Tougher Minds Head of Education Andrew Foster is more convinced than ever that he knows the one thing that could be done to improve the lives and learning of children in our schools.

The news, emerging around George Osborne’s Budget speech earlier this week, that the school day is set to be extended was largely viewed as a way for pupils to take part in sport, music, drama and other extra-curricular activities that are cited as the means by which independent schools develop character.

Having worked in both state and independent sectors, in the UK and abroad, I have certainly seen the benefit to be gained by taking part in these endeavours outside the classroom. They are not just a means to an end, they have clear intrinsic merit.

However, whilst such activities involve effort and hardship in the short-term for a long-term reward, our brains seek quick fixes and instant gratification. Our society and culture offers these more readily than ever before. If young people are to successfully engage both before and after 3.30pm, they need to get better at countering this challenge.

When Tougher Minds works with schools, we help pupils, and also parents and teachers, develop helpful attentional control. We say that if we H.A.C. our brains, we can resist the temptation to quit, zone out and disengage. We can make the most of our time and opportunities.

What does this look like in practical terms? Our Performance Planner is designed to be used each and every day. It gives the individual the simple and practical means to monitor their sleep, diet and exercise and plan to improve it where required. It helps them to produce a timeline for their day and their evening so these periods go as they would wish rather than as they might drift. To reflect with a positive weighting, so as to maintain both motivation and confidence.

Hundreds of people young and old have reported significant improvements in their health, happiness and performance as a result of adopting this approach. If we are to spend longer at school, let’s give every pupil the chance to purposefully plan and reflect upon how that time is spent.

To learn more about Tougher Minds education programmes and our Personal Performance Planner, click here.

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