Batchwood School: Make Everyday Count

Outdoor Learning: Mountaineering

After 3 years of taking students on an annual mountain trip we now have Mountaineering on the school timetable. This feels like a big step forward for us. The vision is to support our particular client group in their learning and personal development. We are seeking to integrate and align this initiative with current research and development in the area of resilience and how we might help our learners aim higher in their achievements in school and beyond.

For our students this type of trip is all the more challenging due to the specific difficulties they have within themselves and in dealing with difficult situations that they would usually feel fearful of. Confidence, motivation, a positive outlook on life, the trust of adults and a respect for peers are too often absent.

We believe that in taking them into awesome environments such as the mountains, we maximise opportunities to teach missing skills. From basics such as being more organised and taking some responsibility for kit to things like finding a new perspective and setting new goals, our hope is that over time these mountain trips might help our kids make progress in their lives.

One outdoor experience is not going to change our students into reformed characters overnight or solve all of their complex needs. We take the long view. Our expectation is that these new experiences will give our students a point of axis (a waypoint in their lives) that they can look back on as something positive and aspirational. It helps our students to feel part of something where they would otherwise remain outsiders. These are not trips and weekly activities to reward good behaviour, but to provide opportunities to broaden our student’s world view and build attachments on a social and emotional level. This is what we hope will then lead to an improved engagement with their learning in school.

6 Week Mountaineering Programme

We run a 6 week mountaineering programme prior to each two day residential trip to Snowdonia. The group is picked based on our knowledge of each student and how we feel they will knit together as a group. Group dynamics are a vital to ensure individuals are given the best chance to grow and flourish. At the same time we also seek to pair students whose relationship is difficult in the normal school environment. Over the course of the programme we see each group build as a team as they each work together towards a shared goal.

Each session has an assessment focus where key skills are developed:

Group Ethos

  1. Stay together as a core group
  2. Encourage others
  3. Staying on the paths unless otherwise directed
  4. Following team leader instructions
  5. Being safe (Personal)
  6. Being safe (Group)
  7. Respect for the public and the environment

Kit

  1. Packing own kit correctly
  2. Taking responsibility for own kit
  3. Organising dirty and clean kit
  4. Carry own kit at all times
  5. Knowing where individual items of kit are at all times

Navigation Skills

  1. Taking a bearing
  2. Waking on a bearing
  3. Matching map contours to the landscape

Leadership Skills

  1. Took turn in leading the group
  2. Listening to others in the group
  3. Followed instructions from others

Difficult Terrain

  1. Finding hand/footholds
  2. Good route choice
  3. Spotting each other/support
  4. Safe positioning on rocks
  5. Climbing confidence