Tile Cross Academy in Birmingham shares its recent experience at the UKSA’s Sea.Change Foundation course on the Isle of Wight. 

United Kingdom Sailing Academy (UKSA) recently welcomed its first students from Tile Cross Academy to undertake its pioneering Sea.Change Foundation course from its facilities on the Isle of Wight.

The inspirational five-day residential programme is designed to give children from ages 14-17 the opportunity to experience a wide range of water-based activities alongside classroom-based sessions, where they learn about career options in the maritime sector. Participation in the programme was a contributing factor in Tile Cross Academy becoming a finalist in the UK Social Mobility Awards 2021.

Sea.Change Foundation, UKSA

Students from Tile Cross Academy took part in a range of water sports during their residential on the Isle of Wight.

Pupils in Year 9 and above visited in the summer holidays across two weeks to take part in the programme, which was funded by luxury superyacht broker Edmiston which, in conjunction with UKSA, launched a foundation in October 2020 to address diversity within the superyacht industry. Its specific aim was to provide young people, especially those in the most under-represented and disadvantaged groups across the UK, the opportunity to forge a career within the maritime sector.

Neil Mackintosh, former geography teacher and now head of social mobility at the Academy, said: “We’ve been doing trips for many years, but this was the first time that the children could really try watersports and also be inspired by the prospect of a career in maritime.

“The Sea.Change programme is unique in its offering of that careers element and many children came back enthused to be superyacht skippers or onboard chefs.”

The postcode of the Birmingham-based Academy places the school in the top three per cent for deprivation in England and, of the cohort of students who attended the course, over 80% live in postcodes in the top 10% for deprivation. The ward the school is in is one of the 150 ‘Left Behind’ areas identified by the Oxford Consultants for Social Inclusion and the attainment levels for children in this area are lower than average – and the gap is widening.

Sea.Change Foundation, UKSA

Students prepare for their experience on the water.

The programmes on offer at UKSA offer a positive and enriching experience for young people, not only as positive education outcomes, but also offering the possibility for developing a wide set of skills beyond qualifications obtained from school.

Neil continued: “Residential trips are always such a wonderful experience for both teachers and children. All the children are at different stages of their personal development so there will be some things certain children find a real challenge and others don’t at all. For example, on the first day the children do a water confidence task to get used to wearing wetsuits and being in the water.

“I have some children who would happily leap in the water from a height, others will need to be coaxed in and some won’t do it at all. For more timid children, they really go on more of a journey than others and their development of resilience and hardiness is great to see as the trip progresses.

“You’ve then got the social aspect of being away from home and managing relationships when you’re tired and in a different environment, like the dorms. But seeing the children doing activities that are outside their comfort zone and seeing how supportive they are to others who are less confident, helping them to be part of a group and not leaving them out is really wonderful.”

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On day one, the students spent the morning having a water confidence session followed by an introduction to powerboating and then team games in the evening.

Day two gave them the opportunity to try kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding followed by maritime training, a careers session and sea survival in UKSA’s swimming pool in the evening. Day three was a keelboat trip followed by an evening session on looking after our oceans. Day four was a dinghy trip with a beach clean session in the evening with the final day a chance to have a yachting day trip.

“The shared excitement of doing things they’ve never done before is just fantastic.”

“The highlight for me is seeing the children have a great time, laughing, screaming and shouting,” Neil said. “The shared excitement of doing things they’ve never done before is just fantastic.

“A stand-out moment for me was when we left Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth to travel to the island. The children imagined we would be getting a ferry, but we had arranged a small boat just for our group.

“So, their experience going across the Solent surrounded by container ships and feeling the knock-on effect of the waves was filled with lots of noise and first experience excitement. The children were also shocked when I explained the Isle of Wight was in front of us. They had imagined something tiny without the possibility of shops, so seeing them make these discoveries was brilliant.”

Ben Willows, CEO at UKSA said: “We were delighted to welcome the students from Tile Cross Academy as our first school to complete the programme.

“So many children and young people were already missing out on life-changing opportunities because schools, local authorities and parents simply couldn’t afford to pay for them, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this situation. Now, more than ever, programmes like the Sea.Change Foundation, which help to prepare young people for the workplace, are vital.”

For more details about residentials with The Sea.Change Foundation, UKSA, call 01983 203045 or visit www.uksa.org.