School runs free camping trips to help students prepare for GCSEs

Bristol school is helping students clear their heads before choosing their GCSE options by taking them on 24-hour camping trips.

Pupils in year 9 at Bedminster Down School are eligible to take part in the Challenge 24 trip, which involves an expedition to Dartmoor to help develop teamwork, problem solving and communication skills, as well as giving youngsters time away to reflect.

Steve Priday, a teacher and trained mountain leader, has been leading the weekly trips, which involve leaving school on a Thursday morning and returning on a Friday afternoon, with groups of up to 12 students at a time.

“I have been genuinely surprised by how well pupils have adapted to the environment, despite many of them having no camping or hiking experience,” Priday said. “It has a different impact on each individual, presenting each with different trials. For some it is the physical nature of the hike of five miles, for others it is the weight of the pack, being away from home, the remoteness of the campsite or missing access to the internet and social media.”

Another teacher accompanies Priday on the trips, selected from a pool of 14 volunteers, each offering up different areas of expertise, including maths, music, geology and astronomy.

The trip is offered free for pupils, with the school covering the cost of essentials, including food, sleeping bags and tents.

“We wanted pupils to take a very personal journey to discover the physical and mental benefits of spending 24 hours outdoors in an isolated environment,” explained headteacher Gary Schlick. “It is a great time in their school career to do this before they enter the demands of examinations to help build confidence and resilience.”

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