As School 360 opened its doors in Stratford, London, in September 2021, we knew that it was a school we wanted to create and grow not just for the community, but with the community. In fact, the name School 360 was chosen not only to represent educating the whole child: Head, Heart and Hand, but to also represent the strong circle of community partnerships that would be working together to achieve this.
We knew that this type of work needed to be rooted in shared values – Courage, Joy, Responsibility, Kindness and Curiosity. These values would guide everything we do, including how we treat each other, how we lead, how we teach and how we learn. Once we had decided on these values we explored how they could be considered through three lenses: the self, the relationship with others, and of course, with the wider community.
Think differently, learn together, change the world
We had a clear vision that by the time children leave us at the end of Year 6, they would have had experiences in making positive changes in the world through carefully planned projects. These projects would enable them to develop the knowledge, skills and the confidence to tackle issues that matter to them, to others and to their community.
We are already seeing evidence that children are developing their own commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. This is enhanced through a values curriculum that specifically teaches them about the protected characteristics through stories, discussion, different perspectives and positive representation. This approach helps shape the broader curriculum, making it anti-racist, and anti-discriminatory in every way. Oracy and storytelling works as a golden thread that runs through the entire curriculum, encouraging children to own their stories, promote their own voices and the voices of marginalised members of the community.
The curriculum as a whole is designed to develop pupil agency, raise esteem and to enable a commitment to social and environmental justice.
The School 360 Community Panel
Although we have thought a lot about the curriculum, we also knew we wanted a different type of governance. We wanted to focus on building a panel of members that would work with the school and Citizens UK to identify and tackle issues that mattered to the local community. The Community Panel was set up to include parents, school staff, people from local businesses and social enterprises, charities, and community and local religious leaders.
So far, the Community Panel has had success with a number of campaigns from improving road safety around the school, to opening the schools community room each week as a warm space and food bank, from making sure the bridges that lead to the school are accessible to all, to organising a campaign to improve our local roundabout, and a range of other issues around local services and equity. From the Community Panel, a group of core members has emerged that take on additional responsibilities and dedicate more time to over critical feedback into specific aspects of School 360’s offer to children, families and the community.
The Community Panel’s work also overlaps with the work of the school’s Eco Group, which drives a commitment to tackling the climate crisis and supporting pupils and as part of this, supporting families to become more engaged with the natural world around them. This group has been led by an organisation called The Visionaries, but also includes parents, local businesses and eco-charities. They have so far raised funds to develop a roof garden which was built by parent and corporate volunteers, and set up a family gardening club. Chickens have been installed in the playground and the Eco Group is now raising money to rewild the school grounds, enabling it to become a community resource on evenings and weekends, and to act as a model for sustainability for local schools.
How will School 360 continue to further social and environmental justice?
We are proud of the work we are doing on our curriculum and with our community, but we know there is more work to be done. As part of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) working group for the Next Big 10, we want to make sure that our school community embraces the diversity, the knowledge and the skills, and the opportunities the wider community can provide. Working with nine other innovating schools on the Next Big 10 is helping us push our vision and develop our practice, learning from each other’s challenges and successes. Community is a big word and we want our community thinking to be as big as it can be.