Excellent report for Lower School Awards

The UCS experience should extend beyond the classroom and empower pupils to develop the strength and breadth of character to flourish in life and improve society at large. Launched earlier this year, and pioneered by the current Shell cohort, the Headmaster’s Lower School Award and the Young Leaders Award provide a unique opportunity to fulfil this aim.

The Headmaster’s Award requires pupils to monitor, assess and plan their development in five aptitude areas: academic, adventure, co-curricular, community and sustainability. It gives a framework for aspirational pupils to engage in constructive self-reflection and make decisions that lead to a broader, richer set of skills and experiences.

Assistant Head (Head of Lower School), Edd Roberts, explains: “With the Headmaster’s Award, pupils complete four of the five units and have until Easter to tick them off. A number did voluntary work over the summer; then, recently, Mr Reiderman ran bushcraft trips to Essex for the adventure challenge. The boys built shelters and traps, lit fires, did outdoor cooking and went hiking, among other activities.”

The Young Leaders Award, meanwhile, consists of three modules focused on communication and teamwork; problem solving and critical thinking; and conflict resolution and management. Although the Young Leaders Award is an externally designed course, it overlaps strongly with the UCS learning values: resilience, responsibility, relationships and resourcefulness.

“Young Leaders is being undertaken by 17 Lower School pupils,” adds Mr Roberts. “There are three modules and each concludes with a community activity. Young Leaders is quite an undertaking with about 40 hours of lessons on leadership. The boys have weekly seminars; it is not necessarily easy but they are very engaged. It has been impressive to see them taking the lessons on board. Ideally we will have completed the first YLA roll-out by Easter 2023.”

While the Young Leaders Award involves an application process, the Headmaster’s Award is open to all pupils. Across both schemes, the boys are making strong progress and it has been rewarding to read their reflective pieces outlining what they have learned from each section or module. For Lower School Awards Coordinator, Mark Reiderman, the twin awards offer a perfect forum for nurturing the unparalleled enthusiasm, energy and potential for growth of Lower School pupils. “I am extremely pleased with how they have engaged with the programme and shown great initiative,” he says.

There are also intangible benefits. These so-called character awards serve to build relationships and team morale as well as character per se. Shell pupil Jonah Kermisch notes: “I enjoy the sense of togetherness the Headmaster’s Award creates in our year. We are spurring each other on to complete it. The award definitely inspires a sense of community and gives you skills like public speaking, helping people you don’t know and joining new communities like clubs and societies.

“Friendships and relationships within school – with each other and with teachers – are strengthened.”

As a new programme, the Lower School Awards are unbridled by past expectations. What’s already clear is how participants are transferring skills and experiences gained from them into everyday life. “It’s a joy to watch pupils involved in Young Leaders display skills such as active listening and supportive questioning in school life,” says Mr Reiderman. “Equally it’s a pleasure to see new relationships forged between pupils on the various adventure and bushcraft expeditions in the Headmaster’s Award.”

The final commendation comes from Jonah Kermisch: “I would tell any Entry pupil that it is important to take part. The Headmaster’s Award prepares you for the DofE and is good to put on a CV!”

Back to all highlights
You may also be interested in

Fives back in favour at UCS

Fives back in favour at UCS

Fresh take on an old classic

Fresh take on an old classic

DNA link-up at Pre-Prep

DNA link-up at Pre-Prep