The Bulwell partnership in Nottingham have concentrated on developing low cost, local one- and two-night camping residentials for primary children in order to make their residential experiences accessible for all. In this case study, the Chair of Governors at one of the partnership’s primary schools describes her experience of attending the camps as a volunteer.
I am Chair of Governors at Springfield Primary School and go on all the camps with the school as a volunteer. So far I have been to the Wollaton (Year 2), Newstead Abbey (Year 5) and Bulwell Academy (Year 3) camps. My involvement started when Springfield governors and staff were sitting one day in the staff room discussing how we should have a book which records the various skills of governors. Lots of our governors over the years have contributed to the school with their various skills, for example making wonderful cakes and volunteering in school (I am working my way through the year groups volunteering in each classroom, so I that know how the school runs and have a better overview of the school). But unless the school asks what their skills are we don’t find out! During this discussion I said that I used to enjoy going camping and the Deputy Headteacher asked if I would like to come camping with the school. Since then I have been on every camp with Springfield and now they just give me the date for the next one!
Planning the residentials is important; as a volunteer I feel confident to attend any of them as the organisation is so good. I do whatever needs doing – washing pots, cooking and helping around camp. I’m really hands on. The Sports Leaders (Year 10 from Bulwell Academy) who come are brilliant – they are very organised and deliver the activities so well. They give staff the opportunity to observe the children working in teams and being led by older students.
I think residentials are such a valuable experience for children. It’s so wonderful to see them in a different environment, for example to see them being able to run wild around the site or pond dipping – things they don’t get to do unless they go on a residential. The children behave differently on residential, they let themselves go more and talk to me more. They still talk about the camps a long time after they come back to school.
Being part of the residential also builds and strengthens relationships between me as a governor with staff. One member of staff said she would hate it and would never go camping, I persuaded her to go and she loved it! The parents also know that I go on residentials and I find they are more likely to talk to me as there is something to talk about.
The camps are so important that I am really keen to make sure we continue to have a budget to enable all children to go on camp; it builds life skills that you just can’t teach in the classroom.
I would encourage any governors to approach their school if they think they have skills to offer. You have to commit to time away from home, but it is worth every minute. I have never been on a camp with the school that I didn’t enjoy.