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Headmaster's Blog - The Benefits of a Gap Year

Well, the summer is finally here and we’re all looking forward to a few weeks of ‘r & r’ with our friends and families. For those who have endured weeks of work and exams, the gift of totally free time must feel incredibly precious! As I wander around the campus and catch up with students, it’s lovely to hear of plans being made for trips, both near and far. Festivals certainly seem to be a popular option with our students this summer (watch out Staffordshire’s V Festival)! For those who hope to extend that summer feeling by taking a gap year, how can they ensure it’s a valuable experience, and not time wasted?

As a parent, I can only imagine the feeling of panic which must descend as you wave your child off to some far flung place to travel or volunteer. But once you’ve agreed the ground rules – personal safety, financial limitations, staying healthy and keeping in touch (please) - there are many benefits to be gained.

A well-planned gap year can really help a student stand out from the crowd. University admissions departments value the independence and initiative which underlies a gap year, and the research, preparation, organisation and financial management which it demands. Certainly, a student who has spent a year away from mum and dad (and, let’s face it, outside of the Bloxham bubble), will be more mature and ready to cope with the rigours of university life. They will have a more open mind, having been exposed to new cultures and people from other backgrounds, and, after a year of adventure, be more ready to knuckle down to study.

For employers, a gap year can represent enhanced communication skills and resilience, and determination to succeed alone. There are many internships and voluntary roles for which to apply which can really sharpen a CV. That’s never been more important: according to High Fliers Research, the number of graduate jobs is set to rise to a seven-year high... but almost four in 10 of the posts will only be open to applicants with previous internship experience. So work experience, and the skills it helps a young person develop, really do count.

For some young people, a gap year can be the making of them – a trip-of-a-lifetime that sees them come of age. Planning is critical, and a balance of travel, service and work are surely key to making it count. If you’re stuck, our own Dr Claire Evans can help with advice; and failing that, might be worth a visit!

Helen, the children and I are off to Pembrokeshire this summer; a place so traditional, we’re guaranteed not to bump into any students! We’re looking forward to exploring the beaches and to enjoying an old-fashioned bucket-and-spade holiday together. Wherever you are going, may I wish a happy, healthy time.