How many World Challenge expeditions have you been on?
This summer (2015) I will be going on my second expedition to Laos and Cambodia with 17 students from Sanders School. Before this I went on another expedition with 17 students from Frances Bardsley School for Girls (now known as Frances Bardsley Academy) to Borneo in 2011.
Why did you choose for your students to go on a World Challenge rather than using another expedition company?
I trust World Challenge. My previous experience was excellent from start to finish. When taking people’s children away, I want to feel confident in the support network of the company. The worst thing to happen on my previous trip was I had to have my first ever filling and it was all sorted within a matter of hours! I feel World Challenge actually care about the wellbeing of the students rather than viewing them as a way to make money.
Also, the whole ethos of the company is about improving the world we live in. Whether that be improving the cultural awareness of students or helping those less fortunate than ourselves. The instant contact with the school liaison representative is invaluable – any concerns or needs are dealt with straight away which means less stress or worry for school leaders.
How did your students embrace the build-up stage (fundraising etc.)?
This team have worked really well at getting all their fundraising sorted. Some students even raised all their money and made enough to cover their kit and injections without hand-outs from Mum and Dad! One young man I’m taking is a Pupil Premium student from a single parent family and other staff were worried when I accepted his application for the trip. However, he has raised most of his money by doing a paper round (before school) seven days a week.
We’ve also worked as a team to support each other so when one girl’s scout group had an open day, she managed to get free stalls for anyone in the team that wanted them. It also helped that I launched the trip before the summer holidays so they had six weeks (when they had just signed up and were very excited) to start their fundraising.
Would you agree that the fitter and healthier the students are on expedition, the more enjoyable they’ll find the experience and why?
Yes! The word ‘Challenge’ should tell people what they’re signing up for! Students should be pushed to improve themselves in all ways and fitness is really important. The issues we had on my last expedition were from students who weren’t properly prepared for the jungle trek or mountain climb. Since then, World Challenge has introduced the fitness tests and I think these are great to remind students what the trip will be like at times.
I also think the 15km run (which I have completed as a trek with my first team and a run with my second) and the Pathfinder (which my team are signed up to) are great ways to build fitness levels together and bond students. If the expedition was easy, no-one would get as much out of it and the sense of achievement would be a lot less.
What did you as a teacher get out of the expeditions?
The expedition is an opportunity to let students lead. The majority of school trips have to be planned down to every last detail and there’s little or no scope to adapt and change the itinerary. I like the idea that teachers are there to oversee and make sure everything is safe but students can problem solve situations and even make mistakes as it gives a truer reflection of the real world.
It’s also a chance to see students develop in a way that will never be achieved on an average school trip. Their levels of independence and confidence grow and this is something you can’t teach in a classroom so the expedition gives teachers the chance to enrich students in a new way.
How did you feel the students benefited?
My last team still have a Facebook group they are all part of that they post on every so often. Four years on and many of them still say it’s the best thing they have ever done.
For some of them, it impacted on their lives when they came back home. One student, who is now at university, had the confidence to travel round Europe with a friend and then signed up for a degree which involves living abroad for a year. She said if she had never done the World Challenge, she wouldn’t have dreamt of either of these things. It also made them all much more aware of the things we take for granted like water and electricity.
Would you recommend other schools to get involved with World Challenge and why?
I would definitely recommend World Challenge to other schools. It’s such an amazing opportunity that it should be available to all pupils. I know lots of schools are put off by the price but I think they need to be reminded that it is to be fundraised rather than paid by parents.
I feel more schools in less affluent areas should be encouraged to get involved as when I speak to other school leaders they often tell me they are from private schools or all their Challengers are from families who won’t struggle with finances. I already feel my current team have got so much more out of the trip simply through the achievement of raising money or finding ways to get kit cheaply, etc.
Has your school benefited from being involved with World Challenge?
It’s the first time the school had run an expedition and we’ve had a few articles in the local paper about the team. We also make a World Challenge display for every open evening or open day and talk to prospective parents about the opportunities students are offered at Sanders. I’ve had a lot of parents from the current pupils ask me when the next World Challenge is, so I know it’s created a lot of interest and excitement in the school.
Listen to Natalie Wickenden talking about Sanders School's 2015 World Challenge to Cambodia & Laos