Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Making a world difference

Group at climbing activity

ASCL has a strong tradition of supporting highly worthwhile international charitable projects, most recently in Sri Lanka and Namibia, in partnership with World Challenge. This year ASCL and World Challenge have teamed up to develop a project in the UK which provides challenging outdoor leadership and personal development opportunities for all students, especially those who otherwise might not be able to access them. ASCL president Brian Lightman, who is also head of St Cyres School in Penarth, explains how the Learning to Lead Award was born and how it works.

At St Cyres we have always taken a broad view of the curriculum. In addition to a particularly extensive extra-curricular programme we have worked hard to incorporate the development of key skills such as communication, problem solving and improving own learning and performance into formal and informal aspects of our work.

Planning any kind of enhancements to the curriculum which involve cost presents a challenge for two reasons:

  • we have a significant number of students whose parents simply cannot afford to pay for such extras

  • we have no spare resources of our own in the context of a long history of poor revenue funding

As a consequence, projects like World Challenge overseas expeditions have been difficult to get off the ground and we have been concerned for some time that our otherwise very inclusive approaches were not giving adequate opportunities to a significant number of our students.

In discussion about a particular year group, many of whom fell into this category and who also presented social, self esteem and friendship issues, the idea of the Learning to Lead Award with World Challenge was born.

The project is based on a simple concept. It provides Key Stage 3 students with a range of experiences and new skills such as taking personal responsibility, handling risk, communicating effectively and building self-confidence and self esteem.

It operates at three levels, with World Challenge staff leading the activities: bronze is one day of local or school-based activity where they carry out team-building and problemsolving tasks; silver level is a two-day residential involving a range of outdoor activities; at gold level they undertake a five-day trekking or river expedition.

World Challenge works with the Challenger Trust to make this accessible to less advantaged young people and the potential with the new KS3 curriculum is obvious.

At St Cyres we offered bronze and silver level activities to the entire year 8 - more than 200 young people. The bronze day held on our school site was fantastic. Attendance was 95 per cent and the students thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Everyone took part, including all of our disabled children. What particularly interested me was to see how some of this group grappled with the communication that had to take place and how some individuals who had too rarely experienced success in the classroom displayed leadership skills which put some 'high achievers' to shame. The important point was that everyone took part on an equal basis.

In the summer term we offered the silver level award to the same cohort. For a range of reasons, largely related to clashes with other end of term activities, numbers were lower but nobody was excluded on grounds of cost.

I believe this is an enormously worthwhile project but will leave the last word to two of our teachers:

Helen Williams: " It was great to see pupils out of their comfort zone and being challenged by some activities that they may not have done before. It was a lovely end to the year and pupils I teach who went on the trip are still 'raving' about it."

Richard Burgum: "The week was a fabulous experience for the pupils. They did a range of activities that they might not get a chance to do again. Pupils had to overcome a number of challenges both as an individual and as part of a team. The week was well organised and the instruction was of the highest standard."

  • For more information on the Learning to Lead Award, supported by ASCL and operated by World Challenge, go to www.world-challenge.co.uk

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