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Two weeks before the mast

I have been co-ordinating our school's involvement in the Tall Ship voyages since 1992. It offers young people an opportunity to experience an unforgettable adventure aboard fascinating vessels, and we have found it ideal for sixth-formers who have become young adults.

Funders, including Mercers of London and HSBC, offer to sponsor students from more than 20 schools and colleges across the UK to join voyages on boats such as the Prince William, pictured here, a steel-hulled, two-masted, square rigged ship which recently made a voyage calling at Southampton, Bruges in Belgium, and London as part of the fifth annual HSBC Tall Ships voyage.

Our former sixth-former Andrew McEwen is pictured here on the voyage which he made this autumn while waiting to start university. In all, 48 teenagers completed the 900-nautical-mile journey, leaving Southampton on September 12 and sailing back into London on September 23.

We now send several pairs of students on these voyages a year, and the whole school talks about it. Students keen to take part have to write to explain why they want to go and attend a 15-minute interview to put their case.

We find it stimulates interest in subjects across the curriculum and even motivates students who do not have a special interest in outdoor pursuits.

In 1992 there was little interest from sixth-form students, with only two applicants. With feedback from successive voyages and the generous sponsorship from the Mercers' and HSBC, after this year's cohort, the number of students who will have participated in a Tall Ship voyage will exceed 40 - quite extraordinary when one considers the landlocked location of the school.

Malcolm Scotto. Senior industrial consultant, Thomas Telford School Technology College, Telford and Wrekin. Tall Ships Youth Trust.

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