We are on a fascinating journey as a new growing school: Cornerstone CE Primary in Whiteley, Hampshire (@cornerstonecofe).
- Sept 2013: opened with 25 pupils in 2 classes in a temporary building on a temporary site.
- Sept 2015: 103 pupils in 4 classes and starting to work with Hampshire County Council on designing our new 3FE building and site.
- Sept 2018: planned move into our new building.
- Dec 2020: predicted to be full with 630 pupils.
I took over as headteacher in Sept 2014 and one of the crucial elements of my role is defining a vision for now and the future and growing a positive ethos: Growing an Exceptional Learning Community. (Staff’s initial draft definitions are at the end of this post).
We have been using this phrase to describe the vision and ethos we have been developing, but without formally defining it. Well we started the process of doing so as part of our INSET day on the 29th of January. It was an inspiring session, with fantastic and passionate conversations between staff.
What was particularly pleasing for me was a comment made by our visiting NPQH colleague Sarah Mullins (@sarahmu14) who shared her opinion that all our staff, and in particular our support staff, are very articulate and passionate about being involved in these type of discussions and developing their practice. (This is part of what we think makes an Exceptional Learning Community).
One of the interesting conversations was about the word “Exceptional” which is not meant to suggest we think we are better than other schools. Or that we are undertaking aspects of practice that is not happening in any other school. We would not be this arrogant, we certainly know that neither is the case. The purpose of using the word “Exceptional” is that we are always aiming to improve ourselves and are not satisfied with just being as good as we currently are. We are very keen not to use a work that overtly links to the Ofsted framework, or any other specific DfE phrase. We want something that has meaning for our community, and something that will last. But is “Exceptional” the best word to use? We started to discuss alternatives: Extraordinary? Inspirational? Empowering? Fulfilling? Valued? Thriving? It’s a conversation we will return to many times in the future, and one we will be including the pupils, parents and governors in as well.
What was also pleasing was the examples that staff shared that they felt show we are already on this journey of growth:
- Valuing everybody
- Celebration Worship: children seeing their learning journey
- Pupil Voice Groups: genuine partnership and consideration of children’s opinions
- Displays: to celebrate and support learning
- Ready Steady Grow reward system
- Sharing practice with other schools / visiting other schools to learn
- Reflective practice amongst all staff
- Supporting staff with their own professional learning ventures / CPD
- Parents invitations: their child’s learning and also understanding of education (e.g. Values process and Teaching, Learning & Assessment workshop
- Student placements
- Involving parents and other family members as group support / hearing readers
- Home link books
- School events: fairs, sports days…
- Community and communication on Facebook and Twitter
- Links with Church, e.g. Messy Church
However, I became most inspired when staff began to create initial draft definitions of what an “Exceptional Learning Community” means at Cornerstone CE Primary (@cornerstonecofe). Whatever we decide as a title, or indeed as the final definition agreed by all the community, these early thoughts fill me with great hope:
- An exciting journey which inspires a passion for lifelong learning within our valued, caring community
- Love for Learning = Lifelong Learners
- A commitment to working together to building the Cornerstone community to develop learners who are open to life’s challenges and experiences
- Continually striving for excellence for all learners
- Independent learners who use their initiative, embrace new ideas, are always willing to try, share opportunities and have a growth mindset
- Learning always and all ways
- Empowering partnerships in which all seek challenge and responsibility and are positive and passionate about their learning journey
- Learners who are driven by values, ask questions, challenge assumptions and constantly looking for ways to develop and grow
- All learners are valued, respected, open and act with integrity
- Equity and excellence for all
We are not certain were this process will eventually take us, but with a team of such committed, professional and passionate staff, I’m certain it will be an exceptional journey!