Bolton School in SPACE

The Bolton School SPACE programme is now a term old and it is possible to reflect both on what has happened and the rationale for the programme beginning.

First, the plan has not been to ‘boldly go where no one has gone before’. For a start the English department could not bear the grammatical awkwardness. That needs to be stated though since we are the school who built our own ocean going ketch in the playground and as it happens we do have plans to launch a small rocket to the edge of space to take photographs – a really enjoyable undertaking for a team of boys in that lunchtime club.

Instead the SPACE programme is about planned and embedded curriculum enrichment. Every fortnight on a Monday afternoon the school is taken off the usual timetable and all staff and all boys are available to be timetabled to a whole range of different activities. These have been seen very much as a key part of the curriculum, at the core of ensuring the ethos and values of the school are as we wish them to be, rather than a nice little extra around the edges. It seems clear to me that the SPACE afternoons may well, in the end, add the real value in what we do alongside the much more measurable and quantifiable value added of exam results. So in that sense SPACE is what it says, the physical space and time in the hectic timetable to the school day to embed those really valuable and memorable experiences.

SPACE also helps us remember what it is we are doing in those sessions S (Social, Spiritual) P (Physical, Personal, Practical) A (Active, Aesthetic) C (Community, Cultural) E (Enterprise, Entrepreneurship). Keen observers will see most of the letters of PSHE within the programme, the careers also goes into this mix, as does our very strong community engagement programme. Alongside that there are a wide range of hugely innovative ideas from the departments around school.

So just what has been happening? Too much to list them all here. But to just sample we have had charity fundraising for Guide Dogs and urban outreach; we have had visits to the local Fusiliers Museum and the local steam museum; there have been sessions on how the law works as a conceptual process; a film afternoon building up the hinterland of the classics; a STEM careers afternoon for Year 7; coaching qualifications in Year 11; much more time when necessary to get the job of being a personal tutor done; and some year 10 boys engaged in four on going local community programmes providing pairs of hands and expertise to local projects.

It is often said that the valuable things of education are what you remember when you are 25. The exam results are gate keepers, essential passports to the next stage, but they are unlikely to be those memorable moments that form character. I am quite sure that some of the SPACE afternoon experiences will be talked about in years to come and I look forward to hearing them talked about at Old Boy dinners in years to come.

About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is Headmaster of Bolton School Boys’ Division. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists.