Jon Hamp maps out Everest trek for The Highest Classroom on Earth

The Exreme Classroom Challenge facing children with complex learning difficulties and challenging behaviour

Jon Hamp, Vice-Principal of the SEN award-winning specialist school, The Springfields Academy, last week travelled to Kathmandu. Up until 25 April 2013 he will assess the challenges that will face ten children with complex learning difficulties and challenging behaviour, in a trek to an Everest Base Camp at the foot of the Khumba Icefall. This challenge will also include tough climbs to either Kala Patthar, which is 1500 feet above base camp, or Island Peak, 3000 feet above base camp, all equating to The Highest Classroom on Earth Challenge, taking place in October 2013.

The Highest Classroom on Earth will see ten children from the ‘Engage’ Network - a National Body dedicated to improving the education of disaffected children - take on the climb to the Everest Base Camp at the foot of the Khumba Icefall in October 2013. The children will be chosen from a selection and training process in the mountains of Wales in March and June 2013. As part of ‘The Extreme Classroom’ concept, this is one of many groundbreaking initiatives of The Springfields Academy, the SEN award-winning specialist academy. The intrinsic belief driving this project is that pupils excel when they are challenged, pushing themselves beyond the limits of expectation.

Jon, passionate about providing for the children as comprehensively as possible, will spend two and a half weeks documenting his experiences in detail, and even potentially filming the journey. These vital steps must be taken in order to create an accurate simulation of every part of the trip; this way the children can be familiar with the logistics, making them as prepared as possible for The Highest Classroom on Earth.

The excursion will present many unfamiliar experiences to the children with complex learning difficulties and challenging behaviour, from the trek itself to the flights to Kathmandu, and even the food.

Jon believes that truth will be imperative to build and sustain trust throughout The Highest Classroom on Earth, guaranteeing the success of the trip in October: “It is vital because of the nature of the children from the ‘Engage’ Network. I need to view the whole trip through my experience of working with highly vulnerable young people, whom we are looking to develop in terms of their emotional resilience and well being.”

Trystan Williams, Principal of The Springfields Academy, comments “The risks and potential hazards for experienced Everest trekkers, let alone these children, are very serious. None of the children will have experienced 13 nights of consecutive camping, lack of washing facilities and being foot sore, let alone the effects of altitude and fatigue. We are all undertaking a huge challenge, but I truly believe that the risks are worth taking for these children to gain invaluable life experience.”

Jon comments, “The conditions are tough enough to unsettle anyone. I have no doubt that the children will tackle them with the most tenacious effort; however, it will make it extremely tough for them to consistently follow direction.”

Jon believes that it is crucial to plot the high and potential low points of the trek: “We must know which parts we’ll really need to build them up for: we need to ask ourselves which days will be the toughest, longest and most relentless, and what the quality of the rest stops will be like.” Jon is planning an extensive strategy for maintaining motivation, involving incentives and rewards.

Jon insists that even the aeroplane flights must be thought-out: “Many of the children will never have flown before, so airports provide a foreign and challenging environment.” The flight from London Heathrow to Kathmandu, and the internal flight from there to Lukla, will test the nerves of children and staff alike.

The city of Kathmandu will present a completely unfamiliar culture, testing the children’s capacity to accept different customs. The provision of foreign food in particular will be a challenge for the children, changing a very basic and fundamental part of their daily routine.

Information will be fed back through all available means, from blogging and podcasting to the ‘talk and chalk’ method that is still hugely effective for these children. The final team will require ‘building and bonding’ sessions, in which key facts and details will be disseminated.

Jon Hamp is a highly versatile educationalist with an extensive and varied range of teaching, leadership and management experience. Throughout his career, Jon has dedicated himself to raising standards for learners, creating innovative learning courses. With excellent communication skills combined with a keen sense of humour, Jon possess the ability to support, lead and develop diverse teams.

In The Highest Classroom on Earth, the children will see the breathtaking sights of the Khumbu Glacier, the base of Kala Patthar - the original Base Camp used by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay on their successful ascent of Everest, Pangboche and the booming town of Namche.

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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 Artic 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.

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Twitter: @SpringfieldsAcd,




Emma De Maio
Tel: 07921 160 134