The School Walk: community building at its best.

We had our school walk yesterday. It’s an event that has been occurring for decades in the school’s history, and something that really astounded and amazed me when I started working there last year. You just don’t hear about school walks happening anymore. When I was at school we did a walk when I was in year 8, but that was it. It was never run again after that year. The other local school, which I had friends at, used to do one too, but they don’t anymore.

I can see why schools are no longer willing to arrange them. They must be a health and safety nightmare for those at the top of the leadership hierarchy, and I must admit I used every opportunity yesterday to pull our Business Manager’s leg, asking him how his nerves were holding up each time I saw him. One of my former colleagues even tweeted me to say he “didn’t believe schools were still allowed to do things like that”.

So at 9.30 yesterday morning we set off marching across the Yorkshire Wolds, 500 students in high spirits, laughing, joking, and singing. Year 11 are allowed to do the walk in fancy dress, and to give them credit they had really made an effort. There were sumo wrestlers, NASA pilots, Teletubbies, and cave-girls, amongst myriad other colourful and eye-catching creations. Each house had nominated a charity that they would raise money for and the Y11s had to commit to raising a minimum amount in order to come in fancy dress. They had really gone to town.

Although we moved off in year groups, half a mile into the walk the groups were starting to mingle, as faster walkers moved up to the front and slower ones fell back. As we crossed wold after wold, skirting the local country pile, the sun beamed down, and gradually fancy-dress headwear gave way as teenage bonces began to sweat.  Five miles into the walk, we stopped at a quaint little village hall for tea and cakes (the interior walls were all painted with murals of idyllic pastoral scenes, which somehow reminded me of The Darling Buds of May). The students had donated cakes and biscuits to be sold to raise money for the Macmillan coffee morning event, and our Head of MFL was doing a roaring trade as I arrived with our NQT.

Again we formed up and moved off in groups, year 7 leading the way. Another 3 miles in we stopped for lunch at a beautiful little Wolds village that oozed a Mediaeval ambience with its large central green and houses laid out well back in a pretty square. By this time all that was left to do was gently amble the 7 miles back, gradually descending back down onto the plains of the Ouse and Humber.

By the time we arrived back at school most of us were exhausted but in great spirits. We laughed about the pain in our feet and legs and everyone agreed it was a great day. The cynical educator might worry that the students had each lost five hours of learning yesterday, equating to nearly 2,500 learning hours in total. But to my mind, the fundraising and the community spirit that an event like this creates is more than worth that sacrifice. Everyone that took part has memories of a great day, and for our students they will remember this well after they’ve left us and moved onto other phases in their lives. More schools should carry out similar events, and stop the school walk from becoming a thing of the past.

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About Andrew Warner

Mostly English teacher, AHT (T&L/literacy/CPD) & bibliophile. Irregular examiner, MTBer, armchair anthropologist & bassist. Fascinated by language & behaviour.

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