Oak Wood School – A ‘fab’ and ‘inspirational’ week!
Monday 5th – Friday 9th November 2018, (32 pupils, 16 staff)
Oak Wood Secondary School in Nuneaton, a specialist SEN provider, brought a mixed group of 32. Primarily with learning difficulties, the pupils were aged between eleven and fifteen and stayed for four nights in November. I caught up with Jonathan, one of the group leaders who gave me some great feedback for their week.
This was there third visit to the Lake District Calvert Trust (LDCT); their first visit was off the back of one of our ‘taster’ weekends three years ago, which “got us hooked!” Read on – Jonathan’s comments got off to a good start…
LDCT: How has your week been?
Jonathan: It’s been absolutely fantastic. We have had some really, really, really fantastic experiences and good times.
LDCT: Why did you choose the Lake District Calvert Trust?
Jonathan: The main reason is that we are really impressed with your staff and how they interact with the pupils; the staff get really involved. It’s also a beautiful place to visit and you offer a different range of activities. It’s a bit of a distance from us, but the 4½ hours on a bus adds to the holiday experience – the travelling is an activity in itself!
LDCT: What were you aims and were they achieved?
Jonathan: Aims definitely achieved. Our aims were to ensure that our pupils had a very different experience than being in the middle of a small city. One of our lads has never seen so much green, which is a fairly impressive thing for him to say. We also like to push their boundaries – a pupil has done a lot more here than we could ever get her to do at school. Because the pupils are unfamiliar with the surroundings, they put more trust in you, which is positive going forward.
LDCT: What activities have you done?
Jonathan: We have done loads of activities; ghyll scrambling, rock and rope, high wire with the zip wire – the zip wire was fantastic – mine visit, canoeing, abseiling, cycling, archery and stables, swimming and a night hike.
Everyone loved the gyhll scrambling; the kids loved the rope activities – I think it’s that sense of jeopardy and danger – they like that! The difficult high wire course was very challenging for some of our pupils and staff, but the most challenging was having our kids trust each other. Even simply being away from home was challenging for some – some of these kids haven’t been away from home for more than a day.
LDCT: Has the week had a positive impact on the group?
The week has had a really positive impact – that is one of the reasons we come. Just the relationship between staff and pupils has become so much stronger; there is a young person who I deal with, with some challenging behaviors and we have become good friends; a lot of our kids have that experience. Also staff relationships between each other is a humungous positive! It has glued pupils and staff together!
LDCT: What stand-out features are there about the Lake District Calvert Trust?
Jonathan: The staff – the staff are fab. Because your staff are not sub-contracted and that makes a massive difference – they have the pride and knowledge that makes that difference. During the first night-hike, Chris [one of the instructors] knew all my lot – he knew which ones to push or not to push. The food and the Centre itself is fab, and very accommodating for our vegan member of staff – she is exceptionally impressed!”
LDCT: Do you have any advice for people looking to book a course at the Lake District Calvert Trust?
Jonathan: I don’t think anyone would be disappointed. I don’t think you would find somewhere for a week, in the Lake District, for bed and breakfast, dinner, tea and instructors for what we paid; the value for money is very, very good. People should just do it and embrace it.
LDCT: Name two words that describe your stay here?
Jonathan: ‘Fab’ – that’s my favourite word – and ‘inspirational’ not just for the pupils but for the staff.
We drew the chat to a close but with 9 pupils close by, Jonathan asked them what they thought of the week. One pupil said “I thought it would be boring!” Jonathan continued along this thread with the group and after establishing that 6 out of the 9 thought it also would be boring too we did a vote… “Out of 10, 10 being good and 1 being rubbish, what score would you give the week?” We got eight 10’s and one 9 and all of them would come again!
We do not think that’s a bad result and are delighted that 100% of the pupils from Oak Wood said would like to return – they can bring back some of the staff too…!