Saturday, 25 October 2008

Special Friends!

Yesterday I went to my grandson Nathan's school assembly. He’s 10 and in Year 6, his final year at primary school. The assembly was to celebrate the Special Friends project that his school has been running for a long time now. The school’s motto is “caring, sharing and helping others” and this project is one of the ways that the motto is put into action.

The children in their final year who are 10 - 11 years old are paired up with children in the Reception class, aged 4 – 5 years, who are just starting their school life. They spend time together every day, getting to know each other, showing the little ones around the school and playing together. Every Friday the two classes look forward to spending their last lesson of the day playing together. They play football, rounders, jump on space hoppers and pogo sticks and they play the traditional games like ring a ring a roses, hopscotch etc and generally get to know each other. It’s a great idea where the little ones know they have someone who’ll always look out for them and help them if they have any problems. The older ones enjoy the responsibility given to them, caring for and sharing time with the little ones, not to mention going back to playing the games they enjoyed when they were small. Fun is the order of the day!

The assembly was amazing, very informative, it made you laugh and also brought a tear to your eye as the children showed us what being a Special Friend is all about. They sang hymns and songs, acted a short parable of sharing, read poems and told us in their own words what it meant to them.

I remember when Nathan started this school 6 years ago and how he often talked about his Special Friend Paul who was 10. Paul was obviously important to Nathan and he still has the teddy bear that Paul bought him that first Christmas in his new school. I didn't know much about the Special Friend scheme then or how important it is in the school and to the children. The OfSTED school inspection picked up on the ethos of the school and commended the Special Friend scheme in their final report. The school is one of the top primary schools in the City.
Now it’s Nathan’s turn to take responsibility for his Special Friend, Benedict. Nathan talked about Benedict even before he met him in September; it was obviously something the school prepared them for. We met Benedict, his Mam and baby brother on Friday, they are lovely. Benedict was very shy with Nathan at first but that’s changing and his confidence in school is developing. The relationship is obviously an important one to them both and I think Nathan enjoys having a little boy to play with. Much more fun than a little sister! I look forward to hearing about what they are doing over the next year.

I don’t know whether the new school Nathan will move to next year operates anything like this. It would be great if they do, but it’s a huge school and it may be difficult to organise. However it’s possibly needed more there than in the primary schools. That move to secondary school is a very difficult one, the schools are huge and the age range is 11 to 18. Maybe he’ll even meet up with his special friend Paul who will be in his last year in 6th form then. Who knows?

Next year it will be Lauren, Nathan’s little sister’s turn, when she joins the Reception class. I look forward to going to her Special Friends' Assembly in 2009 and meeting her new Special Friend!