Martin Davidson: 75 years of Outward Bound Trust

The Outward Bound Trust is revamping its facilities to help more young people in the future. Picture: Contributed
The Outward Bound Trust is revamping its facilities to help more young people in the future. Picture: Contributed
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MARTIN Davidson reflects on this year’s key projects and achievements, including its work with young carers

As the foremost outdoor experiential educator in the UK, many people are aware that the Outward Bound Trust has been working to develop character and resilience in young Scots for many years. As we approach the New Year and our 75th anniversary, this is a great moment to consider some of our pioneering initiatives and to think about what we can offer young people in the future.

It is proven that our courses, each designed to meet the specific requirements of our varied groups, are of huge benefit to those who embark upon them. Evaluation consistently shows that young people come away with a greater sense of self-worth, confidence and resilience. Participants are more fully developed with essential skills and behaviours to help them prepare for life beyond school.

We have become increasingly aware of the importance of reaching out to those groups of young people who may not otherwise be able to come on a course due to personal circumstances. Our strategy now is to target those young people who are especially isolated or whose circumstances have made them particularly hard to reach.

Easter this year, our Loch Eil centre was filled with a group of young carers from Glasgow for a weekend course. In Scotland a significant number of young people care for family members and they are one of the most socially isolated groups in society. Not only is their time constrained by caring duties, but they also do not have the same opportunities as their peers due to their caring responsibilities

Getting these young carers together provided them with a welcome respite from family duties and a crucial opportunity to meet and share experiences with others in the same position. The course was so successful that it is being repeated and extended to a week in 2016 for up to 48 young carers.

This year also saw the launch of Police Scotland Youth Volunteers (PSYV), aimed at strengthening relations between young people and the police force, to break down barriers and to promote positive role models. One of the ways in which they have sought to do this is through learning and adventure in the wild. A group of young volunteers from Cumnock PSYV came to Loch Eil for a demanding outdoor adventure challenge.

PSYV member Michael Dalton said: “One thing I really noticed was how the team building exercises helped our whole group come together and communicate effectively with one another. Without these valuable skills being practiced and repeated I am certain that we would not have completed half of the tasks we were set.”

This year, the Trust has been committed to the Developing Scotland’s Young Workforce agenda, which is focused on developing employability skills. A group from Grange Academy in Kilmarnock participated in a week-long course at our Ullswater centre in the Lake District. Those selected had been disengaged with traditional education and lacking in self-esteem. Far from being trouble-makers, these were young people with plenty of potential but who did not flourish in a classroom setting. After the course, the Academy’s headteacher, Robert Johnston, reported that he had not seen such positive engagement within the group before and the course is to be repeated next year with a larger group.

Alongside these initiatives, the Mark Scott Leadership for Life Award continues to go from strength to strength. Now in its 18th successful year, June saw 205 pupils from 51 schools across central Scotland receive their award.

What is significant about the examples of our work mentioned here is that all have benefited from funding through the Trust’s bursary scheme or partnership sponsorship. One of the major drivers of our strategy for 2016 and beyond is to develop a greater number of partnerships with local authorities and Scottish businesses.

While we are incredibly proud of our positive work with young Scots this year it’s certainly not a time to rest on our laurels. We must continue to reach out to young people – and find new and relevant ways of doing so.

We have much planned for 2016, starting with the redevelopment of facilities at Loch Eil. And there will be much more as we celebrate our 75th anniversary. Watch this space!

• Martin Davidson is Scottish director, Outward Bound Trust. If you are interested in helping us, ­contact