Proud to be a Church School

Updated: 16/02/2024 220 KB

“Collective worship brings the vision alive for all members of the school community. Staff, parents and pupils talk enthusiastically about the impact it has on their lives. An imaginative combination of drama, music and visual prompts are used very effectively by both pupils and adults to ‘paint pictures’ for pupils, enabling them to think about the message being shared.”

SIAMS inspection report February 2019

Collective Worship is an integral part of our school day at St. Stephen’s C.E. Primary School. Collective Worship takes various forms across the week. The Collective Worship we offer is varied, invitational and thought provoking. It includes prayer, time for quiet reflection, song, direct biblical teaching and creative approaches to provoke thinking.

Our worship follows a biannual values theme, with every half term exploring a particular Christian value. Charity events are often linked into the values, for example, within our generosity theme, we invite our families to give to the local Food Bank. Father David, our local vicar, leads worship every week, following a Church year focus. We felt it was important for our children to understand the seasons within the Christian year and ‘walk’ through the year marking these special dates and understanding their significance. Every Friday, we hold a Celebration Worship which cements our vision in nurturing our children to be the best that they can be, enabling them to let their light shine to the world. In addition to this, we have a flexible and fluid worship on a Monday, which changes focus depending on school priorities. In recent weeks we have been worshipping the awe and wonder of the natural world as we continue to embark on our OPAL journey. As we understand that personal reflection and response is equally important, we have embarked on an exciting new venture: ‘Quiet time’ is a class based worship which invites children to reflect spiritually on a range of Christian themes. Children have the opportunity to worship through a creative response within their spiritual journals, which the children seem to particularly enjoy.

“Invitational, inclusive and inspiring worship is at the heart of the school. Highly creative approaches draw in families and church members to worship with the school on a monthly basis. This has a great impact on and, in some instances transforms pupils’ and adults’ lives.”
SIAMS inspection report February 2019

We are most proud of our monthly Open Worships in school, which provide an opportunity for parents, carers, community and Church congregation to join us in worship. Feedback from pupil voice suggests that the children particularly enjoy these special times as they feel it makes worship seem more important and special. Our children across the school have the opportunity to lead Open Worships: Y2 lead our Harvest Open Worship, Y3 lead our Easter Open Worship, Y4 lead our Ascension and Pentecost Open Worship in St. Stephen’s Church, Y5 lead our Farewell to Y6 Open Worship and Y6 lead our Reception Dedication Service to welcome the new Reception families into the family of our Church School.

The experience of worship is broad and varied, with a wide range of techniques adopted to engage and inspire the children’s thinking and reflection. From pupil voice, children have stated that they particularly enjoy the use of mime, freeze framing and drama within worship, so as a result we strive to incorporate such techniques as much as possible. Children also shared, through our worship committee that they wanted to have a quiet time before worship to allow time for quiet prayer. Quiet reflection now features at the start of every worship.

Worshipping through song is a huge part of both our school culture and worship style. Our pupils genuinely love to sing and we pro-actively exhaust many opportunities to lift our hearts in joy and worship. Worshipping through song is part of everyday worship, with the children enjoying a huge repertoire of hymns, both traditional and modern. We are proud of our school choir, who meet every Friday night, singing a large array of songs, both secular and religious. At Christmas time, it is our school choir who actively share the true meaning of Christmas throughout our community, singing in care homes, supermarkets and on the town green.

Sufficient dedicated curriculum time, meeting explicitly RE objectives, is planned into the timetable every week, alongside collapsed curriculum days which focus entirely on Christian festivals, such as Christmas and Easter. RE has a very high profile within the school, and learning activities provide for the needs of all learners. Discovery RE provides a progressive and detailed resource, which support them in their teaching. Learners are inspired by the subject and develop a wide range of higher level skills such as enquiry, analysis, interpretation, evaluation and reflection to deepen their understanding of the impact of religion on the world.

Attainment is high and progress is significant in developing an understanding of Christianity and a broad range of religions and world views. As two thirds of the RE curriculum is dedicated to Christianity, pupils make good progress in relation to understanding Christianity as a major world faith. By adopting a scheme which carefully incorporates critical thinking, children have the opportunity to reflect on key theological concepts and beliefs.

For us as a Church School, the most powerful element of RE is the opportunity to critically reflect on their own religious, spiritual and/or philosophical convictions. Staff are well practiced in providing meaningful opportunities for personal reflection. Throughout all units of work, children are provided with many opportunities to reflect and respond to deep theological concepts.

As a Church of England School, we are committed to our children being fully immersed into the wonderful seasons of the Christian year. However, we are equally committed to ensuring that our children develop the critical thinking skills to reflect objectively on life, religion and the world as a whole. Through our carefully planned RE curriculum, children are provided with opportunities to think critically about religious beliefs, debating whether or not they believe ideas to be true and real.

Our passion for educating our children to be tolerant of other faiths and cultures (DFE British Values 2014) is a huge strength of our school and is an expression of, “staying true to our roots while also being hospitably open” (Vision for Education 2016). Our commitment to nurturing critical thinking and celebrating difference will hopefully lead our school community to, “deeper mutual understanding and to peaceful, negotiated settlements that can live with ongoing disagreements” (Vision for Education 2016). An example of this commitment is our decision to fund and welcome all parent/governor volunteers for faith visits. Other trips have a selection process and a set amount of volunteers required.

Respecting and celebrating difference and diversity is most certainly a strength of our school. We made a commitment, a number of years ago, that by the time our pupils leave us for Secondary; they will have visited most places of worship from the major world faiths. By stepping foot inside a range of places of worship, children touch, feel, see, smell and hear real life religion and culture. They make connections and relationships, which will remain with them forever. In addition to this, over time we have nurtured strong links with a Buddhist monk and an inspirational Sikh man, which allows us to hold family learning sessions in school to explore real life culture and religion with a faith member. The multi-faith family learning experiences, in which the children have the opportunity to work with their families and a faith member, are incredibly valuable in considering world views and their impact on society and culture. Children have the opportunity to discuss beliefs and culture alongside a real faith member. The triangulation of a faith visit, meeting a faith member within family learning and quality first teaching within the classroom, allows our children to gain a deep and meaningful understanding of world faiths in the 21st Century. We hope that this tolerance and understanding of diversity that we so passionately nurture will remain with our children forever.

Provision for supporting pupils to develop spiritually is exemplary. Collective worship is a fundamental part of the school day and provides a wealth of invitations for children to reflect, respond and develop spiritually. Reflection areas around school provide a range of invitations for children to respond and think spiritually. Our annual ‘Prayer Spaces’ week is invaluable in offering opportunities for reflective, spiritual thinking and development. All children in school engaged within the Prayer Spaces event, with other schools engaging as part of our discipleship work. Children also engage in a weekly ‘quiet time’ session in class, which is carefully planned by the DHT, to incorporate a wide range of themes to develop self-awareness and spirituality. Carefully planned RE also provides opportunities for personal reflection, which enriches and develops spiritual development. As we believe that nature can have huge benefits for children’s mental health, we have embarked on an OPAL project to provide opportunities for imaginative, creative and real life play, whatever the weather!

“Pupils and adults alike, flourish and shine at St Stephen’s. Everyone in the school is treated as an individual and treasured as a child of God.”

SIAMS inspection report February 2019

Firmly embedded across all elements of school life is a growth mind-set of forgiveness and reconciliation. We actively promote an understanding that we are all children of God on our own unique journey and we’re all ‘just learning’. Our pupils understand that, as humans, we all make mistakes and as long as we learn from those mistakes we should seek forgiveness. We encourage our children to create a ‘sorry’ card if they make a wrong choice, in a bid to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. Most endearing is when children, completely unaided, create sorry cards and sorry letters when they’ve made a ‘wrong choice’. Forgiveness and honesty is fundamental to all our work in school: staff, children, parents and the whole community.

We work actively to nurture a community in which we all strive to do our best and learn from our mistakes, allowing us all to be the best that we can be. Our pupils demonstrate thoughtful behaviour, which creates a positive school ethos. The outstanding behaviour within school is a significant factor in the successful learning and achievement of our pupils. Pupils encourage others to conduct themselves well, and there are a wide range of positive role models who demonstrate expectations really well: playtime buddies, playtime mediators, play councillors, school councillors, family group leaders and our very carefully selected Head boy and Head girl who set an outstanding example to all. There are extremely low levels of exclusion and highly effective systems for integrating pupils at risk of exclusion. We are extremely proud of the successful reintegration of pupils with behavioural difficulties from other schools. We believe that every child, no matter what their history, deserves a second chance to follow the ‘right path’.

Our recent drive to immerse our children in the natural world, through engaging OPAL opportunities at playtimes, is not accidental. We are passionate about encouraging our pupils to, “see the natural world as a place of wonder, exploration, reflection and self-discovery” (Vision for Education 2016). A place they will learn to respect and nurture as they grow, develop and become ‘stewards’ not owners of God’s creation.

However our decision to improve outdoor play and learning goes even further than this. As we live in an age where mental health is becoming a growing concern, we fully embrace the benefits of nature upon children’s wellbeing and mental health. A report published in February 2016, ‘A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care’ shows that taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety, stress, and depression. We are keen to address current issues, and as such we have initiated a mental health school improvement plan to educate our children on recognising the signs of mental health and understanding that ‘It’s OK not to be OK’, another example of how we are committed to developing the whole child.

Celebrating difference is fundamental to our work in school, with children exploring a range of differences through an ‘Everyone is Equal’ week in February. A particular focus this week is on sexual orientation, with children across all year groups exploring carefully selected materials in class. As a priority, we invited Elle Barnes, LGBT ‘Educate and Celebrate’ to lead staff training and educate our staff on the breath of sexual orientations. In addition to this, our children also enjoy a family group session to explore individuality, uniqueness and difference through a creative stimulus. Throughout all our work on diversity and difference is a common thread that we are all children of God, made perfectly, with no mistakes!


“Through its work based on ‘Valuing All God’s Children’, staff and pupils embrace difference and promote respect for all – ‘everyone is equal and everyone is special’.”

SIAMS inspection report February 2019

As a Church School, we are an active partner within the community, attending a range of community events across the year. Our School Choir is particularly active in sharing the Christian message to our local community: carol singing in the main street, carol singing for the elderly residents and visitors in care homes and day centres and singing in Church for Advent.

A recent venture, in the last couple of years, has been the pupil’s participation in St. Stephen’s Church’s Crib Service on Christmas Eve: a truly powerful and memorable way to celebrate the arrival of the Christ child. All events provide an opportunity for us, not only to share the Christian message of Christmas, but also to showcase our wonderful pupils as they ‘let their light shine’.

We have worked hard to form an effective and positive relationship with our local parish Church of St. Stephens. Fr. David works closely with school: supporting both staff and children pastorally, leading worship once a week, attending governors meetings, leading Q & A sessions in classes and attending a range of school events.

“The headteacher and deputy headteacher drive the school’s vision to ensure all in their community are able to ‘let their light shine’. They have successfully improved the life chances for all in a loving and nurturing environment.”

SIAMS inspection report February 2019