Prior's Field September 2018

The Breakfast Club

Published Thursday 2nd of May 2013 02:11:14 PM

Take a snap shot of most prep schools across the country at 7am and you would find a very familiar picture. Matrons bustling around, opening curtains and rousing sleepy children, who groan, burying their heads under cosy duvets for those precious last few minutes of peace before the day begins again. Twenty minutes later, if all is going to plan, the same children sleepwalk down the stone staircases to the breakfast hall; uniforms slightly awry and feet still bedecked in comedy slippers.
Now zone the lens in on Moor Park Prep School in Ludlow, Shropshire. If you were to look upon the scene at 7am I challenge anybody not to be slightly amazed. For what greets you is the �Breakfast Club�.
At 7am, Moor Park boarders, almost without exception, are running. They are woken and within minutes you can hear the footsteps crunching on the gravel paths that loop around the 300 year-old mansion house. Some children will run nearly 4km each and every morning. Later in the term, those same footsteps will be dashing down to the pool to swim lengths. Parents and grandparents will now be having flashbacks to their own school days and the harsh running punishments dealt out by School Masters at the time. But you only have to look at the faces of these children to work out how they feel about it; the faces are all smiles and laughter rings out across the fields; the same groans and moans sometimes heard on the cross-country course are nowhere to be seen.
The children are responding to a challenge set by Deputy Head, Simon Gedye. The boarders, collectively, will attempt to complete a �Tour of Britain�, beginning in Ludlow and running a route of 1896km, stopping at each capital city along the way. When the children reach the Irish channel, they will switch their running shoes for swim suits and complete the distance across the water in the pool.
The Breakfast Club is voluntary. There are no consequences for not running, except perhaps a slight feeling of �having missed out� when the day�s �champions� are read out and cheered at breakfast. Taking inspiration from the �Tour de France� top runners are presented with a �yellow jersey� to wear whilst running � the ambassadors if you like, inspiring those around them to speed up too.
For the Year 8 girls, about to compete in the National Hockey Championships, fitness is key, and their driving force. We all know thirteen year-old girls are not well known for their enthusiasm in the early morning.
In an age where our youth is surrounded by increasing obesity and computer-driven sloth-like behaviour, these children stand out from the crowd. They are not running for reward or a huge prize. On completion, a hand shake and a rousing applause may be all that some of the children receive. So what is it that makes them drag themselves out of bed each and every morning � even on the chilly, wet ones? My conclusion is this: Moor Park children love a challenge and are intrinsically competitive. Not in a �need to win at all costs� way but in a �come on gang, we can do this� kind of a way.
The challenge isn�t just one of commitment and determination either. As a �preparatory� school we claim to do just that � prepare our children for the next step. And yet we often go out of our way to make things easy, to spoon feed; we are desperate for them not to fail. The Breakfast Club is all about independence. Choice � they run or they don�t. They organise themselves without reminders; running kit has to be up in their dorms, trainers safely stored ready for the morning or they can�t run. Timing is crucial; laps have to be completed, children showered and dressed and down to breakfast by 7.30am or their laps don�t count � no excuses. The lead runner just had a lap deducted for leaving his bed unmade in his haste to get downstairs. We are teaching skills for life here; to achieve something genuinely worthwhile and to feel proud of yourself at the end. To surprise yourself and your parents with what you are capable of.
Last year, the Breakfast Club ran 2012km, taking about 9 weeks. Anybody who remembers last summer�s weather will know that those children ran in such a large amount of rain that the route had to be changed three times due to the mud that the children were creating. The grounds� staff frowned and may even have �humphed� a little, but the boarding team were genuinely bowled over. Every day, they expected the numbers to dwindle and they didn�t.
On Saturday, they will run out of the building and complete their laps in their pyjamas, often with pillows stuffed up their T-shirts for comedy effect. There will be at least one day when the children will run in fancy dress � the site of Batman and Robin running up the path through the morning mist will be strangely familiar and oddly surreal!
Every Prep school seeks to find their USP, something special to tell the prospective parents as they tour around the school. Moor Park�s unique selling point is not the Breakfast Club but the children running it.
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