The benefits of not being in school are not often praised by people like me. That said I can’t help but notice that the Junior School and the Senior School can sometimes seem a little empty of pupils at this time of year. Last week Year 6 were in the Ardèche, next week Years 7, 8 and 9 will travel to the French Alps. The lessons learned when out of school are just as valuable as those that are learned within our walls. New experiences lead to new knowledge but one of the great elements of learning away from school is the opportunity that exists to build character.
There are many educational approaches that build knowledge. One of the hallmarks of the British educational system is that we are also interested in building the wider personality. That does not mean that we have a blueprint that is applied to all students to create the same person. Rather, by putting our young people in new, challenging or simply different situations they have the chance to consider how they will work with others, demonstrate empathy and work as a team. Some will emerge as leaders, others will take a supporting role. Some will find a talent for new activities, others will develop their sense of determination and stick out situations that they may find a little uncomfortable. Character will have been developed and we hope that this will be put to good use when they return to academic studies. In our experience, the students who go on to be successful are those who are able to work with others, take the initiative and see a task through. The lessons learnt hurtling down the Ardèche in a canoe may very well be as valuable as algebra learnt in the classroom. Lessons learned while in unfamiliar environments are the lessons that will make our young people the individuals who will add value to every encounter and every group of which they are a part.
The same process occurs, albeit in a slightly different form when pupils go on a day trip from school. I’ve always believed that taking a journey on communal transport is a learning opportunity. Going in a car is just not the same. Similarly, having the chance to visit, as Year 1 did, the butterfly farm gives the opportunity to experience an unfamiliar place in the company of others who may well be seeing something for the first time; it is very different from a family visit. Over the coming weeks many year groups will have the chance to visit places together and I hope that they will all return enriched.
Taking pupils out of the classroom results in an awful lot of paperwork. I am grateful to parents who show their very real patience in supplying the same information many times for different trips and of course to our staff who have to plan, risk assess and create supporting materials before they even get on the bus. Without them education at the BSP would be all the poorer and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all staff who lead or accompany trips. The impact of this time out of school is not possible to measure in grades or marks, it develops something far more important than that – people.