Pole to pole at explorer's school

Ceri Williams

Ernest Shackleton, pictured right, found out all about teamwork in the Antarctic. Now boys at his old school are being taught how to work in harmony. Ceri Williams reports.

FOR the youngsters at Dulwich College junior school it was a chance to emulate one of their most illustrious old boys.

Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton was an Old Alleynian, as old boys of the college are known. Now the youngsters had to demonstrate their mettle when working together under pressure.

Around 100 pupils aged eight to ten left conventional studies behind to learn a crucial lesson: the value of teamwork.

The team-building course was run by the firm World Challenge Expeditions. Mark Fawcett, its managing director, said the private school in south-east London had asked the firm to hone pupils' communication skills and sense of responsibility in a way that was fun.

Teaching teamwork can have a dramatic effect on children, Mr Fawcett claims. He said: "At the start the kids usually ceat and bend the rules and argue. When they have to select a leader, they all shout 'Me, Me, Me'. But even a few hours later, they are co-operating which is a step forward. The tasks get them to listen and learn how to come up with ideas."

The boys split into groups around the playing field to solve challenges. Each team had a volunteer observer. Observer Ben Laidlaw, nine, watched a test that required the use of sticks to put a ball on top of a tall pole. He marked his classmates down for being disorganised and arguing. As Alkesh Patel, 10, said: "If you don't talk to one another then you don't get anywhere."

Head Penny Horsman said: "Staff have told me it has been terrific. They noticed skills in some of the kids that had not been apparent before."

But for those whose sense of teamwork would disqualify them from following in Sir Ernest's icy footsteps, two other old boys, PG Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler, prove that the isolated life of a writer can also reap rewards.

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Ceri Williams

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