Most northern hemisphere education systems start their academic years in September and end sometime in June or July. Possibly, education is the only area of modern life that follows a nineteenth century agricultural year with students pausing their studies in the summer to head out into the fields to tend and to reap, or not. Now the summer often means exams. Some educationalists have made the argument that once exams or final tests have been taken there is little point in staying on for a few more weeks. This is an argument that I can understand from perhaps a public exam year group’s point of view, but for the other groups I’d say that the second half of the summer term offers a massive educational opportunity.
The latter part of term is a time for celebration and for exploration. A time when teachers and their classes can enjoy a little more “fluidity” in their studies. There are opportunities for collaborative projects; it seems that the better weather stimulates a greater interest in looking at the connection between subjects as well as delving deep into a single area of enquiry. Key Stage 3 depart on Saturday for the Alps. They will learn as much about themselves and indeed each other there as is possible in the course of an average school year. It is a critical learning week. They will be pushed but in a different way. They will forge friendships and develop a respect for each other. This is the time of year that allows schools to engage with what were once called character building activities.
Yesterday saw the Junior School having fun to raise money for good causes; who knows the lessons of yesterday may inspire some of our young people to choose a life of service. Later in the term we will see people perform on stage having worked as an ensemble to perform a play. There will be other opportunities for music and speech. Prizes will be given, balls held and parties enjoyed. It is a great time of year and one in which learning, albeit difficult to measure, takes place.
The end of term is often the time that we remember with the greatest clarity. It is a time when people leave and head off to new adventures, it is also a time when we have the chance to consider individual development through other means. To that end it probably should be seen as the most important time of the year.