inclusive language indicating that all members of the community have a responsibility to work together ('us - we').
'Spur each other on' represents challenge and that 'spur' reminds us that challenge is not always comfortable - horses don't enjoy being spurred! In other translations of the bible, the greek word translated here as 'spur on' is variously given as 'provoke' and 'stir up'. It reminds us that the duty to challenge each other may be rooted in love and kindness but it is not always gentle - Christ wasn't gentle when he challenged the merchants in the temple.
We are supporting and challenging each other as a community to 'love and good works'. Within a school everyone needs to be doing 'good works' - this could be mopping the hall floor, preparing great lessons, doing our best on our geography activity. This work is important because it shapes young lives and becasue it gives us purpose.
Hebrews 10:24 powerfully incites us to work together in community, to challenge each other to be our best selves and to do our best work and to root our work in love.
We sum up what we take from this verse in our three word vision Community - Challenge - Care. We endeavour to see this reflected in all areas of our work as a school - through curriculum yes - but also through how we communicate with each other and with families, how we orgainse ourselves. How we relate.
Community - We are nothing without our communities. Jesus and his followers lived as a community, travelling, learning, eating together. They were powerfully linked but also reliant on the hospitality and generosity of the places they visited. Our children and families have roots and backgrounds that make them unique. Collectively, we are of this place - we draw from it and we give back to it. The lockdowns and regulations of the pandemic made it hard for us to demonstrate and nurture our connections to the community in the context of our school and it's time to purposefully put that right. We are inviting community groups in to our school to play a part in its life, and we continuously ask ourselves what we, as a school, can do for our community. We want to make our school not only a place that nourishes the pupils' sense of being part of a community, but also a place that reaches out to create good in the community. If you are part of a community group that might like to come along to the celebration or if you have an idea of something we can do to reach out to our communities, will you please get in touch and let us know?
Challenge - When Jesus overturned tables in the temple he was challenging the status quo. When he challenged his disciples to leave their livings and their families he was challenging them. When he instructed Zacchaeus to come down from the sycamore tree and take him to his home that was a challenge. Challenge is not always easy. It can feel uncomfortable. We know that to see the progress in our pupils that will enable them to reach their potential, we need to raise the level of challenge. We have to get them thinking harder, learning more, working harder. Not rising to the challenge means accepting second best, and we can't believe that second best is good enough for the children in our care. At the same time, we know that we, as a school, have to be open to challenge - if there's something we're not doing right or could simply do better, we need to be open to hear about it.
Challenge can mean other things too - climbing a tor, learning to swim, mastering a musical instrument, improving at a sport - all of these are real challenges for children and adults, and we want to celebrate every obstacle tackled and every goal our children are striving for. We want every child to flourish - we want them live abundantly, experiencing life in all its fullness and that means we have to look at the whole child - beyond the academics of the national curriculum.
Care - Every school surely has care at the heart but, if we don't take time to say it, we risk letting other aspects of our busy lives take priority. Jesus told us to love others as we love ourselves - not just to treat them as we would want to be treated but to love them as we would want to be loved. The beatitudes give us responsibility to think of the poor, the needy, those experiencing oppression. We care for each other, we care for our community, we care for our school, we care about learning. The children in our care and the work we do matters to us. We want to work towards a time when people in our community say of us 'That school really cares' - not in a wishy-washy way, but because our work sings care in everything we do.
Spirituality as Relational Awareness
Spirituality is a word that means a lot of different things to different people. Being somewhat unclear in many of our minds - 'we know what we think we mean but we can't quite say it' - it becomes a tricky thing to talk about, perhaps even a slightly embarrassing thing to talk about for some people.
Since 1944 schools have been required by law to provide for the spiritual development of pupils. We are expected to to meet the ‘spiritual needs of all learners’ , with a clear requirement for staff to have a shared understanding of what is meant by spirituality and spiritual growth.
Of course, in a school like ours where we have children of Muslim, Buddhist, Pagan and non faith backgrounds learning side by side, we cannot expect that shared understanding of spirituality to be narrowly Christian in character.
Churcdh schools are not faith schools - the distinction is important. Faith schools exist to promote or inculcate a particular religious faith. Church schools were set up to ensure that every child in a community, regardless of faith, has access to a good education. We exist to serve, not to proselytise.
For many people, their sense of spirituality comes from a sense of connection - with other people, with the natural world, with a sense of wonder. That experience which might be brief or might last a while, of being connected with something greater than oneself.
When we think of what Jesus might have meant by spirituality, we can think of Matthew 6 verse 25. 'For is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?' I think that everyone, regardless of faith, can agree that our lives are about more than subsistence and that our bodies are more than just the flesh that we walk around in. Jesus is talking about us being more than simply what we are.
We might also think about Matthew 22 verse 37 to 39. Jesus commands us to love our neighbours as ourselves and to love God.
We might think, then, of spirituality being that awareness and relationship between ourselves, those people aorund us (our 'neighbours') and that which is bigger and greater and wider and beyond. When I'm up on the moor and I feel at one with myself and with the natural world around me - that's spirituality as relational awareness. When I'm singing with my classmates and for a while we feel like one thing, one big voice with the song singing through us - that's spirituality as relational awareness.
We have a useful picture which helps us all to think about this.
In the middle is 'me' - a golden snowflake because everyone is special and everyone is different. Around that is agreen right of all those people I'm connected to - family, friends, mebers of my community on the micro and macro scale. And around that is the wonderful big blue ring which might mean 'the natural world' or might mean 'the cosmos' or might mean 'God's creation and everything in it'.
Some people might ask 'where is God in all this?', For us, the experiecne of wonder and connectedness, the feeling of being in touch with something greater than ourselves, the experience of the sacred or the divine, runs through everything. All those interconnecting white lines that run thorough the blue, green and golden circles animating them and giving them beauty and connection - those are what connects us to that beyond ourselves - beyond our lives as food and our bodies as clothing.
In our prayer, which we say together every day, we ask God to be with us in our hearts, in our friendships and in the wide, wide world around and beyond us' - a child friendly way of making daily reference to the concept of spirituality as relational awareness.
"Spirituality is a source of creativity open to us all. It brings that quality of aliveness which sparks inquiry, ideas, observations, insights, empathy, artistic expression, earnest endeavor and playfulness. It opens us to life and to each other. Spirituality is a thread which runs through our life, bringing hope, compassion, thankfulness, courage, peace and a sense of purpose and meaning to everyday, while reaching beyond the immediate world of the visible and tangible. It drives us to seek and stay true to values not ruled by material success."
Sally Burns and Georgeanne Lamont: 'Values and Visions'.