Olive Academies – Venture Beyond

Grant report

by Olive Academies









Target Group: kids, average age 14
Impact: 2 days of activities, 54 participants each day

Project description

Venture Beyond is an on-land & water outdoor adventure project expertly & responsibly managed by academy staff with approved outdoor centres. Outside of the statutory curriculum, it helps Olive pupils overcome barriers to learning through skills-based, and purposeful experiences and challenges to stimulate & reinforce foundation education, incorporating environmental topics. This enrichment programme specifically aims to cultivate an interest in the outdoors even more vital due to the cost-of-living crisis and the pandemic´s long-term impact. It activates physical exercise, advocates conservation, inspires positive communication & group cohesion.
Key activities undertaken through Venture Beyond during September to December 2023:

  • Wakeboarding
  • Stand-up paddleboarding
  • Kayaking & canoeing
  • Rowing
  • Crate stack, cooperative learning
  • Mountain biking
  • Dinghy sailing
    These activities have the underlying rationale to support young people to:
  • build their self-confidence, through rising to the challenge of activities that they have not attempted before
  • be a motivation to be active and enjoy the outdoors
  • to practice cooperation and leadership skills.

The IGOT-supported programme has also helped develop the partnership with the outdoor centres: Olive staff help outdoor instructors to work well with disadvantaged and marginalised young people, whilst academy staff develop their core skill-set in introducing basic outdoor and watersports skills and to design a curriculum that develops students’ capabilities over time.

Venture Beyond is about providing outdoor physical activities that connect our students with nature, that encourage them to become adventurous and that incentivise fitness. It is also used as a therapeutic intervention.

Project Data

Where did the activities take place?

In specialist centres in Essex, Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, the UK

When did the activities take place?

Between Sept 2023 and Dec 2023

How many days and hours per day of physical activity were included in the activities

9 x 3.5 hour half-day activities took place, the final one will be Mountain biking in Cambridgeshire

How many participants took part in the activities?

A total of 54 students across years 9 to 11: 23 from OA-Th and 31 from OA-Nv

Describe the target group that took part in the activities

Most participants have very low fitness levels, low level interest in physical activity, and many are at risk of obesity – exacerbated due to their sedentary lifestyles. . Nearly all have additional disadvantages to overcome including:

  • special educational needs or disabilities (SEND),
  • acute behavioural issues
  • diagnosed health conditions (such as ADHD, anxiety and depression)
  • low levels of self-confidence and tendency to undermine their own achievements.

Excluded or at risk of permanent school exclusions, our pupils respond best to meaningful, experiential and sensory learning opportunities – all of which are provided by Venture Beyond. The majority are eligible for free school meals. As a result our academies need to provide a high level of personal equipment, such a neoprene shoes, gloves, towels, warm base layers, so pupils can participate and we do not put further pressure on over-stretched family budgets.

What was the average age of participants?

Average age 14

What was the physical activity level of the participants?

Low level – hence the importance of Venture Beyond

How many boys/men?


How many girls/women?


Money received from the Coalition in €:

4.000 EUR

What did you use the money for (guides, gear, accommodation…)?

All funding was used to pay for the outdoor centres that hosted the scheduled outdoor activities as part of Venture Beyond. These centres provided specialist equipment such as paddleboards, kayaks & mountain bikes, as well as the key safety equipment such as buoyancy aids, helmets & wetsuits. Specialist instructor time was also funded for the outdoor adventure events, to ensure that our vulnerable students received high-quality instruction for the core skills they were to learn on the day. Included in the instructor time was also advice & guidance for academy staff to develop their own outdoor learning and teaching skills.


Project Testimonials

How did I feel about the project before it started?

When I’d had a couple of tough days, I was worried about it [Venture Beyond]; then it was fun and it helped me.

What was a challenge?

The activities make me feel good because it’s fun to look back and see that I got to do something like rowing. Rowing makes me feel excited and happy because I feel like I have achieved something, and I like getting good phone calls home.

In the end the students had a whale of a time. There was some anxiety about getting on a small boat and being on the water so having a rescue dog made this easier. The dog also loved being stroked and talked to which was very calming and when it splashed into the water it helped students to relax and to bond with each other, working as a team.

What was your favourite part of the project?

The best bit was when I learnt how to swim with the therapy dog. Outdoor activity gives me stress relief and is a good way to start the week.

It gets me to be outside which I enjoy. It puts me in a good mood and helps me to get on with others.

It [Venture Beyond] has helped with my mental health and relived my stress, as I struggle with anxiety. I liked being in natural water; it helped sooth my head.

I liked it because it gave me a sense of freedom and that helps me get on with other things.

How will this project influence your outdoor adventures in the future?

The opportunities for capacity-building for our own staff has already helped to shape the lasting legacy. As a result of this project, our participating teachers are better positioned to prepare more pupils ahead of these activation days and will have the skills to consolidate their learning back at our academies. To spread the benefit, they are sharing their learning with other teachers onsite. We are also looking at reinforcing teamwork activities. We are also opening up studies and conversations about the environment and the importance of respecting, observing and enjoying the great outdoors.

Some Other Things

Would you recommend applying for an #itsgreatoutthere grant?

9 out of 10

How useful would you say the support provided by the Coalition was to your project?

The support & funding have greatly helped towards our OA Foundation´s mission & goal, creating a lasting legacy. It has enabled two of our academies to extend learning & educational opportunities for our marginalised & vulnerable young people. By helping us to partner with specialist outdoor centres, we have been able to introduce more expensive & potentially hazardous activities in a safe & fun environment. These opportunities are vital to get pupils physically active, connecting with nature & learning about environmental issues. At the same time the grant has contributed to our Professional Development for teachers, saving on costs that would otherwise have been needed. The prestige of being part of the Coalition has build our own credentials, particularly at international level.