Helping pupils to take part in extracurricular activities

Matt Eastlake

Matt Eastlake is managing director at World Challenge, the leading global provider of student-led expeditions. Matt began his career in the Royal Navy before going on to work in various leadership roles in the travel industry. Since becoming managing director of World Challenge in 2011, over 30,000 students from 25 countries have taken part in their very own challenge. Recent research by World Challenge explores the great things these Challengers can, and have, gone on to do: www.world-challenge.co.uk/stepahead.

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When it comes to the stress of studying, extra-curricular activities are often the first thing that students drop, according to recent research. In the race for As and A*s, it would appear that young people are increasingly missing out on gaining crucial life experience that will set them up for the future following completion of compulsory education.

"Activities such as volunteering, overseas travel, work experience and sports enable people to develop a whole host of transferrable skills."

In my own professional experience, extra-curricular activities make young people stand out from the crowd when applying for jobs. The reason why? Activities such as volunteering, overseas travel, work experience and sports enable people to develop a whole host of transferrable skills that can really only be learnt by doing; skills such as leadership, communication, resilience and money management. Helping your pupils to work outside of their comfort zones, and outside of the classroom environment, will aid in the development of such skills that are in high demand in the workplace.

With more and more young people achieving top grades, it has never been more crucial to encourage them to gain experience alongside academics, with the aim of helping them onto the career ladder. So how can you motivate them to broaden their horizons, without piling on the pressure?

Shake up school trips

There’s a big difference between a typical school trip and student-led travel. The first scenario sees students signing up for a pre-arranged trip, with their parents writing a cheque: a fairly passive, transactional experience.

In the second instance, students take ownership of planning and management. You can also encourage them to raise their own funds. They’ll need to research their destination, plan details of the trip, take on leadership roles and work together cooperatively.

While it can be difficult to watch them making mistakes, it’ll also be incredibly satisfying to watch them problem-solve. They’ll likely enjoy the trip a lot more, too.

Make PE more experiential

What does a typical PE lesson look like? Normally it’s focused on one or two activities, perhaps one group goes off to play football while another hits the athletics track.

What if, instead, you got the students to do a bit more of the work? Give them a bit of time before lessons to plan their own tournament. They could even organise a school Olympics. They’ll need to make it work from a timetabling perspective, perhaps sell tickets to potential spectators, and organise teams based on strengths and weaknesses. The anticipation leading up to the event will make them keener to get into the game, as well.

Perfect PSHE "Pupils could even organise a school Olympics."

The absence of a set programme of study for PSHE can make this a tricky lesson to deliver. However, a bit of creativity and lateral thinking can transform the ‘economic education’ part of the subject.

Some schools block out a day per term to deliver PSHE, and this can be a great way of engaging with local businesses and getting them into school to chat to pupils. They can offer advice on what they look for when recruiting, and how young people might go about developing key skills that they view as important.

In addition, you could create a few activities that pupils can choose to participate in; such as volunteering with a local charity, planning a school event, or reading to younger students. As homework, get them to write up what they learned during the activities, and the new skills they’ve acquired.

The guidelines within which schools are currently operating can make it difficult to encourage pupils to think beyond academics, and focusing on attainment and improvement is of course important. However, of equal importance is preparing young people for success in the workplace. After all, grades can only get you so far.

Do you undertake extracurricular activities in your school? Share your experiences below.

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