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This afternoon I went to the races for only the 4th time in my life. Our school is just a short distance away from Epsom Downs, the site of the iconic Derby Day amongst other horse racing meetings. This event is famous worldwide and has a strong place in history too as shown in the beautiful painting The Derby Day by Victorian painter William Powell Frith in 1856-8 clearly recognisable with the white stand pictured where I stood today! As I watched the races unfold I was reminded of just what a team sport this is. The owner and the stables are listed in the Race Programme as you would expect but the acknowledgements continue citing the breeder, the trainer and the sponsor for each horse and that is before the jockey is even mentioned. As you watch the pre-race walk around the parade ring you get a sense of the bigger team as a loving stable junior leads each horse around carefully knowing just the right pat or tug of the rein to keep the horse calm and prepared. There is a lot of passion evident as the large team behind each horse get ready for the big race and every member of that team plays a very special part on the day.
On Thursday evening we all attended an event centred on teamwork. It was our annual Staff and Governor social and this year it was all about games. In the past we have enjoyed evenings featuring Crazy Golf, a Barn Dance, and a Quiz night to name but a few. Staff and Governors join together and get to know each other a little better as well as celebrating another successful school year. This year we had a huge Mad Hatter’s table and we changed seats for every course with hilarious games in between. It really was a team effort and I marvelled at the way the table was cleared, the decorations removed and the washing up was completed seamlessly at the end of the evening by a fabulous group who just got on with it as they talked and laughed about the events of the evening.
Teaching children to engage in teamwork is a vital skill that is rarely mentioned by those seeking to impose rigid assessment programmes in schools. It is a skill that prepares a child for life and is often overlooked because it is hard to measure. St Christopher’s has always been good at valuing teamwork and collaboration. It falls naturally into the Sport and Music curriculum but is less obvious in the classroom. Children working together to problem solve in maths tests the very edge of their collaborating skills and different leaders rise and impress according to the challenge. Philosophy is another lesson relying on teamwork as the children work in groups to formulate a life question arising from the stimulus. It is wonderful to hear the excited chatter from each group as the children identify a possible question and then discuss if it is balanced and accessible.
You cannot build teamwork without first building trust. We have many games and exercises to build trust and indeed promote appreciation of just how valuable team work can be. In adult life, a central question on all references hinges upon whether the candidate is a ‘team player’. As Helen Keller, the famous intellectual who could neither see nor hear and who knew the true value of collaboration said; ‘Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much’.

Annie Thackray