On my desk sits a pot woven by some of my Year 13 students from last year. In it stand many pens, some of them bought from another group who sold items to raise funds at the same event. At home, I have a range of ornaments and pots, most of them handmade by our Senior School students over the past few years. I have become a CAS memorabilia collector, a hoarder of items created for the purposes of fundraising; I don’t necessarily need anything that I have bought, but the knowledge that the money raised goes towards worthwhile causes remains my reason for buying them. Add to that the satisfaction of knowing that the experiences of designing, marketing and selling go a long way towards creating the rounded student, and you have some simple, yet concrete, examples of the transformative power of the CAS requirements.
As students go through Senior School, it is this process of change, the moulding of character and the shaping of the people that they will become that is the biggest privilege of working with them, and CAS is at the heart of it all. Students who had perhaps let others do and lead in their earlier years at the school realise that they too can make a difference and set the standards that others wish to emulate.
In our current Year 13, we have three individuals who have done much to show the way. Daniela, Lina and Zain represented the school at the Sustainable Development Goals conference hosted by the UN in New York last summer and earned themselves a glowing set of reports in the process. Since their return, they have impressed a range of audiences with their accounts of their experiences, inspiring our younger students in the process, prompting many of them to aspire to follow in their footsteps.
The rewards for such commitment are nowhere better illustrated than in the example of Ella Watson, one of last year’s graduating cohort. Now in her first year at the University of East Anglia (UEA), Ella was a dedicated student throughout her time at the school. Among her CAS activities were her planning and teaching of lessons on climate change to Year 7 students, support work at a veterinary surgery, and offering volunteer support at our Duathlon and the Tanzania Charity Run. Ella also served as an intern at the UN in Geneva, attending a range of committee meetings as part of the experience. Upon receiving her application, UEA made Ella an offer of 32 points for entry onto her chosen courses, only to contact her later on the same day and make that offer unconditional. In doing so, they cited the quality of her experiences as a student, not her predicted grades, arguing in effect that it was whom she had become that mattered more than the prognostications of our staff!
UEA are not alone though. In report after report on applications, personal statements and candidate’s CVs, our attention is drawn to the importance of the whole person as opposed to the wholehearted academic. This particularly applies to Ivy League and Oxbridge colleges that receive more than enough applications from students who achieve top grades. In many cases, such applications are sidelined by slightly less academic students who have made a difference to the lives of others. In the overwhelming majority of cases, these have been IB students.
Andrew Kenning, Head of Senior School