Helping our students be READY

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Lee Elliott, Head Teacher at Wolsingham School

The beginning of the Autumn term at Wolsingham School was no different to previous years. We, like many schools, had scheduled two days of staff training prior to the arrival of our students. However, this year staff, parents and governors started the new academic year considering one straightforward question, ‘what is the purpose of education at Wolsingham School?’ This marked the start of a new journey for staff and students at Wolsingham School, it was the first step in developing our ‘Ready’ curriculum.

The ‘Ready’ curriculum remained dormant in my mind during my time as a Deputy Headteacher and it was only when I was appointed Headteacher in 2016 that I brought the idea to life. As a parent, I appreciate the importance of academic excellence but also the development of the skills, values and character which enable children to be happy and successful.

The simple question ‘what is the purpose of education?’ threw up a remarkable number of answers and some heated debates. Answers included:

‘To ensure students are the best they can be. Providing opportunities and chances for them to face life’s next challenge’

‘To equip each individual with the transferable skills – academically, socially and holistically – for his/her future’

‘To recognise and maximise individual potential in all areas ready for life!’

The discussion then turned to the challenges that students might face and how we, as educators, prepare them to meet these challenges. Again, discussion was wide ranging from managing financial pressures, to adapting to changing circumstances or dealing with disappointment. The consensus in every discussion was that students educated at Wolsingham School should be prepared academically and socially to meet to such challenges.

After a lengthy and lively debate it was agreed that as staff and students we need to be:
• Ready to engage
• Ready to see and experience
• Ready to succeed
• Ready to support
• Ready to inspire
• Ready to lead
• Ready to reflect
• Ready to learn
• Ready to adapt
• Ready to respect

The establishment of the ‘Ready’ curriculum forms the key priorities for the school over the next three years. Lesson planning, development plans and meeting structures have all been adapted to ensure that each strand of the curriculum is developed in detail. We have even renamed senior leaders posts so that the Assistant Headteacher responsible for teaching and learning is now the Assistant Headteacher for Ready to Inspire, our pastoral Assistant Headteacher is responsible for the Ready to engage strand and so on.

By involving all staff, parents and governors in the creation of the ten Ready strands we have ensured that the school vision is a shared vision that is known, and understood, by all.

The Ready to See and Experience strand has led to some significant developments within school that allow our young people access to projects that our rural location would make difficult otherwise. In the last 12 months we have launched our own school Combined Cadet Force (CCF) and we are proud to be the first school in the country that has recently launched our own Police Cadet Force. Both the army and police cadets are led by ex-officers, meaning the training our students receive is first class.

The Police Cadet Force is open to Years 7-13 and is run weekly every Wednesday night between 3.30 and 5.00p.m. The aim of the Police Cadets is to train and develop young people to become positive citizens, inspire and improve aspirations of young people to participate positively in their communities, portray a positive image of young people and Wolsingham School, encourage the spirit of adventure and good citizenship and to support local policing priorities through volunteering, giving young people a chance to be heard and promote a practical understanding of policing among all young people.

Training involves learning about the different crimes within the law and also how people in the police deal with them. This involves visits from the police such as dog handlers, serving detectives, etc. There are drills, identification exercises and witness activities. A uniform is provided that incorporates a polo shirt, jacket, trousers and headwear and cadets wear this uniform at school each Wednesday. At the start of each session, cadets are given a roll call by the junior leaders and a uniform inspection takes place to ensure high standards throughout.

There will be an attestation event at the end of the training programme to officially confirm the cadets into the national police cadet force with family and significant figures in the police force attending and supporting.

After training, there will be opportunities for cadets to be involved in further activities such as an introduction to specialist police departments, motor patrols, dog support unit, public order, public protection, conflict management training, helping police at public events, crime prevention, career opportunities with Durham Police, fund raising activities and visits to other Cadet Schemes.

Colleagues are more than welcome to come and see us in action, if you are interested please give me a call.

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