A colleague once told me that ‘the best education is one you do not realise you are having’. This is the most succinct argument for why I believe a strong co-curricular program is so valuable within a school.
The importance of the wider learning environment through co-curricular activities, shouldn’t be ignored at one’s peril. Co-curricular applies to all learning outside of the curriculum and typically, therefore, the classroom. The opportunities to extend, enrich and change the lives of pupils with an effective program within schools, are almost boundless.
Across both primary and secondary age groups, children can be afforded a substantial range of sporting, intellectual and even vocational activities. In turn these activities will stretch, inspire and build confidence in their abilities to adapt and assimilate to new ideas and skills. You can build physical stamina and skills with activities such as fencing, swimming, tennis and judo. Problem solving abilities can be extended with command tasks and puzzle clubs or simply with board games. Children can enjoy direct academic development in maths, creative writing and coding clubs. Some activities are even able to overreach all areas of development, including leadership, with options such as the Duke of Edinburgh scheme or the Combined Cadet Force. This is perhaps the most important benefit of developing a strong co-curricular offering. The range of children that you reach and potentially inspire, is substantially increased. Differentiation is at the heart of learning and by providing a depth of activities that pupils can engage with, schools can dramatically enhance the chances of hitting on the learning styles most relevant to respective pupils. Bring us back to the prospect of learning without realising. Furthermore, once children are open to learning outside the classroom, this can only improve their approach to learning within it, especially those children who find the constraints and limitations of the traditional classroom environment, difficult to thrive in.
As a parent, who has spent much of the last twelve months assessing options for a secondary school, looking at the offering outside the classroom was almost as important as the provision within it. The co-curricular offering enables schools not only to stand out from their competition, but also provides the tools to develop their pupils completely. Schools have a responsibility beyond delivering exam results, and the wider learning and character development provided by the co-curricular program provides balance, and more importantly, context to the subject led learning that goes on. Accordingly, this formed a massive part of the decision-making process for the school choice.
It would be wonderful were all school measured on their offering outside the classroom as much as they are in it. Obviously, some activities are resource dependant, however there are countless opportunities which either require very little funding or can be outsourced by the school to third party coaches and instructors. By looking beyond the conventional, schools can create the complete learning environment to prepare children for the demands of life!.