Let's celebrate the amazing extra-curricular activities that local schools offer...

Francis Gilbert's picture
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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Nigel Ford's picture
Tue, 01/11/2011 - 17:29


I went to public school in Bath, a city with a long tradition of rugby union, and I'm pleased to see that the comprehensive schools in Bath fully embrace the sport with Beechen Cliffe (comp) recently beating Prior Park (public) in the Daily Mail sponsored RBS Schools competition.

My son had already played for Sussex schools U'11 at cricket when at primary school and I was disappointed to find out that back in the mid 90s unlike some of the other comps in the area, his local comp did not have cricket or rugby on the sports curriculum.

To help overcome that, I started a colts section at my local cricket club to give the nearby state school kids a chance to play the game. From a shaky start when we got slaughtered by our opponents, by u'16 level we were pretty good and won our local league.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 01/11/2011 - 17:29

There is also the worry that the Government is ignoring the fact that most local schools offer extra-curricular activities and enrichment. It promotes the idea that only academies do this. Mr Gove told the Conservative Conference that children in academies had the benefit of longer school days thereby diminishing the extra activities offered by other schools. His assertion was not upheld by the evidence which is discussed here:


Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 01/11/2011 - 18:05

Schools cultural and sporting lives thrived most in the 1970s and 1980s.
Prior to the top down culture and Ofsted;
- in the days when most leadership in school came from the ludicrously gifted, empowered and dedicated teachers who were free to plough huge amounts of energy into colossal community music festivals and the like (before those teachers were forced to spend all their time ticking trivial boxes they didn't agree with).
- in the days when schools were allowed to consider student's cultural abilities and their confidence in performing as being of importance at secondary level.

It's all so much better now that we realise that the only statistic which matters is the number of children on free school meals that we get into Oxbridge.

It's nowt to do with longer school days. If there's good stuff on kids go to it after school whether or not there are longer school days. Most kids want to do stuff that's not at school anyway. My step-daughter's already travelling all round the country with her athletics and she's only just turned 12. It's just important to keep an eye on the kids who might have transport difficulties and check they are not missing out.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 01/11/2011 - 20:34

Ooops, this is a celebration thread - so can I offer the fabulous Rob Steadman and the Lady Manners school orchestra? This is one of my favourite pick-me-ups.

I love the fact that on his YouTube channel you can see all the normal school performances and the relentless work with the junior strings and the junior wind band and so on.

If you read the Ofsted report the incredible musical life at this school is really obvious isn't it? (not). Because things like your child having the opportunity to be part of an experience like this aren't important. Are they.

Anyway - enjoy the youtube.

Francis I have to confess that my recent trip to Seahouses with 3 of our kids involved far too long in the amusement arcade and the winning of no less than 5 Kate and Wills keyrings from the 2p falls.... =/ so thanks for your much better insight.

Guest's picture
Tue, 01/11/2011 - 20:20

In my area the local LEA has supported for many years a fantastic music service with a range of bands, orchestras and ensembles from beginner grades to grade 8+ musicians. The quality of these is above what local schools could sustain and provides a musical and positive social experience for hundreds of children each year. It is run by school music teachers and peripatetic teachers who have often given many, many years service. Unfortunately the funding for this is under threat. ( It is not a free service so the support from the LEA is crucial in keeping costs down and affordable for people.

Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 05/11/2011 - 13:42

Rebecca, I'm glad you've learnt about another side to Seahouses. Taking a trip to the Farne Islands from the harbour is good during summer months if the weather's good. Yes, I take your point about the 1970s and 80s; clubs and extra-curricular activities did thrive. If one's starting point is that true learning really exists when there is no explicit reward or grade, that it's done because it's worthwhile in itself, then you could argue this state of affairs was better than post-1988, when everything changed with the introduction of the National Curriculum, league tables, testing etc.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Sat, 05/11/2011 - 21:54

I consider both constructivist learning and the critical but deliberate acquisition of established knowledge to be true learning Francis: http://mathseducationandallthat.blogspot.com/2011/06/yin-and-yang-of-mat...

I can also recommend Lindisfarne (both the Island and the group), Howick Hall, Alnwick Castle, Cragside and skinny dipping off Druridge Bay. When I was 13 I walked from Newcastle to Lindisfarne (took 4 days). It was a brilliant challenge which pushed me really hard and built my confidence while teaching me to adore the Northumberland coast. It was just the right challenge for me at the right time. That's the thing with extra-curricular activities - they should be carefully selected to suit the child. Unlike the curriculum. Which is why I'm a bit concerned about all this wraparound care with the assumption that all kids need similar after school activities (being discussed on other threads).

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