Why are extra-curricular activities so important?

Young school children outside playing in leaves

Children as young as two and a half get involved in extra-curricular activities with the Forest School at Ackworth School. - Credit: Ackworth School

Extra-curricular activities have never been more important for pupils than they are now, according to Tom Shennan-Barker, Director of Marketing and Admissions of Ackworth School.

The West Yorkshire Quaker School, which is co-educational and takes day and boarding pupils, from two and a half up to 18 years old, is launching a new extra-curricular programme.

Tom discusses the programme for sixth formers and the valuable life skills it will help them develop beyond their academic achievements:

Q: Should children do extra-curricular activities?
Yes. We have always known the importance of learning outside the classroom when it comes to a child’s development, building relationships and fostering skillsets and approaches to learning. I guess, however, that has been heightened because of Covid, with children learning at home during the first lockdown and then some going through the process of isolating and not having access to extra-curricular activities. We have always had an extensive extra-curricular programme here – as a Quaker school, we have very strong values, which inform our curriculum and everything else we do, including our extra-curricular activities. For example, children start our Forest School from as young as two and a half years old and in our senior school, we have community service and engagement programmes where pupils will raise funds for charities or work with care homes in the area to provide support or stage performances.

Q: Tell us about the new extra-curricular programme?
We feel the real impact of children missing out on extra-curricular activities because ofCovid in recent time will actually be felt in several years to come. This is why we are looking at expanding our provision where we can now to close the gap. In September 2021 we are launching a residential, independence development programme where children from the sixth form will live in same-sex groups of up to six within the school. The programme, which will be included in school fees, will be optional, but we will be encouraging all pupils to take part.

Sixth form students walking outside at Ackworth School

Sixth form students will develop important life skills on the new extra-curricular programme. - Credit: Ackworth School

Q: How will this extra-curricular programme work?
During the day the pupils will go to school but in the evening, they will learn how to cook, do their own laundry, maintain a house etc – everything you would normally expect to learn at university. There will be an extent of financial management: they will need to learn how to manage budgets, go shopping and work as a household together. They will need to develop their relationship and negotiating skills, together with that extra level of discipline you learn when you have to become a self-starter rather than having things done for your home. For example, they will learn that if they don’t do their washing, they won’t have any clean clothes!

Pupils from Ackworth School on school trip sitting on a hill

Pupils at Ackworth School lead on initiatives which will have an impact on their community as part of their extra-curricular activities. - Credit: Ackworth School

Q: What life skills will they gain?
This programme will also stand them in good stead for other areas of their future lives, such as problem-solving. In real life we are constantly assessing situations then deciding what action to take; it is about applying these skills in different contexts. By putting children in environments they are not familiar with, such as living together on their own as a group, we are giving them the opportunity to tackle challenges and develop resilience. We have all learned through the pandemic how important it is to be able to draw on our wells of resilience to get through difficult times.

Q: Are extra-curricular activities good for younger children too?
Yes, definitely. We already run a global committee engagement programme in our junior school, Coram House. This is where children are given the opportunity to lead on initiatives which will have an impact on their community. Global Committee started in September 2020. Children applied via an application form stating their ideas and concerns about the environment while explaining what they could bring to the role. So far, the children have been selected for specific roles on the committee and have carried out an environmental review of Coram House. We aim to link our projects to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. We have recently set up recycling stations in each class to teach the children the value of recycling. We hope to further analyse what happens to waste at Ackworth School and encourage positive changes. This is part of a broader programme of learning about and improving sustainability – a core Quaker value.

For more information please visit www.ackworthschool.com, email admissions@ackworthschool.com or call 01977 233620.