While the majority of teaching takes place in the classroom, an increasing amount of lessons are being learned outside of it thanks to an exciting array of extra-curricular activities. Hazlegrove School assistant head (boarding) Regan Schreiber tells us why desk-bound days of schooling are a thing of the past…
How important are extra-curricular activities to a child’s education?
At Hazlegrove, we create the widest possible variety of opportunities for the children to experience many different types of extra-curricular activities. We ensure that all children are able to choose activities which they favour as well as opportunities for the children to develop a plethora of new experiences. Very importantly, extra-curricular activities build children who are well-rounded, pleasant, content and believe in themselves. Education involves developing the whole child – the emotional, spiritual and physical aspects of a child’s development. Taking part in extra-curricular activities provides children with opportunities to be a team-player, as we all need the skills to be a part of a community; they foster a sense of tolerance and acceptance and build confidence.
We need to preserve our children’s childhood. There are so many pressures placed upon children to grow up quicker than they should, and a busy school life, enriched with extra-curricular activities helps children to focus on all those activities that keep children, children. Extra-curricular activities allow children to explore and develop their interests, build friendships and create happier children – they reach the end of their day with tails wagging!
What are the benefits to children of taking on extra-curricular activities, both personally and for future prospects?
Extra-curricular activities teach children a variety of important life skills; skills such as tolerance, acceptance, patience and confidence. But in a world that is becoming more and more sanitised, extra-curricular activities should challenge children and grow in them, a spirit of adventure, a degree of risk-taking and confidence. Children will then embrace challenges and thrive in situations that challenge and test them – not shy away from the extraordinary.
Extra-curricular activities will offer children the opportunity to become more resilient as they will no doubt find themselves having to try activities with which they may be unfamiliar. And in doing all these activities, they will build friendships; friendships that have been created in environments that are challenging yet safe. Extra-curricular activities will also teach your child about time management and commitment; improve self-esteem and enhance a child’s ability to work in groups and with others.
How do you fit extra-curricular activities into the day-to-day lives of your students?
The children at Hazlegrove play sport during the school day – it is part of the academic curriculum, as is drama, music, and outdoor education. Once the formal timetable has run its course at 4pm, the children then have a wide range of activities to choose from. There are a minimum of nine activities / clubs on offer in the afternoons every day between 4:20pm and 5:45pm. The boarders will have a few more activities offered after supper and again, once they are in their boarding houses.
At Hazlegrove, we are fortunate to have a large, dedicated staff as well as specialist peripatetic staff, who offer the extra-curricular activities daily. We have thirty residential staff and 6 graduate gaps who assist the houseparents and matrons, in offering an exciting programme for the children during the week and the weekends.
During the weekends, the children have many activities on offer which start after lunch on a Saturday and run through until supper on a Saturday evening. Sundays see the children attend Chapel and letter-writing (what a useful skill and a lovely surprise to parents and grandparents!), and they have a plethora of activities on offer, ranging from activities off site to traditional ones – such as water-slides, riding bikes and scooters, face-painting, arts and crafts, making jam and biltong, baking, fashion-design, sewing, den building, playing in the swimming pool, to the much-loved, treasure hunt!
How do you actively encourage students to engage with your extra-curricular programme?
Form tutors, with the help of parents, have a list of all the clubs and activities on offer and the day children are encouraged to involve themselves in at least two every week. The boarders choose one activity for each day. Once they have signed up for one of these extra-curricular activities, they will continue with this activity until the end of the term. Form tutors and houseparents ensure that all the children are committed to their chosen activity and that they are enjoying it and making the most of the opportunity.
Each term brings with it a whole new range of exciting activities and clubs – at least 9 each day. There is a wide range of activities, with a good balance of outdoor-indoor, physical and less physical activities on offer, such as art, drama, chess, outdoor education, flight simulators, cooking, to mention but a few.
My child doesn’t like sport. What non-physical activities does your school offer?
Although sport and healthy physical activity is embedded in the ethos of Hazlegrove – we unashamedly encourage sport and exercise for all children as we recognise the benefits of being active – children who are not particularly passionate about sport, have many more opportunities to find something that will ignite their interest.
Drama, music, art and Design and Technology are part of every child’s curriculum and all of these subjects offer extra—curricular activities and clubs, allowing children to explore these areas in greater depth. Other non-sporting activities on offer include the technical side of the theatre, computer programming, ballet and dance, outdoor education, chess, Maths club, gardening and animal husbandry, Lego building and modelling clubs.
Swimming, squash, golf, tennis, biathlon and running clubs could also appeal to many children who may not like physical sports but love the idea of playing sport, whether that be competitively or not.
My child enjoys being a part of sporting clubs. Can they pursue this in term time?
Children at Hazlegrove will all represent a team in matches, played on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but if they wish to be part of a sporting club, this is encouraged and facilitated too. We have children that are part of local tennis, squash, biathlon, football, rugby and swimming clubs.
We have children that go off to clubs in the afternoons / early evenings (hockey and swimming clubs in particular) and then are out again on Sundays for club matches.
Why should parents consider extra-curricular provision when choosing a school for their child?
The facilitation of education is far more important than the content. Will a child need to remember the internal labels of a flower, probably not. But we would certainly like our children to appreciate flowers and understand their importance to our lives. And the same can be said of schooling. Schools need to offer more than just the curriculum – the content. Children can learn this in a room on their own. But what is really important is all the extra stuff that goes on in a school; all the extra life-skills that a school can teach and embed in our children’s lives.
A varied list of extra-curricular activities, offered by enthusiastic and passionate teachers, offers children the opportunities to learn so much about the world around them and more importantly, so much about themselves and others. We owe it to our children to expose them to as many life experiences as we can – be that making jam, putting up a tent or planting a garden. We need to ignite in them a passion for life; they need to feel excited about something; they need to want to come to school, to love learning.
The curriculum should offer a wide variety of choices so that we can be confident that we will give each and every child the chance to find that which makes them tick. We are so very fortunate in the independent prep sector to have the means, the opportunity and the space to allow our childr