Holy Week has never been celebrated at such a pace, I’m sure. Far from being a week of reflective calm, we have been going at it hammer and tongs, and whilst it has only been actually four days (the public holiday-ness of Good Friday coming to the rescue), we are more than ready to down tools and rest.
If I think back to the fact that our week of Shakespeare study was only a month ago, then we really have crammed a huge amount of work, learning and activity into the last 30 days. Children are a walking advert for Lem-Sip and staff absences are creeping up as they often do at this time of year. And yet, what we have achieved collectively is something of great joy to us all.
It came as something of a wonder, then, when the chaplaincy team, led by Helena Clark and Tracey Feil principally, put together a marvellous and richly-appreciated Prayer Space event. Cherry Hall was taken over for two days and all children had 30-40 minutes to stop and reflect and think about the impact of the story of Easter upon their lives. It complemented perfectly a walk through the Easter narrative that I led in Collective Worship, but took that both deeper and richer than anything I could provide.
To read the comments on children’s learning that they left at different stations around the hall has been to marvel at what God has already placed in the hearts of these young people. Those visitors who have listened to the children in the service of evaluating the impact of the Prayer Spaces (nothing, I fear, is safe from evaluation) have reported the same thing – of the insight and openness that children of all ages have shown. It has once again been a place of blessing for children, but what always blesses me is the quality of the good work that has been put in to provide such an experience for children.
What perhaps makes this a “Holy Week” has not, then, been any religious sense, but the sense of holiness that Irenaeus of Lyons was on about when he said that the glory of God is a human being fully alive. What prayer spaces have done, more than anything, is to awaken or reawaken a spiritual life in children, and then to provide the language and levels of understanding that children can take and make their own. There was a tenderness and a quietness of heart that has come over all children as they have found themselves face to face with questions of purpose, of direction, of ambition, of hope, of longing, of forgiveness, of broken relationships and of healing. So, my deep thanks to all of those whose hard and good work has gone into providing this wealth for children.
On top of that, we have had a riotous performance of Craig Hawes’ Robin and the Sherwood Hoodies, brought to us, after a minimum of rehearsal and maximum of committed enthusiasm, by the children of Year 4, a cohort so bonded to each other and to their joy in singing and performance that, mistakes and all, the production literally flowed out of them. The script was loose and zany enough for improvisation and dropped lines not to matter too much, but as a year group born to entertain others, I have never seen the like.
Tuesday saw a visit from Tom Macready from the Restorative Foundation, together with a colleague who is hoping to implement restorative practice in schools in the north-east. What they saw and learnt was great for me as a leader, because neither of our lead practitioners were available and four class teachers demonstrated the impact of what we have put in place since 2011 to Tom and his colleague. To hear teachers link the restorative practice to their class values and virtues, and then to realise that after 4 years of intense support for teachers we have arrived at a place where the Restorative work is fully embedded, was very gratifying.
Tuesday also saw the termly conferring of Governors’ Awards for a child in each class who has striven to live out their class value or virtue. Hearing what teachers say about children, and to celebrate that in public, is always a treat, and helps us articulate what it is we are working towards.
Yesterday we saw three Y5/6 children from Christ the Sower walk off deservedly with a Gold award at the Milton Keynes Woodwind Festival at Christ the Cornerstone, the first time we have done this in my time here. It was a great morning, the primary school musicians complemented by a fantastic performance from the senior wind ensemble from Shenley Brook End School playing waltzes and a polka by Offenbach – truly inspirational for the children who watched and listened intently.
So for a number of good reasons, this week has felt different. It has been oozing with celebration. However, it has also been coloured by two tragic early deaths within the broader family of the school, which have been mourned and which will continue to have wider impact on those who work here. We never understand God’s purposes in these things, but the call to mourn with those who mourn must be a part of our school’s love for those we say belong to us.
This morning, to close off Holy Week for us, Ben and Anne from the Watling Valley Partnership led our worship. To add a more colourful spin on that, the foundation children, attended by huge numbers of their parents and grandparents, held their Easter Bonnet Parade, truly a sign that the term has come to a resounding finale.