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A pastoral vision of the Good Shepherd for Church of England school in Thetford

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This article was written by Lorraine Ratcliffe, Headteacher at Bishop’s Primary Academy in Thetford. Thank you Lorraine.

All our schools must develop a theologically rooted Christian vision which enables pupils and adults to flourish. The following example at our primary school in Thetford uses the teaching of Jesus, often referred to as the Good Shepherd. The school is situated in a disadvantaged area of Thetford and truly lives out its Christian vision as it serves its community.

Our vision statement at Bishop’s Church of England Primary Academy is: Learning to live life in all its fullness in our safe and happy community.

Our vision statement develops this further: To have a culture of respect, where friendships are important, and we forgive to grow together.  We have courage to aim high, we persevere to achieve and serve all on our community’s journey. As shepherds, we include everyone in our safe and happy school to live life in all its fullness.

Theological Reference:

The school has worked with Chris Allen, the Diocese Religious Education Adviser to link a bible reference to its ethos and vision.

Jesus was God’s shepherd on earth and his flock was not just for his followers but was open and included anyone – open to all.  At Bishop’s CE Academy our community is diverse and is our flock. We serve that flock as its shepherd to ensure everyone is able to learn and achieve by being safe and happy.

Biblical Reference: John 10: 1-21

The Good Shepherd and His Sheep

At Bishop’s we consider ourselves at the heart of the community. It is not just our responsibility for our pupils which drives us, but our love for all of our families. We serve a community which statistics would tell us is one of the most deprived in the country. If you asked our community, they would disagree and be offended by this statement and its implications.

Many of the children attending The Bishop’s have parents and grandparents who came here, who have lived on the estate for generations. Alongside these children are families who have taken the significant step to move from their home country and relocate to Thetford to get better chances and better opportunities for themselves and their family. To leave everything they know and take the risk that things will be better for them here.

Every decision we make at Bishop’s is in the best interests of our children, our flock. Our children need stability, high expectations and the best education we can provide in order that they understand what their potential could be and then achieve it. However, most of all our children need love; they need to know that we care for them, even when things go wrong. That we forgive them and will always give them another opportunity to make things right again.

Many of our community have faced significant trauma. Our policies and practices in the school reflect this. We do not have zero tolerance approaches; we have attachment aware practices based on understanding our children, and restorative conversations to help children understand other choices they could make when things go wrong. We focus on forgiveness and repairing relationships helping children understand what to do when they fall out with their friends or things do not go the way they planned.

Our staff team choose to work here because they want to make a difference; they work incredibly hard to break down the learning to ensure our children understand. Many families are unable to support their children at home and so we need to ensure we build in extra time to practice during school time to compensate. Reading is the key that can unlock positive futures for our children. We work with the local church, reading charities and local businesses to build a team of committed reading volunteers who read with individuals each week. We plan a curriculum based on things that will inspire our children and help them to understand other cultures and make sense of the wonderful world we live in.

I am incredibly proud to work alongside the fabulous community at Bishop’s and have the opportunity to see our children thrive and grow to be caring and thoughtful members of our community. As an African proverb says ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’.