Helping every child to feel valued, independent and confident
James Mundell, Headmaster of Giggleswick Junior School in North Yorkshire, tells us how they use outdoor adventure as part of the school’s repertoire.
Giggleswick School is an independent co-educational boarding school in Giggleswick, near Settle in North Yorkshire. It is a relatively small school with 80 pupils in the Juniors and 360 in the Seniors, including some boarders, mostly at Senior level.
Working with our core values
Our school’s core values include participation, respect and excellence. We foster independence in our pupils and encourage outdoor education and adventure. Because we have small class sizes, staff really know the pupils and can plan for individual needs.
Pupils gain confidence in speaking and answering as there is no opportunity to fade into the background in a small class. Another strength is the community feel we have developed, where parents, pupils and staff work as a partnership team. I believe that the combination of our size and rural location, our core values and the fact that we are lucky enough to have specialist staff, means that we offer a wrap-around holistic experience for our pupils.
Participation is key: every child sings in the school choir and we offer a broad curriculum that includes drama, design, music, art, computer studies and a range of sporting activities, all with a child-led emphasis.
Respect is fostered by strong pastoral support during an extended school day, and by our tutoring system that builds on these foundations to instil pride, compassion and independence in our pupils. Pupils are incredibly tolerant of each other and we have a very low incidence of behavioural concerns. We encourage children to strive for excellence and go beyond what they feel they are capable of to fully develop their potential.
Personal development and reflection
A crucial component in developing pupils is the work we do with them outdoors. Since 2011, every Year 6 student attends an Outward Bound® week-long residential course in the Lake District with two of our teaching staff. We took our time deciding on the right outdoor adventure provider for our pupils and decided on The Outward Bound Trust because of the way it balances physical skills with personal development and reflection and because its aims and ethos chime so well with our own. As a well established educational charity with royal patronage, the Trust has many years of expertise embodied in its instructors.
We chose a water-based course for our pupils because this supplements the activities we can do already in our own environment. The Trust's centre in Ullswater offers a different experience and this benefits the children partly because of the contrast with school. During the residential, they spend a lot of time on the lake, swimming, paddling and undertaking outdoor challenges.
Every year, we meet with the Learning and Adventure Manager based at the centre before the course begins to agree our learning objectives, which are tailor-made for the specific year group we are taking. Both individual and team goals are important and we discuss these fully when structuring the activities for the week.
Stepping into stretch zones
Until I saw The Trust at work for myself (I now spend a full day each year with the pupils during the residential) I didn’t realise quite how they work to develop strong team-building and leadership skills, alongside resilience, confidence and creativity. Pupils do learn outdoor skills, which will hold them in good stead as preparation for more advanced outdoor courses in Senior School, but just as importantly they are nurtured to develop their self worth and to take pride in whatever they achieve.
This is priceless, especially for those children who may have experienced challenges socially, intellectually or emotionally. The course moves them out of their safe zones and into a stretch zone where what they learn is hugely rewarding in so many ways.
One anxious and introverted boy, afraid of water and long walks, really came out of himself. With encouragement, he took part in all the activities and managed to climb one of the fells, so going way beyond his own and others’ expectations. Another rather shy child was the only one to climb the telegraph pole and stay on the top, unlike other more confident and outgoing children in his peer group. It’s easy to forget that some young people and perhaps their parents, find a week away from home quite daunting but I can safely say that all our pupils come away achieving something and benefiting from the experience.
A holistic approach to education
So, it really is the highlight of their final year in the Juniors and it is a joy to see how the Year 6s enthuse the younger pupils at the post-course assembly they present. Younger children who might be full of trepidation come away feeling excited and impatient to experience the residential course themselves. Like all Heads, I want my pupils to be happy, well-rounded individuals able to fully participate in the life of the school and outside it, and to go on to the next stage of life with confidence.
I have seen for myself how our emphasis on outdoor education helps every child feel valued, independent and confident. The residential course with The Trust develops our holistic approach to education: developing key skills for life in children, and enhancing our aim to nurture the personal development in all our pupils, including resilience, confidence, independence, empathy, and collective ownership, in a carefully planned and delivered environment.
Find out more about how The Outward Bound Trust could help your pupils develop their key personal skills.