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The Stonar Way 6.10.23

Profile shot of Headmaster Matthew Way
  • Whole School

Charlotte Bennett, Director of Partnerships, updates us on this year's Globeducate Student Leadership Summit.

As I write this it is 6.30am on Friday morning and I'm sitting on my bed in the YMCA hostel in the centre of Bath. Why, you may ask? This week, I have been followed round the school site by 34 older teenagers from a wide variety of countries, all wearing the same Stonar fleece, bearing the legend 'Globeducate Leadership Summit, Stonar 2023'. Yes, it is that time of year again when we host the summit and welcome student leaders from our partner schools around the world to join with our Senior Prefect Team and learn about leadership, teamwork and communication, as well as forging friendships and networking with their peers across the Globeducate family. This year, we have welcomed schools from France, Spain, Mallorca, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus and Canada.

This year saw a slightly different format to previous years where pupils have lived and worked at Stonar during the event. After last year, where the visitors were crammed into every nook and cranny of the boarding houses (including my own home being turned into a boys’ dormitory), we decided we would move the event into Bath and all stay at a hostel. This allowed us to benefit from the opportunities provided by being in a beautiful historic city.

So, what did a week of student leadership look like? Well bearing in mind I have had very little sleep - partly due to looking after over 30 teenagers aged between 16 and 18 in central Bath for a week, and partly due to sharing a room at the hostel with Mrs Worrall last night and gossiping until the small hours - I have decided to simply share with you the reports I sent to the schools each evening about that day's events. I say evening, it was usually about one in the morning...

Day 1- Monday

The groups arrive, exhausted from travel. We go to Pizza Express (especially to make our Italian friends feel at home). Within minutes the groups are chatting as if they have known each other for years, rather than minutes. Silence descends on the hostel by midnight.

Day 2 - Tuesday

The group were picked up by Stonar minibuses from Bath and taken to Stonar for their first session of the day in Buckle Theatre. The group learned about the different leadership roles, as described by Belbin, and then took the Belbin test to see what leadership characteristics they possessed. The group (now wearing their Stonar Leadership Summit fleeces) then put their leadership into practice with a variety of a fun and challenging teamworking activities. Although not all teams were successful in their outcomes, they certainly learned about the importance of matching leadership attributes to the nature of the task.

After lunch, the Stonar prefect team gave the delegates a guided tour of the Stonar site.

Note: Many of our partner schools have very different campuses to Stonar. One of the Canadian Schools visiting had their school on the second floor of an office building, with a shopping mall below. The visitors were amazed by the size (and age) of the school and the fact that the pupils moved to different classes for their lessons, rather than staying in one classroom and the teacher changing.

The afternoon saw further work and reflection on leadership characteristics and then a more light-hearted session was run on personal presentation and etiquette. The group learned all about presenting themselves positively in terms of body language and then learned some top tips on British etiquette, including the correct way to enjoy a cream tea and how to tie a bow tie.

The evening saw a quiz night and team challenges in the bar of York House (the Sixth Form boarding house). After a long and busy itinerary, the group headed back to Bath, to rest before the following day’s communication skills training.

Day 3 - Wednesday

The group stayed in Bath today, learning about communication and public speaking skills.

Using the opportunity of a full day in Bath, we set them a task to research and guide a section of a tour of the city, taking in all the main historic sites. An added challenge was to see if they could add any extra stories or facts that may not be strictly true, to see if they could fool their audience. Several times, members of the public tried to join our 'tour' groups, so they must have been doing a good job!

The group then went out for supper at various Bath restaurants with their new friendship groups before reconvening to experience the ghost tour of Bath. Our tour was led by the eccentric and slightly scary Miss Needle who delighted the group with her grisly and ghoulish tour of Bath, complete with thumb screws, a hanging, and a hideous transformation of one of the students in a historic duelling site. Miss Needle really showed the group how to lead a tour with knowledge, passion and a fantastic theatrical edge which kept the team engrossed throughout.

Day 4 - Thursday

The last day of the Leadership Summit was spent at Stonar. We kicked off with a workshop on leadership styles by Mr Wicks. Following this, Mrs Bennett spoke about iconic leaders, using the example of her own personal hero, Antarctic explorer, Ernest Shackleton. The group task was then introduced and the teams were each asked to create a presentation on an iconic leader of their choice, which included the knowledge they had gained about leadership styles and characteristics. As the groups worked on their presentations there was a brief hiatus when they had the opportunity to watch some of a hockey match with our 1st XI, which included some of our Stonar student leadership team. (Not wishing to show off, but it was also very gratifying that our visitors witnessed a 2-0 win over Downside!)

Following their presentations, the evening saw us walking to Stonar's local pub, The White Hart, for an evening of fun and friendship and a game of skittles. When it came time for the Stonar pupils to return to school and the rest of the delegates to return to Bath, there were tears, hugs and frantic social media exchanges. If the main aim of the event had been forging connections with our sister schools, this aim had been well and truly met.

I want to leave you with this thought. On the first night, in Pizza Express, Mr Way spoke to the group and read them the poem The Leader by Roger McGough. It goes like this:

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I'm the leader
I'm the leader
OK what shall we do?

Lots of people want to be the 'leader', to be a prefect, form captain, team captain or be 'in charge', but often that's as far as their vision goes. Once there, they don't know what to do. You can't lead if you have no destination. Stonar has been running the Leadership Summit since 2018 and it's 'our thing' in the Globeducate family. Why do we do it? Well, back in 2017 our Head Girl said, 'Wouldn't it be fantastic if we could get all the Head Pupils from the Globeducate schools together so we could learn about leadership, share ideas and make connections?' She had a vision, an idea and the drive to make it happen. The Leadership Summit is the result of her desire to actually lead somewhere. Leadership was not just a title to be used on a UCAS application, but about ideas put into action.

Do you wanna be a leader? Find a destination, head for it and maybe some people will follow you.

Charlotte Bennett
Director of Partnerships