“Do nothing in haste…”

“Do nothing in haste; look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.”

Edward Whymper, mountaineer, artist and writer

Over the course of the last week I’ve spent a fair amount of time on a coach. I’m currently writing as we wind our way through the Alps to Grenoble and thence north to Paris. Unlike most of the times this week we’ve been on the bus it is quiet, as most of Year 8 are gently dozing having woken very early to start the run home following an action-packed week in the Alps. What a week it has been with horse trekking, via ferrata, rock climbing, white water rafting, mine visiting and big ridge hill walking being our curriculum. Real lessons, but in an unfamiliar environment. Learning of a different nature, but to the same purpose.

Whilst little may have been written down many lessons have been learned. There’s been little done on screen and a notable absence of PowerPoint. Despite, or perhaps because of this, progress has been made and growth realised. All of the pupils who have been out on residential trips this week – Years 6 to 9 – have had the opportunity to build their resilience, pursue excellence and exercise their curiosity. All should know a little more about their character, what makes them function and therefore what they may need to reflect upon as areas for development. Many will have pushed themselves beyond what they previously defined as their limits. It has been a privilege to see them develop this week. Over the course of the last few days I have seen pupils confront their fears, challenge themselves and consider more than their individual needs. This sort of lesson is hard won and immensely valuable. It is important that our young people are given the opportunity to develop through challenge and to discover through testing their limits, or what they thought were their limits. Much has been written by educationalists about the importance of resilience, well it has been evident by the bucketload this week. Pupils have stumbled and sometimes found it difficult to take the next step, but they have picked themselves up and carried on. Some have gone further than they ever thought possible. They even survived without iPads and mobile ‘phones. It is a valuable experience.

What counts now is what happens next. In part this is the responsibility of the pupil, to consider how lessons learned in the mountains or on a sailing boat can be transferred to support classroom based learning or social situations in everyday life. It is also important that we as a school follow up on these developments and remind pupils of what they have achieved and what they now know. After all this is a curriculum that is all about developing valuable life skills, those character strengths that may not simply lead to a fulfilling career but also to a life of flourishing. So in what is left of the year we will be talking about all that has been learnt.

Expeditions of this nature cannot take place without the support of staff members who give up their time to facilitate these valuable learning lessons for our young people. My sincere thanks go to all who have been away this week (and indeed this year) to ensure that pupils have the chance to learn differently. As Dr. Martin Luther King said “intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.”

It may well have been a long coach journey today, but I am sure that this slightly tanned, somewhat weather-beaten and happily exhausted year group would tell you, it was well worth going. As Edward Whymper (who first claimed so many of the peaks we have just left) aptly sums up, we went with the aim of developing character. Coming back, I’m sure we have succeeded, at least to some extent, in this endeavour. But it will take time for these lessons to take root and become habit. This is a lifelong project of self-improvement, this week has given it a boost.

Nicholas Hammond