Get the kids to go out­side and they will learn more about them­selves

Martin David­son ex­tols the virtues of Bril­liant Res­i­den­tials in build­ing con­fi­dence among young peo­ple

The Scotsman - - Friends Of The Scotsman -

The ad­van­tages to young peo­ple of out­door ad­ven­ture and ed­u­ca­tion have be­come widely ac­knowl­edged in re­cent years, as ev­i­dence has mounted about the pos­i­tive ad­van­tages high qual­ity ex­pe­ri­ences can bring.

Amongst the ben­e­fits are in­creased con­fi­dence, closer bonds with peers and teach­ers, greater re­silience, lead­er­ship skills and higher aca­demic achieve­ment. The re­search also shows that at key mo­ments in a child’s school ca­reer, such as the tran­si­tion from pri­mary to sec­ondary school or that of leav­ing school for work or fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion, demon­strat­ing a range of ‘soft skills’ can sig­nif­i­cantly help a young per­son’s life chances.

From 2008 to 2015, 60 schools in the UK took part in a project, Learn­ing Away, aimed at sup­port­ing the schools to sig­nif­i­cantly en­hance young peo­ple’s learn­ing achieve­ments us­ing in­no­va­tive res­i­den­tial ex­pe­ri­ences.

The ini­tia­tive, funded by the Paul Ham­lyn Foun­da­tion, de­vel­oped new mod­els of res­i­den­tials, in­clud­ing some co-con­structed in part­ner­ship with out­door providers. Each part­ner­ship had a dis­tinct iden­tity and fo­cused on dif­fer­ent chal­lenges, whether it was cul­tural co­he­sion, aca­demic at­tain­ment or rais­ing as­pi­ra­tions.

The pro­gramme de­vel­oped the con­cept of ‘bril­liant res­i­den­tials’, and this was in­de­pen­dently as­sessed in 2012. The eval­u­a­tion found com­pelling ev­i­dence that high qual­ity res­i­den­tial learn­ing can im­pact pos­i­tively on stu­dents of all ages and can help de­liver whole school change.

At the Out­ward Bound Trust, we have been in­volved in pro­vid­ing top qual­ity out­door res­i­den­tial ex­pe­ri­ences for more than 75 years and we have helped ad­vance re­search on the long and short term im­pacts for young peo­ple. We con­stantly eval­u­ate our cour­ses and we know that there are huge ben­e­fits for young peo­ple in ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the out­doors with their peers.

A ques­tion for us and for sim­i­lar providers, is whether res­i­den­tials in the win­ter are any dif­fer­ent from those in the sum­mer. Af­ter all, it is one thing to climb a moun­tain or jump into a loch in the sum­mer sun­shine and quite an­other to do so in the freez­ing cold, wind and driv­ing rain. Our par­tic­i­pa­tion in the ‘bril­liant res­i­den­tials’ pro­gramme helped us fo­cus on de­vel­op­ing our win­ter res­i­den­tial cour­ses even fur­ther.

One no­table suc­cess story is that of Newquay Trethar­ras School in Corn- wall. As Trether­ras is in the far south­west of Eng­land, it rarely gets any snow or re­ally cold win­ter weather, so six years ago Trethar­ras be­gan of­fer­ing its sixth form stu­dents the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend our win­ter course in Loch Eil in the High­lands.

The course pro­vides a very dif­fer­ent kind of land­scape and weather as a con­text for per­sonal and char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment through de­vel­op­ing ad­vanced out­door skills .

The stu­dents pre­pare with class­room-based the­ory be­fore the ex­pe­di­tion as they need to be thor­oughly com­mit­ted to, and knowl­edge­able about, the chal­lenge. Teach­ers use the 17-hour jour­ney from Corn­wall to Scot­land to so­lid­ify learn­ing, en­cour­age group bond­ing and to re­view the course on the re­turn jour­ney.

The group learn win­ter sur­vival tips and prac­tice us­ing ice axes, and par­tic­i­pate in a mini-ex­pe­di­tion where ev­ery­one digs a snow hole in which they sleep out un­der the stars. This is the crux of the ex­pe­ri­ence – be­ing out in the el­e­ments overnight. A cer­tifi­cate-award­ing cer­e­mony and a meal at the base of Ben Ne­vis to cel­e­brate the group’s achieve­ments marks the end of the course. An im­por­tant part of the process is to em­bed learn­ing and to recog­nise what the stu­dents have achieved.

To­tal im­mer­sion in the rugged Scot­tish win­ter land­scape pro­vides the stu­dents with a strong sense of self­con­fi­dence, en­gage­ment and mo­ti­va­tion.

At the Trust, we be­lieve that big ad­ven­ture and high chal­lenge brings deeper learn­ing. Win­ter res­i­den­tial cour­ses of­fer deeper learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause the abil­ity to work

as a team and go up a moun­tain and back safely is even more impressive when this oc­curs dur­ing in­clement weather con­di­tions. Th­ese are sig­nif­i­cant skills and life lessons to gain.

For more in­for­ma­tion on Learn­ing Award and the Bril­liant Res­i­den­tials cam­paign see http://learning­away.org.uk/res­i­den­tials/ and #Bril­liantres­i­den­tials. To hear more about The Out­ward Bound Trust’s work con­tact Martin David­son at martin.david­son@out­ward­bound.org.uk. Martin David­son is di­rec­tor of The Out­ward Bound Trust.

0 Pupils from Newquay Trethar­ras School swap the balmy climes of Corn­wall for the snow and chill of a Scot­tish moun­tain in win­ter, help­ing to build team skills and self-con­fi­dence

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