Pupils’ spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development
Students’ Social, Moral, Spiritual, and Cultural (SMSC) development is an integral part of NSG. The school’s ethos, the extensive extra-curricular programme, the focus on performing arts, the strong pastoral system, and the focus on encouraging lifelong learners enables these major aspects of a child’s journey to adulthood to be fully developed. NSG would not be the inclusive, respectful, successful school that it is today without a real focus on SMSC. However, our ethos of Respect for Self, Respect for Others, and Respect for Learning underpins everything we do and is strongly linked to SMSC.
The tutor group is central to life at NSG, with each group developing its own identity that embodies the school’s values of respect. On joining the school students very quickly form strong attachments to their tutor groups caring for one another and using its members as a support mechanism. Over the years each tutor group organises a range of events one of which is a charity week where each form raises money for a charity of their choosing. Raising money for charities and good causes is an important part of NSG life, last year a total of £3157 was raised through the commitment of our students.
The weekly assembly for each year group provides the best possible forum to communicate ideas, issues, and values related to a student’s SMSC development. Assemblies are focused on developing students in this way and a record is kept of all the topics that are covered in a year. They are also used to celebrate our multiculturalism (Islamic festivals / Chinese New Year – both student-led) and our history and culture (Remembrance Day, St George’s Day). Assemblies are seen as a forum for students to communicate with their peers which subjects are important to them. For example, a Year 10 tutor group gave an assembly on mental health and a Year 12 student gave an assembly on homelessness These assembly slots were requested by these students; they used their initiative because they felt strongly about these topics. They are well aware of the required quality, structure, and standard of assemblies and they easily rise to this challenge.
Students study RE (called EP – Ethics and Philosophy at NSG) at KS3 and many opt to continue at GCSE level. The approved syllabus for RE is taught securely. Students are taught the beliefs, values and structures of the main religions and are encouraged to use this understanding to have empathy with others. Students regard it as an important lesson in their curriculum and are keen to gain good grades at GCSE.
Citizenship is integrated into PSHE for all year groups. There is encouragement for students to be active citizens through writing letters about ‘issues’ to local councillors and MPs and taking part in youth forum elections. We have students who are members of the Mental Health Stigma Programme committee and they help to plan local events and work alongside national health providers. Over 130 of our Year 11 students took part in last year’s NCS programme, enjoying a residential experience as well as completing a social action project.
Our strong emphasis on the benefits to social and personal development resulting from participation in extra-curricular activities is supported by staff and Governors and encouraged during mentoring sessions. The school’s policy to subsidise buses enables access for all students to after school clubs/activities/ performances and ensures that parental income is not a barrier. Across a week there are over 1700 participants in a choice of over 95 activities including sport, music, curriculum support, and community projects. The subsidy of music tuition also removes the barrier for students wishing to play an instrument: we now have 98 hours of music tuition per week, which involves 370 students. There is an emphasis on performance of all types, providing opportunities for students to lead technically or behind stage as well as the performers themselves. The music curriculum includes performance lessons and performed music forms an important part of the assembly ethos.
Parents frequently comment on how much their daughters have grown in confidence since joining the school. Additional intervention is provided by our learning mentors or external agencies for individuals or groups at risk e.g. social story groups for students on the Asperger / autistic spectrum enabling them to make friendships more easily and to reduce anxiety at points of transition. Many opportunities for leadership enable students to take responsibility for aspects of school life e.g. team captains, officers, buddies, reception, library assistants, helping at parents’ evenings, concerts, open evenings, induction day.
Students are always encouraged to reflect upon their actions and to understand the impact of their behaviour on others; they are helped in coming to an understanding of how to resolve and repair situations. The work of tutors, Heads of Year and Learning Communities have a huge impact upon the social and moral development of the students, both through planned activities in PSHE/tutor time and through individual mentoring and intervention.
The PSHE programme recognises the unique and special relationship between a tutor and their tutor group and allows tutors the flexibility to approach the learning in a creative and personalised way. Collaboration between students plays a central role in learning. The teaching staff have strong views on the value of students’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. We are lucky to have a staff body who see these aspects as a priority for the development of children.
Sixth formers at NSG are excellent role models for their younger peers and take up many opportunities to support them. There is an active buddying system known as the Big Sisters where nominated sixth formers attach themselves to a lower school tutor group working with them on a range of activities that develop social skills and confidence during a tutor session each week, this runs until the end of the Christmas term. They also take part in the year 6 to 7 transition days helping the year 6 students to make the adjustments from primary school. Others take the opportunity of working academically in curriculum areas helping younger girls with their learning for example in providing extra one to one maths support after school. The school presidents team take on numerous roles in support of the school, speaking at events, running assemblies, organising student activities as well as suggesting improvements to systems. The ethos of respect is intrinsic to the sixth form and many students are vocal in their appreciation of the support they have received and the values that have been nurtured in them.
Music plays an integral role in the cultural life of the school. Staff have developed their use of music for learning and are encouraged to engage in using music-related teaching activities within their schemes of work. All staff have access to a wide variety of recorded music; percussion instruments and acoustic guitars; and recording facilities to use in lessons. There are pianos in Oak, Elm, and post 16 and acoustic guitars are available for use around the school in order to encourage music performance throughout the school. Students can regularly be found spending their lunchtimes singing, dancing or playing instruments in tutor areas. Practice rooms and rehearsal spaces are nearly always booked to capacity and supported in the booking process by two of the Music Officers.
Governors and school staff are committed to ensuring that NSG remains an inclusive school where the diversity of our community is valued and good relationships between all members of our community are enhanced by the work of the school. School policies ensure that the diverse needs of the different religious, ethnic, and socio-economic groups in the school are met, including the admissions, curriculum, trips, behaviour and uniform policy. Relationships between staff and all student groups and individuals are excellent and students show understanding and respect for each others' cultures and values. The development of SMSC is at the heart of all that we do at NSG and this stems from the foundation provided by our ethos.