STO talks to James, a Year 12 student at Arthur Terry School in Birmingham, about the impact outdoor education has had on his life.
Year 12 student James is currently studying for his A-levels. Last summer, his GCSE results envelope contained three As, five Bs and the rest of his grades were Cs.
But he’s not always found school easy.
When James started Secondary school in 2012, he was disengaged and mischievous. He struggled to concentrate in class and acted up on a regular basis.
“When I joined Arthur Terry School in Year 7 I was loud and immature. I was intolerant of others and had very mixed relationships with my teachers,” remembers James.
Four months in to his high school career, however, James took part in a school residential with the Outward Bound Trust and things started to change.
Established in 1941, The Outward Bound Trust is an education charity that runs outdoor learning programmes at sites across the UK, including Eskdale in the Lake District and Aberdovey in Snowdonia in Wales.
Courses are available for Primary, Secondary and college students, and last between three and five days. Last year, more than 27,000 young people took part in its residentials.
Activities on offer on each course range from canoeing and gorge walking to cutter sailing and rock climbing.
Bursaries are available that cover between 40 per cent and 70 per cent of course costs.
For his Year 7 trip, James spent three days on an Adventure and Challenge course at OBT’s Aberdovey Centre, which has its own waterfront activity centre and great access to the mountain ranges of mid-Wales.
“The course was the first time I had been away from home. I was placed in a group away from all my friends, which I initially hated, however as the course progressed I started to learn how to work with new people and became more accepting. It greatly altered my mind set and gave me a new approach to difficult tasks and working as a team.”
After the course, James’ behaviour began to improve: “The course was a major contributor to a change in my attitude towards school and my outlook on life.”
James attributes a second residential in Year 9 to a further improvement in his approach to education. This time the course took place in Eskdale – a property with 60 acres of land.
“Going on this course instantly gave me a higher respect for people and thus I learnt to listen to other people. Overall it helped me to effectively manage a variety of situations. I believe these new life changes enabled me to complete my GCSEs,” explained James.
Of course, you don’t have to take James’ word for it. Both his teachers and parents saw a change in him, after each residential.
“We attribute four major changes in James to his Outward Bound experiences. He’s now keen to take on any challenge, he’s more confident, and he has a sense of maturity that, above all, gave him a structured approach to his GCSEs,” explained his father.
Meanwhile, the progress leader at his school, Sophie Webster, said: “Activities like Outward Bound have enabled James to play an active role in the school and have given him a positive outlet for all his energy. James has come so far since Year 7.”
To find out more about the Outward Bound Trust, its residentials, and bursaries visit www.outwardbound.org.uk.