Student Community Action
A core part of our ethos is to put a Tonbridge education into a wider context, enabling students to better understand the world in which we live, and to leave the School expecting to make a positive contribution to their community. All students are actively involved in projects that enable them to connect with, and feel a part of, the community in Tonbridge, and give their time and effort to support local charitable organisations and fundraising.
These links start at the beginning of their time in the School, and our Novi (Year 9) students work on a range of projects together, including acting as ‘book buddies’ at local primary schools, hosting senior citizens at tea concerts, and joining together in an annual ‘Sleepout’ in the school Quad to learn about local poverty and homelessness.
As the boys progress up the school, many chose to commit more time, and we have over 160 boys volunteering each week throughout the School year. The boys support Science projects on our site, or are welcomed in primary school classrooms supporting reading and maths, or helping run after-school clubs involving activities including languages, art and sport. Boys also support local special schools, assisting children with autism with swimming and football, as well as other projects including supporting senior citizens or young adults with learning disabilities.
For over seven years we have run a scheme for Kent County Council’s Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children, who come to our site weekly to play football and cricket with Tonbridge boys, sharing conversational English and learning about respective cultures.
These 16 to 18 year-old boys have arrived in Kent, often having fled desperate situations such as the war in Afghanistan, without an accompanying adult, and seeking asylum. They are cared for by KCC in centres in Ashford and Cranbrook until a more permanent home can be found for them elsewhere in the UK while their asylum status is assessed.
The objective of the project is for our guests to feel safe and welcomed, and to be able to relax and enjoy sport and companionship with young men of the same age. The Tonbridge boys in term learn about their cultures, situations and journeys, the challenges of the current global refugee crisis, and the reality of the individuals behind the news stories.
The sessions are full of high-intensity sport as well as a lot of friendliness and laughter, and are a highlight of the week for all involved.
Each year, around 80 boys volunteer to become mentors.
Boys in the Novi (Year 9) commence their training by working with expert staff in the Learning Strategies Department: the training includes developing mentors’ numeracy, literacy and communication skills, as well as broadening their understanding of how to support neurodiverse pupils in their learning.
The mentors then host weekly visits with children from Royal Rise Primary School, who have either learning or pastoral needs. Boys help to teach those pupils on a one-to-one basis, supporting key areas of the primary curriculum, as well as enrichment activities. These include visits to the Barton Science Centre, a music-into-literacy session in the School Chapel and an outdoor performance poetry workshop.
Natalia Gerard, Learning Strategies Teacher said: “The mentoring adds real value both to the boys’ all-round education here at Tonbridge, and to the visiting pupils’ learning experiences, and very quickly strong bonds are formed. The sense of expectation and enthusiasm when they pair up each week is quite extraordinary.”
Sarah Griggs, Head of School for Royal Rise, added: “Tonbridge’s programme has played a vital role in helping us achieve our recent ‘Good’ Ofsted report. Its staff and boys have always supported us, giving the children opportunities beyond those we could provide purely on our own.”
The popular programme sees local primary school children visit the School’s laboratories over a three-week period. Tonbridge students and staff organise and supervise hands-on activities for the children, who are presented with new, fun and exciting opportunities to learn about science.
Schools are invited to bring an entire class of up to 32 children at a time, plus their usual teacher and teaching assistants, for three consecutive Wednesday afternoon sessions each lasting about an hour and a half.
Our students are trained by our teachers to lead these sessions helping them grow in confidence and leadership skills.
Science for Schools activities include:
- An introduction to chemical reactions: Making copper sulphate crystals using copper carbonate and sulphuric acid;
- Designing, building and testing parachutes and car crumple zones;
- Investigating the crawling speed of maggots under conditions of light and dark.
The highlight and culmination of our Community Action work is our annual Community Giving Day, when all boys and staff are actively involved in a range of projects both on our site and off-site in our community.
Tonbridge’s campus is filled with up to 1,000 visiting children enjoying over 28 different sport, creative and academic activities, from rocketry to dance, maggot racing to performance poetry. Our Novi (Year 9s) are responsible for hosting the children, ensuring that they get to their activities on time and encouraging them to have a go at all they are offered. The activities themselves are run by the Lower Sixth (Year 12), and all boys really rise to the challenges of these roles resulting in a fantastic day.
Meanwhile, our Second and Third Year (Year 10 and 11) students visit primary schools and local charitable organisations to complete projects on their sites. Each year we support twelve projects, with the boys in their House-based groups. This year included creating gardens, ponds and raised beds, running sports festivals, helping to create costumes and sets for a primary school production, and working at Haysden Country Park to build up the banks of Barden Lake. Throughout the day, over 20 tonnes of wood chip, soil or compost were moved, hundreds of flowering plants were installed, and the boys even helped build a ‘step-less slide’ for wheelchair users.
If you would like to talk to us about how we might work with you please get in touch.
We have strong partnerships with ten local primary schools as well as secondary schools, special schools and charitable organisations.