SOARING SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE
Once heading for the rocks, Outward Bound has a fresh wind in its sails. Ed Douglas reports
I t has been quite a week for Year 12 from Middlesbrough’s Macmillan Academy. Yesterday, they were struggling in the teeth of a gale to reach the summit of Dollywagon Pike in the Lake District. Today, they are gathered around a classroom table in the Outward Bound centre at Ullswater, looking shattered as their group leader, Martin Barratt, guides them through a discussion of an argument two of them had high on Dollywagon. Why did they feel so strongly at that point, he wonders, and what lessons can be learned to avoid future confrontation?
Sally, sprawled in her chair with an expression of perfect sourness on her face, has no doubts. “Don’t climb a mountain,” she says, to much laughter. Then something rather amazing starts to happen. Despite their exhaustion, the youngsters in the group rouse themselves to analyse with surprising emotional maturity the dramas of the previous day.
As part of their discussion, each of the nine students in Barratt’s group takes turns to leave the room while the others discuss his or her strengths and how to improve them. “Big” Tom (as opposed to a fellow student called “Good” Tom) is admired for taking the contents of strugglers’ rucksacks and putting them in his own, without prompting from a teacher or instructor. But the group feels Big Tom should be more forthright in articulating his ideas, rather than going along with the majority.
Big Tom is called back and told these observations. He smiles shyly.
Slogging up mountains in Cumbria in the rain in a bright red cagoule may seem oldschool in an era of ubiquitous electronic entertainment and paranoia about the safety of children, but the pendulum shows signs of swinging back. Outdoor learning initiatives (such as the Forest Schools) are growing in popularity. And the runaway success of The Dangerous Book for Boys shows how many of us yearn for a more robust and natural upbringing for our children. Television, too, has been quick to cash in, with shows such as Boot Camp and even I’m A Celebrity…
Kurt Hahn, the celebrated educationalist who co-
Joy of the great outdoors: an Outward Bound student at Ullswater in the Lake District