Jenny Cox, Director of Co-curricular and Partnerships at WHS looks at Wimbledon’s partnership work and whether it is a positive programme for the school and its community to be part of.
Partnerships work takes on many different forms at WHS. We are very proud of the work the Year 11, 12, 13 students take part in during partnerships afternoon, in addition to the wonderful SHINE programme, initiatives such as Merton against Trafficking and of course our charity work.
As a charity, building meaningful and positive relationships with the local, national and international community is central to the aims of the school. Whether it be leading, teaching, mentoring students at local state primary and secondary schools or entertaining, befriending, gardening as part of ‘WHS in the Community’ programme, they are all are wonderful examples of the work that takes place on a weekly basis.
Partnerships are central to WHS values
Currently there twenty-one separate programmes taking place on a Thursday afternoon alone; nine in the community, six at secondary schools and five at primary schools and all of which are supported so wholeheartedly by the Wimbledon staff. The range of programmes is diverse; from our Year 3 girls going to local residential homes with WHS Year 11 & 12’s to read to the elderly, to helping with the gardening as part of our ‘Helping Hands’ project at Wimbledon Guild and of course our Entertainment in the Community group going ‘on tour’ around Merton to perform at residential, care homes and hospitals.
These programmes have bought delight to the elderly who look forward to the Wimbledon High School visits and well as our own girls:
“Week 2 into the programme – Lucy (106!) never takes part in activities organised by the care home but today she got out of her flat to spend time with the girls because she enjoyed last Thursday. It’s the most exciting time of her week”
Our partnerships with state schools has seen the launch this year of the ‘Clever Clogs’ programme for West Wimbledon, Wimbledon Park, Green Wrythe and St Andrews and St Marks school, for high achieving boys and girls in Year 5. These students are academically stretched by WHS staff and mentored for 16 weeks by WHS students. In their working books, the weekly question, “what have I learnt today” we have seen responses such as……
“I learnt how to code a magic 8 bit and how to write a chart”
“I have learnt what an algorithm is”
The ‘Teach Together’ programmes continue to be an important component of the Thursday afternoon activities. These are bespoke programmes for a variety of ages which involve WHS students facilitating the delivery of subjects such as Maths, Physics, Music, Latin, French, Netball and mentoring sessions to a range of partner primary and secondary schools. There is a high degree of collaboration between school staff and students, which brings me back to the initial question: ‘Are Partnerships with local schools and the community beneficial? If so, for who?’
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that all of our partnership work is mutually beneficial. Current funding in state schools has triggered the decline of subjects such as Music, and very few state schools have subjects such as Latin on their curriculum or the facilities to deliver really creative and inspiring science lessons. Many independent schools are fortunate to be in a position to work alongside these schools to provide staff and students to help ensure subjects like these are still taught. I say fortunate as the benefits of working with others on our own mental health and well-being really does exist.
The more you do for others, the more you do for yourself
This may surprise you, however, putting people’s needs before our own can reduce stress, improve mood, self-esteem and happiness. It probably doesn’t feel like that when deadlines are looming, but voluntary work promotes positive changes in the brain associated with happiness which in turn gives us a period of calm and eventually well-being. Talking to someone on a regular basis can bring with it a sense of belonging and talking to someone like Lucy (in the picture above) may give a different perspective – she must have some extremely wise words for us all! It’s that sense of perspective particularly when working with those who may not have the same level of resource which is grounding, and can help us all achieve a more positive outlook. Kindness is contagious. Just one smile, high five or piece of positive feedback to anyone at any age can lift a mood and spark optimism and hope.