By s.fenn 22nd April 2024

The Field Studies Council were delighted to be selected to take part in the second phase of a government funded project ‘Adventures Away from Home Fund (AAfH)’ supported by UK Youth.

Funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the £1.5m fund aimed to provide 8,500 young people aged 11-18, or up to 25 for those with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), with bursaries to take part in outdoor learning. This would allow underrepresented young people to take part in outdoor learning experiences that support their personal development through connections with others and nature.

The AAfH fund supported charity and not-for-profit outdoor learning providers in England to deliver outdoor learning experiences as full-day sessions and 2-night residential stays. Applications were welcomed from charity or not-for-profit established outdoor centres, city farms and arts or environmental-based organisations, whose primary purpose is the delivery of outdoor learning or learning outdoors using the natural environment.

Three of the four residential centres that delivered the project focused on A Level biology groups with the purpose to get them out in nature, and develop key ecological skills, confidence in practical work, resilience and teamwork. We provided learning experiences for 176 young people from London schools with high pupil premium. They covered topics such as immersive ecology techniques, freshwater sampling, woodland biodiversity measurements, team building and reflected around a campfire.   

The residentials were carefully planned to meet the needs of the young people who visited, from arranging 4am mealtimes to fit around Ramadan to hiring an all-terrain wheelchair or arranging additional single rooms for those with high anxiety levels.

The group was so wonderful and excited to be here. Just speaking to them, hearing about their lives and the challenges they face daily was memorable. Upon seeing a low flying plane mid walk, a student remarked that this was the best day of his life.” 

Field Studies Council tutor

Day visits covered ecosystem studies, team building, shelter building and scavenger hunts across KS3, GCSE and A level groups. There was a high proportion of SEN students so the sessions were adapted in terms of pace and outcome to ensure students got the most out of them.

The main thing for the tutors, was the enjoyment the SEN group got from a chance to get outside in the forest and the new skills they learnt even if in some cases it was just engaging with other members of the group and managing to create a shelter of some description!”

Field Studies Council team leader

The background of the students meant it was often their first time out in a rural or mountainous landscape.  This meant the groups were often excited and amazed by the opportunity.  The students, even those doing specification-focused learning, felt very privileged to be out of the City and free to enjoy the landscape. 

I just wanted to write and say a huge thank you for our trip to Flatford Mill with FSC. I can hand on heart say that the students had a fantastic experience: on our last morning they were playing “hide and seek it” with students across all four groups. This playfulness reinjected into our students was such a pleasure to see – no more serious teenagers attached to their mobile phones. 

Group leader

Everyone involved thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the tutors gained essential skills in delivering to groups with high levels of SEND students for example on the big hike day where adaptions were necessary for the very varied pace of the group. Another thing mentioned was to make sure when there are adaptations such as Ramadan to provide for we have a combined approach across our centres to ensure we are offering the same thing across the board, such as prayer rooms. 

Receiving the Adventures Away from Home funding has been an amazing experience for us at Field Studies Council, it has allowed us to reach more students than ever, especially those who don’t normally access nature; we have thoroughly enjoyed the courses, as have the students we have worked with.

More information on the Adventures Away From Home is available from the UK Youth website