25 years with Macmillan Academy


As The Outward Bound Trust celebrates 75 years this week, we thought it would be a great opportunity to ask one of our longest supporting schools to talk about their relationship with us.

Every year for the last 25, Macmillan Academy, based in Middlesbrough have been visiting The Trust; sending their entire year 7’s on an Outward Bound expedition course.  We caught up with David Exeter, (Former) Director of Learning, Outside the Classroom at Macmillan, to talk more about this partnership and what it’s meant to the school.

Can you give us an insight into the relationship of Macmillan Academy and The Trust?

The journey has been a long standing relationship. 27 years ago Macmillan Academy was a City Technology College, under the leadership of Bob Howarth until his retirement in 2006. In these early days in the 1990's the school saw the instant value and benefit of using Outward Bound’s Ullswater center, for all its year 7 students. Some significant steps were taken in installing The Trust into the DNA of Macmillan at that time.

All Year 7 students have the opportunity to attend (regardless of their financial circumstances) and importantly the relationship building with their tutor was critical. As a tutor, there was an expectation and a desire to attend with your tutor group. The realisation was the positive tutor/student relationship built early on lasted for the seven-year journey of students within the school.

How important is Outward Bound to Macmillan and how is it rooted in to the curriculum?

We should not underestimate the experience of an eleven-year-old who sees the stars for the first time, has a peak experience in winter conditions on a Lake District fell, is inspired by the storytelling of personal adventures of Outward Bound Instructors…

The Trust was and is still part of the curriculum of Macmillan Academy, providing opportunities for generations of young people to attend its residential programmes at Outward Bound Ullswater. The year 7 programme remains as the bedrock programme, whilst a number of other programmes have been delivered over the years. Outward Bound has provided leadership programmes for post 16 students, John Muir Award programmes for year 8 students, and Adventure and Challenge programmes at Ogwen Cottage, in Wales.

A number of students also have the opportunity to take part in multiple residential programmes with The Trust during their time at the school. We were delighted that some students were awarded scholarships to attend the Skills for Life programmes, the flagship nineteen-day personal development programme.

In the last 25 years we are talking about thousands of young people over the generations taking part on an Outward Bound course! Macmillan Academy has even employed former students into the teaching profession who share the passion and understanding of Outward Bound first hand during their time as students.

TentMacmillan Academy has its own comprehensive outdoor education department. What is it that keeps bringing you back year on year?

The Trust has adventure and journeying in wild places at its core. As a school with a climbing wall and ropes course on site, the fact that The Trust provides real, authentic and natural adventures was so important for the life experiences of our students. We should not underestimate the experience of an eleven-year-old who sees the stars for the first time. Has a peak experience in winter conditions on a Lake District fell. Is inspired by the storytelling of personal adventures from Outward Bound instructors, and undertakes a profound residential experience with their peers.

How valuable are these courses in developing your young people and how do you evaluate this impact at the school?

The Trust has gone to great lengths in evaluating its own performance and publishing its findings in its Social Impact report. This backs up and validates the internal evidence from Macmillan Academy, that Outward Bound works, it's inspirational. For years’ students and parents have feedback both formally through questionnaires, surveys, student council, and parent’s evenings the positive impact, experience, and deep memorable learning students have undertaken. Various external reports on Macmillan Academy have noted its curriculum is memorable, meaningful and motivational. The Outward Bound Trust is part of that success and journey in the improvements and development of whole education.

About David

David has over 20 years professional experience at the leading edge of outdoor learning and adventure education.

His outdoor career started with The Trust where he worked for eight years, before leaving to start an eleven-year career at Macmillan Academy on Teesside as Director of Learning Outside the Classroom. During this time, he had undertaken additional consultancy with Adventure Learning Schools.Since the start of October, David has re-joined The Trust as our new Head of Centre at our Loch Eil Centre. We are delighted to welcome David back to The Trust.

For more information about our education courses please visit our schools and colleges page or contact us.