Visiting the Isle of Sheppy
I’ve always been interested in exploring some of the more intriguing areas of my home county. Visiting Queenborough School presented the perfect opportunity to visit the 36 sq. mile Isle of Sheppey, off the North Kent coastline. I was particularly delighted to go and see one of our Cornerstones schools as they had won our prestigious Cornerstones Curriculum Award.
As my car reached the top of the Sheppey bridge, which connected the residents to the mainland, I could see wide stretches of farmland, along with scattered clumps of housing. This indicated a self-sustained community, which confirmed my understanding that many people never really leave the isle during their lifetime.
Upon arrival to the school, I was greeted by a ray of sunshine named Christie, the Year 6 teacher who also happened to be the main recipient of the Curriculum Award. She explained that the children at Queenborough School were a typical demographic of the isle, being majority white British with a pupil premium percentage of 40%. Their local area was the number one most deprived of 902 areas in Kent (Strategic Commissioning Statistical Bulletin, January 2020), and children lived mostly in social housing with a higher number of single parents than the national average.
It painted a challenging picture, but one thing that struck me was how happy the children appeared as they welcomed this new visitor to their school. Each classroom I was shown had a real sense of purpose, with Cornerstones project banners proudly displayed on walls alongside the children’s hard work. Their vision for the school is to immerse children in a world-class curriculum and this really stood out. The use of Cornerstones blended seamlessly with this ethos and created an interconnected, concept-led approach that clearly reached well beyond the isle’s shoreline. This is where our Maafa project on Curriculum Maestro played an important role in supporting Year 6 children’s outlook on the world.
Addressing challenging topics
The Maafa project teaches children about Africa’s past and present, the history and magnificence of ancient African Kingdoms and the pursuant development of the slave trade. It examines Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade, the cause and consequences of the European colonisation of Africa and the worldwide communities that make up the African diaspora.
Christie explained that children in the school are exposed to a wide range of eras within British history, but she felt that Maafa was a fantastic opportunity to learn about an aspect of world history that they could place in context with their Tudor, Victorian and World War knowledge. She went on to explain that they really enjoyed learning about experiences from different perspectives, and the range high-quality resources available supported them throughout. This was clear from the thoughtful work they had produced.
‘They really enjoyed the expert perspective on the podcast episodes!’ explained Christie. ‘They learned about the triangular slave trade, Britain’s role in the Maafa, what life was like for the enslaved on plantations, their journey to the Americas and about Windrush. They also built on knowledge of famous black people in history.’
One thing that particularly struck me from a teacher’s perspective, and something for me to consider as a white practitioner, was what Christie said next. She wanted to treat the theme with the respect it deserved. Especially considering that she was not a person of colour or part of a minority ethnic group. ‘I needn’t have worried…’ she explained. ‘The pupils in Year 6 have shown fantastic curiosity, impeccable respect and dedication to the pursuit of knowledge.’
A winning school
This thoughtful, committed and respectful approach to the teaching of Maafa and the resulting outcomes of children understanding and appreciating this challenging topic, outline the main reasons Queenborough was awarded a Cornerstones’ curriculum award. Their application made it really clear to the award judges that this is an excellent piece of curriculum work and one which was very much deserving of a prize.
The school was awarded £1000 to spend as they saw fit. Jason, the headteacher, has confirmed they plan to spend the award money on providing their children with cultural experiences like trips that can help support their learning.
‘Having the opportunity to give our pupils exciting experiences adds to our world-class curriculum and we are passionate about giving our pupils the best. The money will support us to add even more memorable experiences to the learning journey for our pupils.’
Jason Howard, Headteacher Queenborough School and Nursery
In an educational climate where teachers are feeling overworked and underappreciated, Queenborough School’s commitment to their school community lifted my spirits. It has made me excited to see how things evolve for them in the future.