Real stories

Across the UK children from all backgrounds are benefitting from character development programmes installed in their schools with the help of the Challenger Trust.

 Andorra Leadership Expedition, January 2017

The Challenger Trust’s low-cost ground-breaking skiing and developmental leadership expedition for 87 secondary school pupils from across the Challenger Multi Academy Trust. Pupils from Kempston Challenger Academy and Daubeney Academy in Bedford, and The Deanes in Essex, joined together for an exciting week of ski-lessons and leadership activities that included Huskie mushing, and a ‘snow shoes’ adventure trek through the mountains.

The majority had never skied before, and for many it was their first trip away from home and family. The experience was a fantastic, life changing opportunity for everyone and all returned more confident, resilient and prepared for success!

I have learnt that I can do anything that I want to as long as I believe in myself and I hope this confidence grows to help me at school and in the rest of my life.

Being on this trip has taught me that if I ever want something in life, I have to fight for it.

I have realised that I care a lot about people, more than I ever thought. I have befriended people that needed a friend, and I have supported them through the challenges they have faced. I felt so proud of them when they achieved what they wanted.

I have overcome a huge amount of my fears as I was pushed to my limit and far out of my comfort zone but due to this I have accomplished so many things and I am so proud of myself.

Photographs courtesy of Relational Schools.

 Evaluation and Impact

Relational Schools Foundation have been commissioned to carry out research with pupils in the Challenger schools to prove the link between character development and academic achievement.

 More than just a Ski Trip

Role Models

Delivered in 2016/17: 100+ role models.

Reach: 6000 Secondary pupils; 15000 Primary pupils

Role models have been one of the best received pillars of the Challenger programme.  From a vast network of volunteers from every kind of professional background, role models have been selected to speak across the country - to support a year group’s topic, a whole school initiative or often to support other Challenger pillars, such as the Enterprise programme. 

Examples: Sports Inspiration, Careers Week, Environment, Law & Order, Author, Enterprise Entrepreneurs, Holocaust Survivor, Safer Internet Day, Red Nose Day.


Trips & Visitors

Delivered in 2016/17: 160+ activities.

Reach: 2000 Secondary pupils; 9700 Primary pupils

This pillar includes offsite trips and visitors into school to support curricular, cocurricular and extracurricular learning, eg: Science workshop, Bush Craft onsite, Meet a Creature, Football in the Community, African Dance, Buddhist Centre, London theatre trip, Museum trip, University workshop, International rugby tour.


Special Initiatives

Big Event Days: specially designed 'personal development' programmes, bringing together large numbers of young people across clusters or Academy Trusts.  Big Event Days help pupils to reach their potential outside the formal classroom environment, focusing on building confidence and self-esteem, and developing life-long skills such as teamwork, leadership and communication.   The Days all have a very different focus, to give pupils exposure to a variety of activities which will inspire them to achieve, eg:  Athletics, Bush Craft, Performing Arts, STEM.

Delivered in 2017: 4 Big Event Days for over 3,000 pupils in 13 schools of the L.E.A.D. Academy Trust.


Farm Links:  links established between schools and working farms, across the country, with pupils dedicated to providing real-life help for local farmers, while learning the valuable concept of ‘from farm to fork’.  The farms have offered to create curriculum support for the schools to further establish a mutually beneficial relationship.

Established in: Cheshire and Nottingham schools.


Pupil to Pupil Responsibility: students are trained how to become leaders amongst their peers – such as ‘Leadership in the Lunch Queue’, which gives young people the chance to take control of lunch queues to help maintain order and build their own confidence, while giving teachers back the time that had been devoted to lunch time supervision.

 Established in: Cheshire and Bedford schools.


Staff Training for programme delivery: teachers are trained by specialists to develop the skills required to effectively deliver certain character development activities going forward.

Delivered in:

CMAT schools – 20 staff from across the CMAT schools in Essex and Bedford joined together for a 4-hour workshop to develop their bush craft skills, and were taught how to deliver survival activities to their own pupils.  The objective is to set up a bush craft programme in each CMAT school, with staff from Kempston Challenger Academy leading a CMAT-wide UK Bush Craft expedition in the 2017-18 academic year.


Mental Health & Wellbeing: working with the Icarus Trust to deliver workshops and conferences in schools to address emotional resilience, mental health wellbeing and social cohesion. 

Delivered in:

NewcastleSixth Form mental health conference.  Topics included: the difference between being anxious and having anxiety, and how to tell the difference; low mood and stress: what's normal and how to deal with it; self-harm and suicide.

Bedford -  workshops for pupils to gain a deeper understanding of the school’s core values of respect, responsibility, learning, confidence and honesty.  Helping pupils to understand the value of participating in character development activities to develop these attributes, and to engage them in the CMS:


My Journey: Character Measurement System (CMS)

The CMS underpins a successful character development programme by providing the means for pupils to acknowledge their development; pupils witness their own progress and outcomes by recording the attributes they have developed during participation in character development activities, working towards achieving the Challenger Award. 

Established in: 16 Challenger schools

Daubeney Academy: 40 pupils awarded the House Colour Award for 100 credits recorded on the CMS; 2 pupils also received the second award - Daubeney Colour.


What young people have said when asked what they learned from their Challenger Trust experience:

“Don’t give up, I can do things with other people’s help”

“I was proud when people listened to me when I was a leader. It was great fun to act out the explorer’s adventures with a team of new friends and now I’m really excited about moving up to big school.” Sophie, 10

“I was totally stuck, thinking it was impossible. I screwed up my courage and moved my foot; then the other handholds and footholds opened up in front of me and it wasn’t’ impossible at all. I think life might be like this.” Josh, 14

“I had a good time because I was challenged and was given a chance to be a leader. It was weird been leader because I‘m never the choice to be a leader. I enjoyed the peace and quiet and the wildlife. I saw frogs and did things I would never have a chance to do again.” Maree

“I really enjoyed the trip. It was very hard in places but it was still good fun. I especially enjoyed the kayaking. I also found out that leading a group is harder than it looks!” Eddie


What teachers have said when asked what their pupils have got out of the Challenger Trust experience:


“Students with some behavioural difficulties were sometimes the better leaders and displayed determination to succeed”

“Some usually misbehaving students were superb team players”

“Several pupils from different areas made friends which would not happen in London”

“Students who are shy really gained confidence and trust in the group”

“It was an excellent programme which really challenged the students and helped them to develop new skills”

“Team work and listening are skills that school can not really teach”

“It brought out strengths in students who don’t always demonstrate them in the classroom”

“I found that I really got to know some of the children and connected with them – this will definitely be a benefit returning to school”

“Some pupils were much more motivated and focused compared to their behaviour in school”

“Much better than expectation, some difficult students worked really well”

“A few of the children with behavioural difficulties really immersed themselves in the activities”