Tong Woods

Tong Woods Outdoor Experience

 

What is Tong?

The Tong centre is known as Parkwood off Road Centre.

Parkwood is situated in the village of Tong about 3 miles from Bradford and approximately a 25-minute drive from Ravenshall School.

Parkwood Outdoors Ltd is a family business and is run by father and daughter team David and Rebecca Hoare. It was set up by the pair to provide events and training at the venue. Parkwood Off Road Centre caters mainly for off road driving events including 4x4 vehicles and motorcycles.

Parkwood Outdoors Ltd currently offers Ravenshall School the use of the site one day a week free of charge. The site offers 100 acres of different types of terrain that are available to us all year round. The site has minimal vehicle activity on days we are there.

Should staff take pupils out on school trips in this current climate?

The Health and Safety Executive is keen to tackle health and safety myths surrounding school trips. They believe school trips have clear benefits to pupils and point out ’many successful school outdoor learning activities take place each year’. I have included their current advice in Appendix One.

Ravenshall and Kirklees have well established risk assessment procedures in place, which we employ to minimise risks on activities. Mr Smyth has extensive knowledge of the site and Mr Caines has been to review the activities we undertake, offering further advice on ways to reduce risks and develop the experiences for our students.

Learning away from school

Many schools pay large sums of money to private companies to provide their pupils with out-of-school learning experiences. Many outward-bound type companies have started offering this learning style to schools and local authorities. We are in a unique position to offer many elements of such programmes in-house and using the facilities at Parkwood and our own experienced staff – and at a fraction of the cost!

What can we offer our students?

In academic terms we can offer our pupils:

  • The opportunity to develop their communication, planning, problem solving and team building skills;
  • Develop their self-confidence;
  • Enjoy environments they may not have the opportunity to experience with any degree of frequency;
  • Develop/improve personal awareness;
  • Develop strategies to make a contribution in collaborative situations;
  • Think of creative ways to overcome obstacles when problem solving;
  • Develop an understanding and awareness of the environment;
  • Experience and practice the skills of reflective learning;
  • Experience exercise in a stimulating environment;
  • Develop their co-ordination and fine motor skills;
  • To have fun while learning!

Our students will also have the opportunity to experience and enjoy vocational elements of their time at Parkwood. Such experiences have included:

  • Planting Christmas Trees;
  • Helping develop/ maintain planted areas of the site;
  • Developing wildlife areas around the site and reintroducing various animal/ fish species;
  • Experiencing outdoor eating;
  • Developing an interest in fishing possibly resulting in a hobby or lifelong interest;
  • Using satellite technology/OS maps to find their way around the site;
  • Developing confidence/motor skills to cross different types of terrain in a safe efficient manner;
  • Using natural materials to build overnight shelters.

Other benefits include:

  • Experience selecting the correct equipment depending on the activity and weather conditions;
  • Mentoring pupils on their first visit to the site;
  • Developing positive staff/pupil, pupil/pupil relationships;
  • Using previous experiences and knowledge on subsequent visits to the site;
  • Developing social skills enabling them to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner in unfamiliar situations;
  • The opportunity to talk with staff and their peer group about a range of subjects whilst in an informal environment.

Future plans

In order to continue to offer a quality experience to our pupils an investment in new/extra equipment will be required. Quantities and costing will be dependent on the school’s plans for next year in terms of pupil numbers/ frequency of visits. A suggested equipment list is outlined below.

Wellingtons in a range of sizes;
Quality waterproof jackets and over trousers (hard wearing);
A selection of hats and gloves.

It is also recommended a set of waterproof seat covers be purchased to protect the interior of the new school minibuses.

A budget is and will be required to maintain and replace worn out kit along with the food bill for each visit.

We are constantly looking for ways to extend and engage our students in a range of activities whilst on site. Along with the ongoing environmental projects we are involved with, considerations should be given to developing:

  • Digital photography;
  • Mountain biking;
  • Radio control model boating;
  • Involving Ravenshall primary and junior students with appropriate support and employing experienced Ravenshall students as guides;
  • The fishing experience with an investment in equipment;
  • To continue individual studies in an outdoor, engaging, informal environment;
  • To develop personal outdoor cooking skills, possible links to Duke of Edinburgh award.

This is by no means intended as an exhaustive list, but as a starting point for discussion.

Inclusion

The experience we offer to our students at Parkwood promotes inclusive practices. When considering offering a visit to the site, the specific needs of all individuals must be taken into account. If an individual has requirements that need extra considerations then an individual risk assessment will need to be completed. When reviewing the outcome of the risk assessment every effort will be made to include the individual, considering options such as extra support, reduced time at the site, reduced access to areas of the site etc. These considerations must not be considered as negative but a means to promote inclusion. For example, a student in a wheelchair would be able to access fishing/radio control model boating experiences at the lake with the correct support/risk assessments in place.

General notes on planning for a visit

Many pupils at school often request a place on the Parkwood day visits which underline their popularity and how much pupils enjoy the experience;
Pupils are selected for a visit based on a range of selection criteria. This process takes place the week before a visit to ensure pupils are up to date with the visit requirements;
Ravenshall staff have been very supportive of this process and we link with the behaviour team when selecting students for a trip to Tong;
The current model of my PPA time being on a Monday morning, with the trips to Tong being on Tuesday works well as it gives me the day before to prepare;
Planning the visits at the start of the week tends to work best for Parkwood as they can use the site for other events building up to the weekends;
The school minibus is block-booked for the year and checked at the start of each term;
We keep a record of who has been so we can ensure a fair and transparent selection system is in place.
Letters are sent home to notify parents that the visit will take place the following week and advising them what the child will need and the possibility of their clothes becoming dirty!
Packed lunches are ordered from the school kitchen once the student list has been finalised and any dietary needs taken into account;
Mr Smyth has a First Aid qualification and a First Aid kit is carried around the site by the group;
In order to get the most from the visit a full day is recommended leaving school at approximately 9.25am and returning to school for school transport at the end of the school day;
Medical records are reviewed once a student has been selected to ensure the needs of the pupil are catered for on the day (medical and dietary);
A staffing ratio of two staff to six pupils works well depending on the needs of the group and the activities planned;
The wellbeing of each student is monitored thought the day and the activities modified to suit the needs of the group;
Photographic records are kept and put on display in the school. Students can also access the photographs for their leavers’ year books.
 
Conclusion

Outdoor learning experiences can offer many benefits not only for our students, but also our school community.  These benefits include:

Benefit to our School Community

  • A unique and professional development experience for teaching and support staff;
  • Strengthened relationships between students and staff that have a lasting impact beyond the end of the outdoor learning experience;
  • An experience that can become a strong and valued part of the school's culture;
  • Promoting a positive approach to considering ways to engage students beyond the classroom

 
Benefits to the Students

  • Greater maturity and self-confidence both in the classroom and socially;
  • Increased competence in overcoming difficulties, ‘I can do it’ attitude;
  • Willingness to attempt new tasks;
  • Demonstration of greater self confidence in team/ group-oriented settings;
  • Changing negative self-image, stereotypes and limiting beliefs;
  • Increased personal achievement;
  • Gaining deeper understanding, compassion and tolerance for others.
  • Developing teamwork, communication, personal responsibility (right choices) and initiative;
  • Developing planning and problem solving skills;
  • Assistance in the transition from school to post 16/18 destinations.

The Tong experience has grown into a popular activity over the past few years, with the students actively seeking selection for a visit to the site. We have established an excellent working relationship with the Parkwood staff and we intend to develop this further through involvement in environmental projects across the site. The relationship we have developed with Parkwood Off Road Centre has now enabled us to have excellent access to the facilities on offer.

Ravenshall School plans to continue the programme well into the future, positively impacting on student progress and personal development.

Latest News

CEOP's Child Protection Advisors  
CEOP