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Aiming high: Exploring the importance of academic extension in School.

Aiming high: Exploring the importance of academic extension in School.

In our latest blog, we examine the concept of challenge in an academic sense, discussing the methods we use at Pocklington School to encourage and support our pupils in pushing their limits and the significant benefits this offers them. Charlie Prosser, our Academic Extension Coordinator, shares her insights on the subject in the following article:

‘What is a challenge? A quick online search gives lots of possible definitions: an invitation to engage in a contest or fight; a call to prove or justify something; or a rival claim or threat to a position. The most meaningful to me though is the following from Vocabulary.com – ‘a challenge is something that puts you to the test’. A challenge will make demands on you, it will be difficult, you had better bring your ‘A game’ if you are to overcome it. Challenges are personal; our own skills, knowledge and experiences make some obstacles harder to overcome than others.

But challenges push us out of our comfort zones. They require us to be courageous, to show grit and determination, and ultimately help us to grow as students and as people.

Providing challenge for all our pupils is something we are proud of at Pocklington School. I often have the privilege of visiting lessons in my role as Academic Extension Coordinator and have seen first hand the variety of stretching, demanding problems posed for all pupils across the School. Whether this is challenging a pupil to lead an activity completely in German, presenting younger pupils with complex questions or texts usually tackled much later on, or setting challenging homework tasks to broaden pupils’ knowledge of a topic, it is always fantastic to see pupils striving to meet these high expectations.

Pupils know their teachers believe in them and will support them when things get tough, but the motivation, resilience and excitement they show when pushed beyond their own perceived limits are traits we want to continue to build. Seeing a pupil confronted with a problem, work their way through it, overcoming setbacks along the way, is the highlight of a lesson for me and inspires me to keep raising the bar!

At Pocklington School, there are many other opportunities for pupils to challenge themselves outside of lessons too. Academic competitions, Olympiads, lectures and symposia offer rigorous academic challenge in the more traditional subjects. Alongside this, we are proud to offer competitions and awards in fields like coding, theatre and photography to enrich every pupil’s time at school, whatever their talents and interests.

Taking on challenges can be scary though and not without risk. Answering a difficult question in class or putting yourself in an unfamiliar situation presents the very real possibility of ‘failure’ – of making a mistake, of being judged or criticised. We are lucky to have a safe, supportive classroom environment at Pocklington where mistakes are encouraged and seen as an opportunity to learn. The more we ask our pupils to do this, the less intimidating it becomes; building this culture of celebrating mistakes goes hand in hand with our values of courage, truth and trust and will help to push all our pupils on to even greater successes.

There is a famous quote from former US President John F. Kennedy which I feel sums this up perfectly: “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Taking the more difficult route, facing up to challenges and embracing them, gives all of us the chance to achieve more than we thought possible. What can you do to challenge yourself today?’