Video: Old Dalby School’s heartwarming work in the local community


This is the second in a 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. The first was Barwell CofE Academy which you can see by clicking here.


You’d be hard pushed to find a pupil that isn’t brimming over to talk to you at Old Dalby Church of England Primary School. The confident, happy children in this village clearly love school life. And it’s easy to see why, when you take a walk around the classrooms. From the littlest ones in reception singing the days of week song, to the year six pupils working hard on their core subjects in preparation for transition to high school, there’s an energy and enthusiasm you can’t help but smile at.


In a village as quaint as Old Dalby, being part of the community is particularly important – no matter your age or stage in life. That’s why Head Teacher Rosie Browne and her colleagues have been encouraging the children to get to know their community and build friendships with people of all ages around them.


You can see more about the school and its work developing the children’s engagement with and contribution to the local community by clicking on the video above.


“Our children are very globally aware, and know what’s going on when it comes to Donald Trump, the environment and Brexit, but we’d like them to talk as proficiently about the people in their village and its social history, while growing an appreciation for where they’ve come from,” explains Rosie.


“We’ve pin-pointed parts of the curriculum and how the children can get involved with the community to achieve this. We’re keen to strengthen our links with the local heritage group and the community as a whole in Old Dalby, as well as working alongside our church, St John the Baptist.”


The school’s blossoming relationship with members of Old Dalby and Queensway Heritage Group is exciting to witness. On the morning we visit, a class of six and seven year olds are proudly dressed up in 1940s costume – many as evacuees – complete with home-made gas masks, boxes and luggage labels.


Lined up, two by two, they march their way around the village, one landmark to another, in search of clues, learning facts and having fun on a heritage trail.  Leading the way is heritage group member, Shanti Patman. “We wanted to do a bit of a history trail. There’s so much about the village that people don’t know – the children who live here and their teachers,” she says. “I think we’ve had a fun morning.”


There’s a warm welcome in the village hall from a gathering of other heritage lovers who are keen to share their knowledge of Old Dalby, past and present, with the children. The group has recently been awarded a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to be able to preserve the old Victorian village hall and to continue to discover and preserve Old Dalby’s heritage.


Ann McKenna has lived in Old Dalby all her life and went to school in what is now this village hall. Born in 1939, she will be 80 this year. She has lots to talk about and while the children tuck into squash and biscuits, she shares her childhood stories. The children are very interested and ask many questions, including whether she got the cane, and what her favourite subject was at school.

“I liked reading; but there were no books,” says Ann. “They were rationed because there was no paper spare. Life was very different, there was no TV, no internet, no Playstation. But it was perfect and I wouldn’t have changed it.”


During the war, the village depot was full of 4000 soldiers and you could hear them coming, ‘tramp, tramp, tramp’, she remembers. She tells them about how she would smile sweetly at the American soldiers for ‘candy’, and about Landgirls and their work on the farm. Most significantly for the children, she also talks of the young evacuees from London who came to the village and had to join in with their way of life. And how they were scared when the planes went over.


The children have been learning about World War II in class and end the session with a spirit-raising rendition of Run Rabbit, before some paper plane making. The pupils are keen to talk about what they’ve just experienced and already seem to appreciate that there’s much to learn from older people. Alfie says: “Ann’s talk was good. I found out lots, she’s nice.” Daisy, Bracken, Lacey, Lily and Arabella are the best of friends and sitting together. “We love dressing up,” says Daisy. “I liked learning about the village,” adds Bracken. Jasmine is working hard to perfect her paper plane. “We’re friends now, with Ann,” she says. “We see her walking her dog through the village, so it’s good that we know more about her.”


The village, its history and its people, are very precious to Ann. She has relations in the cemetery dating back to 1693. “The children are brilliant and it’s important to get involved in the lives of our young ones,” says Ann. “They’re interested in what was here before them and painting a picture of that helps them to imagine what life was once like.”


Dressing up, playing out a role and making the past come alive is something class 3 teacher, Mr Todd, says cannot be under estimated. “Hearing someone talk who was there, and becoming part of what you’re learning is something you could never teach in a classroom,” he explains. “They will remember this – some for the rest of their lives. School is about having fun and engaging.


“Having such rich local history on our doorstep is a blessing. It’s really important that the children know about the area that they live in; that they get to know and respect the people who live here, and learn their stories. It will help them to appreciate the village and look after it. These are all values that we share in school.”


Indeed, the Christian values of love, honesty, strength, courage, community, democracy, teamwork and friendship underpin all that the school does, teaches and experiences. Collective worship, is also an integral part of the school’s routine.


The school motto of ‘Together We Will’ reflects the whole school ethos that, when we work together, we can and will achieve so much.


Equally, the verse the school has selected from Hebrews 10:24 which says: ‘Let us be concerned for one another, to help one another to show love and to do good,’ is a line to live by.


“We chose this because it wasn’t just about looking inwards, it’s what we can do for others, too,” says Rosie. “It’s something for all to keep in mind – pupils, their families and the wider community.”

People from the village have been volunteering their time to be Community Mentors, working with specific children, to help them achieve their full potential both in and outside of school.


Parents and other members of the community come into school to talk to the children about their careers, acting as role models for life.


There are also volunteers from the church, family circles and wider community, who read to the children, and listen to them read, on-on-one. “That time is precious for those children and incredibly important for them to have someone who takes an interest in them. They’re like surrogate grandparents,” says Rosie.


“Helping each other out causes a ripple effect – you pass it on. We invite the community into our school, we encourage them to follow us on Facebook and see what we’re up to. Each year we do the Race For Life in aid of Cancer Research and the community come and join us in running around our field and school area. It’s great,” says Rosie.


The grounds and gardens of the school offer an exciting backdrop for learning through play. The PTA, which is made up of parents and members of the community, recently created two feature gardens – a dinosaur garden, to the rear and a brilliant, bright pencils area with an impressive wooden ‘throne’ and seats for storytime.


There is also an outdoor stage and a Forest School area, used by the youngest children. As part of their enrichment sessions, some of the pupils have been visiting Hunters Lodge, a care home just down the road from the school. To round up the day, we went along with them, to see how the children and residents spend their time.


“We’ve seen the benefits in our pupils,” says Rosie. “The children come out of themselves, they’re caring and compassionate. It’s really had an impact on their confidence and they’re learning positive life skills.”


Indeed, the children are incredibly patient and kind, playing games such as snakes and ladders and reading and chatting to the old people. It’s plain to see the residents enjoy their company. Everyone is smiling.


Resident Mick says: “I used to be a caretaker for 27 years and seeing the children reminds me of those days when I worked in a school. They were my mates, the kids were.”


Pupil Danny is really enjoying himself: “It’s just so natural and normal to spend time with our new friends. I love it and I don’t want to leave!”


Class 4 teacher, Miss Cave, believes this sort of experience is a great way for the children to learn respect for members of their community. “It’s nice to interact with people who might not see many new faces or get any visitors, and it gives us all something to look forward to,” she says. Bracken, Florence and Declan all agree they’ve had the best day – and one that they’ll remember forever.

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