ARK Walworth Academy students experience first ever residential trip
ARK Walworth Academy in South London has seen some of its students experience their first ever residential trip as a result of funding from UKSA. Many of the young people on the visit hadn’t been on a journey since the start of the pandemic and it was their first ever chance to stay away from home overnight.
The Isle of Wight based charity, which provides life-enhancing water-based adventures, education, and world-leading maritime training, was able to fund 22 students from the Academy which has a minimum of 50 percent free school meals in every year group and an additional 20-30 percent very close to that. UKSA offers young people of all abilities activities where they can learn skills for life in an aspirational and safe environment with bespoke programmes designed to build confidence and encourage teamwork using watersports with the great outdoors as a catalyst for positive outcomes.
Carl Fazackerley, director of sixth form and accountable leader for careers who led the trip said: “Every deprivation indicator you will see the Government recording is present at our school and this is the first time any of the children have had a residential, largely due to affordability. We operate on a model of ‘no child left behind’ and where for some schools this might be a handful of children who are unable to afford a trip like this, for ARK Walworth it is around half of students.
“Most of our families are living in accommodation that is rented, quite often overcrowded and despite the local area around the school currently being regenerated, it’s not entirely having a positive impact as some of our families are being displaced because the redevelopment isn’t providing the social housing needed. This results in a lot of vulnerability for young people affecting their connection to place. Sometimes we’re the only stable thing in these young peoples’ lives.”
The Academy, which has been a finalist in the TES School Awards for the last two years for its community work, took 22 students made up of years 9, 10 and 12 and started with a ferry journey across the Solent to the Isle of Wight.
“We had one student who had never been on the water before, but the ferry journey was the start of what would be a landmark journey in more ways than one for many of the students. Southampton is very industrial for the students to see; the car transporters, the port and the cruise ships were all very new to them. It was a really miserable travel day weather-wise, but half of the students stayed out on the ferry deck for the duration of the crossing despite the weather as they were enjoying it so much!”
The students spent the week at UKSA’s Sea.Change accommodation facility with a water-based outdoor learning programme giving the opportunity to try activities which included dinghy sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding and raft building. Outdoor learning activities during the day were complemented by evening activities such as indoor football, swimming, archery, crabbing and games in the park. “The keelboats stood out as a favourite for the students. They were really surprised how much it leans over when it catches the wind, that was great.”
Building confidence for the ARK Walworth students was required from day one. “We had a number of children who claimed they could swim because they were too embarrassed to say otherwise and obviously it became clear very quickly that they in fact could not swim. Some students found that very hard to admit, so we immediately needed to build up their confidence and self-esteem because they’d had that knock back on the first day.”
A large part of the experience at a UKSA residential is being able to find out about the potential career options in the watersports and maritime sectors.
“As the head of sixth form, I also look after university destinations every year and there is a large focus on London for our students and an unwillingness to look outside of that area. This can be due to a number of factors such as family pressures to remain at home, financial concerns about independent living, or believing that other places across the whole country are not diverse. We have some students who have lived in London their whole lives and never been out of Southwark. When we have trips to the museums in Kensington, there are students who have never been on the London Underground before.
“Some of the support instructors were the same age as my year 12s, and that really got their attention. The level of maturity they were displaying was quite something and I think there’s a recognition in some of them that they need to up their game. One young man was really taken by the opportunities that a maritime career could offer. He is a keen gamer and was really taken by the simulator at UKSA and had not realised how much technology was involved in the industry. His family heritage is Caribbean and though he has grown up in London, he now feels he could gain a stronger connection to his roots as well as employment with a career in maritime.”
UKSA measures six Skills for Life throughout the course of its visits: communication, decision making, teamwork, self-belief, determination and resilience. Mr Fazackerley shared that resilience was something that really stood out to him during the week.
“The weather wasn’t great but the willingness to continue to engage was really good. During raft building, it was raining and teamed with 90 km wind, the students still built the rafts and got on them despite the challenges they faced. They recognised they needed to show some grit to get through it which was great.”
Due to the restrictions present during the pandemic, the students across different year groups had not had the opportunity to mix with each other. The Academy team had given leadership opportunities to its older students and engineered the groups of children, so they were mixed across the year groups.
“One of our academy values is resilience and it was really great to see how those values embed into the students and are then transferred into real world settings. We started the week with a little resistance from Year 12s wanting to work with the Year 9s and 10s but by the end of the week this changed dramatically and was a really different experience for them all, particularly during the last few years of schooling.
“We had a fantastic week with UKSA and are grateful for the opportunity which enabled our students to experience a residential and make memories which they otherwise would not have been able to without the funding on offer. We were also particularly grateful for the efforts that UKSA put in to accommodate a third of our students who were observing Ramadan during our stay.”