School Leader, Park View

2nd August 2015

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The former Challenger and current School Leader at Park View Community School went on his first World Challenge expedition when he was 16 and the experience has played a major part in shaping his life and career ever since. With his thirst for adventure, he spent much of his available time during and between his degree and PGCE travelling in South America, Africa and Asia.
"I always tried to avoid the touristy places," he said. "I've lived among communities in the slums of Brazil and in mud huts on the Maasai Mara reserve."
He doesn't want young people in his school to miss out on the opportunities he had.
"It opens their eyes to the wider world, what's important and what's not. I want them to feel that same excitement, and to get the same buzz from overcoming the challenges. It's great preparation for life. There are some of our pupils who wouldn't otherwise look beyond Chester-le-Street, who think that's it for their lives, who might not be given the opportunity to do other things. This is a way to break down that sense of limitations – they can do anything if they work at it.
"They have such big smiles on their faces – being out there in a remote village on the other side of the world – and they love coming back and being able to tell other people all about what they've done."
Andy has seen first-hand the implications of a lack of physical and mental readiness.
"When I went on that first expedition to South Africa there was a once in a lifetime chance to climb a mountain with an incredible view, but some of the group had to pull out before they reached the top after they'd already done most of the work. On my first trip as a Leader we had to split a group up in terms of fitness levels, which was a shame, not what it's about.
"You get such a mixture of types of fitness. A lot of students at the age of 16 or 17 will go to the gym or do weight training. But it can be a fad and we found that a lot of students who thought they were very fit struggled when they were out there. If you don't put the effort in, the fitness will let you down.
"This time we have hammered home on fitness and team working, and they run their own fitness sessions and they choose what works for them, so some are doing netball, some walking."
A teacher at Park View for six years, his first trip as Leader was to Vietnam and Laos in 2012.
"The project involved helping to build a new school, but it also meant we got to live with families in the jungle, alongside them in their huts, taking part in everyday life. A real highlight was when we finished on the project in early afternoons and we'd play football, help with the cooking, just sitting around talking.
"We were only the second group of Westerners to go there, but when the villagers see how much the students give, the barriers are quickly broken down and we stay in contact with some of the guides and other people we met there."