The Week Ahead
Visiting other schools, and meeting their pupils and staff, has been one of the great pleasures of my job in the past few years. Dedicated teachers and engaged, enthusiastic pupils always remind me how inspiring it is to be able to spend time getting under the skin of a school and seeing how it operates. In part, of course, I use such visits as a way of learning more about schooling across the world, shamelessly adopting great ideas whenever I see an opportunity - our school here in Wellington has certainly benefitted from some of the great work being done in schools across China and the rest of the world.
It is not all a case of inter-school spying, however. These are occasions to share good practice and to celebrate the success of schools which share our commitment to great teaching and a genuinely holistic education. Whilst the coronavirus restrictions remain in place, it has not been possible to see many new schools, but the memory of one that I was privileged enough to visit a couple of weeks ago has stayed with me. The Tianjin Hongqiao Peizhi primary school is only a few kilometres away from College, but it is a very different sort of school to our own. This is a school which serves families with children aged from 2-18 years who have serious learning difficulties, often allied to physical disabilities. It is a humbling, inspirational place, even when its students are not able to attend. On our recent visit, principally arranged so that we could make a donation of 10 tablets from money raised by the staff from Wellington, we were lucky enough to meet some of the staff and parents of this remarkable school. Touring the art rooms and seeing the work that the children at Peizhi had created was particular a reminder of the way dedicated teaching can change lives.
The privilege of a school like Wellington – be it in attending as a pupil or working here as a member of staff – can sometimes mean that we forget how the lives of others are not as ours. The stories of the families and staff from Peizhi provided a timely message for me. Any one of the Wellington family of schools places service to others at the heart of its being. From its very foundation in 1859, for example, Wellington College in England has offered free places to the orphaned children of those in the armed forces and latterly, in the emergency services. As a school, it continues to offer community service projects in and around the school estate.
I spoke to all parents this week on the vision for the coming year. Of course, much was focused on the education we provide, and the changes to teaching and learning, but a strong thread of our focus for the coming year and beyond lies in building up our service commitment. We already run a vibrant International Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and charitable projects like last year’s Pink Day and the visually arresting ‘Movember’ phenomenon raise thousands of renminbi for local charities. But I sense we can do more to place service at the core of our school, from everyday relationships across our own community, with respect as the cornerstone of any interaction, to more structured ASA programmes which allow our pupils to work with children from schools like Peizhi each week. Parents too are encouraged to join our drive to foster the service mentality of our school, either through the great work of the FOW or with individual projects close to your heart.
Peizhi primary school, so unremarkable from the outside, does quite extraordinary work with its young people. For all that we celebrate the academic, sporting and artistic triumphs of our own pupils, it is worth reflecting on the broader education we provide here at school. Wellingtonians should leave confident of their place in the world, as our marvellous graduates from year 13 showed at their leaving ceremony this week, but they also need to have humility and compassion for those less privileged in our society.
In the last couple of weeks, pupils in year 1 have been learning how to reduce, reuse and recycle. In the IPC lessons, children learned what is happening to our world now, with topics such as air pollution, global warming and plastic pollution. They also discussed what recycling is, which materials can be recycled, why it is good to recycle and how we recycle. Year 1 pupils enjoyed these lessons and would love to be engaged in environmental protection actions. We also started a project of reusing different materials from home to make new items. It was great to see so many children reducing, reusing and recycling at home! Children have also been sharing photos and videos about how to care for the environment. They are excited to share their ideas with their friends about how they reused recyclable materials. Well done year 1!