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Extra-curricular activities shouldn’t be an extra


Mark Lascelles, Head Master of Dauntsey’s

Business leaders are calling for the UK’s education system to better prepare young people for the world of work. Academic qualifications are certainly important but surely attitudes and behaviours are as important as grades? I believe that extra-curricular activities – from drama, music and sport through to adventure and volunteering – play a central role in developing those attitudes and behaviours. 

With the ever-increasing pressures on family life, ferrying children to and from dance classes, hockey practice and football fixtures can fall to the bottom of the list of parents’ priorities. After-school clubs can offer some scope but I would argue that independent schools are uniquely placed to provide the best possible chance to get involved. For boarders and day pupils, the day is longer and there is greater opportunity.

With more than one third of children aged 10 to 11 years being overweight or obese, instilling a positive attitude towards exercise in children from an early age isn’t just a ‘nice to have’, it’s a life-saver. Physical exercise should be fun, challenging and open to everyone. As well as improving fitness and co-ordination and teaching new skills, it’s a great way to build confidence, resilience and mental toughness. Team sports in particular give pupils a real sense of achievement. They also help develop leadership, teamwork and self-discipline.

Time to take part

The range of sports open to pupils of all abilities in most boarding schools is immense – there is something for everyone to enjoy. Just as importantly, boarders have time to train and participate in these sports after school or at weekends. As a Head, one of my greatest pleasures is to see the enthusiasm with which our boarders use our sporting facilities whenever they have the time, whatever the weather. Day pupils often choose to stay on, well beyond the ‘normal’ finishing time!

But it’s not just sport where pupils can gain advantage in a boarding situation. Dance has become a real feature of life at Dauntsey’s and I have come to learn that it can benefit everyone – in the classroom as well as on the stage or dance floor. Self-confidence blossoms, shy people can become outgoing, nervous people are suddenly up for taking a risk – it’s great to see. For example, we never had a problem persuading girls to dance but the boys could be more reluctant. Staging Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies changed all that. The all-boy cast of 30, aged from 11 to 18, transformed dance at the school – it’s now considered ‘cool’ for boys to dance and they realise that dancers are in fact élite athletes.

Understanding risk

Understanding risk and not shying away from it is an important life skill. Pupils can develop this through being exposed to risk in the security of a school environment. Dauntsey’s has a strong emphasis on adventure – we see it as an opportunity to demonstrate and adopt behaviours that will help pupils lead a fruitful and interesting life, in which they take risks that they understand, work towards goals and learn from experience. Whether pupils are tackling an expedition to Wales or Bhutan, taking on the challenge of crewing our Tall Ship, the Jolie Brise, kayaking from Devizes to Westminster, or simply camping in the school grounds, we want them to acquire new skills and attitudes that will stand them in good stead in the classroom and beyond. The children of Service families adjust well to this approach.

The other side of the coin is that life as a boarder can become very safe, something of a ‘bubble’. It’s vital, therefore, that pupils are encouraged to keep in touch with the ‘real world’ through volunteering in the local community and elsewhere. This gives them a sense of perspective that they could not gain otherwise. Some of our recent expeditions, including a project working with Romanian orphans and a trip to Bhutan, were life-changing for many of those who took part. Such opportunities help pupils think beyond their own experience and the formal curriculum to decode the world around them, gain cultural awareness and prepare them for a future in a global society.

Extra-curricular activities should not be an optional ‘extra’. They enable pupils to explore their personal limits and push themselves beyond what they might have thought possible.  Activities outside the classroom create a platform for pupils to set themselves apart and develop into the person that they aspire to be. Every day I see the consequences, both in our school community and in classrooms. Pupils have a deeper understanding of how they function, greater self-esteem and a renewed energy and confidence in their abilities.

In short, what you learn outside the classroom can have a profound effect on the development of your character and your entire future.  

Mark Lascelles joined Dauntsey’s in 2012 from The King’s School, Canterbury where he was Lower Master (Senior Deputy Head). After reading Geography at Durham University and completing his PGCE, Mark enjoyed teaching stints at Hookergate Comprehensive in Gateshead and at Boldon Colliery School, in South Shields. He was appointed to teach Geography at Shrewsbury in 1992 where he was also Master-in-Charge of Football, Cricket and Fives, before taking up his appointment of Housemaster of The Grove in 2003. In 2009, Mark was appointed Lower Master at The King’s School, Canterbury and then Acting Headmaster in 2010.


Boarding at an independant school
School Address Phone Type PR Weblink
Dean Close SchoolShelburne Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. GL51 6HE01242 258044Bo(7-18), D, M, 13-18 
Wycliffe CollegeStonehouse, Gloucestershire. GL10 2JQ01453 822432Bo, D, M, 2-18 
Rookwood SchoolWeyhill Road, Andover, Hampshire. SP10 3AL01264 325900Bo(8-16), D, M, 3-16 
St Lawrence CollegeCollege Road, Ramsgate, Kent. CT11 7AE01843 572931Bo(3-18), D(3-18), M(3-18), 3-18 
Kingham Hill SchoolKingham, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. OX7 6TH01608 658999Bo, D, M, 11-18 
Erskine Stewart\'s Melville SchoolsQueensferry Road, Edinburgh, Scotland. EH4 3EZ0131 311 1000Bo(10-18), D(3-18), B(3-18), G(3-18), M(3-12), 3-18 
Wellington SchoolWellington, Somerset. TA21 8NT01823 668803Bo, D, M, 11-18 
Holbrook, Ipswich, Suffolk. IP9 2RX01473 326136 Bo, D, M, 11-18
St Davids CollegeLlandudno, Conwy. LL30 1RD01492 875974Bo, D, M, 9-19 
Windermere SchoolWindermere, Cumbria. LA23 1NW01539 446164Bo, D, M, 3-18 
King's College TauntonSouth Road, Taunton, Somerset. TA1 3LA01823 328204Bo, D, M, 13-18 
Queen\'s CollegeTrull Road, Taunton, Somerset TA1 4QS01823 340830Bo(7-18), D, M, 0-18 
Denstone, Uttoxeter, Staffordshire. ST14 5HN01889 590484Bo, D, M, 11-18
Stonar SchoolCottles Park, Atworth, Wiltshire. SN12 8NT01225 701741Bo(9-18), D(2-18), M(2-18), 2-18 
Iwerne Minster, Blandford Forum, Dorset. DT11 8LL01747 812122Bo, D, M, 2½-18
Bucknell, Shropshire SY7 0BG01547 530303Bo(9-18), D(4-18), M(4-18), 4-18
Warminster SchoolChurch Street, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 8PG01985 210100Bo, D, M, 3-18 
Moyles Court SchoolMoyles Court, Ringwood, Hampshire. BH24 3NF01425 472856Bo, D, M, 2-16 
Pangbourne Reading RG8 8LA+44 (0)118 9767 416Bo, D, M, 11-18
Hailey Lane, Hertford, Hertfordshire. SG13 7NU+44 (0) 1992 706353Bo, D, M, 11-18
Green Lane, Harrogate, North Yorkshire HG2 9JP +44(0)1423 566358Bo(8-18), D, M, 3-18
Rossall SchoolBroadway, Fleetwood. FY7 8JW01253 774201Bo(7-18), D, M, 2-18 
Penn Road, Wolverhampton. WV3 0EG01902 341230Bo(11-18), D(4-18), M(4-18), 4-18
Blundell's SchoolBlundell's Road, Tiverton EX16 4DN01884 252543Bo(11-18), D(2-18), M(2-18), 2-18 
Shiplake CollegeHenley-on-Thames, RG9 4BW0118 940 2455Bo(11-18), D, B(11-18), G(16-18), 11-18 
Taunton SchoolStaplegrove Road, Taunton, Somerset TA2 6AD01823 703703Bo(7-18), D(0-18), M(0-18), 0-18 
Cheltenham Road, Burford, Oxfordshire OX18 4PL 01993 823303Bo, D, M, 11-18
High Street, Abbots Bromley, Staffordshire WS15 3BW01283 840232Bo 8-18, D, B, 3-18
The Settlement, Ockbrook, Derby, DE72 3RJ01332 673532Bo(11-18), D(2-18), M(2-18), 2-18
The Old Palace, Palace Green, Ely, Cambridgeshire. CB7 4EW01353 660707Bo(8-18), 1-18
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