Headmaster, Robert Upton, writes a weekly blog post.

The most recent post is below and past posts can be found using the links on this page.

"I Love it When a plan comes together"

To my mind, Hannibal had one of the best teams, albeit that they were all somewhat eccentric in their own ways. One member of the team could not tolerate air travel, although he did drive the team van. One was suave and sophisticated and used his interpersonal skills to source various items for the cause. The third member of the team was unusual in his manner and the leader, Hannibal, always had a plan.  I am, of course, talking about The A Team, a programme I watched every single week as a child.

Teamwork. A definition online suggests it is “cooperative or coordinated effort on the part of a group of persons acting together as a team or in the interests of a common cause”. This is not, however, going to be a post on the merits of working as a team. We know the importance of this and, at Yateley Manor, we place collaboration at the centre of much of the work around PSB. In the future children are going to need to use skills of collaboration more and more as they are expected to work in a variety of teams in the workplace. We believe it is never too soon to teach children the skills of collaboration.

This week I have been struck by the behaviour of individuals within a team. There is a saying that, “There is no I in TEAM”. This is obviously true in terms of the spelling but also the principle. On the slopes of the IAPS Slalom Ski Championships I have been overwhelmed by the individual behaviour of the children from Yateley Manor.

First allow me to provide some context. Twelve children were selected from a squad of over thirty, from five different Year groups, to represent the school at the Championships in Italy: two from Year 4; three from Year 5; three from Year 6; two from Year 7 and two from Year 8. This is interesting in itself because, as in the workplace, at first the children did not have much in common necessarily apart from their love of skiing yet were placed together in a team that needed to perform. We do pride ourselves on the family ethos of the school and from an early stage it was very clear this team would reflect these values, with the older children really supporting the younger ones and acting as role models.

Perhaps more significant in my observations, however, has been the way the children have been treating each other, both on the slopes and off. With any fall on the slopes, as the Yateley Manor snake weaved its way down the piste, the next one or two children skiing behind would always stop to check their team mate was unhurt and to pick up poles or skis. This did not happen across the majority of schools (and there were 23 schools participating with a total of around 230 children).

Off the slopes the children have been equally impressive in their consideration for one another. They have helped each other with boots and equipment. They have supported each other through difficult times with comments of praise. One evening there was a social event with the other schools staying in the hotel. It was noticeable how the children from Yateley Manor arrived as a team and looked after one another, in contrast to the other groups of children who were very much more egocentric in their approach. Even at the Awards Ceremony on the last evening the Yateley Manor team sat as a team, showing respect for one another and those around them.

So what has caused this behaviour in the children of Yateley Manor? I am convinced that part of it is nurture, with high expectations coming from families and school. Brynn Leavitt impressed upon the children from the start of the trip that they were part of a team and the message of looking after each other was reinforced at every opportunity. Furthermore, the children were being pushed to their limits over the week. I am sure they felt vulnerable at times, particularly as they stood at the starting gate, looking down on the abundance of gates they would need to pass.

It is interesting to note that ski competitions, and in particular slalom, have a real mix of the individual and team approach. Every child from Yateley Manor who waited patiently at the top of the course for the gate to open knew theirs was an individual performance. However they also knew that it would count towards the team. I think this is really powerful for children to understand, that their individual performance can affect the entire team.

Throughout history, in difficult times, people have shown great strength collectively when faced with adversity. I understand that during World War Two there was a tangible “coming together” of the country, pulling in against the pressures from the Nazis. With the challenges faced by the children in the team this week it felt very much like this was happening. The children rose to the occasion. The sense of camaraderie was incredible at times. It was a joy to watch.

Can you teach these qualities in children? To some extent I think you can. It is about relationships. In a strong relationship people look out for one another. They show great levels of empathy and they feel the hurt in one another. They know just what to do to brighten up the spirits of the other person and they almost pre-empt difficulties before they occur. I am sure you will have experienced this type of behaviour. I certainly have.

Congratulations to the Yateley Manor Ski Team and to the Squad, for without the rest of the children in the Squad the success of the team would not have been possible.

Robert Upton