The Covid-19 pandemic has been a real struggle and changed life as we know it. Adapting to national lockdowns, restrictions (and now tiers!) has reduced interaction with our friends and family and had a real impact on wellbeing.
As headteacher of a primary school with over 450 children, I wanted to look at ways of supporting the mental health and wellbeing of our children and introduce some normality into their lives. Covid-19 has meant that children have missed out on so many things, and I was determined to do my part!
Not only had there been changes and restrictions in the children's school day but also in their lives at home. With social gatherings and parties not allowed and several other rules and regulations for families to get used to, I knew that we would need to manage mental health alongside academic attainment.
Our children’s education is paramount, but their emotional wellbeing is just as important to us; even more so in current times. The wellbeing of our school family is always at the forefront of our minds, and, throughout lockdown, we have tried to provide experiences to lift the children's spirits as well as continue developing them academically.
We know that our children love to celebrate their birthdays in school with their friends by bringing in things from home. Parents had begun to question whether they were still allowed to bring in the usual goodies for their children to share with their friends on their birthdays. This added to the movement for bringing in a ‘School Birthday Party’ to Goldsmith.
I knew it would be a massive benefit to introduce this exciting initiative. I had seen celebration ideas in other schools and used this as inspiration for our parties. I made sure that we covered all the costs and hoped that the parties would be a gift to our families - we would be able to provide an experience that our parents and carers simply couldn't.
Unlocking academic and personal potential is a goal both Windsor Academy Trust, the trust we are part of, and our school share. The birthday parties fitted perfectly with this, and the Trust was equally excited about the idea!
I am fortunate to lead a very enthusiastic team at Goldsmith Primary Academy, especially when it comes to additional care for our children and ‘thinking outside the box’ exciting, creative ideas. Staff go above and beyond in enhancing the children's learning and wellbeing.
I knew that the parties would be something that the staff would love to get involved in, and the response received was just as I thought, incredible! Lots of wonderful ideas came flooding in immediately about how to complete this safely within the school, with everyone so willing to get involved.
The ideas were put together in a letter and sent out to our parents via email and social media. We soon received a huge amount of positive and heart-warming replies, and the initiative just took off! We reached thousands of people outside of our school and were so proud.
We hold birthday parties on the last Friday of every month in the afternoon. The first party was after October half term and celebrated all September and October birthdays - 65 birthdays in total.
A lot of time and effort goes into organising each party and making it a really special occasion. We supply all the decorations, homemade cakes from our canteen and everything you would have at a usual birthday party! The children love to take part in party games, and the staff even created Covid-19 friendly pass the parcel and pin the tail on the donkey, which was a massive hit with the children! This takes place with party music in the background, socially distanced dancing and the sound of a wonderful atmosphere around the school.
During the first lockdown, the usual atmosphere and noise from enthusiastic classrooms full of children eager to learn and thrive was missing due to many children and staff teaching and learning at home. The birthday parties emphasise how special and important it is to be able to offer these afternoons, purely for emotional wellbeing.
To see the children’s faces of pure enjoyment and happiness every month as they celebrate their birthdays with their teachers and friends is truly special. The enthusiasm and joy radiate around the whole school. The children are so excited to celebrate their friend’s special days as well as their own. The parties have had a considerable impact. They have brought back the wonderful atmosphere to the school, developed friendships and finally introduced some normality into children's lives. Long may this continue!
Leanne Bridgwood, headteacher, Goldsmith Primary Academy