Throughout the school year parents/carers are invited to take part in coffee mornings and meet as a “Friends of Cheetwood Group” . These events have been set up to provide parents/carers with the opportunity to meet with each other in an informal setting and to discuss issues that affect them. School staff, governors and stakeholders from the local community may also attend these meetings to identify if there are opportunities to explore and develop any issues raised.
Coffee mornings were suspended during the Covid 19 pandemic and school closures but close partnership with parents were maintained throughout this period. In September 2020 parents/carers were consulted about their experiences during this time. A report on this consultation is available here:
The coffee mornings are also used to consult with parents on school policy and practice and to share information on new initiatives. A recent example of how the Friends Group provided the opportunity to work with school on a key issue is the Road Safety Project.
For many years parents/carers have been concerned about road safety around the school premises and although this has been addressed with the local authority on numerous occasions it remained the number one concern when parents/carers were asked about school improvement ideas.
During the spring and summer 2019, staff, pupils, parents/carers and colleagues from the North Neighbourhood Team embarked on a road safety initiative to improve the understanding and practices of road safety in the immediate vicinity to the school premises. The project was led by Emma Green (Year 2 teacher and community citizenship leader) and she worked collaboratively with stakeholders to introduce a highly successful pilot that significantly improved safety for pupils and their parents/carers.
This involved closing the Waterloo Road gate and only allowing access into/out of school via the Derby Street gate. The aim of closing the Waterloo Road gate was to discourage parents and pupils from crossing the very busy Waterloo Road right outside this gate on the ‘blind’ bend, as this presented a real safety concern. Staff observations during the pilot period demonstrated that this aim had been achieved. An added benefit was that parents were no longer parking in this area and very few pupils continued to cross on this unsafe bend.
Although, by closing the Waterloo Road gate, we did experience some more traffic and pedestrian congestion on Derby Street, over time, and with the support of parents, congestion improved. School was also offered assistance from parking enforcement officers and a neighbourhood grant was secured so that additional safety railings could be installed at the most hazardous crossing points.
The success of the pilot resulted in the changes being made permanent and now at the start and end of the school day, only the pedestrian gate on Derby Street is used for access to and from the site by pupils and parents/carers as this is the safest entrance. Support from parents/carers and a commitment from senior leaders to show a daily presence outside the Derby Street entrance has also helped to keep traffic congestion and inconsiderate/illegal parking to a minimum.
Pupils were actively involved in the project and were provided with a range of opportunities to explore the importance of road safety and ways to improve the conditions they face when they are travelling to and from school. This included participation in a Walk to School Week and a Clean Air Day. Both of these initiatives promote healthy lifestyles for pupils and their parents and help to encourage positive behavioural changes such as switching off car engines when waiting to collect children.
Another issue raised by parents was the amount of litter around the school site. In response to this, school has engaged with the local neighbourhood team to investigate ways to address this concern and has provided pupils with the opportunity to become more actively involved in improving their local environment.
This culminated in a school clean up event to coincide with ‘The Great Big School Clean Up’ and a whole school ‘Pupil Voice’ day on the theme of improving our school environment. The work undertaken was recognised by the local neighbourhood team who praised pupils for their efforts and positive attitude towards community citizenship.
To build on this work, and further develop pupils’ leadership skills, in 2019-2020 a group of Cheetwood pupils will be taking part in the Urban Crew community leadership programme.