Comment: Outward Bound boosts inner strengths

Trades Hall in Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod

Trades Hall in Glasgow. Picture: Donald MacLeod

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PREPARING young people to have key life skills for when they leave school is of vital importance, writes Martin Davidson

In 2014, 48 Scottish young people came together to experience a life-changing outdoor adventure programme funded by the ScottishPower Foundation. Here, Martin Davidson, of The Outward Bound Trust in Scotland, describes the benefits of the programme and the partnership.

In March last year, a group of teenagers from four Glasgow schools – Castlemilk High, Holyrood, St Margaret Mary’s and King’s Park – attended a celebration event at the city’s Trades Hall. There were plenty of other people there – their families, classmates, MSPs, councillors, local councillors and representatives from Glasgow City Council Education Services and the ScottishPower Foundation. What everyone had gathered to see was the culmination of the Skills for Scotland’s Future Project – an event in which the young people and their Outward Bound instructors, delivered presentations on their recent outdoor learning experiences in the Highlands and explained just what they had gained from participating. One pupil, Chloe Elliot in S3 at Castlemilk High School put it as well as anyone: “Thanks to the Outward Bound, I can now look at a challenge and give it a try no matter how challenging it may seem.”

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The ScottishPower Foundation awarded over £16,000 to finance the Outward Bound Trust’s Skills for Scotland’s Future project. The project’s aim was to provide young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to develop their skills and boost their levels of confidence that will support a positive “journey to employment” or forward to further education.

Ann Loughrey, trustee and executive officer of the ScottishPower Foundation, said: “This is an inspirational project and exactly the kind of work that the ScottishPower Foundation is delighted to support.”

The four selected Glasgow schools were invited to take part and each one selected 12 pupils aged 13 and 14 along with a teacher to attend a special five-day training programme at the trust’s Loch Eil centre last March. All the young people were assessed as having strong potential to develop personal and leadership skills and would have been unable to take part in such an initiative without the sponsorship provided by ScottishPower Foundation.

The course was delivered by Outward Bound instructors who worked with the youngsters alongside their teachers and a number of “employee ambassadors” from ScottishPower. The latter were able to help steer the experience towards developing valuable workplace skills.

The course focused on developing employability skills such as teamwork, self-management, problem-solving, communication and goal-setting.

The participants worked in mixed-school groups, engaging in a variety of individual and team tasks including climbing, canoeing and abseiling. The point of these activities was to help improve self-awareness and self-confidence, to increase resilience and to help them understand how their actions have consequences for their short and long-term futures.

Whether canoeing on the sea, or going on an overnight expedition in the mountains, the course helped develop a mindset where the pupils would be more able to cope with life’s challenges and made them realise that taking risks can be a valuable learning experience.

Surveys before and after the programme were designed to measure changes in the young people’s skills and abilities. Initial data looked at the pupils’ abilities before they attended the course and these were measured again six weeks after completing the programme.

In addition, teachers were asked for feedback on individual pupils immediately after the course ended and reported that 88 per cent of pupils showed improved skills across the range being tested and in the majority of cases, teachers observed pupils’ improved progression and achievement within school after the course. The ScottishPower “ambassadors” also reported positive outcomes for themselves, citing improved communication and teamwork skills.

But as David Henry Thoreau once wrote: “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.”

This has been borne out by the enthusiasm and increased confidence of the young people who took part in this exciting programme.

• Martin Davidson is the Scottish director of The Outward Bound Trust. For more information contact martin.davidson@outwardbound.org.uk or call 0141 413 0244

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