The Bristol Initiative Charitable Trust - Learning-Ships

Added 17th December 2012


 Learners with Attitude - Heritage Education for Future Fit Learners

The Bristol Initiative Trust a Business west Charity working with the University of the West of England

and the Royal Society of Arts 

75% of funding now secured for 2013 

Press release April 2013

What do we want to achieve?

Young people experiencing their heritage and finding their future through interacting with people from different industry sectors in parts of their local environment that are facing major changes.

A tried and tested template for a regional strategy for this type of activity that meets the needs of young people and appeals to schools and businesses as both viable and impactful.

Repeated use of this template to operate, evaluate and embed pertinent, annual programmes for schools, young people and families.


Recommendations of the CBI Education Report (November 2012 click here to read the full report) - include the following for avoiding a future skills shortage -

  • Schools  need to harness parental involvement more effectively
  • It is up to the wider community – including business – to step up to the mark and support schools where they need role models, advice or experience
  • Adoption by schools of a strategy for fostering parental engagement and wider community involvement, including links with business
  • A new commitment for a strategic, systematic and long-term engagement by business to a needs-led school programme, focused on raising aspiration and attainment

The perception from industry is that young people lack skills for life are under performing in schools and lack the 'attitude' required for success.

Cabinet Office research shows people, places and heritage have more impact on a young person’s future than information and guidance but schools still focus on information and guidance (Careers) rather than introducing young people to people and experiences.

Many Bristol Schools see traveling out of the region as better value than using the wider local environment. Students report enjoyment from trips out but say they are disconnected from these experiences and are unlikely to follow up opportunities independently or feel they have not developed any ‘loose tie’ to that opportunity.

Enlightened schools want value for money, exciting experiences in the student’s wider local environment that fit school’s annual plans and cause their students to interact with people and places that influence attitudes to opportunity.

The current situation with plans for the Severn and Avon offers an incredible opportunity to inspire future-fit learners - see this article in New Civil Engineer 17.01.13 

What do we aim to do?

In the first instance – Provide experimental  ‘Learning Ships’  that operate as transport and ‘classroom’ for young people to interact directly with business and industry while exploring the past, present  and future of the River Avon and Severn Estuary.The scope for the first year of the project focuses on Bristol but is responding to interest from Gloucester and Bridgwater and the use of Staert Point, Flat Holm and Steep Holm.

This will be-

  1. Test bed for annual sailings of the Learning-Ships funded by the schools and business partners.
  1. Blueprint for creating other learning spaces where young people and industry volunteers can interact in environments that are facing change. 

Initial voyage in May/June 2013 would be led by experienced facilitators and business volunteers representing a range of industry sectors (engineering, power, water, finance, tourism, and environment) along with wildlife experts and historians. A schedule of on-board activities would link the sights from the ship to interactive challenges and learning resources. These will involve mapping, GIS, hydrological modelling, observing wildlife, demonstrations of engineering principles and debate on societal and ethical implications of engineering activity.

A short promotional documentary film will be produced and the event will be followed by evaluations, improvement planning meetings, marketing and fundraising.

Subject to successful evaluations this experiment will establish annual sailings of the Learning-Ship and generate a cohort of young people with a deeper understanding of their region who are fitter to support its future.

·         Target of five trips per year with space for c.250 young people per trip by 2015.

Future projects

·         Based on the blueprint - Link schools to new and alternative environments for learning in relation to the region’s economies, natural environment and opportunities.

·         Researched with partner ‘schools’ and added to the ‘curriculum’

·         Viability assessed by TBIT

There is scope for this project to build dynamic annual events for partner schools across the South West that transform how young people learn about engineering, manufacturing, wildlife, tourism and energy.

How will we get there?
1.   December –March 2013.

-          Establish a minimum of £15,000 funding for the inaugural event (Learning-Ship) .

-          Establish staffing and volunteers for the learning experiment on board the ship.

-          Determine the details of content and logistics for the inaugural event in May

-          Work with M Shed and Engineering business volunteers to build learning resources to equip the ship

2.   March – May 2013

-          Recruit and prepare the schools/young people taking part

-          Training for volunteers and staff

3.   May - Nov 2013

-          Run the TBIT ‘Learning-Ships’ test events

-          Use the inaugural events to promote the wider scope for the project to schools/business

4.   May - Nov  2013

-          Run additional workshop activities with M Shed, IMechE, All Aboard  (Sailing School)., Rocking The Boat and businesses around boat building in lead up to the harbour festival.

-          Evaluate and improve the ‘Learning –Ship’ offer for schools

-          Produce short promotional film

-          Build relationship with partner schools and funders wanting to run real boat building course

5.   Nov 2013– May 2014

-          Market and sell the improved Learning-Ship offer for schools.

-          Control the processes for achieving funding from schools and businesses

-          Assessment of capacity to establish other annual learning initiatives using the same ‘template’ starting with LPW/ The Park boat building course.

How can you help?

  1. Funding
  2. Skills, expertise and opinions about the potential changes to the River Avon and Gorge

  3. Knowledge of the history of the River Avon and gorge
  • Support the development of the projects learning materials by advising the project team
  • Work directly with young people on shore or on the sailings of the Learning-Ship  
For more information on volunteering or donating funds or time contact the Education Director, The Bristol Initiative Trust.

To donate


See Bristol's heritage in shipping and trade -


Volunteer Engineers are needed to explain energy issues and solutions



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