Video: All around Leicestershire schools are bringing blessing to the community



This is the first in a short series highlighting some of the great work that staff and pupils in our schools are doing alongside people in their own communities and further afield.


There’s a feeling of excitement when you walk into Barwell Church of England Academy.  The school is an explosion of colour, its walls are emblazoned with pictures and projects, and the handshake from head teacher Vicky Newman is welcoming and warm.  Amazing things are happening here.



The children are encouraged to believe in themselves, no matter what challenges they face, and inspired to have a compassionate, global outlook, as well as caring for people and problems in their local community.


At the forefront of this work is Jodie Robinson, the school’s Family Link Support Worker.   From supporting the village foodbank and making friends at a local residential care home, to reaching out to people in need on the other side of the world, Barwell is growing caring, young citizens who are a blessing to their school and community.


The school is very much of the attitude that ‘Everyone is Welcome’ and has signed up to the programme which teaches children about equality and diversity, and encourages the whole school community to think about being welcoming.


Head teacher Vicky – who has been at Barwell for 17 years – wants the school to reflect the community around it; and for the community to be more welcoming and tolerant of others.  In recent months, the children of two Syrian refugee families have joined classes and are learning to speak English.


“These are the first refugees we’ve taught in our school and they’re settling in well,” says Vicky. “Jodie has been brilliant, communicating with the parents – often by text message, which allows for translation where needed – and their English is getting better.”


At the heart of the school are its Christian values: Hope, Friendship, Thankfulness, Trust, Compassion and Forgiveness. The children concentrate on one value every half term, aligning their work throughout the year.


“Our character values are a shared vision,” explains Vicky. “It’s a ripple effect, making lives not just better in school, but going out into the community and the whole world. It’s about being the best version of ourselves.”


The school also has strong links with St Mary’s Church in the village, with the Revd Philip Watson regularly leading the school in collective worship, further supporting the development of the school’s values.


Jodie has worked at the school since 2012 and means very much, to many.  A listening ear for pupils and parents alike, she talks through issues such as behaviour management and provides adult education including how to read with children; while once a month, the police and a nurse come into school.

If someone has a problem, and Jodie can’t solve it, she knows where to go and who to seek out, and is an invaluable source of knowledge, guidance and help.


“In any school all the children really need is someone on their side,” says Jodie. “Not all children enjoy school and have the support at home they need. To be that adult for them in school – the adult that they really need – that makes me feel blessed.”


A breakfast reading club for those who need additional support, and the “Beehive” one-to-one room, are just a few of the holistic support in place for Barwell pupils. This is alongside a lunchtime friendship group, and the spiritual, relaxation area for those who need space and quiet away from the busyness of school life. And for those that want to, it is also a place for them to pray.


A current global project Jodie is leading, focussing on India, is having a significant impact on the children and their families.


Learning about different countries in the world is part of the curriculum, and we’ve been talking about India,” explains Jodie.


Jodie recently went to Goa, where she visited orphanages and met street children who receive very little schooling. She also spent time with elephants that had been rescued from poachers.

Jodie is using this experience to bring rich content into school projects about different countries and diverse cultures.


“It’s good to recognise how privileged we are, and some of the comments from our children have been particularly enlightening,” she explains.


“They’ve been talking about children who don’t have a school and how lucky they are that they can learn to read and write, have an education and go on to get good jobs. We’re teaching children about diversity and they’re taking that home and sharing it with their parents, and that is educating and inspiring them.”

The children and their families donated many things, such as clothes, shoes and toys, for the people in Goa.


The school encouraged their pupils to think about putting themselves in the same position, and imagining how sad life would be without a home or family. Some of the pupils wrote letters for the children who live on the streets and in care, which Jodie took with her. They hoped they would make them feel happy and loved, and cared for by children on the other side of the world.


Closer to home, the pupils have been thinking about those less fortunate than themselves, and who might be in need of support from time to time. A local Foodbank is run weekly out of the Methodist Church in the village and the children regularly collect food to box-up and take to the Foodbank for those in need.


Whilst packing, the children are keen to chat.

Eleanor explains that the foodbank is where they donate food to poor families who don’t have much money and can’t buy food for all the family. And that foods in tin cans, or non-perishables in packets, are great things to donate, as they last a long time.


Jenna has been thinking about her life and how lucky she is. “It’s nice to come home and say to mum, ‘what’s for dinner?’, and know we’ll have nice, nutritious food in the cupboards.  We’re lucky. So it’s good to know other families will not be worrying about what they have left to eat at the end of a week.”

The school also reminds its families where the foodbank is, so they can donate things when they chose, and use the service, if they need to.


Just a stone’s throw away from the school is Saffron House Care Home, where the children regularly visit the residents. They’ve become friends with the several residents, and are always thinking of ways to make them smile.


Activities together have included making poppy plates, painting pumpkins, and a picnic-style lunch.

Pupil Ruby, says: “It’s good to think about what the old people can do and what they might like to do. I like to see them happy. Sometimes they sing to us.”


Alex and Charlie agree it’s a heart-warming thing to do. They enjoy helping the residents with simple tasks, and hugging them; while Jenna likes to make them smile and often reads to her new friends when she visits.

“The intergenerational links we have are amazing,” explains Jodie. “The children have become so much more socially aware, and offer the hand of friendship and compassion to the residents.”


In the school library, row upon row of books are an attractive prospect for the pupils.

This is where the children practice their puppet shows. Out comes a bumper box of puppets and props and their imaginations begin to run wild. The children are thinking of ways to connect with the old people, in preparation for a puppet show at Saffron House.


A Punch and Judy, complete with crocodile and sausages, are the first puppets to be tried in the hopes of bringing back happy childhood memories for the residents. Then come knights and princesses acting out mixed-up fairy tales and a whole heap of fun as the children – each playing their part at puppeteering, directing and generally adding to the silliness – work together to get the job done. “Good work,” says Jodie, encouraging the children to pack away.


So the last word goes to head teacher Vicky, who believes every school should have a Jodie. “The work she does and the way she inspires people to be better and get better – that’s so important for every child, their parents and the wider community,” she says.


“We’re also lucky to have that extra level of support from our local church and the Diocese of Leicester.

“We’re really proud of this school and the children we work with. We want our children to feel loved when they come through our doors and we want to equip them with the skills to be able to go out into the world and live their lives to the full.”


It seems the pupils really do have every reason to shout – “We are brilliant Barwell!”


Find out more about the school by clicking here.

The Diocese of Leicester Board of Education family includes 97 schools and academies across the Church of England Diocese of Leicester and you can read more about our vision to transform young people’s lives and our ‘scandalously inclusive’ selection criteria for entry to our schools by clicking here.


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