Outdoor Leadership and Education

Dame Allan’s Schools aim to foster a family environment and develop the whole child, something which cannot be achieved just in the classroom. Outdoor Leadership and Education is just one of many ways we try to do this and we find that engagement is really high with pupils across the schools. The outdoor environment provides significant opportunities for the development of listening skills, leadership, team working and communicating effectively which are competencies that are essential for pupils’ future independence, employability and happiness. The outdoor environment is also beneficial to building maturity, sound mental health and social integration.

“My favourite thing about OLED is the different activities you get to do such as climbing, JASS and DofE from Year 9. You are encouraged to do things that are out of your comfort zone. OLED has made me more confident in climbing and has encouraged me to do harder climbs I wouldn't have thought I was able to do at the start of the year. JASS has made me think about the volunteering side of things and how much you can do to help out the community.”

Hannah, Year 8

There are a wide range of opportunities available to pupils. Below is a brief outline of the biggest and most popular activities.

Year 7 Residential

In the Autumn Term, the Year 7 Residential takes place. Pupils enjoy activities like orienteering, hill walking, canoeing, gorge walking and the high ropes challenge, as well as a torchlit low ropes course. This gives them the chance to bond with each other and their new form teacher.

JASS Award

This is a flexible award similar to the DofE Award that takes place higher up the Senior Schools. The JASS Award creates a supportive structure that is designed to help young people transition from the Junior School. The emphasis of the award is all about making the most of outdoor opportunities and rewards students for getting involved in activities both inside and outside the Schools’ community. Students from Year 7 are invited to take part in the Gold level of the award. 

John Muir Conservation Award

A number of students in Year 8 choose to take part in this increasingly popular Conservation Awards. Students discover wild spaces in Northumberland, explore what makes them special and take action to conserve them for future generations.

“My favourite thing about OLED at Dame Allan's is the fact that it offers a myriad of opportunities for people of all ages and I think that OLED has helped me become more curious, social and concerned for the great outdoors than ever before.”

Yaqub, Year 9


The Schools’ climbing club is open to all year groups, but is particularly popular with Years 7 and 8. The club meets once a week and visits our local climbing walls. At the end of the summer term, students get the chance to take part in the local Inter Schools Climbing competition. They can then join the summer climbing trip, which typically visits the Peak District or Yorkshire.

Combined Cadet Force

In May 2017, Dame Allan’s Schools launched a Royal Marines Combined Cadet Force (CCF). The CCF offers young people a broad range of challenging, exciting, adventurous and educational activities. The aim is to enable the development of personal responsibility, leadership and self-discipline. Year 9 pupils can apply to join CCF(RM) from the Autumn term. You can read more about the CCF here.

Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award encourages pupils to become healthy, independent, responsible citizens through the programme which recognises their development in a skill, a physical activity, and helping others by volunteering. The culmination of the award is an expedition. Year 9 students are invited to take part in the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. Last year we had a record 120 students complete the Bronze Award. This is typical of the proactive and enthusiastic approach we see from students at Dame Allan’s. The majority of students go on to take part in the Silver Award in Year 10 and in Year 12 can complete the prestigious Gold Award.

World Challenge

Every two years since 1997, Dame Allan’s has organised a World Challenge Expedition to a remote location. The expeditions are open to pupils in Years 11 to 13. Most recently, students enjoyed a successful trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. To prepare for this, pupils must raise their own and their group’s finances for the month - long trip. When on location a week is spent on a local charitable project, such as helping to construct a school or installing a water supply. Two weeks are normally spent on expedition, trekking or canoeing through challenging terrain.

A greater list of the Outdoor Leadership and Education opportunities can be found through SOCS.