My children loved Captain Underpants. I did too. Maybe I still do, because somehow in our family I became known as Pants Man – which I like to think was because I was something of an action adventure hero akin to the great Captain; a make-exciting-things-happen-somehow kind of a dad. Maybe there were other reasons, but let’s move on. 
The trouble was, as life got more hectic, I made less and less time to plan for adventures to happen. Life became a bit of a treadmill, exciting things happened less often, and Pants Man became dull, boring, uninspiring. Grey Pants Man. Not good. 
"To be sure of doing exciting things - to have even microadventures - you need to plan and prioritise your time." 
So now I’m doing something about it. Amongst other things I’ve embarked on a “learn to row” course (that’s row as in a boat with oars, not row as in what I try to avoid after twenty four years of marriage); and I’ve committed to a charity bike ride for a second year. Pants Man reborn – padded Lycra optional. The point of this rambling is: to be sure of doing exciting things – to have even microadventures – you need to plan and prioritise time. Plan ahead for adventure. 


Ok hands up - the notion of planning for adventure could be seen as contrary to my post in October, where I encouraged people to take advantage of opportunities when they arise because we "can't plan ahead with any certainty for holidays, visits and special events", Everything written above, and everything that follows was written a lifetime ago in 2018 B.C (Before Covid). The two views aren't mutually exclusive I promise! A school plans a curriculum well in advance, and so planning for adventure in this context is the case I'm making; and you can do so with Sandwell's centres safe in the knowledge that there is no financial risk at all. My resoltion back in October - to take every opportunity, to make every opportunity, and to do special things whenever you can - absolutely stands. It's what Pants Man would have wanted. 


Everyone’s life should include adventures of some sort. Adventures are life-enhancing experiences that inspire, challenge, develop and define us; sharpening our senses and helping us to live life to the full. Learning – about our world, “me”, and our relationships with others – is integral to adventuring; and the benefits to health are increasingly being demonstrated. 
When schools bring children to residential centres, those children have adventures. 
One definition of adventure is an undertaking – usually involving a journey – which includes a degree of discovery, challenge, and uncertainty. One thing is certain, though – if we don’t plan time for adventures in the hectic modern world, then adventures might pass us by. 


We believe that a residential programme is more impactful when it is progressive and threadded throughout the school life. We know that it's not always straight forward, but with a long enough leadtime, a clear learning focus, and maybe even a bit of fundraising and Pupil Premium support along the way then maybe mountains can be moved!  
It’s great then, that the majority of Sandwell schools and academies use their own Sandwell centres regularly. A lot of schools from Sandwell and outside of the borough organise visits to more than one Sandwell centre each year, and this is where we encourage group leaders to plan a number of years ahead; to ensure that they get the pattern of courses – school adventures - that suits them best and to ensure that we are complementing their longer term strategy.  
The advantages of this are clear: 
Teachers can plan to make visits fully integral to pupils' learning.  
Schools can set up their preferred pattern of visits to the centres for different age groups, over a period of years.  
Parents can plan payments over a longer lead-time, reducing financial risk to school and adding value through increased participation
Progression can be built in, and support given to specific aspects of the curriculum, pupil wellbeing, and school plan priorities.  
We have plenty of ideas and established programmes for both primary and secondary schools to use as a starting point. Outcomes and delivery is tailored for each visit, with every visit providing an opportunity to: 
develop resilience, confidence & independence 
know how to keep physically and emotionally healthy 
become more environmentally aware 
support students' achievement 
Some ideas for a progressive approach to Primary School residential visits are: 
Day visit 
Edgmond Hall or Frank Chapman 
Nursery rhymes and fairy tales 
Fun/wellbeing; stimulus for language and vocabulary. 
2 night residential 
Edgmond Hall or Frank Chapman 
Nature detectives or Christmas journey 
first-hand discovery; science; RE, independence and relationships.  
2 or 4 night residential 
Frank Chapman or Edgmond Hall 
Young adventurers, pirates, Stone Age 
Fun/wellbeing; maps and maths; independence. 
4 night residential 
Ingestre/Plas Gwynant rotated 
each year 
Creative / expressive arts to explore a topic; outdoor exploration and adventure. 
Creative skills; challenge, confidence and resilience. Transition. Fun and wellbeing 
Edgmond or Frank Chapman 
Shelter building; camp fire; nature walks; animal magic. 
Parental engagement and support. 
Staff training 
Training day/weekend 
Team building through creative art project or shared outdoor experience, with indoor workshops if required. 
Launch a step-change in school plan; share school vision; strengthen a great team; positive culture change. 
Chris Davies (Education Partnerships Manager) and I would love to talk to you, learn more about your aims for the school and to share a few ideas so do get in touch. We'd happily send a full proposal, and we'd keep adventure and creativity at the heart of it. 
With best wishes, 
Richard Oakes is Sandwell Residential Education Service's Manager, and former school governor. 
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