Last Thursday, Richard King, PFG’s Corporate Communications Director, and Rob Lawson, Head of Sustainability attended an inspiring event that was hosted by Lord Kirkham, Deputy Patron of one of our longstanding community partners, The Outward Bound Trust, at 11 Downing Street and the House of Lords.

The event was organised to recognise the support that PFG, and the other corporate supporters, have provided to the Trust over what has been a difficult two years for the leading outdoor education charity.

During the event, Rob and Richard heard from Emma Bonnin, the Headteacher of Pakeman Primary School in Holloway, North London (one of the schools that PFG is supporting to attend a residential course in 2023), who spoke with great passion about the week of outdoor adventure that 34 Year 5 and 6 students had experienced last month at the Trust’s Centre in the Lake District.

For these young people, who live day-to-day in inner-city, often deprived, areas of North London, the week represented their first opportunity to connect with nature and experience an adventure that involved mountain climbing, canoeing, tunnelling, abseiling, rowing and cliff jumping in a new, inspiring surrounding.

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Emma commented: “The residential experience has played a key role in broadening the students’ horizons and widening their understanding of the world outside of North London, while helping them to re-build vital skills and build stronger connections with others. In an environment that is new to many, they are free to step away from the social labels that might define them at school, home or in their local communities, and which limit their belief in themselves. When combined with freedom, fun and valuable social time with others, the experience enables them to feel a sense of belonging and acceptance, which helps them to be more socially mobile.”

The Outward Bound Trust, which has been one of PFG’s community partners since 2014, aims to develop young people and foster social mobility through learning and adventure in the wild so that they can develop the attitudes, skills and behaviours young people need to thrive at school, in work, employment and in other aspects of their everyday lives.

Since 2014, we have supported hundreds of primary and secondary school students to attend 3-5 day outdoor residential courses at the Trusts centres in Gwynedd, mid-Wales, and Ullswater, the Lake District. Throughout the courses, the Trust’s instructors focus on how skills, such as empathy, understanding, active listening, and certain experiences can be transferred back into the home or school.

During their stays, the students experience an expedition where they camp out overnight and spend over 24 hours away from modern-day amenities and distractions. Whilst the immediate goal is for the students to become more effective learners, the courses also focus on encouraging the students to develop skills that they can use in other aspects of their lives. The outcomes for the students include increased confidence and improved personal and emotional well-being; improved relationships; enhanced resilience and confidence in learning; and increased knowledge and understanding of the natural environment.

These skills sets have helped the young people that have attended courses over the past 12 months continue to recover from the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw many of them face unprecedented levels of disruption to their lives and become socially disconnected, emotionally fragile and lacking the confidence, inspiration and resilience.

Rob Lawson, Head of Sustainability, said:

“We’re immensely proud to have been able to celebrate the great work that the Outward Bound Trust has delivered with our support over the past 8 years at 11 Downing Street and the House of Lords. We know that many of the children and young people in the communities that PFG serves lack social mobility, and what the Outward Bound Trust does through the residential courses it offers is help to widen their ambitions and aspirations. But what it does more explicitly is provide them with an opportunity to see and experience things that they didn’t know existed, whether that’s seeing a specific career through interaction with one of the instructors or from the natural environment itself – it enables them to recognise paths they might want to follow in the future.”

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