It is Charities Week at Stockport Grammar School. Considerable ingenuity by the Charity Prefects has been exercised in devising fun ways to encourage people to donate.
Schools have many duties to their students. One obligation would be to help them understand the lives of other human beings in different places and in different cultures across the world. Supporting international charities, and highlighting the lifestyles and problems experienced by other people, is one way of achieving this. There is, however, a danger, familiar to most big charities, of inducing a sense of hopelessness and fatigue in their donors through emphasising the size of the problems and over-active campaigning
Some days we are bombarded by images of devastated natural environments, starving children and injured people escaping from war zones and challenged by mind-numbing statistics suggesting yet further disasters. The cumulative effect of all this woe can easily backfire, persuading people that the problems are so huge that there is no point in them even trying to influence the outcome rather than motivating them to action.
This issue is very familiar to teachers and students; if a student really believes that a subject or topic is truly beyond their understanding or abilities then there is little incentive for them to invest the time and effort needed to try to make progress.
Part of the role of the teacher is to offer encouragement and support and to break down a demanding topic into smaller achievable chunks so that the student receives some positive reward of attaining success at an early stage and their motivation for further effort is increased.
Ultimately the student must trust that the teacher is capable of helping them make progress through their skill and experience in explanation and in constructing sequences of learning activities which will work for that student. The quality of the relationship between teacher and student is a crucial determinant of educational success.
Schools also have an obligation to help their students to grasp the challenges faced by some people in our own country. The students develop empathy, better able to appreciate the enormous range of situations in which individuals find themselves, often through no fault of their own, and understand what might be done to change things.
SGS has supported EducAid for many years, a charity working to improve and support education in Sierra Leone. Their vision, with which few would disagree, is that the education of young people unlocks human potential, overcomes poverty, improves wellbeing, builds democracy, and is the cornerstone of stable development. This seems a perfect vehicle for our students to understand more about a very different part of the world and the experiences and aspirations of the young people who live there. Regular visits from the Director, Miriam, help keep us in touch with developments. The students have had the opportunity to see how lives can be transformed through relatively small amounts of money over a period of time. Any donations associated with our regular non-uniform days help EducAid.
Closer to home, we also support The Wellspring charity in Stockport which helps the homeless with practical provision and advice. Again, SGS has supported this excellent charity for many years and again this helps our students to understand the lives of others and see how time and resources can make a huge difference. Our Harvest collection, earlier this term, provided practical help. Finally, the Charities Committee decided to support Beechwood Cancer Care this year. A party for our First Year pupils will raise money for the charity’s work with cancer sufferers and their friends and family.