Theresa May Visits Claires Court
We were delighted to welcome Maidenhead MP and former Prime Minister Theresa May, to our Junior Boys site by Maidenhead Thicket, on Friday 15 October.
Met by Principals Hugh and James Wilding with Head of Juniors, Mrs Leanne Kirby, the purpose of the visit was threefold; to highlight the ecological improvements planned with a new Jubilee Canopy of trees, the introduction of the Forest School and Combined Cadet Force, in addition to sharing the plans for the conversion of agricultural land to sports pitches.
At the time of the visit, we had just announced our intent to create a Jubilee Canopy of mixed native trees to celebrate both the Queen's Platinum Jubilee and the School’s Diamond Jubilee. Families were offered the chance to purchase one of just 100 UK grown trees to form a canopy across the eastern boundary of the grounds with over 5,000 tree whips donated by both Carbon Footprint and the Woodland Trust. Mrs May was shown where the line of trees would be placed alongside a specimen 6ft Quercus (Oak) to be planted by one of the families. The whips, consisting of native hedgerow plants, were to be planted alongside the larger trees to form a hedgerow, once a traditional view in the English countryside which is now sadly on the decline. The canopy will provide a home to plentiful birds, mammals and insects thus enhancing the natural environment and providing serious pollution absorption and oxygen replacement from the nearby motorway and commuter roads for the local area in Cox Green.
In the past few years, the concept of Forest School has grown significantly in the UK and is one Claires Court has adopted for our Nursery School and Junior division. Although we have adopted a thorough programme of outdoor education in recent years, the Forest School approach is an opportunity for the pupils to learn in a specifically developed outside area within which the pupils can learn den-building, fire-making skills and whittling amongst others.
Mrs Kirby, Head of Juniors and Nursery said “We are blessed with both a large site and close proximity to Maidenhead Thicket to allow for the concept of Forest School to flourish. The Forest School programme enables pupils to extend their learning in each subject outside. Allowing children to play and learn in our natural environment is key to our curriculum and one we are expanding year-on-year”.
During the visit, Mrs May was shown examples of Forest School practice including whittling sticks to make tent pegs. Through learning this new skill, the children are encouraged to take managed risks whilst using sharp tools as well as increasing their creativity and confidence in their abilities.
One of the new initiatives on parade for Mrs May was the Combined Cadet Force only in operation since September 2021. Mrs May was presented to new School Staff Instructor, WO1 Stephen Larkin, Captain O'Clee and 2nd Lieutenant Richards alongside the newly formed CCF Army unit consisting of Year 9, 10 and 12 students.
Activities demonstrated included drill, command tasks, basha building and a lesson on the duties of a sentry. Mrs May then joined them on the field to discuss the new initiative and to speak to members about their motivations for joining.
Finally, Mrs May learnt of the application to convert one of the school’s fields, from the current agricultural use to sports use. The aim is to enable all Claires Court school divisions to use the playing fields throughout the year, with the particular benefit of two main cricket squares, as well as act as home to North Maidenhead cricket club at the weekend during the cricket season. The planning application is in progress currently and an outcome is anticipated after Christmas.
Speaking of the visit, Academic Principal James Wilding said, “We were delighted to welcome Mrs May to see in person the projects we have to increase the biodiversity of the area and the new initiatives introduced such as the CCF. Despite the interruptions to school life over the past 12 months, it has not held back our children’s education, because of our terrific on-line learning platform. What’s really important now that our children are back in session, is to ensure all those additional opportunities that Forest School and the CCF best exemplify; teamwork and hands-on learning in the great outdoors are brought to the fore once again. ”
Hugh Wilding, Principal and Bursar concluded, “As both a local education provider and a top 10 largest employer in Maidenhead, the opportunity to update our local MP with our ambitions has been invaluable and we thank her for her interest in Claires Court”.