The Outdoor Curriculum

The skills and concepts which we develop in our pupils at Heath Mount through Outdoor Education are built up year upon year through our own bespoke spiral curriculum

Pupils holding hands jumping mid-air

At Heath Mount, we have developed our own progressive Outdoor Education spiral curriculum which is run by our own qualified staff rather than being contracted out to external providers. The curriculum is thus tailored to the needs of our children by staff who know them extremely well and each Outdoor Education experience builds upon and reinforces previous experiences and learning. We believe that this sets us apart from comparable prep schools and significantly strengthens the learning opportunities we offer.

We are privileged in having our own forest school as well as extensive grounds and woodland in which our pupils can play and explore and it is here, in the children’s first years at the school that the outdoor education learning journey begins. In years 3 and 4, children get their first taste of camping with overnight camps in the school woods. This is followed in Year 5 with their first residential trip away in which basic outdoor skills are introduced to the children along with the key concept of developing teamwork through shared living and through undertaking group tasks and challenges. Over the following three years, during multiple trips and expeditions, these basic skills and concepts are revisited, expanded, re-enforced and added to in an ever broadening spiral.

Rope drawing



Year 3 and 4 Camps

Heath Mount is blessed with magnificent grounds including acres of woodland.

Pupil blowing on toasted marshmallowChildren are encouraged to nurture their sense of adventure and exploration through free play in the woods. In the younger year groups of the school, groups of friends spend many happy hours building and developing their own camps and dens, and new societies are constantly emerging and evolving with their own currencies and systems of trade.

This is playing the way play should be, based on imagination, creation, mutual cooperation and collaboration.

In the summer term children in years 3 and 4 have the opportunity to enjoy an overnight camp in the school grounds in form and year groups. Our woods provide an idyllic setting for our pupils’ first experiences under canvas, complete with campfire and marshmallows.

For many children, these camps are their first experience of a night away from home and provide a supportive and fun environment in which to make their first steps towards independence.

Boys poking heads out of a tent


Dukes Barn

The start of the Outdoor Education Journey 

Student in helmet climbing out of cave

In November each year the Year 5’s travel to Derbyshire’s Peak District for their first residential trip away from school. This trip is designed to introduce pupils to basic outdoor skills, to develop teamwork through shared living, group tasks, and challenges and to develop independence and self-belief through an overcoming challenge.

Activities include abseiling, weaselling, caving, climbing, low ropes course and a night hike. As well as being an important learning opportunity, the trip provides a shared, fun bonding experience for the year group  


Carsington Camp

This trip introduces children to basic camping skills.

Students posing on river rock crossing

The children learn to pitch their own 3 man tents and are taught to cook for themselves on Trangia stoves.

The trip is built around water sports sessions in which the children are challenged to develop new skills, which in turn leads to an increase in self-confidence and self-belief. The concepts of self-reliance and working for the good of the group continue to be developed alongside the introduction to camping skills.

Alongside teamwork, leadership skills are also introduced through engaging in group challenges and with children taking turns to lead their groups on hikes. On these hikes, the children are introduced to the basics of navigation using map and compass.
Girl in life jacket canoeing


Leadership Training Camp

Year 7 begins with the first of three camps for this year group, in early September. 

Students reading map in woods

This is a two-day course with an overnight camp in the school grounds or in nearby private woodland. The focus will be on teaching leadership strategies and skills which will then be put to the test through a series of command task challenges and role play situations working in small groups. As well as taking their turn to lead, pupils will become keenly aware of the need for effective teamwork in order for their groups to succeed.

Alongside the leadership training pupils will gain further practice at navigation with map and compass and a ropes course will provide opportunities for overcoming a personal challenge.

This camp will also provide the opportunity for the headmaster and school leadership team to set out expectations for the year ahead and outline the various roles and opportunities open to pupils in their senior years.

It also marks the pupils’ entry into the Heath Mount leadership and personal development programme and Griffin Awards. It will also, of course, provide an exciting and enjoyable bonding experience for the whole year group at the beginning of their senior years at the school.


Year 7 Outdoor Education and Geography field trip

In late March each year the Year 7’s spend a whole week away in the New Forest for a wonderful cross-curricular trip. 

Students setting up volleyball on the beach

This is a five-day multi-curricular week although the main focus is on developing pupils’ outdoor skills and on practical Geography fieldwork. Currently, we are using the New Forest and nearby coastline as the training area for this trip. This allows us to re-enforce pupils’ understanding of various aspects of the Geography C.E. syllabus through practical work such as measuring beach profiles, measuring longshore drift and erosion, visiting a national park and seeing first-hand the steps being taken to manage visitors’ impact on the environment.

There is a strong focus on practical navigation and by the end of the course, all pupils will be expected to be able to navigate accurately using map, compass and a combination of pacing, timing and relating physical features to their map.

All pupils should understand how to take bearings and use these in conjunction with their maps. There will also be various individual and group challenge activities built into the week which builds on the core aims of developing leadership, teamwork, and self-confidence. In addition, the longer time away allows us to focus on and develop pupils’ independence and self-sufficiency. The final day of the week will be spent visiting Salisbury Cathedral which supports both the History and Religious Studies CE syllabuses.


Year 7 Leadership assessment camp

In the summer term our year 7 pupils will be given the opportunity to show off what they have learned as well as demonstrating their leadership potential and ability to work effectively as part of a team.

Students hiking up hill

This is once again a local overnight camp with two days of activities which continues to build on the leadership and outdoor skills training delivered over the year but which also includes assessment sections. Pupils will again be split into small groups in which they will tackle a variety of challenges and activities. All pupils will be required to lead their group through at least one activity and this, along with their performance as part of the team, will form the basis for assessing their leadership potential. As well as building towards the children’s Griffin Awards, this leadership assessment will aid the school leadership team in selecting candidates for the roles of prefects and for the positions of head boy and girl for the following year. This assessment will be shared with pupils and will form a part of their self-appraisal and target setting process for the award scheme.

The Outdoor Education assessment will be based on a navigation exercise and overnight camp in nearby private woodland. Pupils will have the chance to show off their practical skills which will be checked off against the criteria for gaining their bronze or silver Griffin Award.

The process of navigating to a campsite and carrying the kit necessary for a comfortable night will provide useful training for those wishing to gain their gold or platinum award in year 8. Once again the camp will provide a challenging but fun bonding opportunity for the whole year group. The self-appraisal process following the camp will allow pupils to identify and set themselves targets which will need to be met in year 8 in order for them to achieve the highest award they can.


Year 8 Expedition

In September our year 8 pupils embark on an expedition to the Peak District, bringing their Outdoor Education learning journey full circle and providing the children with an opportunity to use all of the skills they have developed whilst at Heath Mount.

Students on hilltop looking at map

This will be the final Outdoor Education experience for Heath Mount pupils under the care of our staff team. All of the practical skills they have been taught over the years will be put into practice and will be assessed over the course of a 4 day camp in the Peak District, camping in two different locations. As well as providing the opportunity for assessment the trip will, of course, continue to focus on the key aims of Outdoor Education at Heath Mount.

In their groups (with support where necessary), pupils will have to plan a route over three high features and break this route down into sensible sections. Each member of the group will be allocated a section of the route to plan with the aid of a route card, and they will then lead their group for that section. Pupils will also have the opportunity to explore a natural cave system, rock climb, and abseil and test their navigation skills on both a night navigation exercise and on an orienteering challenge.

Pupils will by this stage be expected to be able to look after themselves and each other, to cook safely, to put up and pack away their tents and to keep themselves and their kit in good order. During the course, accompanying staff will be assessing the children within their group’s skills against the stated criteria for the Griffin Award scheme towards their final award grade.


Year 8 Leavers expedition to Scotland

After completing their Common Entrance examinations in early June our year 8 leavers spend a week in the far north of Scotland on an action packed trip which provides heaps of excitement, challenge, real adventure and memories which will last a lifetime.

Students on top of mountain in Scotland

Ridgeway adventure centre is located on the shores of a beautiful sea loch, nestled below spectacular mountains, in the far north of Scotland not far from Cape Wrath. This dramatic location is the setting for our pupils’ last great adventure at Heath Mount in the week following their Common Entrance examinations.

During their week at Ridgeway the children will sea kayak in a sheltered sea loch teeming with wildlife, learn survival skills and shelter building, forage for wild foods along the sea shore and cook them over fires they have made themselves, climb and abseil on an ancient rocky outcrop, wild camp and climb the 787 metre high mountain Arkle, with its exciting narrow ridge linking the two summits. All of the skills the children have honed over the week are brought together on ‘survival island’ – a small uninhabited island in which the children spend a night, fending for themselves as a year group.

This is a wonderful climax to the children’s time at Heath Mount and their Outdoor Education journey. Ridgeway Adventure’s three guiding principles of self-reliance, positive thinking and leaving people and places better than you found them build on the lessons we have taught our children over the years and should provide all of our leavers with a very solid base upon which to build as they move on to our senior schools.