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:

Relational schools report

More than just a Ski Trip

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.


Pupils subsidise the costs of their own expeditions by learning how to raise funds and run a successful business, via the Challenger Enterprise programme.

Daubeney Academy pupils raised money for the Andorra ski trip by running bake sales and ‘count the sweets in the jar’ competitions, as well as raising money individually at home.

The Deanes school ran a series of focused ‘Enterprise Fortnights’, starting with an assembly or workshop from a local entrepreneur to inspire pupils to start their fund-raising programme.

We really enjoyed making the products, we learnt to be organised, about money management, how to price our product fairly, and that team work was essential to making a profit.

Big Events Days

Specially designed personal development programmes aimed to help pupils 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.

3000 pupils across the LEAD Academy Trust in Nottingham are currently taking part in a series of Big Event Days, each with a very different focus, allowing pupils exposure to a variety of activities which will inspire them to achieve:


A day of sporting activities to include track and field events, such as hurdles, distance races, steeplechase, javelin and discus, plus indoor events, eg standing long jump, agility course, target throw and reaction testing.


Giving pupils a hands-on opportunity to gain understanding of nature, the outdoor environment and themselves, working in teams to learn 'survival' and bushcraft skills such as building shelters, using fires for cooking and warmth, navigation using natural indicators, and first aid.

Performing Arts:

Dance, music and drama workshops, culminating in a performance of 'Dr Zeus'.


Hands on science, technology, engineering and mathematics days.

1000's of other activities


Discipline Sports Classes – a series of onsite classes for struggling students in Cheshire to re-engage them with school, linked to discipline, teamwork and respect.

Tatton Working Farm – a group of volunteers from across the year groups at Knutsford Academy Trust are assisting with Tatton Farm’s Heritage Lottery Fund project. The Farm has recently received funding to help tell the story of food production for a large country estate from the late 18th century to the 1950. The ‘field to fork’ story will be told through the mouths of former farm workers and the estates family members, the farm building, machinery, animals and traditional agricultural skills. To help the farm prepare for the project, the young volunteers from Knutsford take part in all kinds of farming activities, including painting fences, shifting hay bales and shovelling manure!

Primary Goals - Notts County Football Club. The Challenger Trust secured Lottery funding to deliver this 10 week programme to schools in the LEAD Academy Trust. This Sports programme is designed to have a positive influence on those with low self-confidence, poor behaviour and who struggle to meet the day to day demands of mainstream education.

Character Measurement System

Many schools have introduced the Character Measurement System (CMS) that the Challenger Trust recommends. This online system helps acknowledge a learner’s character development over their time in education by logging the learner’s own reflection on their achievement. The award is tailored to each school to make sure the values a school upholds are represented throughout a pupil’s learning life. Pupils record when they have developed a character attribute, and work towards reaching a certain level of attainment, where they will be awarded the Challenger Diploma.

Evaluation Research

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.

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

“That I can do things when I put my mind to it”

“That I need to try things before judging them”

“That I’m not as stupid as I think I am”

“Not losing my temper and hitting people”

“Working together and learning new things”

“Taking on more new challenges”

“Getting in control of my behaviour”

“Learning to control myself and listen”

“That if I try my best I can actually do things I never would have believed”

“I can overcome my fears”

“That anything is possible and once you have done it, it’s the best feeling ever!”

“That I have potential”

“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, Essex

“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, Middleborough

“I loved map reading on our Learn to Lead Award. Now I want to study geography at university.” Aika, 18, Birmingham

“When I was at Alladale 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, student

“I really enjoyed the trip to Alladale. 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, student

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

“Determination to succeed even when they feel they cannot achieve the goal”

“Students made aware of different cultures and practices”

“Confidence in their own abilities”

“How they bonded with pupils they don’t normally mix with, new friendships made”

“The experience of listening, thinking and planning before doing”

“Self esteem – achieving the unachievable”

“There were several pupils who had the potential to give up completely but no-one did”

“Some young people really excelled in an environment that is vastly different from what they know”

“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 focussed 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”