Test the Water –  FREE Sailing for all Isle of Wight Year 6 School Children

Disadvantaged children are falling behind at school, particularly on the Isle of Wight

According to 2015 government statistics, over 40% of the Isle of Wight’s 44 Primary Schools are located within the most deprived areas of the UK, with 14% being in the top 20% most deprived areas.

Somewhat alarmingly, research published by the Education Policy Institute in 2018 shows that the average attainment gap nationally between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers was over 18 months in state-funded schools. This figure rises to 27 months on the Isle of Wight – more than anywhere else in England.

How engaging in extra-curricular activity helps

We believe that part of the solution to this is to offer young people opportunities to participate in engaging extra-curricular activities to broaden their horizons and allow them to develop vital life skills in-line with their more affluent peers. According to Prince’s Trust research, almost 70% of young people feel they do not have enough support at school to develop soft skills, particularly confidence and communication; over 90% of teachers agreed. Participation in outdoor and adventurous activities, such as sailing and watersports, can offer young people, who may find it hard to perform in a traditional classroom setting, the chance to thrive both in and out of school.

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom has collated a whole host of research to show that participation in outdoor activities develops character by broadening horizons and developing soft-skills “which contribute to improved attainment.” Our own survey data and anecdotal evidence supports this claim. The Education Endowment Foundation also support the positive impact of outdoor activities on attainment, stating that: “On average, pupils who participate in adventure learning interventions make approximately four additional months’ progress over the course of a year.”

On the Isle of Wight, we are trying to help address this experience and life skills imbalance, and subsequent attainment gap, by providing funded opportunities for all year 6 children to participate in sailing and watersports sessions at UKSA through the Test the Water programme.

UKSA’s Test the Water programme

UKSA has over 30 years’ experience of delivering watersports and sailing activities to young people, and our programmes are designed to develop confidence and soft skills of participants.

Our Test the Water programme offers youngsters the chance to participate in a half-day sailing or watersports session. As well as covering aspects of water safety (vital for children living on an island), these sessions are designed to develop confidence and key skills including communication, resilience and team-work, through putting learners out of their comfort zone in a safe and supportive environment.

In addition to the obvious learning benefits, we believe the Test the Water programme helps in terms of breaking down barriers on the Island; sailing is often viewed as an elitist sport– we are seeking to change this stigma locally, providing all youngsters with the opportunity to experience the thrill of sailing and watersports, regardless of their background.

How many children have participated in this programme so far?

To date, 5,411 young people have participated in the Test the Water programme and, by the end of the 2018/19 academic year, all secondary school pupils on the Isle of Wight should have had the opportunity to experience sailing. We are also working hard to ensure free or subsidised follow-on opportunities are available for interested students, through programmes such as Polly’s Challenge and after-school clubs.

“I see every day the impact of this (child poverty and deprivation) and how it can result in low confidence, low self- worth, low mood and low aspirations. Many of our children miss out on life’s opportunities and the experiences that many other children enjoy because of cost and mind-set.”

“Our children’s experiences should not be limited by cost. It is our aim that every child experiences a range of opportunities offered to them from trips away, theatre visits, activities, sports and sailing here at UKSA. I know what a difference you are making by supporting the ‘Test the Water’ programme, I see every day the children develop in confidence and self-esteem to become more prepared for life’s aspirations.”

Caroline Sice, Head Teacher, Lanesend Primary School