I was speaking to some Northumbrian parents recently about their children’s local state schools — primary, middle and secondary — and everyone of them was delighted with them. They said that their children were really enjoying their lessons, progressing well academically and, above all, flourishing as people. One parent spoke proudly about Seahouses Middle School, which is situated in the coastal town of Seahouses, where you can take boats to the Farne Islands from its picturesque harbour. She said that the school has a good array of extra-curricular activities from basketball to Art and Craft. She felt that her child had benefited a great deal from doing these activities in that she’d grown massively in confidence. She was also conscious that the teachers at this school had gone the extra-mile in order to offer this spectrum of activities.
The Seahouses story is one that could be told up and down the country; local state schools now offer a huge array of extra curricular activities. At my son’s secondary school in inner-city London, there are loads too. The worry is that the government doesn’t really see the benefit of these activities with its narrow focus upon academic subjects and its obsession with results and tests. Ultimately, I think the thing that pupils remember most are the extra-curricular activities — taking part in the school production, playing sport, writing the school magazine and so forth. There is no explicit “reward” for doing these activities other than taking part — and that, for me, is what real education is all about; true learning is an on-going process of engaging the body and brain.