IB has been on the curriculum at Taunton School for 10 years and CAS (Community Activity and Service) is a cornerstone of the programme. Talking to IB students highlights the value that they place on this component – not necessarily at the time, but certainly in the future: ‘CAS was not something I really appreciated until much later – after university, and well into professional life. From where I stand now, it was incredibly valuable’.

With a well-established games, music, drama, public speaking programme and a wealth of other clubs, all TS students have plenty of opportunity to fulfil the activity component of CAS. Where we are looking to expand is with the community and service opportunities because of the benefits that come with these.

So what are the benefits? Most service opportunities teach students essential school — and life — skills like “long-range planning, working in groups, interacting with people who are different from themselves, and defining and solving complex problems.” Students who volunteer are also challenged to work out how to manage their own time and are empowered to do something that makes a difference. It instils a sense of compassion, it helps them to appreciate their own good fortune.

This year at Taunton School we have begun a process that has expanded, and will continue to expand, the volunteering opportunities for all of our students. They have been decorating rooms to house people in need at Taunton Association for the Homeless, they have been working with disabled people at Somerset Disabled Sports, they have been doing conservation work at Stover, they have been spending time with the elderly at Dunkirk House Care Home and we are exploring the opportunity to send some students into a local school to assist with Mandarin and Maths. We have had a large number of sixth form trained as event stewards and they have begun taking part in charitable events around the West Country. We are confident that this is just the beginning. The enthusiasm for volunteering amongst our students is encouragingly large and, increasingly, they will make a difference to the lives of others. The feedback from our students who have been involved so far is that it has been great fun … yet another reason for getting involved. Next year, those who trained as ‘Event Stewards’ with the Volunteer Network will have the opportunity to train as ‘Team Leaders’ and then possibly even as ‘Event Managers’. All of this is fantastic experience and will definitely benefit them later in their careers, be that at university or in work. The one thing that employers all like to see that is most difficult to obtain at the start of a career is experience. Students involved with these activities will all have something to talk about. It is an exciting time and I hope there will be more to report next year.

Mike Cook
Global and Community, TS