Pupils are ‘Earning their Wings’
Until fairly recently, our school had always followed a very traditional system of appointing student leaders. Each year, approximately a quarter of the Grade 7 pupils were elevated to the rank of ‘Prefect’ and assigned mainly ceremonial roles. More than three quarters of the grade were left without any form of responsibility, already declared not suitable for leadership and spent their year assigned to ‘second place’. With the implementation of a more significant role for the House system within the school, a more inclusive and meaningful student leadership programme was introduced. This process has not been an easy one as it involved the challenging of nearly a century of tradition and the widely entrenched views of primary school student leadership.
At St Dunstan’s College Preparatory School we firmly believe that every child in our care has the innate potential to develop leadership qualities and, that this personal growth is an essential component of their overall learning experience. At the heart of all our planning were the school’s ethos of ‘servant leadership’ and the need to provide each pupil with meaningful opportunities that would allow them to make a sincere contribution to their school community and be positive role models for their fellow pupils.
The leadership programme has been in operation for the past two years and has truly been ‘a work in progress’. The House Master/Mistresses have carefully assessed the relevance of the different aspects of the new system and then adapted these accordingly to ensure that we are on the path to creating a programme that is uniquely St Dunstan’s.
The pupils set off on their journey to ‘earning their wings’ in Grade Six when they attend a leadership camp. The enthusiasm and excitement generated by this initial event has been astounding and given the first indication that, perhaps, this change in approach had real value. The fact that all the pupils, and not just a select few, were actively engaged in responsible and purposeful tasks created a positive environment for the whole group. In Grade Seven, they are assigned positions in a variety of portfolios and their progress is overseen by mentors in charge of their particular area. They are offered guidance where necessary and encouraged to never be afraid to ask for help. It is during this stage that the pupils have the opportunity to participate at the highest level of their ability.
Over the course of the year, the pupils work towards achieving a realistic set of goals, which increase in intensity from Level 1 to Level 3. These goals assess the pupil’s progress in; respect for self and others, academic effort (not achievement!), involvement in sporting and cultural activities, community service, performance in their portfolio duties and the development of responsibility and leadership skills. On the successful completion of Level 3, they receive their ‘wings’ and are now ready to fly. They have been empowered to continue on their journey, which will culminate, in being able to consider senior leadership positions in high school.
The most rewarding aspect for mentors has been seeing the number of pupils who, under the old system would simply never have been recognised, grow in confidence and take their place among their peers with a strong sense of self-worth. Our aim is to guide as many pupils as possible towards realising their full leadership potential and with the assistance of an incredibly co-operative and involved staff, this is a goal that can be achieved. This programme has provided our pupils with the opportunity to challenge themselves in new ways, to realise that their contribution is valued and has shown them that they can make a difference. Hopefully, it has also given them some insight into what they are capable of achieving and has nurtured skills that will prove to be meaningful in their lives far beyond their daily school experience.
Until you spread your wings, you’ll have no idea how far you can fly!
Lorraine Emmett – Housemistress Rectors