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Innovative new scheme takes outdoor adventure into Welsh classrooms

Credit: Outward Bound Trust

The Outward Bound Trust is forging ahead with exciting new plans to take its outdoor adventures directly into Welsh classrooms, to ensure young people don’t miss out on outdoor learning cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around 155 schools usually visit Outward Bound’s Aberdovey centre for a week-long outdoor learning and adventure residential each year. But as overnight residentials aren’t currently possible, the charity has been looking at innovative new ways to support young people with adventurous outdoor experiences, immersing young people in nature and helping them to develop key skills including resilience, self-confidence and positivity.

From this week, instructors are joining Welsh schools on a weekly basis throughout the autumn, offering new outdoor learning experiences, which start within the school grounds and build up to local adventures.

The first schools to take advantage of this are those closest to Outward Bound’s Aberdovey centre, where staff are supporting more than 388 primary and secondary children from schools in southern Snowdonia. The charity then plans to extend this work to more schools across the county and the rest of the UK.

This initial support for schools and young people has been made possible through funding from AkzoNobel.

Martin Cooper, Director of Learning and Adventure at The Outward Bound Trust said: “At Outward Bound we never sit back and say we can’t. It’s just not in our DNA. If pupils are not able to come on residentials at Outward Bound this autumn, then we will go to them!”

“COVID-19 has brought many challenges to the education system, from the isolation many children felt during lockdown to the worry of how schools can open safely. Critically each child has had a very different experience, for some safe and enjoyable and for others challenging or traumatic.

“Outward Bound’s mission is to help young people see what they are truly capable of, to believe in themselves, to be more than they think. We saw an opportunity to use our experience of working with young people to help schools as part of their recovery curriculums, to adapt to new ways of working and to support young people as they adjust to life back in the classroom after so many months away.”

Jennifer Bradbury, Headteacher at Ysgol Craig y Deryn, says, “The impact has been immediate – having dedicated Outward Bound instructors in school is definitely helping our pupils to develop the skills they need to face an ever-changing world. It is a fantastic opportunity for our children to have fun outside and to address some of the emotional uncertainties of the past few months. Key skills they are learning include resilience, confidence and self-belief, as well as a willingness to try new things. All of these qualities are so important to our pupils right now.”

All activities support the National Curriculum and will adhere to government safety guidelines. As soon as restrictions allow, Welsh pupils will also be able to travel to Outward Bound’s Aberdovey site for bigger adventures to support their learning.

Alistair McAuley, Managing Director at AkzoNobel, commented: “Now more than ever, kids and young people need the help and support to build their resilience, and it is great to see the Outward Bound Trust back doing what they do best, even if in different surroundings this Autumn!

“Here at AkzoNobel we are massively proud to be part of The Outward Bound Trust’s network and supporting them to weather the storm of 2020.  The value of being a true partner in a CSR relationship is to support the charity in what they do best, staying true to their mission and  like many business relationships over the last few months we have tried to remain committed,  but flexible in our approach with them as they find a way to realise their role in this new normal.  

“This has resulted in our annual bursary being reapportioned to support new work they are doing with schools local to their centres, and beyond and look forward to seeing their outdoor adventure courses return to their centres soon”.