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Outdoor pursuits

The Kielder Challenge once again proves the benefits of team play.

Bernard Adams reports

Two schools in Wolverhampton have won the Kielder Challenge for the second year in succession. Pen Hall, which has 80 pupils with a range of disabilities, and the mainstream St Peter's School beat off competition from 115 other teams to take the Challenge Cup. They came out on top after completing a series of demanding tests in a sun-drenched Kielder Forest in Northumberland at the end of September.

Laura Stone, 15, from St Peter's said: "The scariest moment was waiting for the result; and the best was the way we planned to use the strengths of everyone in the team."

The competition, supported by the HSBC Education Trust, started with 24 heats held in country parks and woodlands all over Britain in May and June.

Each team had eight members aged between 13 and 17 - four able-bodied and four disabled - and had to attend one of the day-long heats, where they were faced with five brain-boggling challenges. Points scored in the heats determined which teams made it to the national final, held over two days in Kielder Forest.

The top six teams were invited to compete for the Kielder Challenge Cup, and the next six competed before the main final for the Kielder Challenge Plate.

Rod Holmes, who organised the competition for the Fieldfare Trust, explains the type of challenges the teams faced: "We had a high-level rope course, a swinging crane to negotiate, a test involving passing a plank through a series of offset hoops, a game of solitaire played in the water, in which they definitely got very wet and muddy - and even a spot of dowsing. Our aim is to test teamwork."

The winning "coach", assistant head of Pen Hall School, Ian Thompson, was delighted with his team's performance. "The challenge is a fantastic occasion and it's the most inclusive activity that our students are engaged in," he says.

"Over the whole weekend the disabled and the able-bodied bonded in a way that they couldn't anywhere else. They were singing together on the bus well before we got to Northumberland and over the weekend the able-bodied did everything they could to help their fellow team members."

As well as the cameraderie, Ian Thompson likes the way the whole competition is run. "Fully achieving the task in hand is not the prime consideration. The contestants are assessed on their planning, their teamwork and their evaluation afterwards. There is a debrief after every activity."

As well as getting students to work together on the day, Sue Richards, from St Peter's School, says the competition has helped to foster long-term links between them. "We were part of the winning team last year and all the members still keep in close contact with each other."

lThe Kielder Plate was won by Notre Dame School from Sheffield.

For more details about next year's competition, Tel: 0114 270 1668 Email:

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