ASDAN's Excelsis Award, which was created in partnership with the Independent Schools Association. This activity-based learning and skills development programme is particularly focused on extra-curricular activities. The award is available to all schools at Foundation (ages 11–14), Intermediate (14–16) and Higher (post-16) levels, over 50 or 100 hours.
Schools are already reporting positive feedback from both pupils and teachers, who really enjoy the idea of linking extra-curricular activities to skills development and getting a nationally recognised certificate at the end. For those heading off to university this can be especially important, as ASDAN programmes are specifically referenced in the ‘What to Include’ section of the UCAS application guidance.
So far, schools are running the award at all three levels in the UK and the first international school in Hong Kong has begun the programme. Other Hong Kong schools are expected to follow soon, along with centres in China and Singapore. One exciting innovation is the Gifted and Talented module, which can be used by high calibre students across the educational spectrum.
Island School, based in Hong Kong, has always encouraged students to engage in wider educational experiences through creative, physical or community service activities. The Excelsis Award is being trialled with 20 students, and staff believe it will provide students with the chance to develop their leadership skills and reflect on what they are learning from these types of activities.
Kevin Lester, senior head of house at the school, said: “Given the diversity of students and the activities they’re taking part in, this programme’s flexibility – while still providing a common framework – seems to be the ideal way of helping students to develop their skills.
“Developing students’ leadership qualities is a key focus for house staff and the award supports this aim. It also provides other students with the opportunity to develop mentoring skills as each Excelsis student has been allocated a sixth-form mentor to support them as they undertake the award. All of the students are currently collaborating on a quiz evening as a community project and it is great to see how they are engaging in the process and how this is infectious for the other students.
“One aspect that I like is that Excelsis not only rewards what students are doing but also provides some stimulus for other ideas and opportunities. For example, one student might know that they are very good at sports but can recognise that there may be more they can do in community service. Asking the students to reflect on their own engagement may encourage others to do the same.”