Headmaster who lets pupils lead school trips on Tube says it's vital they understand 'challenge and risk'

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A headmaster who lets pupils lead school trips around the Tube network says it is vital that children understand “challenge and risk”.

Patrick Wenham, head of Bickley Park school in Bromley, said he fears schools are moving away from “adventure” and becoming sterile and test-oriented.

Pupils at the £14,000-a-year school, which teaches five to 13-year-olds, regularly go hiking, den-building and camping. 

When pupils take the train into central London they are each given a section of the journey to lead.

Mr Wenham said: “By and large boys tend to engage more deeply if they are ‘doing’, not listening or watching. 

School trips: Patrick Wenham, headmaster of Bickley Park school in Bromley, said it is important pupils understand ‘challenge and risk’.

“We need them to understand how London works. So on the train into town the first group of boys will lead the group to the station and decide on which platform to go to. 

“The next group will lead us from Blackfriars station to our first location. They have to look at the Tube map and learn escalator etiquette. 

“On a lot of school trips it’s the teacher who leads but we get the children to lead. They then have the confidence of managing their own lives.

“The boys love the idea they are getting responsibility and are trusted to make decisions. 

“Society is becoming more risk-averse but life is full of risks. Children need to build up to moving away from a cossetted school environment.”

Ofsted head Amanda Spielman has said teachers must stop trying to “wrap children in cotton wool” and give them a chance to develop resilience and grit. 

Mr Wenham said that without trips the gap in academic achievement between boys and girls will widen. 

He said: “Boys are less mature learners. There is more need to work at giving them a reason to learn. There is a lot of research saying girls are more mature and compliant learners. 

“Nationally the gap between girls and boys is widening, so there needs to be more work done to engage boys and trick them into learning. 

“Trips involve challenges, like the amount of time due diligence requires on the health and safety element, but it’s about creating opportunities and memories for the children. 

“We only have one shot at an education: let’s continue to make it exciting.”

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