Tuesday 11 September 2007

Small is beautiful in Speen

Small schools contribute something very special to many Buckinghamshire villages. I was delighted to visit Speen School, 133 years young, and 40 years in its present building, which has to have one of the most beautiful views in England out the back.

Another great sight out the back was children of all ages playing easily together, regardless of their year groupings. I found out, taking assembly, how plugged in and live-wire some of the youngest children are.

What did they think my pastoral staff was? (expecting the answer "a stick") Back came a five year old, instantaneously, "It's a shepherd's staff, with a curly end so that if sheep are lost you can hook it round their leg and bring them back." This is plainly a school where everybody is somebody, and some great learning happens.

It's also one where they help children learn to pray personally as well as corporately. There's a corner in school where children can share their joys and worries with God whenever they want, by holding tight onto small hand sized "holding crosses." There's also an active and very ecumenical prayer group with parents in the village, supporting the school. It's really encouraging to see a school bridging the gap between religion and spirituality.

Denise Nayna and her staff have a lot to be proud of in a school where the scale of the operation must sometimes seem quite precarious bureaucratically, but the results are there to see. It's hard to over estimate the fantastic contribution the school makes to a lively small village.

We have to find ways of making sure our small villages don't lose their schools because planners and bureaucrats underestimate their considerable educational or community impact.

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