Does your school have the passion to reach higher?
The world of climbing has changed: once the realm of beards, tweed and leather boots, the modern climber is now a true athlete, fleet of foot who dances up a brightly coloured wall as if defying gravity itself.
Don’t believe me? The ultimate proof will come when climbing makes its first full appearance at the 2020 Olympic/Paralympic Games in Tokyo. We can only guess at the levels of interest this will generate but seeing the uptake in road cycling in recent years then we can anticipate a healthy response, especially from children.
I personally would like to help drive this enthusiasm in our schools. Climbing walls – well designed, well thought out, well run – can have such a positive effect on students’ development and the whole school community. And it’s not just the students, a good wall can motivate staff and also attract parents and siblings into the school facilities.
I’ll make no bones about it: installing a climbing wall, equipment and staff training is a considerable investment, yet the potential for return on this outlay in terms of student motivation and staff engagement most definitely repays this financial commitment time and again.
Unfortunately, I also know of many climbing walls – very good ones at that – in educational establishments across the country that are rarely used. What could be stopping the schools from using them? And if you haven’t considered investing in a climbing wall at your school, why not?
I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you a little about what a climbing wall could do for your school and how you can make it a success.
What can climbing offer my students?
Improvements in fundamental movement skills including balance, agility and coordination; a higher level of finger dexterity and manipulation which can improve handwriting skills; more confidence, persistence, resilience and a sense of responsibility along with developing their communication, teamwork and problem solving. This is in addition to the practical climbing skills they learn.
“(The climbing wall) has driven (the students) on to develop self-motivation skills and solve problems that they thought were not possible.”
Steve Cotton PE Teacher & Assistant Head Berrymede Junior School.
What type of climbing walls can schools have?
Schools can have any type of climbing wall but make sure you choose the type that is right for your school. A roped wall is a commitment due to the level of staff ratios required, but it includes a higher level of team building and responsibility, and the whole experience is more engaging. Roped climbing is essential for some students with limited mobility.
A traverse wall that is used by students in a playground and not used for coaching does not require any staff training or procedures.
Bouldering and lead climbing are both to be included in the Olympic/Paralympic games, along with speed climbing where a climber uses an automatic belay device.
How can my school benefit from climbing?
Children of all ages, abilities and backgrounds enjoy climbing, and all levels of disability can be catered for. A natural link to the outdoor adventure curriculum, climbing can count towards GCSE PE and the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme.
A simple traverse wall can encourage physical activity at break times and, at the academic end of the scale, some schools have woven their climbing wall into to the maths, geography and science curriculums.
How dangerous is climbing?
Statistically climbing is far safer than ball sports, you are over 30 times more likely to be injured playing football than rock climbing1. The level of perceived danger is higher and it goes without saying that if the supervision of students is not up to standard an incident could be very serious.
In roped climbing students will practise belaying before anyone leaves the ground and an instructor will back-up the rope of novices, but once students are judged to be competent they can manage the belaying themselves. Staff need time and commitment to consolidate their training to achieve the standard required for supervising roped climbing, something which can count towards their CPD and is a motivating activity in itself.
How can I fund a wall and run it successfully?
There are numerous funding routes available to schools. Primary schools, for example, have used the PE and Sport Premium to finance climbing walls and found it easy to evidence that children were more active and participating in different sports. A number of schools use their wall as a revenue stream, with climbers and groups within their region hiring the facility.
As a long-term investment, having your own wall makes a lot of sense. This investment does include time for staff training and maintenance but we believe it is a small price to pay when the outcomes can be so significant.
With two decades’ experience in the sector, Arrampica have seen what kind of walls work well in different schools and can make sure a new wall is suitable for your needs.
We’re parents ourselves and are acutely aware that schools need to keep a close eye on budgets. Towards this, we are working with a climbing wall manufacturer to design an off-the-shelf bouldering wall and roped specifically for schools, their curriculum and the spaces they have available.
To further help reduce costs Arrampica are also looking to hold training sessions for multiple schools, eliminating the need for large numbers of staff to be out of the classroom at any one time.
The next few years are going to be a very exciting time for schools to be involved in climbing fuelled, we anticipate, by the Olympic/Paralympic spirit. If you would like to speak to us about an existing wall or the potential for a new climbing wall at your school, then please just drop us a line and we’d be happy to have a chat.
Telephone Arrampica on 08450 947 923, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at www.arrampica.com
1Reference: Leisure injuries from ROSPA School Visits Guide
This article appears in QA Education magazine, March 2018.
Paolo Fubini is the Head Technical Adviser and Managing Director of Arrampica Limited, a small company that advises, inspects, trains and assesses personnel on all types of climbing and adventure facilities.
Arrampica are currently developing a new offering specifically designed to help more schools successfully engage their students before the first appearance of climbing at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympics in Tokyo.