Cirencester Deer Park students experience first ever residential trip thanks to UKSA

Published 06/12/2023

Cirencester Deer Park School in Gloucestershire has seen some of its students experience their first ever residential trip as a result of funding from UKSA.

Earlier this year UKSA was delighted to fund 18 students from this secondary school, where 20 percent of students are pupil premium and would ordinarily be unable to afford to take part.

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.

Abi Johnson, pastoral leader and Year 10 leader who led the trip of Year 8, 9 and 10 students said: “Pupil premium students do get a discount on residential opportunities like this but there still remains a large sum to contribute which many of our families are simply unable to do. UKSA made the trip accessible to those students who never usually get the opportunity to go on trips like this.”

The Monday to Friday trip of five days and four nights, saw many of the children stay away from home for the first time. Leaving Portsmouth on Monday morning, the group travelled to the Isle of Wight on a small passenger boat rather than a typical ferry.

“For some of the students this was the first time they’d ever been on the water but they absolutely loved it. The minute they were told if you sit at the back you will get soaked, they all sat at the back and got absolutely soaked through. But they loved it and it was a fantastic experience for them before we had even got to the Island.

“The mixture of Years 8, 9 and 10 saw children mix who would not usually have the opportunity to and the school also took some siblings which enabled the younger ones to feel more comfortable and confident having their older brother or sister with them. The group came together really well and were so encouraging and supportive of each other, particularly regarding water confidence.”

UKSA measures six Skills for Life throughout the course of its visits; communication, decision making, teamwork, self-belief, determination and resilience.

“Water confidence within the group was incredibly low and we had several children who were unable to swim or did not feel confident in the water, despite the basis of the activities on the trip. However, they were so willing to try, everything was new to them, even putting on a wetsuit for the first time.”

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.

“They all loved the raft building, not only is it fun but the teamwork involved really gets everyone communicating. They enjoyed winding each other up, pushing each other in the water and that started to build the water confidence immediately and ultimately trust the instructors as well,” said Abi. “Kayaking was also really popular and I think this was due to the fact that it was more difficult to fall into the water than from paddleboards or keelboats. It was also great to see the skills learned put into practice; for example knowing they have to put the paddle into the water to even be able to move, realising they had control of the vessel and it is completely down to each individual to make it happen.”

Building confidence for the Cirencester Deer Park students was required from day one. “I think the girls in particular came with both the least confidence in terms of their water ability but also the prospect of spending time away from home and not knowing people was very real. Many of them did not want to take part in the activities, particularly paddleboarding. However, by the end of the week, having spent a few days with the amazing instructors encouraging them, they were giving the activities a go, could see that they could do it and were actually good at it. That process of change in terms of their confidence in interacting with others and team building was wonderful.

“Before we went on the trip, these girls had very close friendship groups but by the end of the trip they now have friends outside of that. I’m seeing them mix in those new groups at school which is a really big step.”

The changes were not only seen in the girls but also the boys, who despite being more confident to begin with, used the techniques UKSA were teaching to put them into practice. “The boys used their own initiative and really excelled in helping others not only in activities but also settling down at night and encouraging others if they were lacking in motivation at any point. As a teacher, it is so much more effective to have that encouragement come from peers rather than us,” said Abi.

“For several of our students, this is an experience which they have never had before and without UKSA offering the opportunity of the trip, they never would have. The children are feeling inspired about the possibility of returning to UKSA and considering courses it offers which they would previously never have considered. It is hard to express just how awesome that is.”


Find out more about UKSA, funding options and  group residentials