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Taking a Leap of Faith

The phrase self-esteem is used to talk about the beliefs that one has of oneself: one’s abilities and potential to achieve. Encouraging positive self-image and healthy self-esteem in all the children in our care is one of the most important roles we have to play as educationalists and, getting it right will impact on children’s future success far beyond their adolescent years.

Equipping children with the tools and strategies to manage the inevitable failure and set-backs that they will encounter throughout their lives in a positive way can, unfortunately, often be overshadowed in an educational system that, at times, places over emphasis on academic achievement.

School leaders ought to focus as much on pastoral care and developing the whole child as they do on ensuring children achieve learning objectives set out in their school curricula. Achieving curriculum objectives alone will serve only to achieve part success.

In September, we reviewed, as a whole staff, the skills we wanted Cameron Vale School leavers to have acquired at the age of 11; we looked way beyond when children leave us, asking ourselves how we could adequately prepare children for life. When children leave our happy and close-knit community, we want them to embrace challenge, believe in themselves and immerse themselves in new, and potentially demanding experiences which put them outside of their comfort zone.

At the end of this month, children in Years 5 and 6 will take part in their first residential trip, hosted by PGL, a leading residential adventure company in the field of outdoor education. PGL promise to nurture and challenge children; to bring out the best in them. A PGL adventure vows to build confidence and a sense of achievement. A PGL experience will see children return to school with renewed belief in themselves and the confidence to succeed.

The first test for some, however, will be the confidence associated with being away from home, from familiar routine and the safety of one’s home surroundings. Children will be asked to undertake some testing tasks, many of which have the overt aim of facing one’s fears, very evidently operating beyond one’s comfort zone.

One activity, in particular, meets this criteria for all, adults and children alike; the Leap of Faith. The Leap of Faith asks children to muster their confidence and courage to climb to the top of a ten-metre pole and, once achieved, count to three with the faith in themselves as they jump and reach to catch a mid-air suspended trapeze. Children are gently encouraged by the team of qualified instructors to push their own boundaries as far as they wish, ranging from a few steps up the pole, to the top or to the leap; what is important, is not the leap, but the opportunity for children to take risks in a safe environment and learn from them.

Life is full of challenges, and we owe it to our children to equip them with the skills to recognise risk, to assess it sensibly and react thoughtfully. It is, without a doubt, possible to learn the basics in the classroom environment; there is, however, no substitute for authentic experiences in the wider world.


Bridget Saul,