There is more to a good school than its test results, inspection grade or place in the league tables.
I had new potatoes with my barbecued lamb last night - scrummy, organic new potatoes fresh from our school allotment. I brought some firm white onions too while others brought ripe strawberries and peas. All grown by our children, who manage the allotment under the watchful eye of our secret weapons - Mrs Dance, Mrs Hood and Miss Blofield. While I was eating them, I was thinking of the joy that growing them has given to all those involved in planning, preparing and maintaining this small corner of the school field and the benefits that such an enterprise brings to a school community.
Mick Waters, that inspiring and energising ex head of our country's curriculum authority, spoke to Slough primary headteachers recently and extolled the virtues of a connected, enriching, exciting curriculum and struck such a chord with many of us that we are all looking hard at our own curriculum offering and what it truly offers our youngsters. When you consider the life skills our pupils will need in 2025 and beyond, we genuinely need to balance the need for knowledge with the need for communication, initiative, motivation, morals, fun, technology, challenge. The school allotment provides an opportunity to learn all these things.
We have had an allotment for some time but it has really developed over the last few years with community support from Cemex volunteers and Heathrow volunteers who completely cleared an overgrown area ready for landscaping, paid for by lottery funding. More recently the local 'One Stop' shop has supported us to gain a grant from the sale of carrier bags and we are now able to offer sections of our allotment to parents with no outdoor space, living in flats. The whole area is now practical, accessible, well kept and very, very productive. Children give up lunchtimes to plant, weed and water and then to gather and sell the produce or to make delicious dishes from the variety of fruit and veg - raspberries, strawberries, rhubarb, peas, beans, onions, potatoes, leeks.
Dave Harris, author of 'Brave Heads, Brave Hearts' and 'Leadership Dialogues' also inspired Slough headteachers at our recent conference and shared a document called the 'good school' scorecard. This involved grading elements like children and staff enjoying coming to school, developing competencies as well as earning grades, learning skills as well as facts, encouraging wonder, curiosity, adventure, resilience, extending the school community and welcoming the unexpected.
I am proud to say that our allotment gives opportunities to develop all these things and without a single test paper in sight!