Groups meet three times each year for the excursions. These experiences are three-fold and are always combined with philosophical enquiry and dialogue:
1. Profession-based inspiration: children will build relationships with various professionals who they may not otherwise encounter. This could include Lawyers, Scientists, Artists, Journalists or Professors. The philosophers will engage them in discussions important in these areas such as stem cell research, the value of art or journalistic integrity.
2. Culturally-orientated activities: the students will be taken to concerts, theatre, dance, musical activities with the aim of opening up participation and possibilities in these areas. Again activities will be combined with enquiry and discussion.
3. Citizen-based activities: Engaging children in key elements of their society will also be a main factor in the programme. This would mean visiting key institutions such as the Houses of Parliament and Royal Courts of Justice and engaging in enquiries into free speech, the justice and political systems.
The groups are made up of children from different schools, and the aim is to keep them together from Year 6, all the way through their secondary education. This is in order to bridge the transition period which is particularly tough for many children, and to allow the peer and mentor support to continue through periods where they face many significant choices. Lewisham is in the top four worst performing boroughs for post 16 education, and for the proportion of children on free-school-meals (pupil premium) not achieving target standard at the age of 16. Children will be put forward for the programme by their teachers, based on a knowledge of their background and potential.
The Drapers’ Company kindly gave us £5,000 funding towards a pilot of the programme, which will run up until Autumn 2016. We are seeking further funding from Trusts, Foundations and Businesses to continue to offer this programme to disadvantaged students in Lewisham on a long-term basis.