Bristol Grammar School is a co-educational independent day school offering ‘life-changing learning, friendships and adventure’ for children from Reception through to Sixth Form. There are two reception classes with eighteen children in each class.
Simon joined BGS five years ago as a Reception Class teacher and it was then that he was introduced to the Bristol Standard. The school had already been on their Bristol Standard journey for three years, having done a complete cycle, so Simon and his colleague, who was also new to the school, took over the Bristol Standard baton, starting a fresh cycle with a full submission.
It was quite a baptism of fire for Simon and his colleague, both new to their roles and tasked with a fresh cycle of the Bristol Standard. They appreciated that the Bristol Standard would be a useful tool to help them ‘improve standards and show professional development’. Simon acknowledges that their first year was difficult ‘as there was so much going on in our lives professionally and to implement it in the way it should have been used was really tough as everything was new’. However, Simon and his colleagues rose to the challenge and continued the school’s Bristol Standard journey and have really appreciated the opportunity to be reflective ‘it has been really good, looking at the targets from the year before and thinking about what you are working on’. Simon and his team have valued the opportunity that the Bristol Standard gives them, encouraging them to reflect and celebrate what they do well and enabling them to consider and develop ideas. The Bristol Standard has provided them with a framework with which to consolidate and evaluate their plans and strategies.
The Bristol Standard journey has involved the whole of the school’s EYFS team. Simon explains that this has been a really positive outcome of the process ‘It brings all the staff together. I really do think that has been the best thing for us because it gets staff talking’. It is clear that it’s a real team effort ‘It’s worked really well with the teaching assistants if we’re doing the document together. We’re asking, “how can we do this?” and we have the teaching assistants proactively inputting. They’re there then because they are deeply involved in the curriculum and everything else that you need to do. I thought it was magnificent for that’. Simon acknowledges that the EYFS guidelines can be interpreted in different ways and working together on the Bristol Standard ‘does bring everyone together on the same page and that’s a great strength. I think bringing all the people you work with on the same spot to the same way of thinking is magical’. Simon really appreciates the team he works with ‘we are really blessed with the teaching assistants we have here, they are so caring and vested heavily in the children, we are the luckiest team right now, everybody’s engaged and wants to do the best’.
One of the recent targets that the setting had chosen to focus on, was one which focused on recycling and the reduction of waste. This target developed into quite a comprehensive topic, culminating with a trip the coast. At the beach a big whale was drawn in the sand and the children were encouraged to fill the whale with items they found on the beach ‘it was unbelievable the amount of stuff they found’. Simon explains how this target has raised the children’s awareness ‘we were really proactive on that target and the children questioned things a lot more. Curriculum wise it ticked boxes but in the terms of the development of their characters and who we are shaping them to be, I think it gave them a really good knowledge on their impact’.
The Bristol Standard has undoubtedly been beneficial to the staff team and the children and Simon would definitely recommend the process to others wanting to build on their current best. Simon would suggest that settings ‘try their best to enjoy it. If you’re organised and look at it as a document that is going to make you better at what you do, without being judgemental, then it’s an achievable thing to do. It’s really useful’. Simon’s top tip for those about to embark on their own Bristol Standard journey would be ‘to start early and plan how you are going to implement it. I think if somebody had said that to me the very first time, I would have found it really useful’.