A News story by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 29 April 2019

Can you hear that? Water lapping at boats, sails flapping in the breeze and excitement building across the trust for our Think Big residentials with the UK Sailing Association (UKSA)!

This year, E-ACT’s Year 5 pupils are embarking upon an amazing adventure. Starting at the end of April, every single one of our Year 5 pupils from all 16 of our primary academies will take part in UKSA’s residential water sports programme on the Isle of Wight, without charge to their families.

A unique sailing experience for everyone

We are proud to be the first multi-academy trust to offer a residential trip like this on such a huge scale. Through our Think Big residentials, over 800 Year 5 pupils from all over the country will visit a new part of the world, try something they’ve likely never done before and build on important life skills.

Set on the beautiful Isle of Wight, UKSA’s waterfront base will give E-ACT pupils access to a range of exciting activities with qualified instructors. Over the course of their three-day residential trip, our pupils will improve their confidence in the water as they try out kayaking, paddle-boarding, dinghy sailing and keel boating. As well as exciting water sports, they will also get to take part in other unusual activities like crabbing and archery by the sea with their classmates.

As 41% of our primary pupils come from disadvantaged backgrounds, we know that offering this experience to every child for free is incredibly important. For many of our pupils, this will be the first time that they have been far away from home, tried water sports or even seen the sea.

Funding the Think Big residentials

We think residential trips like this are an important part of a broad curriculum, which is why we have funded places for every Year 5 pupil centrally. We have been able to do this by preparing our budgets by focusing on the curriculum needs of every one of our academies and allocating funds accordingly.

Part of the E-ACT Passport

This fantastic experience forms part of our E-ACT Passport: a collection of challenges tailored to each individual year group, from nursery to Year 13, and designed to raise pupils’ aspirations. The passport works by giving pupils the opportunity to take part in a range of enriching experiences in line with our values of thinking big, doing the right thing and showing team spirit.

Through passport challenges, our pupils learn to believe in themselves and understand that there is nothing holding them back, including where they happen to live or their family’s experience in education. By giving pupils access to a broader curriculum through the E-ACT Passport, we can encourage them to step out from their comfort zones, build self-esteem and broaden horizons.

Another aim of the passport is to promote physical and mental health and wellbeing through challenges like walking or running half a marathon, and taking part in nature walk. Our Think Big residential trips contribute to this by offering a unique outdoor experience to pupils which promotes both physical and mental health and wellbeing.

“I learned that I can do anything.”

Like the other challenges in the E-ACT Passport, our Think Big residentials also focus on building skills for life: communication, decision making, teamwork, self-belief, determination and resilience. UKSA consistently see marked improvements in these skills as a result of their sailing residentials – for example, children that attend typically experience a 25% uplift in self-belief.

After completing pilot trips with UKSA last year, pupils from Chalfont Valley E-ACT Academy and Denham Green E-ACT Academy showed huge improvement in their resilience, self-belief and determination. Pupils and teachers also reported an uplift in pupils’ communication and decision-making skills as well as their ability to work as a team. When asked what they had learned about themselves during the experience one pupil said, “I learned that I can do anything.”

Some pupils also found that the experience even helped them in their classes back at academy. When studying texts that mentioned the sea, boats or sailing, pupils had their own real-life experiences to draw upon, as well as lots of new vocabulary that they were able to use in their writing.

Setting sail

We’re thrilled to be able to give all of our Year 5 pupils this amazing experience on the Isle of Wight. We know that experiences like the Think Big residential have a hugely positive impact on pupils – and we can’t wait to hear all about their nautical adventures.

Look out for pupil video diaries which we will be sharing with you over the coming weeks and months.