Preparing Our Pupils For Their Transition
Guest blog by Gavin Sinnott, Director of Studies at St Hugh’s Preparatory School in Lincolnshire.
You might be forgiven for thinking that our small school in rural Lincolnshire is populated by pupils who are used to the outdoor life. But you’d be wrong, as many of them have never camped or climbed a tree and they are just as wedded to their mobile phones and social media as their urban contemporaries.
One of the best things for me is to watch young people forget about their on-line lives for a week and really switch on to the great outdoors as a perfect classroom, for adventure, fun and learning.
Our school ethos is all about developing the children as happy, well-rounded individuals who challenge themselves. By Year 8, as well as having duties around school during the week, the pupils can lead pastoral sets, lead the choir, captain sports teams or play a major role on the School Council. So they are well prepared for taking responsibility and are independent and confident.
Because we are small, the pupils can get to know each other and the staff very well and that’s a huge advantage, but a disadvantage is that when they leave St Hugh’s, they are very likely to be moving on to a much bigger, less family-orientated school. So, we work hard with them to prepare them for this transition, using the ideas around growth mindsets to develop self-awareness, team work and group responsibility.
This is why we take the whole Year 8 group to The Outward Bound Trust’s Howtown centre in the Lake District for a week-long residential every June. It’s far more than just a treat after they have finished their exams, the benefits of their Outward Bound® experiential outdoor learning programme come at an important educational turning point.
I admire and value the expertise of the Outward Bound instructors and how they apply educational theory and pedagogy. Simply put, the courses are all about developing the child - not just about doing outdoor activities. Working with the same instructor throughout the course, challenges are adapted to suit the needs of the individual as well as the group as the week progresses. I see the benefits and value of the large amount of reflection time built into each day. By overcoming physical and emotional challenges which require sustained effort pupils are able to develop perseverance, resilience and self-belief. So as well as gorge scrambling, camping out or water challenges, each pupil is guided by his or her instructor to think hard and reflect on their own strengths and areas they need to work on and improve. At the end of the course, our pupils come away with a personal report, compiled jointly by themselves and their instructor. This goes into their end of school report when they leave St Hugh’s, so we place a high value on what is written there.
One of the best things for me is to watch young people forget about their on-line lives for a week and really switch on to the great outdoors as a perfect classroom, for adventure, fun and learning. It’s wonderful to spend an evening by the lake, skimming stones, toasting marshmallows and seeing kids just being kids.