It wasn’t until, as a substitute teacher, I was finally assigned a whole half-term in one place, that I realised more or less how the school year is organised into six, six week half-terms, or three full terms with a break in the middle of each, encompassing the Autumn, ‘Spring’ and Summer terms. Well, I guess it’s the Spring term, from the beginning of the calendar year until Easter, typically, though it would seem to make more sense to call it the ‘Winter’ term. Not that I was inattentive, I think, just that I took the school days and terms as they came, without realising the organisational logic behind them. Naturally, for everyone born here, growing up through the educational system, these dates are obvious, taken for granted, ‘the way things are.’
Of course, the school calendar is always at odds with the normal yearly calendar, commencing in September rather than January, which would make more sense, when you think of it. But never mind, school starts, as it’s done since probably forever, or at least as long as it’s been formalised I’d bet, with the end of harvest and finishes off the following year with the crops ripening in the fields ready for the workers, as whole families would be put to the task of bringing in the bounty.
And now, today (unless it’s a special Teacher Training Day at Allendale Primary), the final half-term of the school year commences, taking us through to about the 19th of July when the summer holidays begin.
There are some things that make a real village, and a school is one of those things. And after all the ructions over closing the First School, some five years ago now, bringing in two-tier education (Primary until Year 6, Secondary from Year 7 until Year 11 and on to Advanced Levels), as compared with the three-tier system the county had espoused for generations (First: Years 1-4; Middle: Years 6-8; High: Years 9-13 including ‘A’ levels), and re-configuring Allendale Middle School as a Primary . . . after all those ructions, things have settled down remarkably, and today we have a school in our midst of which we can be justly proud.
I really love the excitement that the website at Allendale Primary School depicts: the delight in learning, in growing up with friends and the inclusivity ethos. There’s special excitement on the school calendar over the Residentials for Years 4 and 6, for example, this half-term, and the work put into the Allendale Village Trail by Year 6 pupils of 2015 is salutary (you can find this file just under the Ethos section on the school’s Home Page). These children are really learning about their home and their environment, having engaged with primary sources and taken some brilliant photographs of the place. Produced just before Deneholme Wood was opened, with its fairy glen and bespoke bridge crossing Philipburn, I’d imagine that the next issue of the ‘Village Trail’ will feature these new/old additions to the village. I wonder if this diary will ever inform, some decades hence, a study of early 21st century village life here by earnest Primary students?
But anyway, the 6+ year groups are arranged into cohorts named after local birds: Pipits for Reception/Nursery; Skylarks for Year 1 and 2; Lapwings for Year 2 and 3; Curlews for Year 4 and 5; Kestrels for Year 5 and 6. Headteacher Mrs Alison Hawkins administers a capable staff of six formal teachers, and a team of some six or seven support workers and part-time teachers (as far as I can figure from the website), in addition to the two office workers who keep things running tidily.
A significant resource that the school helps to take care of, supported by a volunteer committee drawn from our community, is the Sports Hall which provides space for a variety of physical activities for young and old. The Sports Hall (as distinct from the Sports Pavilion, which is the clubhouse on the Allendale Sports Ground) can provide for activities like badminton, volleyball, tennis and soft play. As a space, it can be hired for children’s parties and sporting get-togethers. This facility is managed by a volunteer community group, drawn mostly from members of Allendale Sports Club, who coordinate the hiring and activities that go on there.
And so it’s time to go back to school, for the final half-term push of the school year. I so well remember our children, both of them, steadily progressing through the ranks of the year groups during the Middle School days. And now, with the rainy weather these past couple of weeks, allowing only an occasional glimpse of the sun between the clouds, I suppose most young people will be glad to be back in their classrooms, engaging with the world of learning once again. But let the sun erupt once more for a prolonged spell, and glances will be drifting to the windows, as the birds sing throughout the day . . . everyone will be longing for the summer holidays. We probably wish our lives away in tune with the school calendar, come to think of it, and yet these days it’s true that school is actually an incredible amount of fun!