“Get Ahead” runs in the library from 15:50 – 16:50, Monday to Thursday.
One of the most memorable observations from my recent spell as a Year 11 student came whilst experiencing the powerful ways in which students learn from each other.
Of course, we have always been aware that student leadership in the school is strong. We have many fine ambassadors: prefects; Devonport Voice (the student council); peer mentors and club captains. And I will never forget the report that illustrated the influences on young people as a series of concentric circles. Peer pressure was closest to the centre. Teachers appeared in the outer rings, beaten into a distant orbit by footballers and D list celebrities.
But Get Ahead, which opened this week to small fanfare, is a little different. There are no significant titles or badges to demonstrate leadership here. Learning is at the heart of the initiative and kudos isn’t on the agenda. Something else is going on.
Get Ahead was in fact the culmination of a number of strategic plans designed to capture and deploy student influence. Mr Maitland (one of our Advanced Skills Teachers), undertook research into the use and efficacy of Homework at DHSB last term. His report, shared with staff and at a parent forum, made it clear that a significant hurdle to successful completion of learning at home was access to support and resources. It was also clear that many of the negative interactions around school had homework at their origin.
So it was inspiring to see sixth form volunteers guiding younger learners during these initial sessions at Get Ahead. And to see that it worked. Naturally generous with their time, and genuinely altruistic, there was a tangible sense of “nostalgia” about the desks as the mentors recognised shadows of their former selves; a desire to get involved fuelled by personal reflections about how they would have appreciated such a service in their day.
Parents’ comments have been appreciative too. One parent stopped me in the car park the other day to say, “Saturday morning sport and after school prep, Mr Earley? You’re getting more like a private school every day.”
In terms of the support and high aspirations associated with a private education, I couldn’t agree more. Our students deserve no less. Developing fraternity and students’ sense of responsibility for each other? Get Ahead could prove to be a key component.