Monday Period 6 – Extra curricular? NO – vital lifeblood

A previous Headteacher at my school set out our 1265 hours (in the days that it applied) he carefully calculated that after teaching supervision and meetings we all had 65 hours left and announced to us to “do something with children” clubs, sports, music trips. It began a culture of what was then called the ‘hidden curriculum’ is now called extended day or extra curricular.  I’ve come to see it as part of an essential and vital oxygen supply to the life of our school.

0913-230913-23Clubs activities and trips and visits have huge value in their own right. Great wonderful opportunities: Places visited, skills learned, social mixing and making new different friends, role modelling and aspirations, teamwork, independence, curiosity spurred, performance demands recognised and celebrated. But it is much more than that – most activities bring ‘volunteer pupils’ along, well maybe some arm twisted pupils but the keen and enthusiastic. Then of course there is no   the activity, no league table pressure on pupils or staff. I’m not saying sports teams don’t have some pressure, we all know it’s not the taking part but the winning. It’s not as if we would accept a sloppy musical performance so we still have standards but not exams, not grades.Then at the heart of these activities just as at the heart of the school are relationships and they are somehow a bit different. I don’t know I can describe the differences:

  • Teachers still monitor behaviour
  • Teachers still work with parents ( they get cross when parents turn up late to collect their children and forget the old “thank you)
  • Teachers still do health and safety checks
  • Teachers still plan and think of the worth of the details drawn from the activity (hey and some activities take so much planning and paperwork we all wonder that they ever happen)

0913-23But there is something magical about this relationship, pupils often really love those activities and therefore their teachers. Older pupils do for the most learn to genuinely appreciate the effort, the time and the contribution and so too do their parents ( OK not always I know). I wonder if we (me) as SLT appreciate the effort , energy and contribution. It’s not just about publicity, the head being able to say we do DofE and sport and yoyo club…and …and…..obviously that does happen and should do with a huge pride, because it is a source of rich cultural endeavour. It’s not just about the school website looking attractive with photos of trips and music and sport ( you can check ours!) In my view it helps with a much deeper question.

0913-23A lot is written about behaviour and behaviour management and we all have to learn our own ways to keep discipline. I sometimes disagree with SMW but he is right about discipline and low level disruption he just doesn’t articulate his complaint so well or the media distort it.

If children like school and like the staff and like the activities surely they are beginning to like school to such a point that they are therefore less likely to disrupt, to mess about to skive or be absent. The extra curricular life blood is critical. Pupils begin to appreciate their institution because of the people, not the building.  So those caught up, attend school and then when they find themselves in a geography lesson, well they might try and might just learn, a skilled teacher can exploit their commitment to the school. So we all benefit from the contribution of those who run after-school, or lunchtime clubs or weekend trips. Recently SMW and OFsted have published materials about low level disruption and if you have ever had to work out which ‘benefits to remove’ or ‘punishments to give’ to a pupil – an after school detention, or isolation, or even lines, there is nothing to compare with the statement “you can’t go on the trip, you can’t play football this week” Express this morality will have a powerful effect.  Even if you have to explain the vitality of taking these opportunities by spelling it out to pupils and parents do so and some poorer behaviour will become less of an issue.

0913-23I often look at our pastoral staff, and they are good, very good I think and they can be excellent with some potentially difficult pupils getting them to conform. Why? Often because they took the same pupils in y7 in a sports team, or encouraged them to learn an instrument and congratulate them on successes within the school day but beyond it too. They went with them on the battlefields trip or the trip to France or organised a trip to LIncoln, hey supported their interest in the HET visit to Auschwitz. Or just maybe stand alongside them digging in our allotment, or….

0913-23Our old head was spot on. Don’t use teacher hours in endless meetings, encourage them to do things with children. After all for most of us doing things with children is why we came into this job in the first place. It makes for a rich experience, and it helps pupils learn to really love school and love teachers and that done behaviour will be better and then learning improves and teachers can get on with that other job – teaching and learning.

Some links:

Sutton trust articles on extra curricular consequences

BBC on tuition and hobbies helping richer children

Some questions to consider

Q1 How can we share and highlight the importance of extra curricular opportunities to parents, pupils and teachers?

Q2 Is it right that the worth is greater than the intrinsic value of the activity?

Q3 What do schools do to ensure staff have the energy and resources to sustain extra curricular activity, when they are under enormous pressure already?

For those in a church school

Matthew 5:40

if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Galatians 6:10

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people

Ephesians 5:16

Making the most of every opportunity

Ecclesiastes 7:27

“Look,” says the teacher, “this is what I have discovered: