I have written much about the importance of a school in developing its pupils’ intellectual character. Schools should provide pupils with a plethora of opportunities to learn about resilience, to be robust, to face up to challenges, to confront their fears and to understand how working in teams can bring out the best in each other. It is these attributes that the work place demands and these attributes on which a school’s success should be measured.
Every year we take the Year 10 to Edale. They spend three days working in groups, participating in activities that take them out of their comfort zones. Activities that require them to abseil down darkened caves, to orienteer at night, to jump off a high wire, canoe in pouring rain. Every year I join them and every year I come away deeply impressed by the girls and the staff who accompany them. For me the trip contributes to the girls making the transition from being inward looking teenagers to becoming self-aware young women.
The activities cause the girls to confront their fears, but also allows them to see they are not alone in their fears. I watch as they encourage one another with warmth and support to “take that leap of faith”. They show their vulnerability and realised that instead of being rejected or judged they have been supported. I believe the weekend is a turning point, the girls start to see the real value in each other, beyond preconceived ideas based on friendship groups. They see that we all have our imperfections, we all have our fears and in a supportive environment that is ok. This reflection allows them to come away more self-confident, more self-aware. They start to truly understand the value of a supportive environment and the important role it plays in allowing us to thrive.
Transformational is too strong a word to use but there is no doubt that when the Year 10 return to school on Monday they seem more at ease with whom they are, their relationships with each other are more mature and there is a real sense of purpose in their learning. Edale helps to hone their intellectual character and the girls are better off as a result of it.