The benefits of 'the breakfast club'

Posted on 15th Mar 2016 in Prep Schools Guide, School News

Katie Gedye shares Moor Park’s approach to energising students in the morning, whilst also allowing them to discover valuable lessons...

Take a snapshot of most prep schools across the country at 7 am and you would find a very familiar picture: matrons and prefects would be bustling around, opening curtains and trying to rouse sleepy children, who, as children, want to roll over and pull the duvet back over their head!

However, at Moor Park Prep School in Shropshire, the boarding team pride themselves on trying to do things a little differently and the morning routine is no exception. At 7 am every morning of the summer term, the boarders don their trainers and running kit, tear out of the front door and embark on ‘The breakfast club’.

The children respond each year to challenges set by Deputy Head, Simon Gedye, who tasks them, with collectively attempting to run miles, climb mountains and tour the world (metaphorically, of course!)! Although each year has a slightly different theme, the challenge remains the same; to get up and run two laps of the school every morning that you board. If children achieve the feat, Mr Gedye offers the elixir of prizes: breakfast in bed served by the Headmaster and his wife!

The boarders are invited to run at least 1km before breakfast. But Moor Park pupils rarely stick to the bare minimum in anything they do: many boarders clock up over 3km each and every morning. The turn out on Saturday mornings was regularly 100% with over 100 boarders running. However, this may have had more to do with the children being allowed to run in their pajamas and occasionally in fancy dress.

Often the theme requires a ‘water leg’, for example when they were ‘crossing the North Sea’ on their tour around Britain. Undeterred, and always up for anything, the children swapped their trainers for a swimsuit and dashed to the pool to swim lengths.

Parents and grandparents will now be having flashbacks to their own school days. To freezing cold, outdoor pools and harsh running punishments dealt out by stern school masters. But you only have to look at the faces of the children here to work out how they feel about this adventure. Each and every child who takes part loves it. Despite not always finding it easy to get out from under the duvet, the sense of achievement by the end is always worth it.

The breakfast club is voluntary. There are no consequences for not running, except perhaps a feeling of ‘having missed out’ when the champions of the day are cheered at breakfast. Taking inspiration from the Tour de France, the top runners were presented with yellow jerseys to wear whilst running – the ambassadors, if you like, inspiring those around them to speed up too. Each week they, in turn, nominated the next two and so on, until by the end over a dozen children were all proudly running in their yellow breakfast club t shirts.

For the Year 8 girls, who have, in previous years, competed at both county and national level, fitness was always going to be their driving force. Teenagers, however, are not renowned for their enthusiasm early in the mornings. Even during their common entrance exams, when staff thought they would relish a few extra moments under the duvet, the children ran, finding that a little exercise first thing in the morning was a great way to start the day.

As a Prep School, Moor Park tries to do just that – prepare the children for the next step. And yet, we often go out of our way to make things easy for the children – we are desperate for them not to fail. The breakfast club teaches them about commitment, determination and so much more. Firstly, to make an independent choice – they run or they don’t. They have to organise themselves without reminders; if their kit isn’t ready up in their dorms by bedtime, they can’t run. Time keeping is crucial; laps have to be completed and the children showered and dressed and at breakfast by 7.30 am or the laps don’t count – no excuses. It is not unheard of for runners vying for the top spot to have had laps deducted for leaving their bed unmade in their haste to get downstairs.

Through the breakfast club, the boarding staff are teaching skills for life and that the most worthwhile achievements don’t come easy; they require effort and commitment. The children, year on year, surprise themselves and their parents with what they are capable of.
On completion, the champion runners always look forward to their breakfast in bed with great relish – often trying to order seconds from the Headmaster before their luck runs out. However, for most of the children it isn’t about the reward or a huge prize; many only receive applause in recognition of their efforts. So what is it that gets them out of bed each morning – even on the chilly wet ones? I think it is this – Moor Park children love a challenge, want to be outdoors more than indoors and are intrinsically competitive. Not in a ‘win at all costs’ kind of a way but in a ‘come on, everyone, we can do this’ kind of a way.

Every Prep School seeks to find their unique selling point, their ‘something special’ to tell the parents as they tour around the school. Moor Park’s unique selling point is not the breakfast club, but the children running it.

Katie Gedye is Head of Lower School and Houseparent at Moor Park Prep School
For more information about Moor Park, see their profile on School Search.