I believe that the most important time in school is in the classroom and that teaching and learning is at the heart of all school decisions. However, I am also an advocate of extra-curricular provision and outdoor education, in particular the ability of expeditions to develop personal attributes in young people. Indeed, my own experience of education was shaped and saved through the Air Training Corps rather than anything that happened within the school’s walls. It may not be fashionable not to champion a narrow range of research-backed teaching and learning methods, but I believe that schools are far more than teaching and learning factories.
It’s from this experience that I have never advocated that schools, individuals or government can teach character, nor grit, nor mindset. What we can do through is create the conditions in which grit can be grown. In other words, modelling grit and resilience ad providing opportunities for young people to overcome difficulty. Bearing in mind that for some students, having to endure five years of secondary schooling just to get to the examination hall is an exercise in grit in itself.
In a nutshell, young people are humans before they are students. If that’s all wishy washy and not traditional enough for you, off you go. I don’t mind. However. I am privileged to work with a brilliant team of teachers that do wonderful things. But, poor attendance remains a key barrier to learning as does keeping the motivation of key groups of students focused on performing well at GCSE. (Before you start we are driven by doing the best for young people, but we do have to balance the demands of external accountability with that. If we get that wrong, then the school risks losing the freedoms that accompany a certain grading).
Internal research, funded through the pupil premium grant, has suggested that:
- participation in extra-curricular activities improves attendance amongst disadvantaged students.
- students identified as having low levels of grit, perform worse than similar attaining peers.