One of our school core values is “relationships”. Building strong relationships within our school community is a priority for us, whether they be between children, parents, staff or a combination. I was reminded of the strength of relationships today when I noticed two children outside my office window. One was standing with his coat wide open whilst the other was using all her dexterity to help him with the zip. It is in these special moments when you realise the impact that spending time with children, developing relationships, has on their future.
A simple game of “peekaboo” is a great example of how relationships and time together help with all areas of child development. When a parent plays “peekaboo” with their baby (hiding their face behind their hands and popping out again) the baby usually reaches out, giggles and smiles. This is a sign from the baby to say, ‘Keep playing – this is fun!’ The parent keeps going and the baby is happy. After a while, the baby might look away. This is the baby’s way of saying, ‘Enough play for now’.
This “peekaboo” example shows that the baby wants to play with the parent, which means there is attachment between the two. Attachment is a sign of healthy social and emotional development in children. When the baby squeals and reaches out to the parent to say, ‘Let’s play!’, this shows the baby developing language and gross motor skills. When the parent responds, it encourages the baby to keep communicating.
It is not just the relationship between parent and child that shapes development. It is also the relationships we, as adults, share with others. The way we behave and communicate with other people shows children how to be and behave with one another. It also shows children how other people will behave in return. If children see kind and respectful relationships around them, they will learn to be kind and respectful themselves.
Positive relationships in schools underpin an effective learning environment. There is now a wealth of research on the importance of connectedness in schools and the specific qualities of in-school relationships that promote effective education. Schools play a significant part not only in the formal and informal education of young people but also in their wellbeing. In 1995 the World Health Organisation introduced the Global School Health initiative and brought the concept of education for wellbeing into the foreground. Related initiatives have since been adopted or developed by governments and education authorities in many parts of the world.
In his book “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community” Robert D. Putnam warned Americans that their stock of "social capital", the very fabric of their connections with each other, was accelerating downwards. Physical capital comprises hardware resources such as buildings and equipment whereas human capital comprises knowledge and skills. He claimed, “Social capital can be defined as the levels of trust, mutual responsibility and reciprocity that people experience in their interactions with each other and their sense of belonging to a particular community with a shared identity and shared values.” (Putnam, 2000) Back in 2000 he warned that ties with friends and relatives were fraying: people were 35% less likely to visit neighbours or have dinner with their families than they were thirty years earlier.
Schools are social places and we want to encourage the building of strong relationships within our community, at every level. The strength of relationships at Yateley Manor is what makes the school so special. We all feel it. And when I look out of my office window and see children being so kind, so warm and so thoughtful to one another, I know we are successfully building that social capital which is so important for our children in today’s world and for their future.