Out There Wilderness Academy

A transformation six week programme for young people struggling with school,

behavioural issues and emotional resilience, we support them to get back on track.

What we do

Out There Wilderness Academy is a transformational programme for youth ages 13–15 who struggle with their behaviour, mood and schooling.

Six weeks of outdoor alternative education followed by eight weeks of one-to-one mentoring help young people get back on track in school, at home, and in the community.

Wilderness Foundation is able to offer Out There Academy to up to 90 youth per year thanks to funding provided by Essex County Council Youth Strategy Group of Chelmsford and Braintree.

Funding was previously provided by the Big Lottery Fund Reaching Communities programme, which enabled us to help young people in Essex for the past three years.

Watch us in Action

The Programme

For the first six weeks, Out There students encounter the natural environment at Chatham Green in Essex.

In small groups facilitated by certified outdoor educators, students engage in hands-on activities that challenge their minds, develop their social skills, and feed their emotional needs:

  • Team challenges, bush craft, orienteering and power kiting activities
  • Local hikes, including cooking lunch over a wood fire
  • Group discussions and individual exercises
  • Mindfulness and stress management training

Learning to Leave No Trace and taking part in a conservation project to win a John Muir Award gives young people a sense of accomplishment and rewards them for working in a team.

Throughout, the programme builds communication skills and teaches strategies for coping with difficult situations, anger management and emotional control.

After the six weeks at Chatham Green, Out There participants return to their home schools or other situations—but they don’t go alone. They have the support of a carefully trained and accredited adult mentor, who works with them over the next eight weeks to incorporate what they have learned into their everyday lives.

Mentors help students decide what goals they want to address. Mentor-student pairs usually work together on the Out There workbook, which includes units from the Personal Wellbeing NOCN qualification, or they may work toward the Gateway qualification in personal development. The workbook covers the following units:

  • Personal identity
  • Beliefs and values
  • Understanding risk
  • Teamwork
  • Healthy lifestyles

Information for Schools and Parents

Our aim is to provide a different learning environment in which young people have the opportunity to learn useful life skills in an alternative teaching space. This might be a clearing in our woods, inside our yurt or under a parachute around a camp fire. As well as life and employability skills young people will engage in a number of physical activities aimed at improving fitness, confidence, team working skills, and social skills.
A common thread running through the entire programme is the enhancement of respect for self, others and the environment.  As such, the majority of the sessions will take place in an outdoor context where participants will be challenged, mentally, emotionally and physically.

  • Schools / parents will need to provide transport to and from the programme.
  • Lunch and refreshments will be provided. (please do not send the young person to Out There with lots of sugary food and drink!)
  • If a young person is excluded from school we hope that they will still attend Out There.
  • If a young person misses more than two sessions they will be asked to attend the next intake rather than carry on.


Our Out There Wilderness Academy is monitored and evaluated by the University of Essex. Intended outcomes for young people include:

This is an opportune time to thank you, and your colleagues, for the fantastic experiences you have given several youngsters I have referred to The Wilderness Foundation. All of them have enjoyed themselves throughout their programmes. What shows the impact they have had on their lives is the fact that they speak so favourably about it when talking to other learners who are being offered the opportunity. Several have matured in that they show far more self-confidence and awareness of others.

The follow up mentoring sessions are excellent. The mentors show real empathy and appreciation of the challenges faced by our youngsters. The professional relationships I have developed with the mentors has often led to me having an even greater understanding of the young people I work with.

The opportunities offered by the Foundation are now an important tool in our work with vulnerable youngsters, and the relationships built up between school and its staff are a bonus.

Craig Robertson, Family Learning Team, Honywood Community Science School

I had referred a number of vulnerable young people to the Out There Project in 2017.
All participants have been accepted and the feedback that I have received has been extremely positive.

The Wilderness Foundation has offered life chances and experiences to those young people that they may not have had, if it were not for the service on offer.
The change in attitude of the young people that I have supported has been amazing.

One in particular has thrived on the course so much, that he recently won an award at school for most improved student. I will continue to refer young people to this programme and hope that it continues to be run, but most importantly the funding remains in place. Colleagues in my service have also had similar outcomes and the shared view of The Wilderness Foundation and the Out There project has been one of importance to remain.

I look forward to working alongside your service again the future.

Neal Francis, Family Solutions, Mid Team Braintree & Witham

Refer a young person

For further information on our youth interventions, please email us or call 0300 123 3073. We are currently able to accommodate six groups of up to 15 students each per year.

To refer a student to the Out There Wilderness Academy, please fill out our referral form and return it by email to info@wildernessfoundation.org.uk Alternatively send the completed hard copy form to our postal address:

Out There Referrals:

Wilderness Foundation UK
Trinity House
2 Whitbreads Business Centre
Whitbreads Farm Lane
Chatham Green

Refer a young person >

100% of referral agencies responded that thy would refer again (2016)

How you can help