COLUMN - Words are a powerful tool for students

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In a society where electronic communication is constant and instant, it is also advantageous to possess the skills necessary to express verbal opinions and to listen courteously to those of others. Direct communication skills are valuable.

As press officer for Belper School, I frequently interview students. This can be connected with one of their achievements or it can be to obtain an opinion on a particular subject. I am often amused and impressed with their comments.

Some students who had won awards for their academic and personal input into the school told me how they felt. Jess said: “I am proud to be chosen to receive this. Lots of other people could have got it so it’s very special.” Jack added: “It means I’m improving, and that is encouraging.” These two statements show the unique importance of the recognition of individual effort and achievement, and endorse the aims of the Awards initiative.

Another recent opportunity for Belper School students was when they were visited by representatives from the NHS and received insights into related career opportunities. The practical activities proved to be popular and elicited remarks such as ‘I saw my own heart beating - that was different’ and ‘I took blood from a rubber arm and tried some keyhole surgery’ (from William and Alex). On another subject entirely, Jessica described popular musician Nathan Sykes as ‘inspirational’ and ‘passionate about his work.’ Then, after a ‘film school’ workshop, Jamie said: “It’s what I want to do. That’s definite.”

Clearly students can open up a dialogue about their future career at almost any stage of their education and sustained discussion will help consolidate their ideas.

On the subject of the arts, which play an important role in the school curriculum, Will told me about his experience of being in a school play: “Performing to an audience is an extraordinary feeling ... you have to experience it to truly appreciate it.” While Georgia responded to a play she had seen with the phrase ‘an exciting and memorable experience.’ Painting self portraits was considered to be ‘more difficult that you think considering that you see you own face everyday’ (Joe) and theatre in education, which highlighted the effects of bullying, was described as ‘a reminder that bullying is always destructive and always wrong’ (Claudia). These are all insightful comments, which demonstrate true engagement with learning.

When French exchange students recently visited school I asked them about Belper. They had toured the town and seen the highlights - many of them showed me photographs of the weir, the mill and the gardens. Their remarks included ‘impressive architecture’, well designed gardens’ and ‘historic buildings’ but my favourite observation just had to be ‘awesome chip shops’. That makes sense.

Verbal communication plays a different role to electronic contact - it has an immediacy and dynamic which is unique and irreplaceable.