Each Junior School student within our care joins us at a tender stage in their personal development. Potential untapped, minds open to pursue their every curiosity, laughter punctuating numerous points throughout their day. Whilst the assimilation of knowledge and acquisition of skills are an important part of their primary education, our responsibility as their teachers has to be to nurture a continued thirst for learning with joy in their hearts.

An instinctive desire to embrace challenge is encouraged through every experience within and outside our classrooms. From our Nursery girls cooking up a feast in their glorious mud kitchen, through to Year 2s eagerly toasting marshmallows over a campfire and Year 6s learning to surf the waves of the UK coastline, embracing learning with rich stimulating experiences sparks growth, an open mindset and a genuine desire to be the best version of themselves. Chasing ambitious dreams develops rapidly, together with a compassionate view of the world and their place within it. Creative problem solving starts young, along with collaborative decision making and building trusting relationships. We call this unique experience Human Intelligence at The Abbey – a bespoke curriculum offered to develop resilient, confident articulate young women, who demonstrate empathy and respect for one another, alongside the courage to take a seat at the tables which matter to them. 

And how do we know we are making a difference? Well, our community is made up of a rich tapestry representing over fifty nationalities. Families are drawn to our school from around the globe. They bring to our community vibrant heritage, language and cultural influence. Through their personal experiences, we learn the true meaning of global citizenship – equity and inclusion at the heart of our endeavours. And our students lean into the abundance of opportunities this presents. We learn so much from first-hand experience of their personal journeys – everything from the effects of migration, slavery and political unrest through to how their home countries are tackling climate change, how technological innovation has kept them connected and how school can feel so different on the other side of the world. These perspectives provide a lens through which meaningful connections are made between the subjects they learn, enabling them to focus on central themes to deepen their understanding. This is the philosophy which lies at the heart of the International Baccalaureate’s Primary Years Programme – the voice of the child, the choices they make on their personal learning journeys and the ownership of this experience as they sit firmly in the driving seat. 

The IB’s acknowledgement of our aspiration to create such an innovative, bespoke primary education has been the source of much celebration in our school this week. But it did not end there. We were thrilled that the inaugural Reading Festival of Sport@The Abbey was awarded ‘Engagement Campaign of the Year’ by The Institute of Development Professionals in Education in their 2022 ceremony. The festival was another example of community response to help girls and young women find ‘belonging’ in sport. With over thirty local sports clubs, elite athletes and numerous alumnae, we helped a community of 1000 young people to try a new sport. And on Sunday evening, Sir John Madejski congratulated the school at the Reading Sports ceremony, with the prestigious ‘School of the Year’ award, in recognition of this wonderful initiative, too.

Rewarding though these acclaims for our school development are, none of these projects represent one individual’s crusade. Rather, they are the culmination of our wonderful community collaborating at grassroots level, to make meaningful partnerships with the world in which our students grow. They demonstrate a creative, collaborative spirit, unrestrained by the confines of a national curriculum or public examinations. They reflect bravery as we dare to be different, to challenge societal norms for young women and a deep determination to make a lasting, worthwhile difference to the young people in our care. 

And I can think of no better way to nurture joy – for us all.

Nisha Kaura, Head of The Abbey Junior School