Let’s celebrate the amazing extra-curricular activities that local schools offer…

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.

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Published by: @wonderfrancis

Francis Gilbert is a Lecturer in Education at Goldsmiths, University of London, teaching on the PGCE Secondary English programme. He also teaches the Creative Writing module on the MA in Children’s Literature, which is run by Maggie Pitfield and Professor Michael Rosen. Previously, he worked for a quarter of a century in various English state schools teaching English and Media Studies to 11-18 year olds. He has, at times, moonlighted as a journalist, novelist and social commentator. He is the author of ‘Teacher On The Run’, ‘Yob Nation’, ‘Parent Power’, ‘Working The System -- How To Get The Very Best State Education for Your Child’, and a novel about school, ‘The Last Day Of Term’. His first book, ‘I'm A Teacher, Get Me Out Of Here’ was a big hit, becoming a bestseller and being serialised on Radio 4. In his role as an English teacher, he has taught many classic texts over the years and has developed a great many resources to assist readers with understanding, appreciating and responding to them both analytically and creatively. This led him to set up his own small publishing company FGI Publishing (fgipublishing.com) which has published his study guides as well as a number of books by other authors, including Roger Titcombe’s ‘Learning Matters’ and anthology of creative writing 'The Gold Room'. He is the co-founder, with Melissa Benn and Fiona Millar, of The Local Schools Network, www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk, a blog that celebrates non-selective state schools, and has his own website, www.francisgilbert.co.uk. He has appeared numerous times on radio and TV, including Newsnight, the Today Programme, Woman’s Hour and the Russell Brand Show. In June 2015, he was awarded a PhD in Creative Writing and Education by Goldsmiths.

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