Education beyond the school walls



I have just spent the first week or so of the summer break accompanying the school camp to Saundersfoot in South Wales. The school has been camping there for nearly 75 years and large parts of the programme are timeless: trips to the beach, camp football competitions, cliff top walks to local towns for shopping. Times also move on as well, as this year we were able to use a satellite internet connection to support our host country Wales in the European football and a wet weather activity was making iMovies.


At the same time other boys were in Paris, another group were visiting the Battlefields, more were on a biology field trip. This term various parts of the school have visited Hadrian’s Wall, Blackpool Zoo, Port Sunlight and Brougham Castle, amongst other destinations.


Underpinning all this activity is a clear vision of what learning is all about and that, especially, it takes place just as well outside the classroom as inside, if not better.


So what is the point of a school summer camp and what are the boys learning?


First there are the obvious life skills – organisation of kit, keeping dry in the rain and avoiding sunburn, learning to cook and understanding that used pans need to be washed and there is no-one else there to do it. Self reliance is honed in this practical way.


Then there is mental resilience as well. Home sickness is bound to be a feature for some and working through that can be very positive. For the boys around them there is the chance for empathy and looking after your friends.


And then there are those friends. Each day different groups form as we let the boys loose in a town or for an activity. Friendships ebb and flow, leaders emerge, as do those who prefer to follow or to do. Little by little the boys find their niche and how to get on with one another, both those they like and those they don’t but must get on with anyway. These are the skills that will stand them in good stead when, in years to come, they will work in teams and rely on group social skills.


So yes, we can enjoy the sea view, fresh air and fun; but we are also very much still in the important business of education in our Saundersfoot field.


This blog first appeared in The Post, a free newspaper published by The Bolton News

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.