A recent poll has suggested that the majority of adults believe children today go on fewer school expeditions and trips than when they were at school – with the cost highlighted as the main reason for the decline
A survey commissioned by academy trust Bohunt Education Trust (BET) has found that only 10 per cent of people believe that children today have more outdoor education opportunities than they had in their school years, with nearly three‑quarters of people (71 per cent) blaming cost as the biggest factor stopping children experiencing outdoor education.
Some 72 per cent of those surveyed called for a greater focus on outdoor education in both primary and secondary schools – more than three-quarters of people (78 per cent) said outdoor education was important for children’s self-development, and more than two-thirds (68 per cent) said it improved academic achievement.
This tallies with a study by the Education Endowment Foundation last month, which said that: “Overall, studies of adventure learning interventions consistently show positive benefits on academic learning. On average, pupils who participate in adventure learning interventions make approximately four additional months’ progress over the course of a year.
There is also evidence of an impact on non-cognitive outcomes such as self-confidence. The evidence suggests that the impact is greater for more vulnerable and older learners (teenagers), longer courses (more than a week), and those in a ‘wilderness’ setting, though other types of intervention still show some positive impacts.”
Championing outdoor education
Bohunt Education Trust (BET), one of the country’s top‑performing academy trusts, is a leading proponent of outdoor education. It champions an extensive outdoor education and outdoor learning programme for all its students, nurturing talents and providing opportunities both inside and outside the classroom. BET sees outdoor education as crucial to building well-rounded individuals, for resilience, character and teamwork, as well as beneficial for academic attainment.
Bohunt is a course provider for Mountain Training UK and students across their seven schools have in recent years gone on expeditions to Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Greenland and the Himalayas, with ones planned next year and in 2019 to Norway, Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Greenland, the Himalayas and Sri Lanka. The Trust also has a strong commitment to the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, while at Bohunt School in Wokingham, climbing is incorporated into the curriculum.
Crucially, the Trust also ensures that outdoor education is available for all its students, regardless of background. Better‑off students are expected to fundraise, with the expeditions programme scheduled three years in advance, allowing families to plan. All students receiving the Pupil Premium are provided with bursaries, so that every student who wants to go on a trip can do so.
Opportunities for everyone
Phil Avery, director of education at Bohunt Education Trust (BET), said: “We are incredibly proud to be not just promoting but proactively championing meaningful outdoor education opportunities for our students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“At Bohunt we really invest in these opportunities, providing bursaries for our poorer students so that they can still go on the trips and expeditions, because they provide so much benefit for young people. They help their self‑development, communication and resilience, and instils a sense of adventure and challenge which prepares students for success in life. Additionally, external studies and our own data show there is a strong link between academic attainment and outdoor education.
“It is a real shame that outdoor education opportunities have decreased for many young people but we are proud to be one of the leading providers of outdoor education in the country, and given the positive impact of such opportunities on children and young people, we are keen to work with other schools, academy trusts and education providers to ensure that more students have access to outdoor learning.”
SAILING THE SEAS
Last spring, students from Bohunt Wokingham teamed up with three other schools in the Bohunt Education Trust (BET) to set sail on a seven day voyage.
The voyage began at the Royal Harwich Yacht Club, Ipswich, navigating the River Stour, Brightling Sea and visiting Chatham Marina.
This voyage was the first of its kind for BET, engaging students with first-hand experience of what it takes to sail and crew a yacht. Students were able to learn helming, sail handling, rope work, passage planning and the safety that is required onboard.
All students took an active role as crew ensuring that duties above and below deck were completed. Tasks included keeping a look out, helming, hauling on ropes to raise the sails, in addition to galley duties to keep the crew fed and watered. They quickly learnt that teamwork and communication was vital in getting the tasks done.
The students, joined by three other schools across the Trust – Bohunt Worthing, Bohunt School Liphook and The Petersfield School, worked in three teams known as ‘Watches’ to sail the yacht as part of their extensive Outdoor Education Programme. Students aged between 11-15 years took on roles such as Watch Leaders and Anchor Watch. Passage planning was one of the more difficult tasks to complete as a team, as it required a thorough understanding of the tidal patterns in the region, topography, weather conditions and the wind direction to enable a viable navigational route. The students quickly grasped that navigational charts were like a mathematical problem and, using the nautical almanac, yacht’s navigation equipment and weather information system the students were able to plot a suitable passage plan.
All students had the opportunity to work towards the Royal Yachting Association Start Yachting qualification, with five students exceeding expectations and receiving their Royal Yachting Association Competent Crew certificates.
This experience was part of BET’s vision for outdoor education to help students develop responsibility, resilience and independence. Students have a structured programme of adventurous activities, encouraging individuals to explore, dream and discover, which begins in Year 7 and goes right through to Year 11.