“Cometh the hour, cometh the man”: a new leadership development programme at St Andrew’s College, Grahamstown
By Alan Redfern
A question asked repeatedly in our staffroom at St Andrew’s College in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape – and I am sure in staffrooms of boys’ schools across the country – is: “What kind of men are we sending out into the world, and what skills and values should they be equipped with?”
In a school that celebrates the core educational values and attributes of honesty, confidence, independence, service, hard work, tenacity, humility, friendship and “doing the best you can”, we have to ask ourselves continually: “What are we doing to instil these values and attributes in our boys, and how can we improve the way in which we do these things?”
In our view, equipping our boys with the appropriate leadership skills is key in ensuring that we fulfil our mandate of preparing young men to be effective citizens in our developing democracy.
Building on a sound foundation
The Leading Edge programme has been established to formalise the teaching of leadership in our school and drive it to a new level within a mentoring paradigm. There is no doubt that St Andrew’s College has, over the past 160 years, developed a curriculum which exposes our boys to numerous styles of leadership and opportunities to learn to lead. We have a very proud legacy of Old Boys who have made enormous contributions as leaders in all spheres of South African society. However, we realise that our leadership curriculum needs to keep apace with the ever-shifting social landscape that our boys will be forced to engage with once they have left school. For this reason, our leadership curriculum needs to be formalised, and we believe strongly that we need to be “teaching leadership” at all levels and in all aspects of school life, consciously focusing on the knowledge, attitudes, skills and values that our boys will need to possess.
Partnering with Rhodes University Business School
With this in mind, we have entered into a relationship with Rhodes University Business School1 to assist us in developing a leadership programme that we feel will better prepare our boys to meet the demands of leadership in the 21st century.
The programme involves 20 volunteer members of St Andrew’s staff, who are attending a series of lectures and workshops specifically designed to address issues around leadership development. These lectures, known collectively as The Leading Edge Programme, are aimed at equipping the staff to make informed decisions about the nature of the components to be included in the design of a leadership development programme. This will enable them to articulate a coherent set of leadership beliefs and behaviours aligned with the core values of St Andrew’s College, and then to design and coordinate an integrated set of leadership development activities that will assist in producing the desired outcomes.
Make meaningful changes and treasure tradition
One of the major implementation challenges those participating in the Leading Edge programme must face is making meaningful changes to our pupil leadership structures without undermining the traditional cornerstones within our school. As a boarding school, we remain committed to empowering senior boys to be involved in the management and administration of our boarding houses. Whilst this may not be seen as a pure leadership role, it does require high levels of responsibility and accountability from these boys. We are planning to continue to expand our mentorship training programme to include boys in Grade 11, along with making the execution of this programme the responsibility of the Grade 12 boys.
Infusing the whole curriculum
A key part of the programme will be to rearrange the Life Orientation programme in Grades 8, 9 and 10. This will free up dedicated time during the school day in Grade 10 to replace Life Orientation with leadership teaching. The team is investigating setting up a leadership centre on the school premises, coordinated by a member of staff tasked with driving leadership development at all levels. The content and method of instruction in the Grade 10 year group will form a major focus for the Leading Edge development team.
Interventions at Grade 8 and 9 levels will also be developed and formalised, mainly focusing on the individual and teaching the concept of “leading yourself ” by addressing many of the perennial issues faced by these young teenagers. The focus in Grades 11 and 12 will be on leadership in action, and will ensure that we create meaningful opportunities for boys to lead.
The programme will reach across all aspects of our curriculum, taking into consideration all areas for leadership development – including academic activities, sport, culture, community partnerships, the President’s Award programme2 and our extensive Grade 10 Journey3 and outdoor activity programme.
Looking forward to 2017
If this programme is to meet with success, it is imperative that (a) we create a credible system of leadership positions that the boys will aspire to; and (b) that we formulate a programme that is valued highly within the community and which is attainable by all boys. The formative thinking is leaning towards a system that requires pupils to fulfil certain criteria in Grades 10, 11 and 12.
We look forward to implementing the first phases of the programme at the beginning of 2017.
1. See: http://www.ru.ac.za/businessschool/.
2. See: https://www.presidentsaward.co.za/.
3. See: http://www.sacschool.com/outdoor-education/grade-10-fish-river-journey/.