There is a remarkably strong sense of community within the rooms, halls and corridors of the UCS Junior Branch. This comes directly from our ethos – we value individuals, and allow our children to be as individual as possible, which in turn promotes tolerance and understanding.

We are always emphasising our values to pupils – the biggest accolades at our weekly assemblies are certificates for good manners and the random acts of kindness which we always treasure. Prioritising such values has helped us to foster a great sense of togetherness and looking after one another.

Local outreach

Care and kindness apply outside as well as inside our Holly Hill home in Hampstead. Our children have always supported charities by donating the proceeds from their pupil-led mini-enterprise stalls (amounting to £2,530 in 2022). The cast of charities changes annually but they tend to be local child-focused organisations.

However, our school is in a borough characterised by income inequality and it is important to both staff and parents that our boys are not insulated from the difficulties faced by vulnerable people nearby. As a result, pupils have also been encouraged to donate their time as well as their pocket money.

Throughout the winter, the boys have put their cookery skills to good use and volunteered their lunchtimes to prepare weekly meals for a local homeless shelter. Each term, they also visit a local centre for older people with complex needs including dementia. The boys are keen to chat, play games with the centre’s attendees or, as happened when a piano suddenly appeared during one recent visit, even give an impromptu music concert!

Care for the environment

UCS boys are also leading the way in reducing local car emissions. Every Year 5 and 6 boy is encouraged to take part in our independent travel scheme and travel to school by public transport or on foot. Since this scheme began, car journeys have reduced by over 50%.

House competitions

We run two parallel competitions intrinsic to the system. The Merit Cup pertains to day-to-day attainments within the curriculum, such as good academic work and the various merits and commendations awarded in the classroom. The Super Cup is for Sport, Music, Drama, quizzes and other co-curricular efforts and accomplishments.

Thus, the House competitions motivate the boys tremendously and feed into everyday lessons where our pupils are occasionally put into House groups. They also wear identifying House features on their PE kit and uniform and once a week sit at House tables for lunch. The overall effect is to generate teamwork, togetherness and that all-important sense of community which we prize at the Junior Branch.