Identity and a sense of belonging are foundations to a child’s education. But how do we define where we come from? How do we describe where we live or where we grew up?
Later this month, I will take up a new role as the founding principal of Elements Primary School, a brand new school in south Leeds, that will welcome its first class of children in September.
The physical foundations haven’t even been laid yet, but the foundations for learning are already in place. I know that the very first learning for those excited four and five-year-olds starting their school journey will be about celebrating them and the place they live.
My top priority as an educator is to instil pride, passion and confidence. I want our children to be passionate about Elements Primary School, passionate about Yorkshire and passionate about life in south Leeds, an area that is bursting with history, tradition and human potential.
As educators, we need to build confidence in our young people, so they know who they are, where they come from and their place in the world. It is a big world and there are bright futures ahead of every one of them.
I want our youngest learners to be proud of their family, their school, their heritage and their community and I am determined that Elements will add further vibrancy, optimism, dynamism and confidence to the local area.
I was born and grew up in Hunslet, just down the road from where the new Elements is being built in Middleton.
I stayed at school for an extra year to retake O-Level subjects and left school aged 17.
I later returned to my old primary school as a teaching assistant and then studied hard to become a teacher. I taught at St Mary’s in Hunslet, for four years, furthered my career in other parts of Leeds and then returned as a senior teacher to the school I’d attended as a child.
Having lived and worked in south Leeds most of my life, it saddens me when I hear young people show little regard for where they live. Regardless of location, there appears to be a disconnect between many young people and where they live.
South Leeds is bursting with energy, life, development, opportunities and potential. I feel privileged to be the founding principal of a brand new school in the area that has the future at the core of its mission and message.
Whilst working as an executive headteacher in Bradford, I developed a learning project called Proud to be from Bradford, which now forms part of the curriculum at the school and which neighbouring schools have also adopted. The aim of the project is to help children discover the most interesting and important aspects of the place in which they live. I wanted them to be able to stand tall when asked where they were from and also to share their pride in their home and heritage.
I was drawn to Wellspring Academy Trust, sponsor of Elements and partner with Leeds City Council, because of its outstanding record of inclusion. I am passionate about all children having equal opportunities - ensuring that they have the very best of access, provision and resources from the outset of their school life.
The pupils at Elements School will be reminded throughout their time with us that we have high expectations of them and will learn to have high expectations of themselves. We want our children to feel pride in each other, pride in their work, pride in their school and pride in themselves.
It takes a community to educate a child and we will encourage parents to be ever present in the learning process with our children at Elements.
We aim to have heightened ambition for what is possible for everyone and to galvanise our school community with this message.
Elements will be a key element in the building, development and future prospects of a vibrant and ambitious south Leeds.
My overriding goal is to create a step change in outcomes for children in the area in a brand new, future-facing school that communicates a message of energy, optimism and confidence.
I believe that a school environment is key to enabling an ethos of excellence and respect for all. What a brilliant opportunity we have to create a school environment fit for the 21st century in our new school.
This is the start of a truly exciting and extraordinary journey.
Sarah Horsbrough is the founding Principal of Elements Primary School in Leeds.