We hear from Wyche CE Primary School on their trip to Herefordshire residential centre, Oaker Wood, and find out why it has become such a highlight of the school’s year.

One school’s adventures at Oaker Wood

Oaker Wood is a highlight for Year 6 at the Wyche CE Primary School in Malvern; every child who attends the school expects to visit the residential centre during the Autumn Term whilst in their last phase of Primary education.

Year 6 teacher Jon Westwood tells us about their experience of Oaker Wood after their most recent visit:

Explaining the most recent of the annual trips, Jon said: “Our group of Year 6 children visited Oaker Wood spending four days in total, staying at one of the camp sites at the centre. Over the years we have developed a program of activities that suits our aims and requirements from a residential visit.

Talking of the programme, Jon explained: “The programme keeps the children very busy throughout the week providing both physical and mental challenges, but at the heart of the programme is team work and group co-operation. Activities were: crate stacking, tree trekking, pizza making, den building, zip wire, low ropes, paintballing, quad biking, monkey climb, shooting and gladiator challenge.”

Jon noted that the highlight for the majority of children was quad biking but many children enjoyed paintballing, mainly due to the fact that the children hadn’t experienced these activities before. But some of the most rewarding activities are those activities that take children off the ground encouraging them to work together to conquer their fears - high ropes, monkey climb and gladiator challenge.

Along with the adventurous activities the children also fully participate in the running of the camp from keeping the camp fire alight to washing and cleaning up. These roles and responsibilities all add to the experience fostering independence.

With all learning outside of the classroom, teachers are asked to highlight objectives and outcomes when planning educational visits, but the residential aims and objectives are often similar to the ones that rest at the heart of the curriculum. They fall into the following categories: General Ethos, Relating to Self, Relating to Others and Managing Learning.

Speaking of the changes that Oaker Wood has undergone in the past ten years, Jon commented: “Without a doubt each year our residential visit fulfils all of the above. By working alongside the staff at Oaker Wood a varied itinerary is planned with new activities introduced where appropriate. This year we noticed many improvements not only to activities but also to the environment.

“Over the years I have come to notice that there remains a core number of key staff that continue to work at Oaker Wood which I feel is a huge contributing factor to its success and the relationship that has been built between us is second to none.

“During our first few residential visits we camped in tents in the woodland but over the years the camp has gone through several transformations, from tents to yurts to the cabins that are now situated in the woodland. There are two camps to choose from with similar facilities, a kitchen, toilets, showers and plenty of space for the children to explore and play. But one of the key features is the fire pit which children naturally gravitate towards in the morning, between activities and of course at night time.”

Summing up the site, Jon said: “I have visited many outdoor centres over my 20 plus years of teaching but Oaker Wood not only remains a highlight for my Year 6 class it remains a highlight for myself. It now feels like home from home and every class that I take to Oaker Wood expresses a sense of sadness when returning back to school as their experience has been such a positive one.”

Back in the Classroom

Back at school the class continue to utilise the skills they’ve developed at Oakerwood, one of the key elements of the trip is that it is organised at the start of Year 6, essentially bonding the class for their final year at Primary school. Each year parents comment on the transformation of character once the children return from the residential trip concluding that it is an invaluable experience.

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