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Gift of learning

A vending machine is typically loaded with naughty snacks – chocolate bars, crisps and fizzy drinks. Well, not at Stanhope Primary School.

The school in Greenford has a new vending machine with a much healthier cargo. It houses a variety of books all on the theme of equality and aims to deepen children’s understanding of the protected characteristics.

‘Pride on children’s faces’

Each week, staff at the school nominate children, who have shown a commitment to equality. These children then become Youth Equality Ambassadors.

The ambassadors are then presented with a gold token at the school’s Friday celebration assembly and are able to visit the vending machine with their parent or carer after school to slot the token into the machine and select a book of their choice.

Assistant headteacher Ivy Laryea said: “It is wonderful to see the pride on children’s faces as they choose a great book, which they get to keep. The project has further raised the profile of the importance of equality.”

‘The sky is the limit’

The vending machine is branded in Stanhope’s colours and is decorated with equality-related words, illustrations of children, the school’s core values and an inspirational quote from Nelson Mandela.

The project was the idea of headteacher Hannah Widdison.

She said: “I find it frustrating and sad that, as an educational provider, we cannot always source images and resources that represent all children.

“Therefore, I wanted to design a vending machine, where all children feel seen and represented; a machine that celebrates different races, religions, different special needs and disabilities and also preferences.

“We are so privileged at Stanhope Primary School to have children from all over the world and from a range of different backgrounds and cultures. This is part of what makes our school such an eclectic and exciting place and is something that we celebrate in all that we do.

“The vending machine serves as a constant reminder to our pupils of just how much they matter and that the sky is the limit in terms of what they can achieve in life.”

Hard work worth it

She added that the school has had so many positive reactions to the vending machine from parents, pupils, staff and visitors that some have even said they would be ‘pinching the idea’.

The vending machine was paid for with sponsorship money donated by the school community and beyond in support of Hannah competing in the Tough Mudder event.

“I had to run 10k in deep mud, scale a 40-foot climbing net, jump into an ice bath and run through electrical wires,” said Hannah. “But it was definitely worth it.”

Award for school

In July, the Inclusion Quality Mark (IQM) organisation gave the school its Inclusive School Award for ongoing commitment to providing the very best education for all children irrespective of differences; and IQM also designated it as a Centre of Excellence for its outstanding work.

‘Lovely and original idea’

Councillor Kamaljit Nagpal, Ealing Council’s cabinet member for a fairer start, said: “This is such a lovely and original idea. We are proud of our schools, and almost 97% of our council-run schools have been rated good or outstanding by Ofsted. But just as important as this academic success is their work in helping our children to develop a sense of social responsibility and fairness and to value difference. And the Nelson Mandela quote on the side of Stanhope’s vending machine ‘It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it,’ really is wonderful and sums it all up perfectly. I hope the children enjoy their books and I am looking forward to visiting the school in the autumn, and seeing the vending machine in action.”

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