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Working with the place you’re in

I spend Tuesday morning each week volunteering in a lovely school near my house, where I work with young learners who find literacy tricky and who may need a bit of extra mentoring time. I’m really lucky that the school has so thoroughly embraced me and welcomed me into the team. The staff are amazing and the kids are lovely. It’s a massive privilege and I’m always included in staffroom chats at breaktime.

This week, we were talking about half term- my ‘paid-for-job’ school broke up formally today after INSET and my volunteer school was the same. Within a really small area in my town, there are a lot of different term dates, partly I imagine due to there being MATS, private schools and for some schools, different demographics.

Under the current Ofsted inspection framework, school leadership is measured on its engagement with the local community and how they influence it. To me, this suggests that it is vital for schools to build positive relationships with their local communities and all stakeholders. I found it fantastic that, during the discussion with the teachers at break on Tuesday morning, one of them said that a friend of hers worked in a school located in an area with significant levels of poverty and deprivation. She said that this school’s head teacher, along with his staff had taken the decision to aggregate all the school’s INSET days into one week at the end of the summer term, effectively starting the summer holiday a week early. This was reportedly done so that families could benefit from cheaper holiday prices, as it’s outside of regular school holidays. What engagement with the local community!

This is anecdotal and staff-room chat. I don’t know which school it is and it may be that someone has their wires crossed as to whether it’s something that it actually happening. However, that the Head Teacher and the staff had taken the time to become aware of the needs of the school community, and then taken steps to alleviate some difficulties of that community for me is what school engagement should look like. The staff would be working a significant number of twilight sessions so that their kids and their families can benefit from that extra week, but it seems that they valued their community enough to make that change.

For me, that is building the community, being a role model and embodying positive values of a school: they put their people first.