I had the opportunity, last week, to speak at a youth conference of 250 prep school children. I was very privileged to be sharing the stage with Steve Chalke MBE, founder of the Oasis charity and Stop the Traffik. He put a very simple question to the young people present: “Who are you and who are you becoming?”
It is a very challenging question for any of us as adults, let alone the children for whom we care. Yet our role as educators – parents, carers or teachers – compels us to support young people as they grow up into the speed, frenzy and apparent uncertainty of the world around us. And that support is about ensuring the experiences they have develop skills and values of tolerance, respect and good manners, to become, as Steve Chalke put it, “the very best version of yourself.” We want our children – I want my own children – to become happy, valuable and productive members of society and the best way to know that you are becoming the best version of yourself, is to experience the pleasure of helping others; to have the chance to organise and lead and work with your peers so that others will benefit.
We had our first school council meeting this week. Newly voted in, all 12 plus Max & Charlie – appointed senior pupils – came to my office to discuss how the Council will work and how it should operate. A very solid list of principles was drawn up and, perhaps the most exciting, was the idea, unprompted by me, that they must only focus on a few things at a time so “we can deliver!” (Max’s words). If we can start like this; if the Council’s understanding about purpose and focus is a guiding principle then I know we are going to have a very successful year. They are a motivated group already and with the development of their skills and understanding, they will be more able to respond to Steve Chalke’s question. Furthermore, they will be able to give their peers the opportunity to respond too.