From the Head - Headmaster's Newsletter 3 February 2020
Boys thrive on a measure of risk. We learn by attempting the impossible, sometimes daft, often silly but always risky endeavours.
Risk is a critical aspect of development in the adolescent, and especially in the male adolescent. At a boys’ school we are always trying to mitigate risk, but with the understanding that a measure of it is crucial to development.
Certain countries have curtailed much of this aspect of boys’ education offerings; inhibiting that which makes this aspect of the boys’ education agenda compelling.
I am aware that there is a public debate that centres around whether our understanding of some of this ‘risk’ activity for boys is drawn from a colonial past, but I would venture that every culture prizes a ‘coming of age’ process that requires a degree of risk-taking. The advent of our digital world has robbed many young people of experiences that require a physical overcoming of fear and anxiety. Activities that draw this out of each young person, and in our context - boys, are integral to our holistic approach to learning and development. A significant part of our programme for this age group, is creating the opportunity for boys to be challenged and to go beyond their comfort zones. Our OLE (Outdoor Leadership Experiences) are designed with this in mind, and our privileged position of enjoying an unparalleled estate and reserve to explore whilst at Hilton makes our knowledge of certain risky adventures something we manage daily.
In light of the Parktown Boys’ High tragedy I thought it prudent to share some of the protocols we adopt when we are engaging in activities that include a measure of risk. One of the tremendous privileges of working at Hilton is the talented staff whom I work alongside; of these are people who have worked in the outdoor activity environment for several years and whose experience is invaluable.
Furthermore, every time our boys get onto a bus to participate in a fixture or attend an event elsewhere, we take on a measure of risk. This is true in our own vehicles too, given the challenges of safety on our roads. We work carefully at mitigating risks associated with this practice and hold our service providers to the highest standards in ensuring our ongoing safety. A number of parents have assisted us with helpful suggestions in ensuring safety and I am especially thankful for their input.
Our practice for any outdoor excursion, such as our Grade 8, 9 and 10 excursions, include an initial detailed Risk Assessment, accompanied by an Off-site Safety Management Plan, for each venue and activity. Support vehicles are always in the vicinity of the boys. We engage WESSA, as a service provider to bolster our expertise and they in-turn engage SATIB to ensure expert and immediate assistance in the case of an emergency. SATIB operates a Critical Incident Management Service which provides us with immediate access to a medical team, security specialists and incident managers who are sought after experts in Africa, and globally, in their handling of complex evacuations and the management of incidents.
We have two adult leaders with each group of boys. Medical conditions, allergies, special dietary requirements and any other relevant information is ascertained and communicated with these group leaders. Any particular conditions that require careful management are specifically highlighted and appropriate management is discussed.
In essence, we make every effort to ensure our boys are safe at all times. We engage in certain activities that require some risk taking, but our behind-the-scenes protocols are thorough and of the highest standards.
We believe that boys need to engage in activities that stretch them and challenge them. We will ensure that these activities are always conducted with the necessary precaution and protocols in place.
My thanks for your ongoing support in this critical aspect of our unique educational offering.