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Tanglin’s award programme for children honours innovation and leadership

Encouraging communication, innovation, leadership, cooperation, pride and achievement in nine, ten and eleven year olds is no mean feat. Earlier this year, Tanglin Trust Junior School launched the High Commissioner Award (HCA) to provide opportunities for children in Years 5 and 6 to explore their potential both in and outside the classroom. 

The HCA was the brainchild of teachers Peter O’Brien and Anna Lees. As a teenager, Anna loved completing the Duke of Edinburgh Award. Peter was a Boys’ Brigade and Cub Scouts member throughout primary school. “We were both keen for younger children to have similar experiences that encompass physical, academic and skills-based challenges,” explains Anna. Peter adds: “We felt it was an opportunity to create something for the children that encompassed Tanglin’s values of inquiry, knowledge, communication, open-mindedness, caring, risk-taking, balance and reflection.”

The Silver Award programme began in February 2012 with a mix of Year 5 and 6 children and was run by Peter and Anna. This month, the Gold Award will be launched for Year 6 children (aged 10 to 11) and will run until January 2013, before the Silver Award cycle for Year 5 (ages nine to 10) begins again in February 2013.

Each award comprises four elements – residential, skill, community service and junior enterprise – and the children spend an hour a week over 14 weeks completing these elements. The residential element of the Silver Award includes a stay on Pulau Ubin learning survival skills and caring for the environment. The older children taking part in the Gold Award spend four days working with the charity Caring for Cambodia in Siem Reap helping to rebuild homes and dig trenches to prevent flooding.

Life skills like first aid techniques, nutrition and cooking are taught to Silver Award participants, while Gold Award participants learn how to plan lessons and games for their time with the Cambodian children. They also learn basic sign language ahead of their community service working with children from the Singapore School for the Deaf. For their community service element, the younger children work with special needs children from the Genesis School.

Enterprise is an important part of life at Tanglin Trust School (see page 157, Expat Living May 2012) so the HCA sees the children making craft items to raise funds for non-profit organisations.

Independent improvement through goal setting and self-directed learning are at the heart of the HCA, allowing children to see what difference they can make to themselves and others. They can also choose to work on another skill in their own time such as improving a sporting or musical skill.

A group of Senior School students, who are completing their CAS (Creativity Action Service) and NYAA (National Youth Achievement Award), support the junior students in each session by planning activities, assisting with the first aid session, accompanying the group to the Genesis School, and leading games at the end of sessions. As positive role models, they also inspire the children to continue their good work and develop their skills by completing the CAS award when they are older.

The High Commissioner has been extremely supportive of the awards and invited all the participants in this year’s Silver Award to Eden Hall for a celebration evening. The children were presented with the HCA certificate and a pin badge to wear each day.