The school which is more than just a school

Paul Jackson, Head of Manorfield Primary School in Poplar, is inviting local people to get involved with an inspiring range of free community activities

"When I became Head of Manorfield Primary School on Wyvis Street in January 2016, the school had been without a head teacher for 6 months and was underachieving.

Since this time, our staff, with help from Poplar HARCA and many others, have led a turnaround programme to raise learning standards and created a space which is more than just a school. It's a safe place, where people of every age can go, feel a sense of belonging and take part in community projects and some brilliant cultural experiences.

We have over 730 pupils and recognise the multiple barriers which families on a low income face.

"Our staff see the impact which finanical inequalities can have on a child's health and wellbeing."

This can be anything, from a child not receiving dental care, to not having their own bed to sleep in at night. Our community programme is a means for us to tackle this.

Manorfield Primary School

Just some of the activities we now run for local people include weekly ballet sessions and tutoring on Saturday afternoons.  Every pupil, from years 2 to 6, can play a musical instrument, free-of-charge. Our breakfast club is free for every child too, with over 100 young people attending every day. 

We commit to one educational visit per class, per half-term, with visits to museums, galleries and even Harry Potter World!

Manorfield School couldn’t offer these opportunities working in isolation.

The Teviot Centre, a community space run by Poplar HARCA, is on our doorstep. The close proximity, together with HARCA’s and Manorfield’s shared community ethos, triggered our idea to work together.

Our partnership with HARCA launched with our first ever School Street Day event, which involved closing Wyvis street and physically opening the doors of Manorfield and the Teviot Centre. The idea was to bring the community together in a safe, non-threatening environment and provide an opportunity for people to play, talk and laugh together.

Together with HARCA we’ve reopened the nursery in the Teviot Centre which was closed for some time, with brand-new facilities for two and three-year-olds.  We knew the community needed the nursery.

“How do parents work and protect their own well-being when you’ve got nobody to look after your children?”

40 two-year-olds are now enrolled, with spaces still available for more children.

We run a number of cooking and gardening programmes too which are attracting more and more local people.

Our gardener-in-residence works with children throughout the year, growing food, exploring sustainable development through composting and developing children’s language. 

Our chef-in-residence cooks the food the children help grow, which encourages them to link food with their overall learning.  They recently prepared a Victorian tea-party as part of their history learning, and took part in a chocolate-making workshop while reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

A parent told us:

"My children are always excited when they take part in the cooking activities.  Now they want to make the things they make at school back at home with me!”

We want to reach many more people in Poplar this year. Why don’t you join us?"

What can you do?

The Manorfield Charitable Foundation, which raises funds to support the school’s projects, has to raise £30K, on top of the incredible £80K already raised, to improve the teaching kitchen and outdoor facilities.

On 1 March this year, a large team of volunteers will run The Vitality Big Half for these projects. Why not join them or sponsor Paul, the head teacher, to encourage him on his way.

Perhaps you have a different fundraising idea or would like to get involved with the activities? Anyone from the local community can take part. You don’t have to have children who go to Manorfield Primary School. In fact you don’t have to have kids at all!

Email Paul Jackson: head@manorfield.towerhamlets.sch.uk

Twitter: @Manorfieldpri

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