What’s so special about a Church of England School??
The Church of England founded many of the first schools for ‘ordinary people’ in this country. Church land, time and money went into building up a network of schools, many of which are still thriving centuries later.
Our school was set up on church land in 1818 by Reverend Bewick Bridge, a former vicar of St Andrew’s Church in Cherry Hinton. He was a fellow at Peterhouse College as well as vicar of Cherry Hinton and his combination of academic and spiritual strength still underpins everything we do.
In the 21st Century the Church of England has an exciting vision for how its schools can educate the whole person – heart, mind, body and soul – in a world which tends to judge people in narrow categories.
You can read more about this vision here: https://www.churchofengland.org/about/education-and-schools/vision-education
Even non-Church schools are sometimes using this document as a basis for their values, recognising the strength and depth of a vision built upon Christianity but valuing all faith perspectives.
We try to live out this all-embracing vision at Cherry Hinton Primary, paying close attention not only to the academic development of children, but to their emotional, physical and spiritual development as well.
Here are some of the ways our Christian vision plays out in school:
We are part of God’s world, and we seek to love it as God does. We value our outdoor spaces especially. We love the many trees in our playground, spaces for gardening and making forts, climbing and playing games. We take regular trips to Cherry Hinton Hall to look at the growth of its trees during the seasons. We use nature as inspiration for our work. We have an active ‘Eco Warriors’ group advocating for better care for our planet.
We have a special prayer space, used by many of all faiths and none. We encourage other ‘time out’ spaces as well so that children who need to withdraw from the bustle from time to time have several options.
One very special space is the Hall in which we gather each day for Collective Worship. The whole school community meets to think, sing and learn together in this space. A very strong sense of community and belonging develops over these daily meetings. We think about the wider world and about making our own piece of it better. We think about how to love with our whole hearts and find that our deepest thoughts are valued in ‘thoughts from the heart’ time or reflection as a class after assemblies.
We also have use of the spaces at St Andrew’s Church and Churchyard. We go there to pay our respects at Remembrance time; and for fun Harvest, Christmas and other special services. We go there for lessons sometimes to learn about and appreciate this beautiful medieval church. The church has also hosted a STEM club called ‘Lego Church’.
We take visits to other religious spaces as well, so that we can become well educated about all different expressions of faith and feed our spirits in many different ways.
Our Christian values are summed up in the acronym ACT. And we are all about action. The right kind of action which is motivated by ‘Agape’ (or self giving love), by ‘Courage’ and by ‘Thankfulness’.
We talk about our values often and seriously, with teachers noticing and rewarding actions which particularly show these values.
We want to educate children to act from a place of understanding their own self-worth and the worth of others. And many activities are designed to help this kind of understanding.
Daily Mile, Charity action, Peer Mediation, Diversity day, etc…
We recognise that we cannot fully live out our mission statement: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and your neighbour as yourself’ until you love yourself.
So we work very hard on helping children to accept and value themselves: there are many awards given out each week in Assemblies; we actively encourage older children to help younger ones so that children feel valued by those older than themselves. Those with particular challenges are supported by a full time Family Support Worker and weekly visits from a children’s mental health charity Blue Smile.
Our Christian vision is seen most clearly in the ways we ACT towards each other. All our policies, especially those related to behaviour are developed with the aim of creating a loving environment in which children and staff learn to act in loving ways.
We know that if children are happy, anything is possible. Even academic success beyond their wildest dreams! So one of the things we value most about our school community is the happiest of everyone in it – and that includes parents and carers as well as staff and pupils.
Teaching and Learning
Our Christian vision also drives our curriculum and academic achievement. We look through lesson plans to see where it is possible to teach or deepen love for God, one another and self. And love for the academic subject!
Our academic curriculum encourages children to approach the world of learning with Agape Love, Courage and Thankfulness. We think we succeed admirably in raising up ‘inquisitive learners with kind hearts’ who can make the most of their God given talents.
Our school is underpinned by a long history of trying to think about what being a ‘church school’ really means. Each generation has to decide that for itself and find ways of remaining very inclusive at the same time as honouring Christian vision and values.
For us in 2022, our Christian distinctiveness is most apparent in the way we live out our mission statement – in the breadth and depth of our love – for ourselves, for God, for the planet, for our neighbour near and far.
Come and see what it looks like to be part of a school characterised by love…