School Focus: ‘Unique’ Chesterfield school with family feel that has taught generations

Cavendish Junior School has lots to shout about – and rightly so.

Thursday, 7th April 2022, 2:27 pm

From staff in reception and parents, right through to teachers and school leaders, there is a family feel that runs throughout with everyone working towards one common aim – to do the very best for pupils.

Last year, Ofsted inspectors found the school in Newbold Moor to be a ‘calm and caring’ place where pupils feel safe because staff care for them well.

Senior teacher Rachel Laben has been with Cavendish Juniors for over two decades and takes pride in the sense of community permeates every aspect of school life.

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Year 5 pupils in the Curiosity Cabin at Cavendish Junior School

She said: “It’s a very unique school. We’ve got multi-generations of pupils who have come through here, so we’re teaching grandchildren of people we’ve taught.

"People, once they come to this school, the whole family comes. It’s a real community school and is very much the heart of the community.

"Pupils are encouraged to be very individual and the staff are encouraged to be very individual as well, where some schools can be very prescriptive about how they expect staff to be we’re certainly not.

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Cavendish Junior School Year 4 pupils during a maths lesson

"We’re quite quirky and we encourage that within the children, so the children are quite quirky as well and there’s lots of really big personalities which we encourage.

"The whole ethos of the school, the whole feel of the school; children have really good relationships with all the staff.”

The teachers describe themselves as ‘a team’ with the newest member being interim headteacher Rebecca Freeston – and she cannot talk highly enough about the place and everyone involved.

“I come from a very close-knit school in Brimington where there's solid relationships and I genuinely feel like I’ve always worked here,” said Mrs Freeston, who took on the leadership role in January and will remain at the helm while headteacher Nicola Marlow is on maternity leave.

Cavendish Junior School. Year 3 and 4 pupils in the garden outdoor learning area.

"I can’t put it any other way. I feel completely and utterly at ease and supported. I’m no different to Rachel, I’m a Year 6 teacher who just saw an opportunity and thought I’d do it.

"For me professionally it’s a big jump but with, particularly Rachel and the staff, they’ve been absolutely wonderful and I don’t feel new really.”

The school is particularly proud of its ‘Cavendish Code’ which aims to develop skills and prepare pupils for the next chapter in their life.

Using Cavendish as an acronym, it encourages children to be collaborators, aspirational, visionairies, enthusiastic, nurturing, determined, independent, safe and healthy.

Year 3 and 4 pupils in the garden outdoor learning area used for 'Cavendish College' on a Friday afternoon

Mrs Freeston added: “It’s not just about school but it’s about transferable skills that set them up for life.”

Every Friday, Cavendish Junior School hosts ‘Cavendish College’; a whole-school initiative where children take part in practical tasks such as textiles, art and gardening.

During these sessions, caretaker Lee Turner has been helping pupils create bird boxes out of old pallets to teach them about sustainability and protecting the environment.

He also recently transformed an old classroom into the Curiousity Cabin – a colourful and somewhat magical room which features various items such as old radios and reading books that pupils can use for inspiration when writing – and has been sprucing up other areas of the school.

Mr Turner, who has worked at Cavendish Juniors for just over two years said: “The children here are an absolute joy; there’s never a dull moment and it really feels like a small family.

“We decided to brighten up the school during the first lockdown. It feels more ‘homely’ now; there’s a warm atmosphere at school.

Year 5 pupils in the Curiosity Cabin, an old classroom which was transformed to help inspire pupils in their writing

“It’s been a labour of love and everyone has been involved. We have painted a tree on the wall in one of the corridors and called it The Wonder Tree; it has inspiring quotes on it and the ‘leaves’ are pieces of green paper which have been cut into different shapes. All the children have written messages on them.

“The courtyard was fairly ordinary and needed brightening up, so we came up with an idea to paint it like The Yellow Brick Road and to keep the theme of The Wizard of Oz running throughout the area.

“And then we have the Curiosity Cabin, which is jam-packed with curios and was inspired by a trip to Grimm and Co in Rotherham. Staff saw what they had there and took inspiration to create something similar at Cavendish.”

The Curiosity Cabin is also said to have helped develop pupils’ love of reading – something which is a top priority for Cavendish Junior School.

Mrs Laben, who is also Class 4L deputy designated safeguarding lead, English, assessment and MFL co-ordinator, said youngsters typically have one writing session in there a term, but also have the opportunity to visit during their break or lunchtimes should they wish.

Touching again on the family feel of Cavendish Junior School, she added: “We massively pride ourselves on the relationships we have with parents. Parents come to us and they open up about their lives, they come to us for advice.

“It’s about caring for the pupils but also the whole family – and because we know the families, we know the challenges they face and know the challenges the children are facing and we can be there to support them in that.”

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