No more lumpy old mattresses for kids after a day in the great outdoors

How do you picture a week of adventure in the wilderness? Climbing mountains? Yes. Canoeing, ­hiking, abseiling? Yes. And at the end of the day, luxurious accommodation? Probably not. But the days of roughing it on lumpy mattresses are long gone and these days good quality facilities are an integral part of what young people, their parents and teachers expect from an educational residential course.

The Outward Bound Trust Loch Eil Centre Redevelopment Learning Pods
The Outward Bound Trust Loch Eil Centre Redevelopment Learning Pods
The Outward Bound Trust Loch Eil Centre Redevelopment Learning Pods

The Outward Bound Trust is an educational charity that has been helping young people reach their full potential through outdoor ­education for many years. During that time, we have been upgrading facilities in our centres across the UK. In 2017, we are embarking on a major upgrade of our Loch Eil facilities. Surrounded by the most beautiful natural setting, our accommodation is beginning to look a little less glamorous in comparison, so it’s time we made it fit for the purpose of valuing and bringing out the very best in young people.

We recognise that for young ­people to value the learning process, we must, in turn, recognise and value their needs and expectations. Investing in the facilities and accommodation available to them, ensuring that this is of good quality, is important to young people gaining the most from their time with Outward Bound®. We are particularly conscious that many of the young people we help come from contexts where a ­holiday or time away is usually out of the question. We want them to feel ­valued and to know that their time during a residential course will be effective on every level.

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Our project plans will not only upgrade our residential offering but will also enable us to increase the number of weekly participants. At Loch Eil, within a given week we are currently able to accommodate just over 100 young people but this number will be boosted to around 140, once work is completed.

Our £2 million project involves several elements across the site. We will upgrade the barn/stores facility which is at present used for equipment storage and as a social space. Our plans will result in a better organised, warm, dry space, where each group will have their own equipment storage and assembly area. Preparing for an expedition is a crucial part of learning. It not only helps young people co-operate in work teams, it teaches them the importance of taking responsibility and looking after the equipment that is crucial to their safety and wellbeing while outdoors. Having a fit for purpose space will greatly enhance this aspect of our work.

We also plan to knock down a 1950s pre-fab bungalow, and replace it with specifically designed, modern learning ‘pods’. Our ­programmes are renowned for their emphasis on learning ­outdoors, but just as important is the value we place on reflection as an experiential educational experience. Pods mean a greatly enhanced facility in terms of technology and comfort.

We know that an excellent standard of living accommodation should be part and parcel of the whole experience. So the third strand of our redevelopment is an upgrade of dormitory facilities. We have already started this process, but we want to ensure a consistently high standard of sleeping accommodation with en suite facilities. Getting a good night’s sleep, especially after a gruelling day outdoors, is clearly essential, but there are sound educational reasons why high standards of learning and ­living accommodation contribute to successful residential courses.

A ‘Learning Away’ report ­published in 2015 showed the immense benefits involved in educational residentials. The report showed a positive impact on relationships between pupils and their teachers plus demonstrable improvements across a whole range of areas including attitude, attendance and scholarly attainment.

Learning Away demonstrated that “a residential learning experience provides opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting”.

So far, through the generosity of our donors and through a number of successful fundraising initiatives, we have raised more than £1.2m towards the cost of the Loch Eil project. If you are interested in or would like to help with the development, we would love to hear from you. Contact: [email protected]Martin Davidson is head of the 
Outward Bound Trust in Scotland.