Don't cut back on adventure learning: it's when children discover there's more to life than a good phone signal

15th April 2011 at 01:00

I fully understand that educating the next generation is a challenging, rewarding and, at times, thankless task for some in education. I also appreciate that teachers, through hard work and determination, lead by example and make education creative, exciting and adventurous - in and out of the classroom.

Young people must have blind faith in themselves and the personal drive to see things through. This is not only very important for them, but for the whole of society.

My brothers and I certainly had that belief growing up, doing what we did, starting with nothing. It wasn't about money - we had a passion for what we were doing, rather than thinking of what we could make out of it.

We got lots of knock-backs as a family when we were younger, but we saw it as a learning curve. Equipping young people with the skills to cope with whatever life throws at them is important. Successful careers are littered with knock-backs: they are part of the process. Nothing happens overnight.

Take, for example, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg. Here is someone who has achieved great success through his resilience and powerful sense of self-belief. This young man had what he felt was a good idea, he wanted to see it through, and so he did. Young people should be made to feel that they can take risks and, with hard work, win.

Unfortunately, it can be hard for many children to reach their true potential because of their family's financial situation. So it is more important than ever that we raise their aspirations and equip them with the skills to be resilient and give them the confidence to cope with life's ups and downs.

One of the best ways to do this is through adventure learning, such as that provided by the Outward Bound Trust, which can teach young people to manage risk rather than live in a risk-averse environment.

In September 2007, Michael Gove commented on his vision to bring back adventure into learning: "We will change the law to shift the balance against the health and safety bureaucrats, to dismantle the compensation culture, to let our children enjoy the wind in their hair and the thrill of testing themselves outside their comfort zones."

If young people aren't challenged, they can end up lethargic, relying on benefits. They might think, "Well, I have an idea, but I'll let someone else do it". Using adventure to push young people out of their comfort zones can only help move society forward.

Sadly, budget and funding cuts are a big threat to adventure learning as they limit opportunities for extra-curricular, developmental activities, including outdoor learning residential courses.

I hope schools realise the importance of these activities in helping young people become resilient. They also provide the opportunity to escape modern technology.

Technology has robbed many young people of their ability to be independent and done a great deal of harm to the way they think, make decisions and interact - not only with their peers but also their parents and teachers.

Instructors at the Outward Bound Trust see this weekly when young people arrive at their centres, which are based in remote environments where mobile reception is patchy at best. Many children are at a loss because their phones won't work, but by the end of their week, most have almost forgotten they have one at all.

I feel passionately that young people should be encouraged to excel at what is interesting or important to them. To that end, teachers must be allowed to bring creativity into the school environment.

I can still identify with young people struggling to learn and achieve, which is why it is so important that schools offer a broad range of subjects so there is something for everyone to excel at.

Take Churchill, who did very badly at school. He reportedly said that the reason was that he was never taught anything that interested him. But when he was, he excelled, and went on to use those skills for the benefit of the whole country.

I support schools that relax the national curriculum at key stage 3 and give young people time to learn outside the classroom through extra-curricular activity. I would urge school leaders to allow this to happen, particularly on the move up from primary to secondary, an unsettling period for many.

I first became involved with the Outward Bound Trust after attending one of its gala fundraising events in 2008, when I was introduced to four young students. They spoke to me about their Outward Bound experiences and the impact it had on their lives. The main thing that I remember from meeting them - and the thing that is so valuable about the work the trust does - is that their course took them from a point where they didn't think they could achieve anything or make a difference.

It completely turned around their negative mindset. Suddenly they found themselves on the offensive rather than the defensive and were able to see what they were truly capable of. Their potential had been unlocked.

I share the belief of the founder of the trust, Kurt Hahn, who said: "We are all better than we know. If only we can be brought to realise this, we may never be prepared to settle for anything less."

Robin Gibb is a singer and songwriter, best known as a member of the Bee Gees. He is ambassador for the Outward Bound Trust. Details of their residential learning programmes are at www.outwardbound.org.uk.

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