Outward Bound's impact during COVID-19
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Outward Bound's impact during COVID-19

Emma Ferris, Head of Impact Evaluation

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to cause severe disruption to everyday life across the UK, there’s no doubt that young people are counting the cost more than others.

  • School closures have led to pupils losing several months of learning,
  • Unemployment caused by Covid-19 has risen more sharply for 16-24 year olds than any other age group,
  • And mental health concerns have risen at an alarming rate amongst school pupils since the start of the pandemic.

Many young people are losing hope and abandoning their ambitions completely and there are real fears that their future prospects will be permanently scarred.

How Outward Bound are responding

Outward Bound programmes have long played a key role in developing essential social and emotional skills in young people; skills that enable them to approach challenge and change with a positive mindset, to recover from setbacks and to face the future with confidence. We’re more determined than ever to instil these qualities in young people, and whilst we’re unable to run residential courses (with the exception of apprentice and graduate programmes), we’re working with young people across the UK through Adventure Days and in-school adventure programmes.

By April next year, we aim to have provided up to 14,000 young people with one of these experiences.

Our Impact Report

In our first report assessing the impact of these non-residential programmes, we highlight how they’re meeting an urgent social and educational need amongst young people. After months of being forced to stay indoors, with extra-curricular activities largely still postponed and restrictions still in place on seeing family and friends, they’re providing a life-line to many young people, offering freedom, respite and the chance to be active and socialise in a Covid-safe way.

550x750 Adventure Day abseil
An adventure day at Loch Eil
The impact of the Adventure Days

Since the start of August, the Adventure Days have given young people an urgently needed sense of freedom and release, enabling them to shed the feelings of restriction and containment they experienced for several months during the first national lockdown. The impact on their wellbeing is immediate; they report making new friends, feeling more confident and motivated and more positive about overcoming challenges in the future. Recognising the benefits of physical activity, they’re also keen to be more active and spend more time outdoors, which will undoubtedly help them to maintain positive wellbeing as restrictions continue to limit their everyday life.

Before I was struggling to get out of bed, missing my friends and school and doing normal things. Now I just want to get back on Ullswater and do the activities. I also am happier at home and can concentrate better at school. It has helped me be stronger to cope, now I know I can do things that I didn't know I could do before.
Kelly, age 11, Adventure Day participant
Impact report 2020 stats
550x750 In School instructor
Instructing an in-school adventure
The impact of the in-school adventure programmes

When pupils returned to school in the Autumn term, their social and emotional skills had deteriorated significantly after months of home-schooling during lockdown. Many struggled with listening and attention skills, had forgotten how to interact with each other socially and had gained weight due to physical inactivity. Whilst schools are now focused on delivering a recovery curriculum to ensure pupils catch up on months of lost learning, the well-being of pupils has also become an urgent priority, and the Outward Bound in-school adventure programmes are playing a key role in restoring pupil physical and emotional well-being whilst re-engaging them with their learning.

They come in smiling; they look forward to the next session, they’re doing things like ‘life skills’ that they maybe haven’t had the opportunity to do before, they’re motivated and happy and that’s what we’re aiming for.
Katie Chappell, Headteacher, Shap Primary School

Teachers have gained significantly from the expertise of outdoor instructors to build their own confidence to deliver outdoor learning in school grounds. And their wellbeing has also improved as a result of getting outdoors, whilst Covid-related anxiety has decreased as a result of being able to spend less time in the classroom, where it is hard to socially distance.

One of the main [benefits] has been the teachers’ confidence for outdoor learning. I’ve been teaching for nearly 20 years and I’m outdoorsy but even myself, just taking that class out [is challenging], especially if you’ve got any pupils that are tricky. It’s just building up that bank [of activities] and that confidence. I think it’s a bit of a legacy – once the instructors go, they’re going to have empowered a whole cohort of staff at our school to take this forward, which I think is huge.

Siobhan Bradley, Depute Headteacher, Lundavra Primary School

Read the full report

For more information, download your free copy of our report: Helping young people reconnect, rebuild and recharge during the COVID-19 pandemic

Our 2020 impact report

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Children and young people across the UK have had their lives turned upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic. This report draws on external sources as well as results from our own survey, to examine the role that the outdoors can play for the recovery, resilience and wellbeing of young people.

Young people and COVID-19