IT TAKES A VILLAGE
When I sat down to write the accompanying article for Wiltshire Life Magazine a mere four weeks ago, I could not possibly have envisaged how our daily lives would change and simple routines which barely raised an eyebrow then, now seem unimaginable for the next couple of months at the very least.
At the time of writing, the notion of a virtual community was confined to Twitter and our flourishing Old Verlucian network, spread wide across the globe. During these unprecedented times, we must draw on our strengths and be grateful that we are not having to forge a sense of community from scratch, but merely build and creatively expand on the solid foundations of a school with over 300 years of history at its core. Over the coming months you will experience, by virtual means, support and inspiration from our talented and dedicated staff and a continuity of the community we all hold so dear at Warminster. By us all working together, we will keep strengthening the strong sense of belonging that makes our school such a special place.
Matt Williams, Headmaster
Taken from Wiltshire Life Magazine (April Issue)
It takes a village to raise a child: why a sense of community is so important in schools
When I was at school in the 1980s and 1990s the world was full of contradictions. At the same time the music charts delivered both The Smiths and Bros; hair was worn long like ‘curtains’ or worn very short and tightly parted. Footwear was either Doc Martens or oversized trainers and jeans were either baggy with designer rips or highly tailored and smart. What was difficult in my circle of school mates (I went to a broadly mono-cultural boys’ grammar school in Birmingham) was that you had to be one thing or another – boys choosing a different fad or fashion became ostracized from the group. We missed out on the violent rivalries between the Mods and the Rockers, but in my school there were still disparate groups who occupied different spaces and interests.
As Headmaster of Warminster School in 2020, I am very pleased to report that things have moved on. We have a hugely diverse pupil body with over 30 different nationalities represented from age 3 – 18. Children come to the school from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures and have a very broad set of interests and abilities. We have pupils who play rugby for the 1st XV and also play in our orchestra. We have pupils who enjoy the CCF and also take the lead in the School musical. What is so refreshing to see, is that all of these different interests and activities are accepted and more importantly celebrated. The groups and cliques that existed during my schooldays are not recognisable here and I put it down to one thing – community.
Here at Warminster we believe the ‘community’ is at the heart of all we do, so much so we have redefined exactly what we mean by the word:
“Individuals and families inextricably linked by or to Warminster School. Strengthened by a strong sense of belonging, shared interests and common goals. Genuine friendship flourishes, individuality and creativity are nurtured and above all, a generosity of spirit and kindness prevails”
For us that community is not just made of up teachers and pupils, but importantly parents. The WSPA (Warminster School Parents’ Association) is one of the most active bodies of its kind that I have known. They put on several high quality and very well attended social events throughout the year and provide a huge level of support when it comes to fundraising and helping the school to thrive. More importantly, however, it fosters a sense of togetherness and common purpose that is humbling for a Headmaster.
Our community is also made up of everyone who lives and works in the School and includes, chefs, domestic assistants, ground staff, maintenance, administrative staff, matrons, the School nurse and many, many more. It is those colleagues who don’t set foot in classrooms or on sports fields, who make the School what it is. Our latest school video highlights why community is so important for us and why we feel it helps our children to grow, flourish and feel a part of something bigger than themselves.
Importantly our community also extends beyond a pupils’ time at school and we have a thriving alumni network called the Old Verlucians (named after Verlucia, the Roman name for Warminster). Once you have been a pupil at Warminster you are forever an OV, and that group helps to support and encourage our pupils long after results day through social events, work experience opportunities and a useful business network.
For us at Warminster we really do believe, as the African proverb states, that it takes a village to raise a child. The strong relationships that exist between our pupils and ALL staff that work at the school create a sense of belonging, where you can be yourself and feel comfortable in your own skin. We are a school that is rounded and grounded, where our pupils will wave good morning to the groundsman mowing the rugby pitches and stop and chat to those that cook their lunch. It is feeling a part of this broad community that allows our pupils to have confidence, without arrogance, and to see their role in the world as serving others and looking for opportunities to give back.
So whether you would prefer to be listening to ‘How soon is now?’ or ‘When will I be famous?’ it really doesn’t matter – in fact you could be playing both records on Radio 1707, our very own, pupil led, school radio station! Schools need to be more than just classrooms and geography lessons; they should be strong communities that nurture individuals and their interests, giving myriad opportunities for growth and personal fulfilment.