The SMT is delighted to have helped primary children from Fife to get started with climbing. In the spring term of 2024 12 girls and boys from Benarty Primary School near Lochore, Fife enjoyed ten 2-hour indoor sessions at the Edinburgh Internatonal Climbing Arena at Ratho. The Trust provided £2700, which paid for instruction by EICA staff.

The 12 were a very special bunch. All came from Benarty’s group of “care-experienced” children, meaning those currently or previously in care, or who who are young carers themselves. All of them had “experienced some form of early childhood trauma”. None of them had climbed before.

The teacher who leads support of her school’s vunerable children is Marianne Sankey, herself an experienced mountaineer and a former army reservist. She reckoned climbing would “broaden their horizons and encourage ambition and perseverance, in addition to challenging them in skill and personal courage”.

They all took to the new sport and the new challenge. Writing to the Trust halfway through the sessions, Marianne said: “I wanted to let you know just what an impact you are having on my group of children. They are confident, sure of themselves and pushing their limits every week.”

And as well as the actual getting-up-the-wall skills, they showed a huge climb in self-confidence and aspiration; they were keen to encourage each other; and they showed they really trusted their instructors.

The Ratho sessions, the school hopes, are the beginning of a bigger and longer story. The hope is that within a year or two the children who started climbing on the wall there will be able to get out on an instructor-led mountain expedition. Primary 7 pupils at Benarty have the chance to see the real hills during a week at Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre in Lochgoilhead. At Ardroy, Marianne believes the Ratho sessions will make a huge difference to the “care-experienced” group, who might otherwise feel inadequate or left-behind in an outdoor-education setting.

And looking at the lifetime picture, the application noted that “children encouraged to love the great outdoors at an early age usually become adults who can reach out to the rugged spaces in times of struggle or crisis”

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