From the Head of the Middle School – Summer Hill

From the Head of the Middle School – Summer Hill

There is more in them than they know

Field Studies Programme 3 returns to Summer Hill

In his article of 2 September, Mr Bradley Barr, Deputy Head Master – Summer Hill, made reference to a recent podcast1 wherein clinical psychologist Dr Andrew Fuller discussed the value of young people engaging with challenging situations.

Dr Fuller asserts that a concerning “opt out culture” has developed since the COVID lockdowns of recent times. He explains that some individuals are now more likely to pull back or withdraw from situations they may perceive as being somewhat uncomfortable or somewhat difficult to deal with.2 Stepping into such situations is important for growth. By working through difficult situations, we can learn that it was “not as bad as we thought.” We may develop resilience, a solutions-based focus, and confidence that we can cope with similar events again in the future. Dr Fuller contends that the result of opting out is a “narrowing of one’s sphere of experience”. Avoidance may be reinforced as a coping strategy that becomes more likely to be employed again in future situations that are perceived as similarly uncomfortable.

Dr Fuller suggests some antidotes. He encourages schools to build “strong communities of courage” whereby we encourage bravery, boldness and a sense of adventure in our young people. He further recommends that we need to create opportunities for students to take on challenges that sometimes feel difficult. Furthermore, he advocates for the value of communal actions, those that build community and connectedness, to augment individually-based actions that build self-reliance.

In the podcast, we are reminded of the CPR of wellbeing. That is, people do well when they feel connected, protected and respected in communities.

Today the School welcomed the students from the Field Studies Programme Term 3 residential back to Summer Hill in a special Quad Assembly. The Field Studies Programme is one of many ways in which the school addresses Dr Fuller’s recommendations for building resilient, courageous, bold young men with a sense of adventure. Students are connected, protected and respected in the Field Studies Programme community. These features are enabled through a deliberate programme supported by pastoral tutors and underpinned by principles such as unconditional positive regard for others. Students contribute to the Field Studies community in a diverse range of ways, allowing them opportunities to express their God-given talents.

The Programme is also integral to the School’s mission and ethos. Considering our Christian foundation and orientation, we value respectful relationships. We engage the boys in a breadth of experiences and encourage them to step into challenge as we believe there is more in them than they know. We support each student so that they can engage with the experiences at their point of challenge. The learning gained from deep reflection on the experiences facilitates growth in character. The Programme’s design is deliberate, prioritises safety, and is informed by the evidence contained in literature and our collective and specific experience. We seek to develop the social and emotional skills in our students so that they can cultivate and maintain deep, respectful relationships and navigate life’s inevitable challenges well. Now and in the future.

John Allen | Head of the Middle School

1. Independent Schools Victoria (2022) Getting kids to opt back into life and helping them stay safe online. [Podcast] iSpodcast. 23 August. Available from: [Accessed 19/09/22]
2. This does not seek to capture that which is associated with diagnosed and imputed mental health conditions

Share this post