Applicants for The Highest Classroom on Earth whittled down in Snowdonia Challenge

16 students, chosen from applicants with complex learning difficulties and challenging behaviour from across the UK, are entering the next stage of a selection process for The Highest Classroom on Earth. In this groundbreaking ‘Extreme Classroom’ BBC documented initiative created by The Springfields Academy, the final eight will climb to the Everest Base Camp at the foot of the Khumba Icefall.

The sixteen chosen students include:

  • Josh Daley, Richard Lang,  Bradley Walter and George Yeoman from The Springfields Academy, Wiltshire
  • John Norris and Josh Kitchen from Notton House School, Wiltshire
  • Dominic Price Santos from New Bridge Learning Centre, Greater Manchester
  • Billy Winstone and Cole Nother from Muntham House School, West Sussex
  • Clive Dorow from Avocet School, Norfolk
  • Brandon Tanner from Penkford School, Merseyside
  • Jack Edgell from Coln House School, Gloucestershire
  • Arron Barber from Kingfisher School, Oxfordshire
  • Jack Smith and Josh Simpson from William Henry Smith School, West Yorkshire
  • Ryan House from New Horizons School, East Sussex.

The applicants climbed some of the highest mountains in Snowdonia, Wales, on Friday and Saturday 1-2 March 2013; on Friday students and staff hiked the 12km Slateman route – a stretch which is part of The Slateman Triathlon taking place in May 2013 – in the first selection and training stage. Saturday saw the second stage, with the group climbing Snowdon at an elevation of 1,085m.

A group of high profile celebrities also joined the students on the hike in support of The Springfields Academy, including: Lewis Moody MBE, the charismatic ex-England captain and a true rugby legend; polar explorer Alan Chambers; Thai Boxing champion at number one in the World Rankings, Rachael Mackenzie; Thinus Delport, the South African ex rugby union player who has competed against some of the world’s best players; and entrepreneurial leader and explorer, Kevin Gaskell.

The Highest Classroom on Earth will see the final eight students, chosen from three separate selection and training processes, take on the climb to the Everest Base Camp. This is one of many groundbreaking initiatives of The Springfields Academy, the SEN award-winning specialist school for children with complex social and learning difficulties based in Wiltshire. The intrinsic belief driving this project is that pupils excel when they are challenged, pushing themselves beyond the limits of expectation.

The first selection stage began on Friday 1 March: applicants and staff arrived at the foot of 3,010ft high Tryfan Mountain promptly, and set up the base camp in the morning. The trekkers’ high spirits were accompanied by brilliant weather, and the four groups set off for the 12km Slateman route at 11:00 am.

All of the students and staff completed the gruelling path through the astounding Dinorwig Slate Quarries and Padarn Country Park in the mountains of Snowdonia. Despite some aches and pains, the groups’ morale remained high. The applicants from all across the UK encouraged each other to maintain motivation, creating a great dynamic of enthusiasm among the group.

After a tough first day, all groups returned to Pete’s Eats, one of the most famous mountaineering centre in Britain at the foot of Snowdon. Here staff and applicants refuelled and enjoyed celebrating in their accomplishments thus far, before receiving a briefing on the challenges that lay ahead in the next stage of selection on Saturday.

On Saturday 2 March 2013, candidates tackled Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. With a wakeup call at 5:30am, the trekkers ate a hearty breakfast and packed up the camp in below freezing temperatures of -5°C within an hour.

The trekkers were split into two groups, with one taking the Pen-y-pass Miner’s Trail, and the other ascending Snowdon on the Llanberis route. Both groups were able to enjoy unforgettable views on their routes on another clear day.

Although the second day was gruelling on top of Friday’s physical demands, the perseverance and enthusiasm of the groups was extraordinary. Alan Chambers, MBE, a renowned, determined and inspirational figure most known for his expeditions in the Polar Regions, said “I was thoroughly impressed by the students’ determination. They tackled the trek with such strength of mind, and the sense of communal support was felt by all participants. I have every faith that the selected students will excel at Everest in The Highest Classroom on Earth.”

Rachel Mackenzie also supported the trekkers, sharing her wealth of experience and knowledge of physical challenge. Having fought prejudice throughout her career from people who disapproved of women competing in such a tough contact-sport as Thai Boxing, Rachael believes in the Extreme Classroom initiative and the opportunity it provides for the students.

The Llanberis route presented some tough manoeuvring towards the top of Snowdon. The trekkers were thoroughly tested on the narrow section of the track, with careful footwork needed to ascend the mountain. As the participants climbed higher, the terrain also became snowy and icy, making the challenge even trickier.

Trystan Williams, Principal of The Springfields Academy, says “The weekend was a huge challenge for the applicants - even just completing these treks is a huge achievement, let alone Everest. It was a pleasure to trek with the applicants: their enthusiasm was extraordinary, and it has been extremely difficult to pick out individuals for the next training and selection stage in July.”

The third stage of the training and selection process will see elite athletes and the 16 students, chosen after the selection processes on Friday and Saturday 1-2 March 2013, take part in The Rock and Road Wales 24 Ultra 200, on Friday 21 June 2013 in North Wales.

The students will face the task of climbing the Three Peaks: Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain, and Britain’s third highest, with an elevation of 3,560ft, along with Mountains Cadair Idris and Pen y Fan. The elite athletes will be cycling the 190 mile bike ride from Cardiff Castle challenge to Caernarfon castle, a route cycled by competitors of the Ironman Triathlon, to show their support for the extraordinary effort of the pupils. The students will also have the option to cycle some of this route.

After this stage, eight will be given a place on The Highest Classroom on Earth to climb to the Everest Base Camp.

For further information, visit

Twitter: @SpringfieldsAcd,





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The Springfields Academy – Backgrounder

The Springfields Academy is an award-winning visionary educational institution like no other. Providing support for vulnerable children with complex learning difficulties and challenging behaviour, this specialist residential school is known for its world class standard of innovation in the educational sector.

The Springfields Academy has an impressive track record of awards. In the 2012 Times Educational Supplement Awards, they scooped two titles: Outstanding School of the Year and Outstanding Special Needs School of the Year. In the same year they also achieved the Special Education Needs Provision Award at the Business Education Awards.

By working with international partner schools and delivering a global dimension to curriculum-based work, The Springfields Academy achieved the full award level of accreditation from the International School Awards in 2009.

The vision at The Springfields Academy is to inspire self-belief among vulnerable children. The academy provides extensive academic and vocational opportunities for pupils, nurturing their education and interests. Pupils are enabled to develop their self confidence by demonstrating and building on their abilities, sharing it with their peers.

One of the many groundbreaking initiatives of The Springfields Academy is “The Extreme Classroom”, created by Principal Trystan Williams and Alan Chambers, MBE, Former Royal Marine Commando, a renowned, determined and inspirational figure most known for his expeditions in the Polar Regions. The intrinsic belief driving this project is that pupils excel when they are challenged, pushing them beyond the limits of expectation. The unique initiative presents an opportunity for pupils to develop self-belief, overcome adversity and prove a point to themselves and others who may have written them off. Vice Principal, Jon Hamp has lead and consolidated the development of this concept since its initiation.

Through The Extreme Classroom concept Trystan has the objective to raise awareness about complex learning difficulties and challenging behaviour: the project has become the subject of documentaries filmed and aired by the BBC. The Hottest Classroom on Earth expedition in 2012 involved an eight-day trip to the African Rift Valley in Tanzania, in which ten pupils gained first-hand experience of the nomadic lifestyle of the Maasai tribes people. In 2011, The Coldest Classroom on Earth saw four pupils trek in near Arctic Circle. This year the selected students will face a Mount Everest Base Camp trek in The Highest Classroom on Earth, whilst plans for more of The Extreme Classroom programmes are in the pipeline.

The unique academy reaches several international locations. As a member of the Connecting Classrooms education programme, they have partnerships with Yanbu, the Vocational School in Nanhai, China, Ahmad Toqan School in Jordan, and CIEP Mane Garrincha School in Mage, Brazil. The partnerships have facilitated students, and teachers, to experience a world of different culture and language, visit the schools abroad, and establish valuable connections with the Internationally-linked schools. Plans have also been made to install video conferencing facilities for communication with other schools in countries across the globe, including Mexico and Texas.

The Springfields Academy believes in providing comprehensive support for families, offering family and parenting support groups, as well as the option to use a family link worker.

Established in 1999, the academy has developed a wealth of expertise in educating pupils for qualifications within several sectors, including hospitality and catering, hair and beauty, sports, construction, leisure and the motor industry.

Accredited courses in animal care and horticulture, together with therapeutic activity sessions for young people have also become available, thanks to the academy’s foundation of the Greenfields Farm in 2012. The site’s entire development was overseen by The Springfields Academy, and it has become the community hub for sharing horticultural knowledge and experience.  As part of their ‘Learning Outside the Classroom’ Curriculum, The Springfields Academy aim to educate pupils about sustainable farming, as they believe time spent outdoors is highly valuable to instil a sense of constructiveness and teamwork.

The Springfields Academy is a specialist sports college, offering high level coaching for gifted children, and delivering sport for all.

The Springfields Academy have 90-100 pupils boarding full-time, and teachers also educate 500 students aged between seven and seventeen, some of which are from other schools.

For further information, visit

Twitter: @SpringfieldsAcd,