STUDENTS GEAR UP FOR FUTURE CAREERS WITH ROYAL NAVY OFFICERS

Students boosted their fitness and skills when they took part in an exciting day of mountain biking, treetop pursuits and outdoor challenges with the Royal Navy.

Around 35 students from the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) joined in the activities at Swinley Bike Hub and Go Ape in Swinley Forest near Bracknell, Berkshire.

They were led by Lieutenant Commander Russ Haines and Warrant Officers Philip Bolton and Janice Scott from the Royal Navy, and Brendan Berry, CONEL’s Curriculum Manager for Public Services.

The students from the college’s Public Services, Sport and Key Stage 4 courses cycled through the forest, climbed trees, swung through woods, crossed rope bridges and whizzed down zip wires.

The Royal Navy officers also ran several group challenges including finding a casualty in the forest and taking them to a designated location where they could be rescued.

Zee Coskun, 19, from Hackney, who has aspirations to join the Metropolitan Police, said: “The mountain biking was great, and it felt good to be out and around people again. It really put us to the test, but we kept on going and motivated each other and I’m glad I did it.

“The team building and leadership exercises with the Royal Navy gave me more confidence in my communication and motivational skills. I learnt a lot, and I am sure other students have as well.”

Justice Bonsu, 21, from Greenwich, who hopes to join the Armed Forces, said: “It was an amazing experience and has given me so much more confidence. It was my first time leading a small team. It improved my communication and problem-solving skills.

“The ziplining was incredible. I was terrified the first time I went down it, but I am very proud that I did it. I couldn’t have done something like that a few years ago.”

Public Services and Sport students are required to undertake several fitness activities during their studies, which they are assessed on as part of their diplomas.

COVID-19 has meant some activities had to be cancelled over the past year or had to take place on college sites instead, such as public order training with the Metropolitan Police.

Lt Cdr Haines was impressed with how well the college had worked with the Royal Navy to provide activities for students in a COVID-safe environment.

He said: “It’s been great working with an organisation that shares the Royal Navy’s passion for developing others and helping a diverse range of young people to learn fundamental life skills such as teamwork, leadership and communication that will help them in defining their future careers.”

Brendan Berry, Curriculum Manager for Public Services, said: “During the second lockdown it was clear that to rebuild the morale and mental health in our students we had to re-engage them in practical activity in a COVID-safe environment.

“To get the students back out into the great outdoors has been our key driver since March and working with the Royal Navy and Royal Marines we looked at the best way to create a range of activities that would re-energise them academically and holistically.

“Swinley Forest was perfect for providing outstanding days for our students after the year of all years. To see our students engaged in practical activity and growing their teamwork, leadership and individual practical skills has been fantastic.”

This activity was funded by the Young Londoners Fund.

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