Paul Hilliam, Senior Master at Derby Grammar School writes about the importance of co-curricular activities. Derby Grammar School is an independent day school based in Derby which educates boys from Reception through to Sixth Form, and which welcomes girls in to the Sixth Form too.
Which co-curricular activities are on offer to pupils at your school?
At Derby Grammar School we pride ourselves on offering a wide range of co-curricular experiences. In Senior School we have activities you might traditionally expect from an independent school, such as sport, drama, music, Duke of Edinburgh and the Young Enterprise scheme. But there are also some more unusual activities too – we have Foreign Language Film club and Board Games club, as well as Field Archery club and a very popular Formula 24/24+ club; so popular in fact we’re shortly going to be developing our second racing car!
In Primary School, clubs are numerous. They include French Cookery and a Minecraft club, which is such a hit it runs twice a week, and Streetdance club which our boys love. We take advantage of our beautiful woodland setting with Nature club, Discovery club and Forest School.
What are the three most popular co-curricular activities?
The inter-House competition generates excitement, anticipation and teamwork across Senior School and Primary School. The competition covers a wide range of activities, from the school sports of rugby, hockey, cricket, to cross country, rowing and athletics, essay writing, art, chess, debating, drama and music.
Trips and visits, including foreign exchanges, are also very popular and there’s a big up-take in speech and drama lessons and instrumental tuition throughout the whole school.
Our annual trip to Tanzania is another popular activity. We have supported Gedeli B School in Mwanza since 2013. Each year our lower Sixth Form raises money to improve the facilities and life for the children at the school, from building new classrooms and toilet blocks to providing sanitary products for the girls and textbooks. At least £10,000 is usually raised each year.
The Tanzania project creates aspiration amongst the lower years who look forward to the visit, and for the group that visits each year it is a life-changing experience. Students have completely changed their university and career ambitions based upon the trip.
In 2018 the project was shortlisted for the Independent Schools Association Award for Outstanding Contribution to International Understanding – proof, indeed, that the co-curricular really matters.
How important is it to offer a wide variety of co-curricular activities?
Some pupils have a strong commitment to a particular activity, while others are good all-rounders and take part in everything, so it’s important for us to offer quality and breadth in our co-curricular programme.
There are always some pupils who need a bit of encouragement and that’s where the House competition helps. A minor role in the House drama competition one year, can see a pupil back on stage the following year, staring in the main school production!
Do co-curricular activities have a beneficial impact on pupils’ education?
Hugely! If pupils are happy out of the classroom, they are usually happy in the classroom. In Primary School the House Poetry Competition is keenly contested, while some activities, such as the German exchange in the Senior School, have a direct impact on a pupil’s formal education.
Other activities can have a big influence on career choices. Our Formula 24 and Formula 24+ racing car project, for example, has been a game changer for the uptake of Design Technology as an exam subject and has seen many students take up engineering degrees at university.
Can pupils learn any key skills through co-curricular activities?
Interpersonal skills, working as a team, increased focus and commitment – the list of skills enhanced by the co-curricular programme is endless.
These are the skills that, alongside academic success, mean that pupils leave Derby Grammar School as well-rounded individuals ready to take on life’s challenges, and succeed.