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From Ballroom to Classroom: Instilling Values the Strictly Way

I’ve really enjoyed the opening few weeks of this year’s Strictly Come Dancing. Settling down as a family to watch Tess and Claudia introduce the professionals and celebrities has become a bit of a ritual for our family over the years, and the opening theme to each Saturday night live show (good old Dave Arch) thereby offers both excitement and comfort in equal measure. It’s a show with a simple format but which – if you look a little closer – offers some important messages and promotes some important values. Look closer still and you’ll find that the messages and values of this BBC favourite are ones that should be being mirrored in all really good schools, too. And its these 8 key components of Strictly Come Dancing which go right to the heart of my half-term message.

Firstly, Inclusivity and Diversity. Whether it’s last year’s all-female couple, this year’s male-male couple, or – for example – the remarkable feat of an entirely-deaf celebrity dancing with such assured rhythm, Strictly finds a way to include all manner of dancers and couples. Good on them. Children need to see and applaud the celebrating of difference if they are to be the next cohort of (and one day leaders of) a genuinely diverse society underpinned by a culture of acceptance, tolerance, awareness and compassion.

Strictly takes its celebrities out of their Comfort Zone. Athletes, actors, chefs, presenters, politicians – they are all encouraged and supported to leave behind ‘what they know’ and to try something new. And to do it publicly. That is such an important message for all pupils, too: schools are safe places where that remarkable mix of inspiration, expertise, opportunity and encouragement allows children to step outside of their comfort zones and to find and reach their potential.

The stars of Strictly make remarkable progress, and it is Hard Work that propels them on their journey. The behind-the-scenes VTs we see of tired and sweaty celebs in their daily rehearsals sends a powerful message: you need to work hard if you are to show the best of yourself. It is no accident that, of the 9 ECS Habits displayed around the School and in all of our literature, the Habit of Hard Work is first on the list.

Also in our list of 9 ECS Habits is the Habit of Having a Go and Keeping Going. Tenacity, stickability, resilience – call it what you will – is a key part of the dancers’ journey on Strictly. We see them fall, we see them stumble, we see routines going wrong, we see poor performances and low scores. And yet we see them get up, we see them regain their composure, we see them go again, we see them improve, we see them come back next week determined to give it another shot. It’s so important for children to see adults failing and bouncing back.

Strictly affords its contestants the chance to Learn From Experts: with the celebrities every step of the way are their professional partners.  Listening, being humble, taking on board constructive criticism, and responding positively to advice from those who are more experienced and knowledgeable is an aptitude that all of us need to have, and pupils in good schools are afforded the same opportunities to listen and learn from the very best.

It is hard to watch Strictly without feeling a warm glow at the Positivity and Kindness that flows throughout the show. Unlike other reality shows, those taking part urge others onwards and will them to succeed. They applaud one another, they celebrate each other’s successes, they cheer for each other. That’s an important message for young people, too: build each other up, compete but don’t belittle, do your best and let others do the same. Cheering each other on: it’s what strong communities do.

And, of course, each week we witness the dancers’ Performance. Having the confidence and the encouragement to stand up in front of others and perform (in our case at ECS sing, recite, act, play, debate, express) is a skill we want all of our pupils to develop during their ECS careers. After all, we’ve been promoting the art of performing for over 900 years – and it’s important that children get to see performance (with its hard work, its keeping going, its learning from experts, its fun) in the spotlight.

With its glitter ball, bright lights and sequins, Strictly certainly bring the Sparkle to our living rooms. Good schools should always seek to add a bit of extra ‘sparkle’ to their pupils’ lives: put simply, we want each of our pupils to know that we think they are fab-u-lous.

So – my half-term message to anyone who will hear it is simple: #BeMoreStrictly.

16 October 2021
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