Prince’s Trust Team – Residential

The Prince’s Trust programme at the College provides students with tremendous experiences over the 12 weeks that it runs.

One of the most rewarding aspects of any Prince’s Trust programme is the residential trip that the Teams embark on.

For one week, the Teams mix together and enjoy team building activities.

We asked one of this group’s team members, Fiona Banner of Prince’s Trust Team 157 (Kilwinning), if she would share her experiences of her recent residential trip.

Here is what she said.

As a new team we were all very anxious and excited to go on our residential trip with the Prince’s Trust. We had looked forward to the new experiences that would face us there. Living with all these new people for four days and being around them every hour of the day felt like it was going to be a struggle for everyone.

Luckily, the Kilwinning Team are a great team who stick together and look out for each other. They are very reliable and offer support when it’s needed, which we found out during our trip.

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The first day was exciting and everyone was thrilled to be there. We did various team building exercises, which helped us realise we could trust our team which was necessary for the rest of the activities. We teamed up for orienteering that day and at night time we challenged our teammates on inflatables and raced against each other. These kind of activities helped everyone get an insight to their teammates’ strengths and weaknesses.

We found ourselves making new friends with the Kilmarnock and Ayr teams and made new bonds after a whole day of activities. We felt more comfortable with the other teams compared to how we felt before we went on residential.

On the second day, everyone was eager to get up and go out to Auchengillan Outdoor Centre. We had to climb a tall pole, work as a team to build an unstable crate stack and climb it, then do rock climbing and abseiling. These helped push every individual to the best of their abilities and for some to face their fears. This is a hard thing to do but having the support and motivation of your team and leaders helped a great deal. We all managed to push ourselves further than we ever imagined.

During the night we competed against each other in various games like indoor hockey, quizzes and we did trust building exercises with the teams. This helped create a bigger and better bond with everyone.

By day three we all felt like we had known each other for years even though we had only spent 11 days together.

It was a great atmosphere, everyone was looking out for each other because we were all on the same boat. The third day was the last day for activities – we got to go grass sledging, rifle shooting, raft building and para dropping. Here we all learned new skills and enhanced our team working skills. We put our knowledge of each other’s strengths and weaknesses to use and managed to work out strategies for different people in the team to get things done efficiently.

Finally we had a talent show where several people showed off any secret talents they had. People who just wanted a laugh and to make the most of their experience performed. This gave us a better insight into everyone’s personalities and it was a great confidence booster for everyone being able to perform their talents while having amazing support from the teams – whether the performers were good or bad!

We all wish we could go back and do it all over again. It was amazing for everyone. We all learned very valuable life skills that will help us a great deal in the future, without us even knowing we were learning them at the time.

We all came back better people than when we first entered the team. With all the learning and activities aside we all had a brilliant laugh and hopefully made bonds for life.

The experience has taught me to believe in myself and sometimes in life you just need to know someone has your back and you can achieve better than you ever imagined.

Guest post – Dame Ruth Silver gives a straight A in access excellence to Ayrshire College

ruthsilverAs Chair to the Commission on Widening Access I want to better support the ambitions of Scotland’s talented young people regardless of their background to ensure that they can fully pursue their post school educational journeys and pathways. For this reason, I am undertaking a roadshow and a series of visits. As a former Principal myself of Lewisham College, a large bustling and diverse college in London, I was insistent that my journey to understand access excellence in Scotland must include colleges.

That was what brought me to Ayrshire College and what a lovely welcome and day out it turned out to be. After being met in person I was shown the new college build which will be a straight A in shape it seems! Upon arrival at the college we were greeted in person by the Principal and the Chair and treated to a fabulous lunch and pudding courtesy of the staff and students from the catering department. Simply delicious.

The Principal and Chair then provided an overview of the access work of the college but mostly what came through was a pride in its staff and its students, for this reason they asked me to listen to the stories of the students and the staff themselves as they felt they could best tell the story of what access in Ayrshire College was about.

What followed was a session with past and current students to understand their journeys, their barriers, how they overcome them and what advice they would give to others to help them achieve their ambitions. The honest stories told by the students who had lived the experience reminded me of the need for choice and the need for flexibility in our systems if the talent of our young people is to be fully released and recognised. There is no one size fits all model or one right or best route but what there must be is flexibility and positive experiences along a progressive pathway.

My discussion with the students and staff also highlighted that sometimes this good practice is already in place and is working well, as is the case for one student on the SFC’s Associate Student scheme with the college and the University of Strathclyde whereby he is both a college and a university engineering student and, it seems, getting the most out of both those systems. But in other cases this pathway is not as smooth or flexible, such as the student who entered advanced study in a Glasgow university with little support or connection to the cohorts progressing from year 1 or 2. Thankfully in the latter case the college was on hand to help find an alternative route to a university degree through the OU at the college.

I was then invited to visit The Hive and discovered another level of access and inclusion. I also noted that one of the students I had met earlier started her journey and belief in herself through the great work of the staff from The Hive. This element of access is absolutely crucial and it was plain to see that this element of the college changes lives and increases the chances of progressive positive pathways. I wondered what would happen to the lovely lively students from The Hive and what pathways they would enter next with the great support of the professionals around them.

With my head filled with thoughts and stories of pathways, I was invited to try even more delicious treats from the catering department before meeting some impressive and ambitious school students from the local area who will in time become our future teachers, dentists and doctors. Their stories differed from that of the college students and outlined how important it is to have a support network around you when considering university. It was clear to me that the application process itself, when told through the eyes of the first in family pupils, is a daunting procedure. Not only that, but it requires an element of forward planning and understanding of the system, to ensure you have right grades in the right areas at the right time. This simply must change and future students must receive better advice and support. It is unfair for those in the know to have a competitive advantage over those who do not. Furthermore, it is not the best means of identifying talent.

All of that said, the perseverance and determination of the young people I met in Ayrshire to pursue their dreams and chosen careers was remarkable, and I am not sure if anything will ever really stand in their way. I wish them all the best in their future careers and would like to thank them, the Principal, Chair and staff (and of course the wonderful catering department) for their time. I have a lot to think about as I lead the Commission on Widening Access towards its final report but, like the students, I and my fellow Commissioners have an impressive level of perseverance and determination.

Thank you Ayrshire College, like your new build I am giving you a straight A in access excellence.

You can get involved in the work of the Commission on Widening Access at!join-the-discussion/c127h or by following @CoWA2015 on Twitter.