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We interview King’s Park Academy Teacher, Andy Darch

We join Andy Darch from King’s Park Academy on a windy Friday afternoon at Poole Park Lake with his year 5 and 6 children who are here on their weekly 6-week session to gain their RYA Level 2.

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So, you’ve picked a cold and windy day……!

Yes, it’s the one slight difficulty we’ve found with our children - they are not used to being out in the open air and therefore on a cold day, like today, there’s just that little fear element that comes into it. They soon get over it though, I feel children don’t spend enough time outside, just outside. 

I noticed that when the boats were tied up they all felt quite safe but when they let go you see there was that little bit of nervousness. However when they started tacking and jibing,  it was ‘yes we did it’ and they were high fiving!

Exactly. The confidence that it’s given our children is really important to us. For some, they don’t necessarily find school easy, but they get such enjoyment and satisfaction out of it and are achieving real success. Honestly, three years ago we didn’t have anybody sailing, now they all want to do it! It’s given some of them a real sense of purpose in school, especially for those in their final year, of wanting to continue to learn a new skill and a desire to carry on at school.

So, it all started with the annual Can Do and Dorset School Games Regatta which Rockley run at Poole Park for local primary and secondary schools?

Yes, we started off doing the ‘Can Do’ Festival with some children. We then realised how great an opportunity we’ve been missing out on so then arranged for our year 5s to do an activity day at Poole Park. I approached the headteacher about doing sailing regularly and she gave us her full support in terms of gaining sports funding towards it, meaning the children are paying a reduced rate.

In the first year we managed to get 30 children and this year we have 60! Everyone says how good it is and everyone wants to join in! 

 

Why do you think it has been so popular?

What they are doing is leading towards qualifications and therefore it’s not seen by our children as just going out for the day but as an opportunity. They realise they are going to get a qualification out of it that they may be able to use down the line whether for a job or for getting on a college course or maybe even employment later on, you never know. I mean several of them are just totally inspired, totally inspired. They were finding school difficult at times, but it has given them a purpose, and the parents are so onboard with it. When I’m walking round school its ‘when are we going sailing?” and it’s just so lovely. 

You’ve also booked a residential with us at Rockley Point for this year?

Yes, this is our first residential and many of the children who are doing their stages at Poole Park will be going. We’ve got some children who did their stage 1 and 2 last year and are now working on their stages 3 and 4.

Are you quite a sporty school?

We’re a reasonably sporty school - we play in the football tournaments, we do netball and other sports, but we’re not an elite, performing sort of sports school. However, what we didn’t want to do was just go down the line of following the traditional sports. We want them to experience a different range of opportunities and broaden the opportunities for children at this age which will completely challenge them.

It is more of a challenge than your bog standard kicking the football around a pitch

It’s definitely a new challenge because you’re learning a new skill and it’s a skill they’re going to take forward with them. That’s what we like about it, and also everyone came in at zero level – they were all in the same boat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you find a change in the pupils?

There’s a real change, a real buzz, and it’s just that excitement and joy it’s bringing to them.

It’s the whole person you are developing and it’s the long-term development of these children. If you provide these opportunities you show them that there are more than just the four walls and they will take it on into life and with their own children. Because of the growth we’ve had, we’ve decided to buy the RYA book - we’ve got them in the library. The kids read them before they come on a course and long may it continue! We love coming down to Rockley and it’s expanding, it’s been a rewarding experience for everyone. 

In Riley’s case, it’s something he’s just loved and now he’s mixed with other children more and he knows that he can really challenge and push himself.

Cassy and Aliyah just love it. They just beam at school now! 

And it’s not just the children who love it!

Every single member of staff who comes to help me has then seen in the classroom the value of what we are doing at Rockley. At the moment the value to us in terms of children and development is huge, absolutely huge. It’s given them an aspiration, it’s given them experience. Experiences and aspirations they wouldn’t have got if they didn’t take part in activities like this.

Since our interview, Andy and King’s Park Academy have taken part in the Dorset School Games Festival at Poole Park Lake as well as enjoying their week-long residential at Rockley Point. Here’s what he had to say about both events:

 

Dorset Games

We enter the Dorset Games in order for our better sailors to test themselves in a competitive environment. The day is extremely well organised and the pupils get to find out their true potential in the sport. The qualifying in the morning to a graded final in the afternoon is a great way to breed confidence in their own ability. The medal rewards at the end are an added bonus to the successful crews and the smiles and sense of achievement are immense. The team awards reward then consistency of all the crews and so encourages pupils to motivate their team members to achieve that little bit more. It allows pupils to gain recognition for learning a new skill.

Rockley Residential

The only way is Rockley for us at King's Park Academy having achieved such a successful first adventure. The staff are delivering a first-class product for the pupils to enjoy. Their energy lifts the pupils to new level of achievement and sense of pride in what they now proudly say they can do. The schools team make you feel the most important client to them and are always there to help you along the way and it's no bother to them to help you solve the issue. The accommodation was brilliant and the catering fed the hungry adventurers ready for their next activity whilst promoting a healthy lifestyle. The whole adventure was well organised, safety conscious and promoting self confidence in each individual pupil. Each day brought a new challenge and opportunity to excel growing in confidence from the previous day. The pupils gained so much enjoyment out of the week and the interaction with peers and the fantastic Rockley staff who motivated pupils to achieve beyond their dreams were magnificent at all times of the day.

To find out more about our residential trips, please click below

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