Happy children, learn well
Sinai Jewish Primary School is an impressive campus and behind the blue gates over 630 children are enjoying their primary education journey – learning new skills, building friendships and developing independence.
Headteacher, Juliette Lipshaw, who attended the school herself as a child explains, “I take the responsibility of the children’s education very seriously. I am fully committed to ensuring that every child under the Sinai roof is happy, thriving and reaching their best potential. We know happy children learn well so we nurture and care for each child from the very beginning of their learning journey.”
This may sound like a tall order, but it is clear as soon as you walk through the school doors just how committed Sinai is to the children’s happiness and wellbeing. There are 2 message boxes proudly displayed in the main foyer. One gives the opportunity to leave a message for the school’s Wellbeing Lead and the other to fill in a ‘Speak Up’ slip to Unlocking Potential – the school’s mental health service offering therapeutic interventions and wellbeing activities to the children. All notes are answered personally.
“We know that little people have little worries, it is all relative and we need to listen and respond to that,” explains Laura Lane, the school’s EYFS Leader and Wellbeing Lead. “We don’t know at what point of the school day the children may want to share their worry so we wanted an outlet that was available to the children at all times. The ‘Speak Up’ slips have had a huge impact and something the children have really engaged with. The children have grown in confidence to express their feelings and the Unlocking Potential team have responded to many slips since they began their partnership with us.”
Just a stone’s throw away is a large red postbox with a neat pile of ‘ask the Rabbi slips’. These notes all go to the school Rabbi, Rabbi Daniel Fine. He too is clearly keen to listen and answer the children’s questions.
Emily is the Unlocking Potential Team Manager and she floats through school with a calm energy and big smile. She exudes warmth. I am told she is on her way to run a group session focussing on friendships. Mrs Lane explains, “Emily is a real expert at helping children with their feelings.”
Sinai brought in Unlocking Potential to grow their pastoral care team. On offer during the school day is 1:1 therapy, wellbeing groups, transition groups, a regular check-in service and short-term ‘Talk Time’ interventions. Impressively the school boasts not only a special therapy room but also a darkened sensory room and even a wellbeing garden. All tranquil places to enjoy a moment of calm and reflection.
It is clear that happy children is the cornerstone for a successful education at Sinai. The motto, ‘Happy children learn well’ adorns the posters on the walls so it is clearly a mantra endorsed by all.
In Nursery and Reception the children have regular ‘getting to know you’ time with their key workers and teachers. This is all aimed at settling the children quickly and tailoring their learning to best suit each child as an individual. I discover that each child is greeted in their own way by their teacher – a way that suits them and makes them feel relaxed and cared for as they start their day. I saw high fives, fist pumps, waves, back pats and plenty of big smiles and jolly hellos.
Despite the size of the campus I accompany Mrs Lipshaw on a walk around the school. This is a daily occurrence, “I absolutely make sure I say hello to each child every single day, checking in with the children is hugely beneficial and a quick way to check children are happy and ready for learning.”
I can still smell the fresh paint on the newly kitted out THRIVE classroom. This is a new initiative to look at the upper KS2 children’s social and emotional mental health and wellbeing. The children will gain skills to take back to the classroom and ultimately thrive in lessons.
As I walk through the playground at break time I hear laughter and chatter as the children enjoy playing childhood games and imaginative play. I see children with birthday sashes being celebrated and teaching staff interacting with the children. I ask what the lovely rainbow benches are around the perimeter of the playgrounds. ‘Oh they are our buddy benches – for the children to sit on if they want a buddy to play with.’ They are empty…but this school has thought of everything.
I leave myself with a spring in my step, on the way out I ask two year 3 children what they love best about school, “everything!” they say in unison.