Polar Academy Active Schools

Tip of the iceberg

Two teens take trip of a lifetime from North Lanarkshire to the North Pole

The Polar Academy is a training and expedition outfit that’s committed to achieving "inspiration through exploration".

They use the ultimate challenge of an expedition to the North Pole to change and energise the lives of the young people who join them on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Here we find out about what happened when ten teens swapped North Lanarkshire for the North Pole . . . and how their experience impacted on their school and wider sporting community. 

What is the Polar Academy?

The Polar Academy conducts visits to schools across Scotland offering a selection of young adults aged 14 to 18 an incredible opportunity to be part of an Arctic Expedition to the North Pole.

In North Lanarkshire, ten pupils who were not actively engaged with sport in school were chosen to travel to one of the planet's last, and most unforgiving, wildernesses. They were supported by an additional nine pupils who helped to form the leadership team. The impact the experience had on the pupils is clear. At one time they were disengaged, but now they are actively and confidently contributing to school, their communities and the Active Schools programme, in a positive and impactful manner. 

Speaking about the expedition, Stewart Harris, sportscotland CEO, said: “The Polar Academy encapsulates what we at sportscotland along with our local authority partners are trying to achieve within Active Schools. This particular expedition inspired and encouraged leadership, created extra curricular opportunities in sport and fitness and changed attitudes and cultures within the community."

Nigel Williams, who is Head of Training at our national centre Glenmore Lodge was also involved in developing a rigorous training programme for the young people which pushed them well beyond what they thought possible.  

Before the expedition

The Active Schools team in North Lanarkshire started developing a club, in partnership with outdoor education and PE departments that offered after school and lunchtime fitness sessions. Weekend training was provided along with a week-long trip to the sportscotland National Centre Glenmore Lodge, where participants took part in activities including rock climbing, canoeing, indoor kayak challenges (rolls and underwater knot tying), hillwalking and presentations developed by Nigel Williams.

This was followed by October week leadership training at Glenmore Lodge where pupils and parents completed qualifications including Orienteering Leadership Award, Canoeing 1 Star Award and Mountain Bike Maintenance. This training was all funded by the Awards For All Scotland schemeThey topped this off with a weekend of endurance training at locations across Scotland.

During the expedition

While their pupils were making their way to the North Pole, the Active Schools team in North Lanarkshire helped to deliver a Polar Academy themed Easter camp where participants were able to talk to the expedition team while they were en route to the Arctic (in Greenland) via satellite phone.

After the expedition

Both expedition and leadership teams were presented with the prestigious Polar Medal  and the expedition team delivered inspirational talks to younger pupils and peers at local primary and high schools.

The pupils who were involved in the expedition have since volunteered at various events and clubs to support Active Schools and community programmes. These have included:

  • School Sport Competition table tennis officials
  • School Sport Competition football coaching
  • Coaching primary archery taster sessions
  • NL Titans basketball coaching and officiating
  • P7 transition events
  • Coach for Jumping Jacks skipping club
  • School lunchtime and after school clubs

After the expedition, the pupils also received a visit from Princess Anne as seen the image above.

For more information about The Polar Academy and the life-changing opportunities if offers, visit the website. The story has already attracted lots of publicity (see links below). 

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