MUCH like the contestants settling into Mastermind’s famous black chair, Britain’s schools show off their skills in a wide spectrum of specialist subjects. Sam Moore, Head of Adventure Education, explains Dauntsey’s School’s areas of expertise…
What are the academic areas, sports or pastoral provisions which you feel set you apart from the crowd?
Pupils at Dauntsey’s are encouraged to develop a strong spirit of adventure. The breadth and depth of this adventure education programme sets us apart.
The School provides a wide variety of adventurous pursuits. All pupils in the Third Form (Year 9) undertake a programme of adventurous training called Moonrakers. Activities include outdoor cooking, kayaking, first aid, navigation, orienteering, survival, sub-aqua and archery. The Moonrakers course culminates in a week’s residential camp late in the summer term, where our own staff work alongside trained outdoor education instructors at an Outdoor Centre in North Wales.
Thereafter, pupils can choose from a wide variety of other opportunities such as ocean sailing on our own Tall Ship, Jolie Brise, under the guidance of the School’s full-time sailing master or participating in the legendary Devizes to Westminster Canoe Race (known as the Canoeists Everest). Other adventurous challenges offered to pupils includes the Brecons Challenge which attracts pairs of senior girls and boys to spend a weekend canoeing, cycling and running through the Welsh mountains. Finally, The Dauntsey’s Triathlon is an event that is gaining in popularity and consists of a 400m swim, a 1.55 mile cycle ride and ends in a 0.25 mile run.
Dauntsey’s is serious about adventure. We believe it not only helps children let off steam, it plays a vital role in equipping them with the necessary skills and behaviours to set them up for life after School. Understanding risk and not shying away from it is an important life skill. Pupils can develop their risk management through being exposed to it while they still have the support of the School environment. Adventure education enables pupils to develop behaviours that will help them lead a fruitful and interesting life, in which they are organised and flexible, willing to have a go and learn from their experiences.
Our adventure programme at Dauntsey’s is made up of two aspects:
Accessible adventure consists of programmes where large numbers of pupils have short experiences that serve as an introduction to adventure and to various activities. These serve both as educational experiences in their own right and as a gateway to “high adventure” for those that enjoy them and find them rewarding. The potential for misadventure is much lower, hence the term “accessible”. An example might be learning to kayak on the Kennet and Avon canal, camping in the School grounds, or a night hike on Salisbury Plain.
High adventure includes longer-haul trips, activities and experiences that involve relatively small numbers of pupils participating at a high level, normally with a high staff to pupil ratio. Typically, this type of adventure will require time and dedication from the pupils and they will have to work to achieve specific skills and competence at a given activity which will allow them to access remote or challenging environments. The potential for misadventure is greater in high adventure and care must be taken to ensure that participants are ready and willing to engage with it. Examples of high adventure might be participating in the Devizes to Westminster canoe race, trekking in the Himalaya or crewing our Tall Ship, Jolie Brise.
Sixth former Harriet has sailed on Jolie Brise several times, most recently on the return transatlantic crossing from Halifax, Novia Scotia to Le Havre in the Rendez-vous 2017 Tall Ships Regatta. She said: “I’ve learned to get on with anybody. You learn to make friends and get on with people really fast – when you’re all sailing. There’s lots of teamwork when you’re doing the ropes or changing sails and everyone gets on with it. When you’re racing, you have to be resilient and just keep going – it’s tough at times but you gain a huge sense of satisfaction.”
What successes have you enjoyed in this particular field?
The results we observe from our adventure education programme are remarkable.
Pupils who started with us being relatively quiet and cautious by nature, grow in confidence and are willing to take on new experiences. Those who you might not immediately view as “the outdoors type” can demonstrate great resilience and good humour in the face of adversity. Developing these traits can take courage.
Exploration inevitably involves a few wrong turns, so we work to build the confidence needed to tackle challenges pupils may not believe they can do, safe in the knowledge that, if things go wrong, we are here to guide their learning. As a result, pupils’ confidence and self-esteem rise dramatically as they discover what can be achieved, often under challenging conditions – and this pays noticeable dividends back in the classroom in terms of academic progress. After all, a page of maths can be just as much of a challenge as climbing a mountain.
Find out more about about Dauntsey’s School at dauntseys.org