As the busy Spring Term neared its end this week, we took the opportunity to use our Enrichment Day on Thursday 23 March to support our local community with the hope of making a difference.

Our pupils are passionate, energetic and inventive when it comes to finding ways to support local charities and fundraise for causes they care about. 5,284 hours of service are already offered by St John’s pupils on average each year, and we are always looking for ways in which the St John’s community can help others and have a positive impact.

Enrichment Days are a valuable addition to the School calendar, providing opportunities for pupils to develop and explore a new range of skills and subjects from a different perspective, and to take part in team building activities. Alongside enrichment activities and charity fundraising, pupils were given the opportunity to take part in Make a Difference Day, by volunteering for local community charities and schools.

Lower Third enjoyed a fascinating trip to Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium, broadening pupils’ knowledge about science-related fields beyond the curriculum. Whilst Fourth Form visited Chessington Go Ape, which included team building games, mental and physical challenges, and the tree-top high ropes course, which builds confidence, teamwork and communication.

Upper Third pupils continued their work on their First Give fundraising and awareness campaigns, and enjoyed a beat-boxing session before spending the afternoon watching the matinee performance of the School musical, Sweeney Todd!

Several senior school pupils were participating in a wide range of activities, from performing in the musical, playing rugby in the Rosslyn Park Sevens, excitedly boarding flights for the Dubai cricket and netball tours and a variety of CCF adventures where they were developing their military skills, team work and resilience.

The remaining senior school pupils took part in our first Make a Difference Day, and selected from a number of local volunteering opportunities.

A group of pupils spent the day in the dining hall with our Head Chef, Billy, preparing food for Leatherhead Start, a local charity that provides short term and emergency accommodation for local people facing homelessness. Pupils then delivered the prepared meals to the centre in time for their evening meal, and created advertising for a collection of items needed by the charity.

A group of pupils offered gardening and outdoor maintenance support to local vulnerable and elderly residents. Several pupils offered their support as volunteers at the Woodland Trust – Langley Vale Woods, participating in conservation work including removal of invasive species on fences and the managing of saplings.

A number of pupils also helped with gardening and grounds maintenance at the Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People, assisting the charity in creating a welcoming environment for residents and their families at their injury and illness rehabilitation centre. The Queen Elizabeth Foundation provide care and rehabilitation facilities for people recovering from injuries and complex illnesses such as brain or spinal injuries, and their grounds are used by their residents and visiting families to support their recovery.

Epsom and Ewell Refugee Network, who hosted the Ukraine Summer Languages Camp at St John’s in summer 2022, welcomed our pupil volunteers to work alongside charity members sorting donated items to be sent to Ukraine. Pupils also welcomed the opportunity to meet with refugees and help with conversational English workshops. Epsom and Ewell Refugee Network provide support to refugees and asylum seekers in the local area.

Pupils offered classroom support at local schools: St Peter’s, Leatherhead Trinity and West Ashtead Primary. They enjoyed supporting classroom teaching with a range of learning activities and also loved getting involved in breaktime and sporting activities.

A number of houses took part in fundraising activities, including the South House charity walk across Box Hill, and Gloucester House visiting Barnfield Riding Stables, who provide riding for the disabled, to help with painting and maintenance for the charity. Other house fundraising activities included Hawkins House three peaks walking simulation for FND Hope, and Haslewood and Surrey House raising funds for Momentum with a day of challenges.

Pupils found the time spent volunteering and fundraising within our local community invaluable. They came back to St John’s with a proud sense of achievement, having learnt new skills, and most importantly reflective of the importance of the support they have given.

We rightly pride ourselves on the strength of our school community, but Make a Difference Day was an opportunity to also recognise this within our wider community. The ability to support local residents, schools and charities not only helps embed the ethos of giving back, but also allowed pupils to gain skills and experiences that they will remember for a long time to come.

The true strength of a community can only be measured by the individual actions of each individual within it, and today allowed us as a school to demonstrate the importance we place on developing the connections with our entire St John’s community.

Ian White, Deputy Head (Co-curricular & Logistics)