G7 spotlight on Aspire academies
From its hilltop position overlooking the towans of Gwithian and Carbis Bay beyond, Connor Downs Academy received two very special visitors on Friday 11th June, Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Cambridge and Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady of the United States.
The esteemed guests were welcomed to Connor Downs Academy by the CEO of the Aspire Academy Trust Mrs Vanessa Bragg and Head of School Mrs Janice Eddy, before embarking on a tour of Early Years provision.
In Reception Class, Her Royal Highness and The First Lady had a glimpse into how the academy’s youngest pupils are supported through a bespoke Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) curriculum, which uses child-led teaching to help develop independent, confident and successful learners. The guests also joined children taking part in several classroom tasks. These included sorting out materials into natural and manufactured categories, writing sentences exploring climate change (centred around class book 'Greta and the Giants') and creating illustrations of famous landmarks such as The White House and Kensington Palace. The activities were led by class teacher and EYFS/KS1 lead Mr David Masters, supported by teaching assistants Mrs Helen Smitheram and Miss Tracey Pedley.
David Masters said, "Hosting Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge and Dr Jill Biden in my classroom was one of the greatest moments of my career to date and something I will never forget. The children were exemplary ambassadors for Connor Downs Academy and I am so proud of each and every child”.
Lissi, age 5 said, “Today in my classroom I met a real princess and she wore a very pretty dress. I know that Dr. Biden lives in a really big house called The White House and she is a teacher like Mr Masters”.
Outside, in the academy’s outdoor ‘Cultivated Futures’ area, proud YR ‘Animal Cadets’ Amelia, Jack, Diana and Barney introduced one of their rescue rabbits Storm. The children demonstrated their animal handling skills and talked confidently about how they are responsible for feeding, grooming and giving the rescue animals regular health checks.
The focal point of the visit was a roundtable discussion, including a live video link to the US, with a number of representatives from the early years sector who have been influential in The Duchess’ work. They discussed why early childhood is so important to lifelong outcomes and what can be done to make a difference.
(Pictured L-R: Dr Trudi Seneviratne, Professor Eamon McCrory, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, Dr. Jill Biden, Ed Vainker, Owen Thomas)
Before leaving Connor Downs Academy, Head Girl Olivia and Head Boy Charlie, both Year 6 pupils, presented Her Royal Highness and Dr. Biden with a gift of flowers. The children represented their academy beautifully and remained cool, calm and collected despite the excitement of the occasion. Oliva said, “I was quite nervous waiting outside because we were going to be on television with two extremely famous ladies but now I feel amazing and I’ll remember this event for the rest of my life”. Charlie agreed, adding “They told us about their experience at our school and they said that the children at Connor Downs were really well mannered.”
Janice Eddy, Head of Connor Downs Academy, commented, “It was an absolute honour and privilege on behalf of Connor Downs Academy to host both Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge and Dr. Jill Biden, First Lady of the US today. It was wonderful to know that they share our core ethos and values in supporting children’s social and emotional mental health and academic development. What a remarkable and memorable day for the children and staff of Connor Downs Academy!”
Vanessa Bragg, CEO Aspire Academy Trust, added, “Education, and in particular early years education, has been put right at the top of the news agenda today with two extraordinary and passionate advocates of education visiting one of our Aspire academies. Today’s learners are tomorrow’s leaders, and I am so proud of the children and staff of Connor Downs Academy, for showcasing what excellence in education looks like.”
Down the hill and towards the bay, St Uny C of E Academy was behind the security 'iron curtain', and therefore closed on Thursday and Friday, however the children were still well and truly part of the G7 action. The school took part in the 'Wave of Hope' project with the local church and pupils were interviewed on BBC Spotlight, speaking eloquently about their thoughts and hopes for the G7 Summit. Hot on the BBC's heels was ITV West Country News who came to the school in the run up to the event and chatted to Year 6 pupils on what the summit meant, as well as sharing with our region what work they had been doing on the environment and sustainability.
A whole school Collective Worship, produced by St Uny staff and children, has been shown in schools all over the country and viewed almost 300 times on YouTube!
Huge thanks go to all school communities involved in this historic event, but a few particular mentions must be made. To Bob Lewis, Site Manager at Connor Downs Academy, to Glen Cleaning for doing a fabulous job sprucing up Connor Downs Academy until it was positively gleaming and finally, to Aspens, our catering partner, who provided refreshments for the Duchess of Cambridge and Dr. Jill Biden's round table guests.