A-levels are stressful for most pupils. Imagine if there was a way to beat sixth form stress and get pupils outside. Well, the team at Bohunt Sixth Form in Liphook, Hampshire are doing just that.
The outdoor education team offers optional drop in sessions for pupils during the day at their outdoor classroom. Some pupils choose to physically work out their worries and anxieties and chop wood with axes. Others get stuck into ongoing projects that they can store at the classroom and return to such as whittling. And there are pupils who simply bring their lunch and eat it in the calm setting by the campfire. What these activities all have in common is that they give sixth form pupils time outside away from the pressure of exams. It’s the brain break they deserve.
Right now the Outdoor Instructor puts on these sessions whenever they can around the school’s calendar. After Easter, in the ramp up to the final exams, the plan is to up the ante and make sure there is a regular schedule with sessions 1-2 times per week. This way pupils know when to expect outdoor, stress-relieving support at the time they need it most.
Access to the outdoors
Older pupils don’t often get access to the outdoors at school, unless they are studying PE. This project gets older teens outside which in itself helps to combat stress and anxiety as well as to improve overall well being. The activities give young people an outlet for their feelings and worries through physical activity, creativity and just good old fashioned companionship. The fact that the staff member running the session, an outdoor instructor, is not connected to their A-Level studies is another plus. It’s truly a space for pupils to switch off.
The team at the school chose to run these sessions in the most popular study periods of the day and through break. They steered away from sessions first thing in the morning and last thing in the afternoon when sixth form pupils are more likely to stay at home or leave school early. This gives them a few different opportunities to visit the outdoor classroom around their class schedules.
Youth mental health
We talk a lot about children’s mental health and the connections with exam pressure. Now, there are much bigger conversations to be had here about the system and how to fix it. And those must happen. However, in the meantime, here is a practical and beneficial action to support our oldest children through an incredibly stressful time in their education.
And of course, the more time we all spend outdoors, the better!
Let us know if you try this at your school. We would love to know how you get on.