There is much discussion in educational circles about the importance of intellectual character. It is recognised more and more that it cannot simply be measured by academic outcomes but instead by the presence of certain attributes. These include the ability to persevere when faced with tough challenges, the resilience to withstand emotional and physical disappointment, to be flexible in thought and take calculated risks. All attributes that the workplace is looking forward, rated more by many employers than a string of straight ‘As’ at school
These skills I think are fundamental to success. They cannot be taught, but they can be learned through experience. A school’s role then is to provide opportunities to develop intellectual character. One such opportunity that we at BGS fully support is the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme. Each year we have over 100 girls take part entering at different levels of difficulty, beginning with Bronze and ending with Gold. To obtain the Gold award is not easy, 12 months of volunteer work, 12 months developing a skill, 6 months in developing a physical skill, five days on a residential working on a particular project and finally the expedition -four days in “wild country” unaccompanied by an adult. It is no wonder that few people manage to complete the Gold and those that do are the invited to Buckingham Palace for a special presentation by a member of the Royal Family.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme tests our pupils in so many ways. It tests endurance, it measures the ability to make decisions under pressure, the resilience to carry on when the rain is sheeting down and the importance of teamwork in finding the campsite when the party is completely lost. I have nothing but admiration for the girls who go onto achieve their Gold, often in the Sixth Form when they are busily studying for their A Levels or completing their IB Diploma Programme. This year we had a record number of girls successfully complete their respective award. 63 girls completed their Bronze, 23 their Silver and an astonishing 22 girls completed their Gold. The Palace this autumn will be overwhelmed by girls from BGS.
Our next cohort of girls tasked with completing their Gold are going to Morocco at half term, where first they will be working with the Berbers in their upland villages and then trekking across the Atlas Mountains as part of their expedition. It will certainly develop their intellectual character and I know provide them with an experience they will never forget. It is this stuff that prepares girls so well for the ever-changing future that they will be entering and it is why we will always support the scheme.