Our school as a Church of England school
We have strong links with our local church St Mary’s, which is situated 100 metres from the school.
Use of St Mary’s church
Our pupils, staff, parents and governors attend church at key points throughout the year, to participate in services run by the clergy, pupils or a combination of both. Children enjoy going to church and worshipping together.
The building is also used to enhance our curriculum teaching, including visits to enact a ceremony in RE, historical enquiry, or a tranquil setting for art activities.
The clergy and other members of the church community visit school each week to join in with or lead collective worship and other activities. Open the Book sessions take place every two weeks and are enthusiastically received by our pupils, with many listing them as a favourite part of their experience at Balcombe. These sessions not only enable children to access the wealth of wonderful stories contained within the Old and New Testament, but forge bonds between the pupils and often older members of the community.
Pupils talk confidently about Christianity, their beliefs or those of others in a well-considered and accepting way. They understand people worship in different ways or not at all. Through worship, pupils can reflect on their own behaviour and that of others and make links with stories to real life situations and our values. Children are challenged to ask and suggest answers to big questions and share thoughts about what if………….? They understand that there is often no right or wrong answer, but that faith is something personal that develops as time goes on. Pupils understand the significance of prayer in collective worship, being able to contribute to the wording, whilst those who chose not to join in, respect the needs of others and still reflect on the content.
Foundation governors (nominated by the diocese) are also fundamental in planning and evaluating the school’s programme of collective worship, resulting in a balanced programme that follows the Christian calendar, focusses on the schools’ core values, as well as responding to current local and national issues or initiatives. Our parents report children talk about collective worship at home – sharing key messages and reflecting on stories and values.
Ensuring Christian distinctiveness
The Senior Leadership Team and governors work in partnership with the local church, ensuring there is an ongoing process to evaluate the effectiveness of the school as a church school. A recent increase in visits from members of the local church has already resulted in greater opportunity for pupils to reflect on their faith and hear about the faith of others from a more personal viewpoint. When initiating or reviewing key policies and practices, focus groups are instigated, often including members of the church community. This ensures that the distinctive Christian ethos is maintained and further developed.
Promoting and nurturing resolute Christian values
The school’s Christian values are consistently understood and clearly articulated by all members of the school community. They are visible around our school and sustain and guide our school community, with pupils demonstrating them consistently and describing the impact that the values have on our everyday lives. They contribute to our nurturing ethos and form the basis of our behaviour policy.
This is our after school club where children have fun learning about stories from the bible, Christian festivals and develop a greater understanding of core Christian values. The club is run by a member of the church and is well attended.
The RE subject leader is an experienced teacher across a range of age groups and provides consistency in the teaching of RE across the school. Lessons are progressive, develop understanding from simple similarities and differences at the beginning of key Stage 1, to a deeper understanding and questioning, with personal response by the end of KS2.
Training in the teaching of RE and networking with colleagues in other schools, ensures that we are well informed about current thinking and initiatives.
Pupils develop a good understanding of Christianity – exploring key elements of the Christian faith and other faiths beyond just their festivals and special events, taught in such a way as to explore similarities and differences between them and Christian faith.
Pupils say RE is one of favourite subjects and monitoring shows that lessons are creative, engaging and varied, with opportunity for reflection. Links to other areas of the curriculum are made ie skills of enquiry and interpretation in History, explanation and argument in English, respectful understanding in PSHE and community belonging in Geography. Links are also made to our school values to enable pupils to consider the impact of these attitudes in all areas of life.