SIXTH-form students at Isle of Wight’s St George’s School have benefited from life-enhancing experiences thanks to a funded visit to UKSA.
The Isle of Wight based charity which provides water-based adventures, education and world-leading maritime training, was able to fund 25 students from the school where all students have additional needs.
UKSA offers young people of all abilities and needs, activities where they can learn skills for life in an aspirational and safe environment with bespoke programmes designed to build confidence and encourage teamwork using watersports with the great outdoors as a catalyst for positive outcomes. The charity measures six Skills for Life throughout the course of its visits; communication, decision-making, teamwork, self-belief, determination and resilience.
David Stephens, a class teacher at St George’s School who led the visit said:
“I cannot praise UKSA enough for the opportunity our sixth formers have been provided and without its funding would simply not have been possible. Before Covid, our students had stayed overnight on Hayling Island but this was the biggest trip of this kind for a number of years, particularly for sixth formers.”
The group of 16-19 year olds visited UKSA in Cowes from Monday to Friday on day visits, spending the week taking part in an outdoor learning programme which gave the opportunity to try activities which included dinghy sailing, kayaking, paddleboarding and raft building.
“Due to the needs of our students, many of them would prefer to stay at home a lot and not want to go out and socialise. So from the outset, the group we took were very anxious, had reservations about wearing wetsuits and not wanting to go in cold water. Despite lots of fears and worries, they all joined in and took part, pushing themselves out of their comfort zone.
“Despite living on the Island, many of our students had never been in the sea. The instructors were incredibly patient and teamed with being encouraged by their peers, their water confidence grew very quickly. There’s something about being on the water, taking you out of your comfort zone and that perceived fear. I think getting in the water, overcoming the fear and gaining that self-belief was great and I definitely think the students got the most out of the in-water activities.”
Not only do the visits to UKSA build resilience and teamwork during their time there and create transferable skills to use afterwards, it also creates new conversation starters amongst the students on their return to school.
“When we came back to school, we held discussions about our time at UKSA and you could immediately see the confidence growth in the students. Different leaders came to the surface, people who are normally confident requiring more guidance during our visit, and those who are less confident coming out of their shells. One particularly shy student took the lead in supporting an upset student and helping them through their experience which was really great to see. We also had lots of our students who visited UKSA last year, having conversations with those who went this year, with both sides taking advantage of that common ground.
“Resilience and perseverance are key at our school, but UKSA was brilliant for reaffirming that ethos. It improved from Monday through to Friday with some not wanting to go on the boats during the first few days but being very comfortable by the end of the week and overcoming those struggles.”
Students from St George’s were further inspired when greeted by four former students who are now employed by UKSA.
“One student in particular who left our sixth form last year joined UKSA’s foundation programme and was an instructor for our group. It was so great for the current students to have those role models and see how those next career steps are within reach.
“This experience has made such a difference to our students. They have all come away saying how much they enjoyed it, even those who believed they would not. Teamed with the former students who now have their careers underway with UKSA, the students are very inspired for the future.”
To find out more about UKSA, funding options and the group residentials, please visit: www.uksa.org.