Specialist youth services

Company profile

Pro-Active Adventure was formed by Clive Richley, an experienced activity centre manager and social worker, and Jon Hilton, a consultant trainer and research psychologist. Other senior team members include experienced childcare professionals and an educational specialist. Between us, we have many years of experience in the childcare sector.

Our work has mainly involved working with extremely challenging young people who were at a point of crisis in their lives. Many of the young people were involved in the youth justice system, or were at the end of a secure order. Our method of intervention with young people involves the use of outdoor activities. This has been a vehicle to support positive engagement and facilitate a more effective learning environment, rather than what is sometimes viewed as a reward for anti-social behaviour. For many years we have been interested in the positive effects outdoor education has on an individual. Research indicates that an increased sense of achievement has many psychological benefits, particularly for young people with low self-esteem. We believe that constructive engagement in outdoor education provides that sense of achievement necessary to enable positive outcomes.

Underpinning theory

It is generally accepted that a young person’s level of self-esteem is shaped directly by their experiences whilst growing up. Furthermore, there seems to be a strong correlation between young people who currently have difficulties with relationships, school, the law and other similar social issues and a low level of self-esteem. The development of a healthy self-concept can be considered as a vital element of an individual’s personal growth. It will continue to be an influence throughout their lives and will provide a foundation on which their life and future experiences will be built.

Coppersmith (1967) assessed hundreds of nine to ten year olds levels of self-esteem. He found that individuals with high levels of self-esteem were more confident about their own perceptions and judgements. They also expected to succeed at new tasks and were more ready to express their opinions. They were also doing better at school and were more often chosen as friends by other children, compared with those with low self-esteem. Children with high self-esteem were also found to have a more realistic view of themselves and their abilities; they were not worried about criticism and enjoyed participation. In contrast, children with low self-esteem were isolated, fearful, reluctant to join in, self-conscious, over-sensitive to criticism, constantly underrated themselves and tended to under achieve in school.

Adrienne Katz (1999) reported a further link between low self-esteem and emotional and behavioural difficulties recently in The Sunday Times:

Self-esteem levels are key to the future for a teenager. How they feel about themselves affects friendships, their approach to the new and unknown, and whether or not they are prepared to take the risk of learning, which possibly involves revealing a level of ignorance or making mistakes. A high self-image helps an individual to resist pressure from others, so there is no need to store up confidence by bullying.”

Katz further reports that boys with low self-esteem seem more vulnerable to difficulties. She found 70% of boys showing low levels of self-esteem fell into one or more of the following categories: depressed, suicidal, in trouble with the law or alienated from school.

It has been shown that planned interventions can raise the level of self-esteem within individuals. However this proof mainly comes from the United States.

Researchers from the University of Idaho U.S.A. have carried out a Meta analysis on research-based literature concerning adventure programmes, during which 187 pieces of research work were examined. Findings supported the notion that participation in adventure experience programmes resulted in positive benefits such as enhanced self-esteem and a sense of personal control. This is a very comprehensive analysis of research looking at the effects of adventure courses. There is nothing like this level of research in the UK at the current time.

Adventure based education is an innovative approach to teaching a secure sense of self, developing personal responsibility, and acquiring coping and communication skills. Furthermore, evidence shows that the rich experiential environments provided by adventure programmes facilitate effective transfer into everyday life, with growth continuing well after the immediate “buzz” of the programme.” (Hattie et al 1997)

Our aim is to provide a meaningful development experience for young people with an underlying emphasis on increasing self-esteem. We will also openly explore communication, trust, giving and receiving support, risk taking, and how behaviour affects others around you. This will be carried out with a mixture of outdoor adventurous activities and development techniques incorporated in to a dynamic, interesting and fun course. We aim to unlock young people’s potential through challenging experiences in a supportive group environment. The staff has a supportive and structured approach that will set achievable challenging tasks, emphasising personal responsibility and self care as the course develops. They will provide a safe environment in which the young people will experience control and a sense of empowerment and success.


At present we are carrying out our own investigation into levels of self-esteem and the effect of adventure-based programmes on it. The results so far, received from young people in crisis and other areas of Social Services care, are very positive. These have been very troubled young people who exhibited significant behavioural problems.

They have been undertaking a structured, but fairly relaxed, programme of adventurous activities and it has been found that many of them have shown significant increases in their levels of self esteem. This has been a very positive result and we continue to collect more data. Currently, to the best of our knowledge, we are unique in that we are able to measure levels of self-esteem in a reliable and valid manner. For all courses, this is an invaluable facility which is unique at this time. It will aid research in this country by validating to the aim of increasing self-esteem. It will also enable us to be proactive and dynamic with our courses by identifying where the positive outcomes were achieved, and thereby tailoring courses for certain developmental outcomes.

Our aim

Our aim is to introduce young people to outdoor activities that will provide them with opportunities to experience success and build self-esteem.

Our service

All of our team are experienced childcare or youth workers; most have worked with some of the country’s more challenging young people. We offer a flexible resource package that is intended to meet the individual needs of the various client groups we work with.

These include:

  • Challenging young people or those who have been excluded from school
  • Pupil referral units
  • Residential care homes
  • Youth justice
  • PAYP schemes
  • Youth projects


The organisation is able to empirically demonstrate any development in self-esteem. We aim to achieve this by providing structured daily programmes of adventurous activities, including records of achievement, certification and end of session reports/feedback.

Programmes of alternative education are also available through an Activity Centred Education – this is for young people who may have been excluded or out of education for prolonged periods and who are finding it difficult to re-engage. There are a large number of modules that are generally based on adventurous pursuits, although they also cover a variety of other subjects.

Awards And Qualifications

Staff members can then use the young person’s initial successes on the programme to engage in more challenging learning. Furthermore by allocating the appropriate module we are able to build on their previous success to increase confidence. Each module is broken down into easy to follow sections with clearly identified goals both written and practical. Pro-Active Adventure can provide a wide range of awards and qualifications. Bronze, Silver and Gold awards through ASDAN (Award Scheme Development and Accreditation Network) are available and for the more academic or long term pupils COPE and AOPE qualifications are available. We also provide BTEC at level 2.

In addition we offer a number of short 10 hour PSHE courses under the ASDAN scheme such as:

  • Conflict Resolution
  • Personal Wellbeing
  • Economic Wellbeing
  • Drug & Alcohol Awareness
  • Sex & Relationships

We also offer a range of National Governing Body Awards in the activity disciplines that pupils take part in during their placement with us. All awards and qualifications that we provide challenge young people academically in numeracy and literacy.


We feel the benefits of having a high level of self-esteem are clear. We believe that engagement in adventurous activities will enable young people to experience success and feel good about themselves, thus developing self-esteem and a more positive view of self-worth. Furthermore, it will equip them with a greater awareness of social and communication skills, which are invaluable in achieving successful social inclusion.


Fully Supported Fixed Term Exclusion Support Package:
(Individual teams work in groups of up to four young people)

  • Full insurance
  • Professional session leader (Teacher, Social worker, Technical trainer, Youth leader or N.V.Q.)
  • Member of support staff (fully trained by ourselves & N.G.B.)
  • All specialist equipment necessary for activity
  • Activities and related education based within our Personal Development Course (PDC)
  • Individual progress reports and certificates
  • Initial advice and support for reintegration into school
  • Self concept testing and report to school


1:1 Activity support package

Details as fixed term support package. Programme delivered by N.G.B. instructor.

Group activity package:

  • Full insurance
  • N.G.B. qualified activity instructor
  • All specialist equipment necessary for activity
  • Activity related education
  • Activity certification


Residential courses:

  • Full or self catering
  • Evening activities
  • Full insurance
  • N.G.B. qualified activity instructor
  • All specialist equipment necessary for activity
  • Personal development reviews
  • Activity certification


Support staff:

  • Experienced support staff
  • Trained in: Child protection; Attachment theory & self-esteem; Behaviour management

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