Why is extra-curricular involvement so important?
When I was at school, extra-curricular activities were hugely important to me as an individual. I was, and still am, a passionate musician. Being able to participate in bands, orchestras, choirs and to perform in concerts, provided me with essential skills; skills that still contribute to my life.
I do not want to give the illusion that I was an excellent musician. I was not! However, through my involvement, I learned the importance of team-work and collaboration, working hard to achieve a collective goal as well as the confidence to perform in front of others. Practising an instrument also taught me the importance of self-discipline and perseverance; struggling to master Bach’s first cello concerto in G major took time and tenacity! It also enabled me to build a life-long passion and interest; I cannot think of my life, now, without music or one without the skills such involvement enabled me to develop.
Similarly, extra-curricular involvement for all of our pupils is crucial and we encourage each and every one of our students at Manchester High School for Girls to push themselves out of their comfort zones, to try something new and to broaden current interests. They may perform in the School play, join an orchestra, the debating society or a hockey team; all of which give them a sense of comradery, help them feel valued and ultimately build their self-esteem. Indeed, I have seen the impact that the confidence gained in extra-curricular involvement can have on how a student can perform in the maths classroom! Furthermore, the understanding that can come about as a result of, for instance, losing a sporting fixture can be of huge consequence. We spend a lot of time in schools talking about the importance of tenacity and of the benefits of learning from failure. Students can learn these skills on the netball court and such understanding can then benefit – as a consequence – their approach to learning too.
Of course extra-curricular involvement is also important in making a future job or university application ‘stand out’. Indeed, as Ian Hodges – careers and employability manager at the University of Exeter – said (www.prospects.ac.uk); “All employers are looking for students and graduates who have a range of skills, personal qualities and experience, which will help them to be productive in the workplace. [Extra-curricular activities are] the best opportunity to have fun and make yourself more employable at the same time.”
However, the importance of extra-curricular involvement does not end here. On her retirement at the end of this academic year, a colleague who taught for 35 years in my school, recalled the story of a student who felt that she was not going to be able to complete her Duke of Edinburgh expedition because it was just going to be too tough. The student was encouraged to try her best and, supported by her friends, she did just that. Reflecting on how much that individual student learned from her expedition experience, about perseverance, tenacity and friendship, cannot be underestimated. Indeed, she may not have learned those particular lessons in any other context.
So, extra-curricular involvement will continue to be encouraged and to thrive at my school. For me, the development and encouragement of character, and to have fun (!), are core to our aims at Manchester High. Seeing students try new things, gain confidence and skills of resilience and determination through such involvement, make their existence fundamental to what we will continue to offer at MHSG.