The last time we held our whole school walk was back in 2019 in a different pre-pandemic world. We were delighted to be able to finally hold it again today, walking through the Royal Parks.
Senior School pupils walked a 10km route, with the Junior School tackling a reduced 6km option. The walk is in aid of The Winch, a local charity which supports families in Camden. We chose to support The Winch because of our longstanding partnership with the charity, and in the hope that a significant donation from us could have more impact than a donation to a larger charity.
The Winch aims to help children and families ‘from cradle to community’. Its centre in North Camden enables local families to connect with each other for support and advice; the charity also runs the Belsize Community Library, a much-loved neighbourhood space. Their aim is to enable the children they support to flourish despite the very difficult circumstances their face. They do this by helping children and their parents to feel like valued and connected members of their local community. They run parent groups and classes and connect parents who might otherwise feel isolated and powerless. They run play groups, before and after school clubs, and holiday camps where children can enjoy reading, being creative and meeting new people.
There is much evidence to suggest that the earliest years of a child’s life have a critical impact on their life chances. Academies like Reach Academy Feltham have responded to this awareness by setting up their own nursery. We have some of the most expensive childcare in the world – a major issue for parents, and especially for mothers. And yet high-quality, early years childcare is even more important than higher education. It deserves a lot more attention and a proper national strategy.
I remember reading an interview with Angela Rayner in which she talked about her experiences as a teenager mother bringing up her son, Ryan. Rayner’s own childhood had been chaotic, growing up with a mother who struggled with addiction. It was only when Rayner took Ryan to a Sure Start centre for young children that she realised that parents were meant to hug their children. She talked in the interview about how, up until that point, she thought parenting was just about feeding your child and getting them to bed. She was lamenting the demise of the Sure Start centres, particularly for young and isolated mothers like her. Government often refrains from getting too involved in early childhood policies for fear of coming across like the nanny state, but arguably it is in early childhood that they should be most involved.
Parenting is not easy. Despite the inordinate number of books written on the subject, there really is no rulebook, just a lot of advice. Theories abound, often conflicting but intensely held theories; in 2023, how you parent can sometimes be taken as a sign of your ethical worth. Strict parents take pride in being strict, more liberal parents take pride in being more liberal. But some parents face unimaginable challenges, and The Winch aims to support those parents and their children: children whose households cannot afford books or toys; mothers who are isolated from their communities, often through lack of funds, to engage in activities to meet other parents; teenagers who need support with mentoring and work experience; primary school children who need support with making the all-important transition to secondary school… For every step of their childhood, The Winch is there to help these children and young people, and we are proud to support this fantastic charity for our whole school walk. We have already raised over £8,000 from the walk alone – further donations are still very welcome via ParentPay.
Our recent ISI report highlighted the incredible strength of our pupils’ sense of service to the wider community. This sense of purpose, kindness and commitment is at the very core of our own community – thank you to all that you do to help make a difference.
This sense of purpose, kindness and commitment is at the very core of our own community.
Blog post by Vicky Bingham, Headmistress from 2017 to 2023.