Martin Davidson: Outward-bound experience sets youngsters up with skills for the future

In May 2018, dozens of young people from six Aberdeen schools came together with their teachers in Aberdeen Town House. Pupils from St Machar Academy, Kincorth Academy, Bridge of Don Academy, Torry Academy, Northfield Academy and Hazlehead Academy were united by their purpose to showcase and celebrate their achievements through projects that have benefited not only themselves, but their schools and communities.

The five-day Outward Bound residential course on the shore of Loch Eil helped youngsters to develop their confidence and learn leadership, communication and organisation skills

The celebration was the culmination of a collaboration between The Outward Bound Trust, Aberdeen City Council and Nexen, the oil and gas company which has a Scottish base in Aberdeen. Nexen, a corporate supporter of our work has a national Outward Bound® partnership programme to help ensure that more young people experience the great outdoors and raise their aspirations for their future education and employment.

Each of the six schools sent 12 young people on a five-day Outward Bound residential course at Loch Eil in November 2017 to develop confidence and learn leadership, communication and organisation skills. Upon their return, the young people embarked on leadership projects using these newly-developed skills to help their schools and communities.

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Each school developed their project with a unique focus and according to their own development plans, but all with a shared commitment to being ‘Rights Respecting Schools’.

Martin Davidson, Scottish director at The Outward Bound Trust.

For those of you unfamiliar with ‘Rights Respecting Schools’ it is an initiative set up by Umicef which uses the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) as a guide to work with over 4,500 schools in the UK. Schools which opt in help their pupils learn about and implement human and child rights.

Through learning about child rights, young people are encouraged to collaborate with adults and those younger than themselves in meaningful and sustained civic participation.

Many schools the trust works with comment back that they find the most important element of a Rights Respecting Schools Award is enabling their pupils to fully immerse themselves in community engagement and use their leadership skills in a wider context than just within the school environment.

This was particularly the case for the six Aberdeen schools who took part in this collaboration.

At Northfield Academy, their focus was on ‘Developing the Young Workforce’ and on eventual destinations for their pupils.

Northfield sent their young leaders group of 14 and 15-year- olds to Loch Eil to develop the skills needed to become ‘World of Work Ambassadors’ and to become more adept at using and explaining to others the relevance of Education Scotland’s website, ‘My World of Work’.

Alistair Dow, deputy head at Northfield, said: “The Outward Bound course helped directly with confidence, communication and organisation skills, which were all skills needed when they returned to school.

“The ambassadors organised and delivered presentations to all our primary feeder schools on the ‘My World of Work’ website, then presented to school staff as well, finally helping with a school-hosted jobs fair”

All this helped the young people to understand and cascade to younger pupils the links between their learning, subject choices and the world of work. But it also had practical outcomes for the community. Some people visiting the jobs fair changed their planned and projected career paths.

For Alistair, the best thing about this project was the huge engagement and enthusiasm of the young people involved. He comments: “Because of the skills developed at Loch Eil, they were able to take on quite daunting tasks with confidence. They are now mentoring the next group who will be going to Loch Eil.”

At Hazlehead Academy, the approach was different but just as valuable. There, youngsters examined the 54 Rights of the Child enshrined in the CRC, then worked with primary school children to plant seeds in 54 individually-designed plant pots. When the seeds developed, the Hazlehead pupils took the pots to older citizens living in residential care accommodation.

Jim Purdie, head teacher at Hazlehead Academy, comments: “The experience of Outward Bound had an incredibly positive impact on our pupils. Overcoming the challenges they faced on the course (including the well-documented midnight evacuation of a rapidly flooding campsite) gave them the confidence to take on and successfully deliver a very ambitious project upon their return.

“Not only has each individual demonstrated their own leadership qualities, they have helped develop those same characteristics in each other and in the primary school children. Their project has brought each article of the UNCRC to life and in doing so they have also perfectly exhibited our core values of confidence, ambition, inclusion and respect. We are very proud of their achievements and the contribution they have made to our community.”

To find out more about the multiple benefits and diverse learning outcomes achievable by Scottish schools with the trust please contact [email protected]

Martin Davidson, Scottish director at The Outward Bound Trust