Page 16 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Gavin Sinnott, Director of Studies at St Hugh’s Preparatory in Lincolnshire explains how taking Year 8 pupils on a week-long residential course bene ts them in ways not always foreseen.
St Hugh’s Preparatory is very family- oriented in the sense that many of our pupils have family members who were previously pupils themselves. This factor, combined with the fact that ours is a small school of some 200 pupils, including boarders, means that we develop a strong sense of community and a family feel. This can have huge advantages, as the children get to know each other and the staff very well indeed.
Our ethos is one where we want the children to develop as happy, well- rounded individuals who challenge themselves. As they progress through school, they are given many
opportunities for this. We do a lot of work in school on growth mindsets: the idea that we can all do much more than we think we can, if we work hard and apply ourselves. By the time the pupils get to Year 8, as well as having duties around school during the week, they 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 con dent.
But there is one particular challenge in being part of a small school like St Hugh’s, and that is the need to prepare pupils for the transition
to often a much bigger school. Having been close to the same peers for years, pupils  nd themselves scattered to the winds, so it is
our aim to make sure they are as prepared for that as possible. This means developing a strong sense of self-awareness.
As part of an extensive curricular programme in Year 8, the whole year group are taken to Howtown in the Lake District for a week-long outdoor residential course with
The Outward Bound Trust. Every June, shortly after the group have taken their entrance exams we take our pupils on an adventure and challenge course. We see it very much as a reward for their hard work and also a closing celebration of their time at St Hugh’s, but it is far more than that in terms of how the children bene t.
We have been using The Trust for many years now after having tried in the past a number of other providers to varying levels of success. What we like about Outward Bound® courses is the application of educational theory and pedagogy. Simply put, the courses are all about developing the child - not just about doing outdoor activities. This means that each child works with the same instructor throughout the course, and the challenges are adapted to suit the needs of the individual and the group as the week progresses. Importantly, there is also a large amount of re ection time built in. So as well as gorge scrambling, camping out or water challenges, each child is given the opportunity to think hard about their own strengths and areas they need to work on. At the end of the course, they come away with a personal report, compiled jointly by the child and his or her 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.
Despite our pupils generally being rural-based children, we  nd that many of them have never camped or climbed a tree. Indeed, some are not used to carrying their own bags. So, the course equips them with valuable skills such as resilience, inter-dependence and helping others. Over the years,
we have seen some unexpected results. One child with challenging behaviour absolutely thrived in the outdoor environment, and demonstrated helpful, caring behaviour to the other children, which was unexpected. Another was so transformed by the course that his father went on to run a marathon to raise funds for The Outward Bound Trust.
With centres in the UK’s most inspiring places and expert instructors dedicated to each group, we pride ourselves on developing the very best in young people.
. 01931 740000
Often, the  rst thing a pupil (or their parents) will ask about the course is “Does it have Wi-Fi?” because parents are keen to keep connected to their children at all times, to say nothing of children’s fondness for social media. We encourage our pupils to switch off their mobiles and switch on to the stunning wilderness environment that surrounds them. One of the best experiences for me is spending an evening outside by Ullswater Lake, skimming stones, toasting marshmallows and seeing kids just being kids. It’s priceless.”
16 Independent Schools Magazine
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