Service to local and international communities has long been central to the Sevenoaks ethos.
This year has seen ever-increasing levels of engagement in service initiatives, with students looking to lead change in their own communities and also to build collective understanding of pressing social topics such as migration, racism and climate change.
Ultimately, academic and empathetic exploration of underlying social conditions is a precursor for leading long-lasting and inclusive social action, built upon a mindset of social justice, and a recognition that all of our actions can contribute (positively or negatively) to social inequalities.
In addition to the wide variety of service projects that run on a Thursday afternoon, from poetry in local care homes to conversation lessons with local Syrians to swimming with students from Valence School who have physical disabilities, we have looked to strengthen our curriculum-embedded engagement this year, with the introduction of a Year 7 course named ‘Society and Change’. This has enabled our students to enjoy critical and open conversations on topics linked to charity, environmental justice and educational equity. These themes are built upon in the Critical Thinking courses in other years, with the Year 8 students also extending their understanding of enterprise-based action through our social entrepreneurship challenge.
The coronavirus outbreak has exposed and exacerbated inequalities in local and global communities. It has been a privilege during this time to work as a school community alongside local groups, such as Care for our Community Sevenoaks and Sevenoaks District Council, to create a range of projects which have received generous support from staff, students and parents alike. This has included weekly food and hygiene collections for 20 local schools and food banks over three months, a digital tech collection and redistribution scheme, production of personal protective equipment for NHS and other frontline workers, shopping for our local elderly who were shielding and a ‘Telepal’ befriending partnership with MindUK and Sevenoaks Counselling.
During the pandemic, my inbox has been filled every day with thoughtful messages from students looking to gain support to lead online campaigns, support people in their home communities, or produce concerts and other initiatives to bring our school and local communities together. It is difficult to convey the full extent of the collaborative projects, which have undoubtedly enabled our students to learn from others as much as they give, and to build deep friendships; just a few are highlighted in the following pages. Certainly, for me, I have become friends with the elderly people in the Sevenoaks almshouses whom I once watched gardening from my window but never knew by name, and this challenging period has enabled me to connect with my neighbours in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.
Cat Davison, Director of Service and Social Impact