Parliamentary Review Article
In 2021, we were invited to write a piece for the Parliamentary review. It can be found online here.
The piece outlined our nurture, grow, flourish vision.
Below is the text of the piece
St. Stephen’s vision, ‘Nurture, Grow, Flourish’, compels us to seize the sheer potential of now. Our vision stems from Christian belief in the unique value of each child. Every action for children, staff and the wider school community is driven by the quest for excellence in provision, by ethical decision-making, and by the conviction that St. Stephen’s must also be the hub where resources for pupils’ flourishing are readily accessed. Diligent collaboration with partners provides the additional services families need. Partners include Bradford Children’s Social Services, health practitioners, community groups, especially Shine, an award-winning local charity run by St. Stephen’s Church.
We are a Church of England Voluntary Aided two-form entry primary school, educating children from 3-11 years. The school serves a culturally diverse community with a high level of transience, and pupils come from a range of socio-economic backgrounds. The buildings stand on a split-level site with limited internal and external space. School is surrounded by streets of low-cost housing within an industrial area of Bradford. Some families are beginning their journey into full participation in British society, whilst others have been part of the West Bowling community for several generations. St. Stephen’s is an oasis for the community.
Nurture embraces pupils, staff, and the wider community; it identifies need and provides a well-judged balance between support and challenge. Highly skilled staff listen attentively, observe closely, and identify a wide range of social, emotional, and mental health issues. Staff are courageous advocates on behalf of children, and daily give strong support to children and families in crisis. Families are helped to access online services for income support and paying bills or understand communications from the secondary school their child will soon attend.
To manage behaviour for good conduct, we use restorative practice supporting pupils and staff to reflect on their interaction and consider how best to prevent harm. The Behaviours Policy focuses on staff behaviours, ensuring that these are appropriate. We are good at perceiving the likely sources for a child’s behaviour and bring understanding of context into the process of redress. We seek to build an open and trusting environment where pupils feel safe, confident, and alert for each day’s learning. Through consistent practice of this policy, we have developed a culture in which laughter flourishes and incidents of unacceptable behaviour, including bullying, are infrequent but then thoroughly addressed.
Nurture is rooted in a Christian ethos with strong values, including thankfulness, perseverance, and forgiveness. With such tools we build confidence, strengthen emotional resilience, and empower by opening eyes to new worlds. As these roots are embedded all pupils are enabled to function and grow. A culture of clear expectations securely underpinned by open and trusting dialogue has proved its worth; mutually supportive relationships amongst staff and children are encouraged. Staff and pupils are confident that you can make a mistake and learn from it, and this supports the generation of fruitful ideas, worthy of community celebration.
Pupils learn through careful curriculum design that they have a place in the world beyond their starting points. We provide scope for hands-on experience and abundant books because we believe that wide reading develops children’s word power and their capacity to engage with more complex intellectual challenges. In recent TV interviews Year 6 pupils were able to deploy correct scientific terminology as they explained their role in the Born in Bradford project to assess the impact of air pollution on pupil and adult health. In the next phase pupils are going to use program coding devices to design pollution monitors. We can do such exciting projects because we employ specialist subject teachers in scientific, technical, and artistic fields to extend pupils’ learning and opportunities. These specialists work both independently and collaboratively, and so for example, our artist in residence has worked with technical staff to produce digital works of art. The actor in residence has directed Year 5 productions for public performance through the Shakespeare in Schools project and has identified talented pupils, nurturing them to seek further opportunities. Working with technicians who control our radio station equipment, the actor has coached pupils in voice production and recorded stories that introduce key figures from Bradford’s past, including the Parliamentarian, W. E. Forster, and the educationalist, Margaret McMillan. Each class is known by the name of its patron.
School recently introduced a uniform, chosen through community consultation. The preferred option in school colours was shirt, tie, sweater with logo, and black shoes, not trainers, and a quality book bag. The choice reflected high aspirations. Parents said: ’We don’t want the children to feel they are playing; we want them to regard learning with high respect.’ One parent said: ‘Be smart in your head and smart in your clothes.’
Through consultation and strategic investment, the learning environment has been transformed. Lighting, furniture, colour, wallcoverings, have been chosen to support the growth of well-being, curious interest, and sound learning. Next, we will enhance outdoor facilities to support children’s need for vigorous physical activity. In Collective Worship, around school, and in class pupils listen to good music, and they also experience meditative silence. In so many ways, we strive to provide the best resources for children’s flourishing. Staff are encouraged to base innovation on research. We work at the cutting edge of educational research to review and improve our practice. Middle leaders next term will work alongside Evidence Based Education (winners of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, Innovation category) to ensure the most effective assessment tools support flourishing learning.
Flourishing has no limits. With successful nurture and growth, flourishing is full of surprises, as we discover the productive energy confident children and staff can generate. Our learning strategies emphasise collaboration, so we reward only pupils who demonstrate positive behaviours for learning, including effective communication, co-operation, thoughtfulness, respect, adaptability, enquiry, and resilience. We are strong advocates for children’s potential; we expose children to a wide range of books, skills, and experience. Structures are in place that allow staff to function interdependently, regardless of seniority. This supports a flourishing, open and constructive dialogue within a safe environment. Staff are self-reflective, eager to develop themselves and others in school. A well-coordinated leadership team keen to empower produces the energy that drives school improvement and creates opportunities for all pupils, staff, and the wider community. The England footballer, Ian Wright, is an inspiration. His teacher gave him not just skills, but deep values that affirmed and transformed his life: ‘Don’t just score goals; score beautiful goals, Ian.’
Here is the vision that secured the nurture of pupils, staff, and families throughout the pandemic, and will enable the rehabilitation of pupils’ well-being, growth, and flourishing into the future. Our constant aim is excellence, and we build a flourishing St. Stephen’s through a virtuous spiral of initiatives that are sustainable and continuously refined through reflective dialogue