This year we have been working with an organisation called Steer (https://steer.global) which works with schools and universities to help young people navigate their way through the trials and joys of adolescence. One of the metaphors that Steer use is about the balance of speed and steering. One of the jobs that Dean Close and its parent body has is to help our pupils to drive fast. To achieve all that they can in the exam hall, to gain the best grades and to open the most doors. To do this we plan and deliver carefully constructed lessons, manage behaviour to reduce distractions, study mark schemes, run subject clinics and supervised prep sessions. We provide a narrow road and remove as many obstacles as we can to ensure as smooth a journey as possible. This is fine, up to a point.
The problem comes when you look at life and realise that life is seldom straight and narrow, it waves from side to side and is filled with obstacles that need evasive manoeuvres. Being trained to drive as fast as you can is likely to result in a crash at some point. So what do we do to help Decanians to steer? We widen the road.
At Dean Close we provide a wide range of activities for pupils to get involved in, but I question whether we can offer even more diversity. Whilst a number of pupils are absolutely thriving as a result of doing activities that play to their strengths and interests, we could create a structure and system that allows more breadth. With our wide range of pupils from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures, we need to ensure there are ample opportunities for Decanians to mix beyond their immediate social groups. We have great opportunities for leadership, but I would like to provide more openings for Decanians to experience the jeopardy that is often involved in leadership.
It is not unusual for a young person to arrive at a secondary school having been involved in everything in their primary or prep school, because you had to. But all too often on arrival at their senior school their activities are pruned in order to put focus on their examination goal; to drive as fast as possible. For Decanians to thrive after their school days we must keep an eye on the open road ahead. Outside of the classroom our pastoral and co-curricular worlds must allow a breadth of experience that develops the ability to be agile, to manoeuvre. I think it would be fair to say that we have been silently narrowing
the road for some of our pupils and we now plan to find ways of opening things up, throwing in a few
obstacles and teaching both speed and agility.