Participation in school activities can be limited to a select few.
So you’ve checked out all the school’s facilities, run your finger down the list of extra-curricular activities and got a nice warm feeling about the place from the staff you’ve met. You picture your child throwing open the double doors of opportunity for you naturally assume that all these benefits will be hers. Assume all you like, but let’s give a little thought to participation.
What if only a select, elite few have access to some of those activities, facilities and members of staff? Or, what if attendance at the activities that your child wants to do is so low that the activity stops? In both cases she won’t benefit from all the things you liked about the school.
So how can you get a sense of participation in school? There are probably three types to look at. In school teams, in internal events and in extra curricular activities.
Why participation in school teams is important
Participation in a team is important to a child. It is about being part of a collective, contributing to the whole. It is different to single person pursuits such as a solo recital or an individual sport. Only teams can teach a child the lessons of mutual dependency and shared loss and triumph. Participation in a school team is even more important because it reflects recognition and the pride of selection.
If it has one, the school will be explicit about its school team participation policy. They are more common in primary schools than in senior schools. Sometimes schools refer to this as their “all-inclusive” policy. It usually means that in addition to the A Team, the school will also field B, C and D teams. It could also mean that the school may find an alternative sport or activity (eg choir or orchestra) in which your child can represent the school.
Why participation in school events is important
There are internal events where participation may be obligatory for all pupils. Often class or house based, the number of events could show how committed the school is to participation. Standard events include school plays, sports days, swimming galas and netball and rugby/football competitions. Less common are debating, quizzes, art, choir and music competitions.
Why participation in school extra-curricular activities is important
Many schools argue, and rightly so, that the extra-curricular programme is a vital part of the education mix. These activities are the essence of a broad education even though they typically take place out of “school hours”. Which means after school, before school or Saturday mornings.
Schools can offer a wide variety of extra-curricular activities. These may vary from extensions of academic subjects to hobbies to sports to music and arts clubs. The idea is that they offer exposure to a different skill and stimulate a new, and possibly a lifelong, interest. Staff and external specialists usually run them but at senior school pupils start to run the clubs themselves. That’s one reason why the number of activities at senior school increases dramatically over junior schools.
Typically, a pupil might learn an instrument, attend an academic club such as chess and then play sport after school. Some schools even dedicate an afternoon of the curriculum every week to “activities”.
Extra-curricular activities are usually not compulsory. So you can see how pupils might avoid them for free play, the dreaded device, or going home. Surprisingly, only a minority of schools actively manage participation in extra-curricular activities. Feedback is informal, usually through the pastoral care network. Sometimes it’s more formal through the school report process. A few schools use a “school passport” incentive whereby pupils collect “stamps” through their school career to achieve a recognition.
Some children will be more reticent than others in participating in whatever the school has to offer. Others are intimidated by other pupils’ abilities. Sometimes schools are a little chaotic in presenting all that they have to offer to the most willing participant. Whatever the situation, understanding a school’s participation policy is a worthwhile exercise.