St David’s College
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St David’s College: What an award-winning, ‘Gold Standard’ Outdoor Education programme looks like

A St David’s College education goes far beyond four walls. It’s the kind that builds character, instilling resilience, confidence, skills, and talents which can then be transferred to the classroom and to real-world challenges – the very kind that wins awards.

St David’s Outdoor Education Department has been awarded the prestigious “Gold Standard” following a period of rigorous inspection by the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres (AHOEC). It is the highest award for quality Outdoor Education provision and Outdoor Learning. Only three schools in the UK have ever won it – with two of them being in England.

St David’s College

There’s never a dull day at St David’s College. Source: St David’s College

St David’s Outdoor Education encompasses cultural, recreational and sporting opportunities as well as specific “compassion” projects that enrich, enhance and extend pupils’ learning experiences. Outdoor learning here is forward-thinking, current and innovative – with a varied programme that creates cross-curricular links and supports the holistic development of the students throughout their time at school.

One of the lessons observed was described as an “excellent session with particular attention paid to good questioning technique and a good balance of practical and classroom-based work.” “The facilities in the Outdoor Education Department are excellent and a facility that would be the envy of many establishments,” remarked the inspection.

The long-term inspection analysed 55 different areas of how Outdoor Education operates, from safety and facilities to quality of teaching and everything in between. Each is graded on a scale of one to five (with five being excellent). St David’s scored “five” in almost all of the 55 areas of inspection – with four being the minimum score awarded.

“We’re delighted to receive the recognition of the Gold Award from AHOEC,” says Ian Martin, Head of Outdoor Education. “It’s a testament to the dedication, commitment, and quality of the teachers in the department and a real vote of confidence for parents, whose children will be benefiting from what we offer here.”

“Outdoor Education is embedded in the founding ethos of St David’s College, so we’ve all felt very proud to showcase what we do to the inspection team and the wider world.”

Outstanding experiential learning

Bringing lessons to life and setting its pupils up for success in any and every way possible – that’s St David’s. Outstanding outdoor education, a core part of the school’s curriculum, makes this possible.

With multiple excursions weekly and compulsory curriculum lessons up to Year 10, pupils have the opportunity to learn without limitations. Imagine exploring the mountains of Snowdonia, kayaking, canoeing, paddle-boarding and surfing on North Wales’s beaches and lakes. For St David’s students, it’s just another day of school.

This long-term Outdoor Education development builds up to Year 10, where pupils help to plan and take part in an expedition that is one of the highlights of their time at St David’s. These expedition journeys take place across Europe, and previous destinations have included canoeing and sea kayaking in Scandinavia, caving in Ireland and trekking in the Alps.

Years 5 to 10 students have a full day every fortnight dedicated to Outdoor Education. For those in Years 11-13, this becomes optional, with most pupils continuing their pursuits via the busy weekend activities programme. Sixth Formers can undertake a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Outdoor Education and all students are introduced to the hugely popular Duke of Edinburgh Awards Scheme.

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St David’s College is where students develop holistically through outdoor adventure. Source: St David’s College

Every week, each student takes part in over 20 hours of physical activities that span Outdoor Education as well as sports and PE. Expeditions in the holidays are open to all and take students further afield, such as Husky Sledding in the Arctic, surfing in Lanzarote or rock climbing in Spain.

On top of that, the school shows its commitment to hands-on learning by absorbing most of the costs. After all, the great outdoors is in their backyard and their extensive kit store is in no shortage of kayaks, canoes, surfboards, and even home to a fleet of sailing boats. The correct clothing, shoes, boots, wetsuits, climbing harnesses, helmets, and more are all ready for your child’s next adventure.

No adventure, however, is complete without a purpose. These excursions aren’t purely for enjoyment or memory’s sake – although there are plenty of both. They ensure St David’s pupils grow in confidence and character, gain motivation to learn, as well as develop socio-emotional, and environmental awareness. Students gain activity skills and skills in teamwork, leadership, planning, and risk-taking as well – all vital lessons to enhance academic learning and life beyond school.

“The extensive Outdoor Education programme lies at the heart of the school’s mission to help pupils acquire confidence and self-esteem and to find and develop their gifts and talents,” says Estyn HMI, the education and training inspectorate for Wales.

Behind each smiling student and successful graduate is a team of dedicated staff. Based in a purpose-built Log Cabin, with a fully-equipped activity store, the Outdoor Education team is made up of qualified teachers who hold a range of multiple outdoor qualifications. They work seamlessly with the academic and pastoral teams in the school to understand every child’s individual needs. The result? A lifetime of memories, a bright future ahead, and the will to never give up.

To find out more, sign up here for St David’s College’s Open day on the 21st May 2022.

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