Using residentials to develop young leaders in Years 2 to 6

Key features

  • Engaging pupils disinterested in classroom learning
  • Supporting different gifted and talented pupils
  • Developing leadership skills in outdoor learning

The South Hetton Partnership’s Learning Away Young Leader Programme is a gifted and talented programme, but pupils selected may not be seen as gifted and talented in the classroom.

Young Leaders have the natural interest and aptitude for the learning away environment. They are identified as being potential leaders who can develop their skills and confidence through engaging in the training and support that comes with taking on the role. This programme utilises and develops these skills to both develop the young person and the offer of learning away experiences in each school.

Starting the programme

As a cluster the decision was made to select two children from Years 2-6 in each school to take part in a leadership programme that includes training on a residential shared with their counterparts in the other schools in the partnership. This training programme includes the use of Outdoor Learning and Outdoor Adventure cards, which the pupils learn to lead. They select cards, collect the equipment and follow instructions to lead others through an activity. This has become very useful in school, and has become the basis of the playground leader role (which has been added to the job description of the Learning Away Young Leaders.

Year group staff choose children based purely on their interest in learning outside the classroom and enthusiasm for being outdoors. The skills and confidence they develop are brought back to school to enhance practice.

One of the teachers involved from South Hetton Primary School describes the programme, “Young leaders come back from the training residential keen to share their experience, knowledge and skills with other children. They are keen to volunteer to take part in other activities and opportunities in school as well as bringing this new knowledge and approach to their own learning. Young leaders were so keen to share that we have developed them into playground leaders, as we found they had the leadership skills and practical knowledge to carry out this role. Now this is just a part of the job description of a young leader. They feel important, like they have something to offer”.

An introduction to Child A (case study focus)

This pupil was selected at 8 years old to represent Year 4. Whilst interested in learning and eager to impress, he frequently struggled with the social aspect of school. However, staff observed how this difficulty was eased during learning outside the classroom opportunities, where he took part in teambuilding and problem solving activities as part of a group with great success.

In April 2011, the Learning Away leaders from the three schools across our cluster met up for the first time. Initially most were a little unsure of one another, being not only from other schools, but also different year groups. However, Child A took the earliest opportunity to begin speaking to a selection of children from other schools. Very soon he was asking to share a room with these new friends. This was a remarkable development, as he had notoriously preferred to speak to adults wherever possible. However we all felt surplus to requirements! As he came out of his comfort zone he not only began to make valuable contributions to the outdoor learning activities, but also made excellent suggestions during the planning activities at the end of the residentials. He made thoughtful comments on the events:

Child A: “Miss I’m going to do what you do when I’m older.”
Teacher: “What, be a teacher you mean?”
Child A: “Yes, but I mean like your kind of teaching, when we go camping and learn outside all of the time.”

These conversations suggested that not only was he developing his self-esteem (as seen through his soaring confidence), but that he was also developing aspirations for the future.

Back school, while completing a literacy task, another young leader reflected on her residential experience. She led a problem-solving discussion around her table, explaining to the other pupils that if they adopted the same approach to the task as she had during the residential, they would be able to overcome the problem.

A summary of the benefits of the Young Leaders Residential programme

  • Increased engagement for pupils who may otherwise be disinterested in learning and the curriculum
  • A group identified as Gifted and Talented who may otherwise not gain special recognition in school
  • Young leaders who develop the responsibility, maturity and skills to lead other young people
  • Development of leadership and team building skills in learning outside the classroom
  • Young leaders who now champion the learning outside approach
  • A meaningful mechanism for Pupil Voice
  • Transformed play and lunch times, with young leaders providing quality experiences for other pupils.