The Life Skills programme is central to the life and ethos of The Hall School. Indeed, it could be argued that the whole of the school day is involved in supporting boys in developing not only the skills, but also the knowledge and understanding they will need to manage their lives. Both inside and outside the classroom all members of the school community are working together to raise boys into young men who are prepared and keen to take their places in society.
Formalising the learning of Life Skills into a curriculum taught in lesson time has several aims, including supporting boys to be healthy, to stay safe, to enjoy and achieve, to make a positive contribution and to achieve eventual economic wellbeing (Every Child Matters, 2000). Lessons provide boys with the time and the opportunity to reflect upon their roles and responsibilities, at school and in the wider community; becoming adept and knowledgeable underpins the boys’ confidence to form and express their own opinions, whilst respecting those of others. Through actively contributing to the life of the school and the surrounding community, boys’ sense of belonging, self-worth and responsibility is embedded and enhanced. The Life Skills programme naturally links closely and overlaps with other curriculum subjects, including Science, Religious Studies, Thinking Skills, Current Affairs and Games/PE.
In the Junior School, Life Skills lessons enable boys to develop their self-knowledge and self-esteem as well as learning how to make moral judgements. During Life Skills lessons boys are encouraged to think about the different communities of which they are a member, and how they relate to others in those groups. In Reception, this is started through helping boys to start building their confidence within their new classroom environments, taking turns to speak in front of a group during ‘carpet times’ and learning to co-operate and to work well in a group by listening to one another and taking turns. There is time to reflect upon feelings and to think about ways to overcome fears, being upset or being angry – as well as considering each other’s feelings and how best to resolve a conflict. A central aspect of Life Skills is therefore self-awareness; boys are encouraged to reflect upon their own strengths and weaknesses and to set realistic but challenging goals for themselves, to recognise that persistence is needed when they find learning difficult and that by identifying barriers to their learning, they can achieve their goals as much as learning from their successes. In the early years at The Hall, much of the Life Skills curriculum is introduced through themed assemblies; each week an assembly is prepared and given by a different class from Years 1-3, providing boys with an opportunity to show what has been shared in their lessons A ‘buddy’ system encourages friendships to be made between our Year 1 and Year 3 boys and provides an opportunity for the Year 3 boys to act as role-models for the younger boys.
In the Middle and Senior Schools the Life Skills programme is, in the main, delivered by the boy’s Form Tutors in a timetabled session on Friday morning. There is also valuable input from other specialists, both within the school community and from outside it.
In the Middle School boys continue to develop their thinking about themselves as individuals and their interaction with other people. This includes assessing personal strengths and weaknesses and using this analysis to develop individual targets as well as some for the year group as a whole. Through the Life Skills curriculum, the nature and forms of bullying are discussed regularly as boys consider the practical application of concepts such as tolerance, kindness and mediation. The age-old tension between ‘having the right to’ and ‘having the responsibility to’ is frequently discussed, as boys come to recognise the necessity to balance their needs and desires with those of others, to be respectful and to resolve conflict.
In the Senior School the taught Life Skills programme focusses on preparing boys for their life beyond The Hall. All year groups start the academic year by considering the ‘ethos’ of their own Form, which rules and targets will help achieve this ethos, and what each individual member’s input should be to help achieve those targets. Boys are also encouraged to take a realistic look at their own personal expectations for the forthcoming year, considering again their strengths and weaknesses and how these have developed over the past year. Senior School boys are encouraged to consider what it is like to live with other people, including living with disability. They also think about their personal appearance and about family and peer pressure, particularly in relation to smoking, alcohol and drugs.
On a very practical level, boys in the Senior School are given regular instruction in revision organisation and techniques and study skills. Year 8 start to look at the world of work and they are encouraged to think about their changing role as they move on to new schools.