As a small outdoor education provider in County Durham we have to look at our centre and work out what we can offer that works for schools. The Outdoor Education Industry is a changing scene, small independent and LEA centres are on the decline, and in their place are much bigger corporate centres, our ability to highlight what makes us different is a key part of remaining competitive with all these big fish!
Often when I speak to teachers or parents I talk about what makes us different, and what we feel makes us special, and that is vital, the difference between us and one of the much bigger centres is vast and can lead to a very different experience.
Firstly and what we feel is the most important aspect, is size, for many centre's the bigger the centre the more children they can cram in and the more money they can make. We take a different approach, we only take one school at a time, exclusive use. This translates into schools getting an experience entirely dedicated to them, to fit their kids needs. Instead of having to get back from session to fit into a strict lunch rota, if the weather is good and the group are loving their activity the instructors will make it last as long as possible, or if a member of the group has been to nervous to try until the last minute we will make time for them.
What else makes this exclusive use policy so important is that fact that we want the children to be confident, this can be achieved by being supported and surrounded by their peers, and instructors they trust, this can be lost if children are mixed with other schools, or if they see lots of different instructors. We try really hard to ensure that a relationship is built between instructors and groups, this can be achieved because the groups are small and the staff team is small, this ultimately leads to the group being able to benefit and thrive under the support and guidance of our great instructors.
One aspect of working in the outdoor industry is the constant change of staff, the seasonal nature of the majority of work leads to instructors moving from place to place, meaning every years centres are required to recruit a host of new staff. It is therefor telling that we seem to retain our staff year on year, this is important to us because we can be sure that the experience has continuity week on week, it means we can refine and perfect what we do.
Our centre's size and layout also increase our attractiveness to school groups too, being on one floor and with the whole centre being reasonably compact lends itself to small groups, being able to hear all the children from any part of the centre allows teachers to keep track on what they are up to, which comes in handy at bed time..
There are many more reasons why been small gives us something different to offer, in future posts we will outline what other aspects of Kingsway make us different.