Here at the Clarendon Academy we care about growing the whole child. There are many pupils who thrive outside of the classroom and many who need to reconnect with nature, get outside and away from a screen. Because of this we have developed, over many years, an extensive and unique outdoor education programme that starts in year 7 and runs through to 6th form. Throughout your child’s time at Clarendon, they will be encouraged to try something new, to reach beyond their comfort zone and achieve things they never thought possible. For some this may simply be having a cup of hot chocolate in the forest school sat next to a fire they lit themselves. For others it may mean a 3 day trek across the Marlborough downs. At whatever point your child starts with us they will leave having not only grown academically but also braver, more confident and more socially aware.
In year 7 and 8 each pupil will have a full day off timetable in our forest school. Forest schools are growing in popularity amongst primary schools but we are leaders in our area for realising the benefits it brings to secondary pupils also. For many years forest school has been recognised as helping mindfulness, encouraging students to manage and experience risk, reduce stress and therefore improve mental health and help them to feel empathy towards other as well as nature.
While at forest school pupils may experience a range of activities such as:
• Den building
• Tree climbing
• Chopping wood with an axe
• Cooking on an open fire
• Nature study
• Wild Art
• Wild hide and seek
Although there is some structure to the day; it is very much led by the pupils and what they would like to do in the forest school that day. No matter what the activity; we know they have had a good day if they leave caked in mud, smelling of wood smoke and with big grins on their faces.
Year 7 Camp
Year 7 camp has been running for so many years we are not really sure when it first started – It is steeped in Clarendon’s heritage. Every year we take the entirety of year 7 to a local scout camp for 2 nights under canvas. We like to call this ‘back to basics’ camping. There are some toilets – but not much else!
This is not an extreme camp. We are not expecting anyone to climb anything high or throw themselves into a river. The aim of this camp is to reconnect with nature, talk to their friends, make new friends and try something new.
Activities they might try at camp are:
• Camp rounders
• Den building
• Cray fish fishing
• Man hunt
• Wide games
• Marshmallow toasting
• Walk (via an ice cream shop)
• Crazy Olympics
• Midnight feasts
This is a fun and relaxed camp that is enjoyed enormously each year. Memories of sitting in your tent and eating a packet of custard creams, chatting with your mates until past midnight will stay with them for years. Tales of being brave enough to walk to the toilets in the dark and being spooked by a badger will stay with you till adulthood.
This camp is enjoyed so much that some of our 6th form students often volunteer as ‘camp cubbies’ for the week. Students often build a good relationship with their camp cubbie and its brilliant to see that the mentoring relationship continues on at school.
Duke of Edinburgh Award.
DofE was founded in the 50s by the Duke of Edinburgh as a way of encouraging young people to get outdoors, keep healthy and contribute to society. Students can join up in year 9 and there are 4 elements that they need to complete to pass the course.
Pupils must volunteer for 1 hour a week. This could be done within school or with an external organisation. Within school pupils have done litter picking or helped out with a homework club for pupils with special educational needs. Outside of school our students have helped in charity shops, community centres and animal rescue shelters.
Students need to complete 1 hour of physical activity a week. This could be a sport they already do, such as rugby, or trying a new sport for the first time. They can come to an after school club or attend an external organisation. Keeping physically fit is important to general health as well as mental health and starting young will build the foundations for the rest of their life.
For 1 hour a week students will need to improve a skill of their choosing. It could be that they cook you a delicious meal once a week improving on their culinary skills (this option is always very popular with parents). They could continue to improve their skills on a musical instrument they already learn or they could learn a new skill like knitting.
Easily the most enjoyed part of DofE. For either 2 days and 1 night (Bronze level) or 3 days and 2 nights (Silver level) students will walk unaided across our local countryside. They will have to carry all of their food, tents and clothes and navigate their way to a campsite each night. On the practice weekend our staff will ‘check in’ throughout the day. On the assessed weekend staff step back and only greet them at the campsite in the evening (so long as they don’t get too lost). Many secondary school are now outsourcing their running of DofE to external companies. This always means the cost increases meaning less and less children participate. Here at Clarendon we are lucky enough to have a large DofE team who volunteer their weekends to help run the expeditions. This means we can run the programme much cheaper than other school and therefore more children can participate and take advantage of the many and varied benefits DofE brings.
At the moment we are running both Bronze (3 month programme) and Silver (6 month programme) but we are hoping to also offer Gold in the very near future.
Other outdoor and adventurous activities
As well as the regular and termly activities we run at school we also offer many optional trips and adventures. In the last few years we have run surfing weekends in Cornwall, an indoor climbing course in Bristol as well as mountain biking in Wales. We also took students to a week-long residential at Mill on the Brue activity centre. We are often on the lookout for funding to help fully or partially finance the activities to make them accessible for all our students. We always listen to what out pupils want to do and try to be guided by them. If they tell us they want to go bog snorkelling or axe throwing – we will try to make it happen.