The Great Outdoors: Sedbergh School

Article featured in The Week Independent Schools Guide, written by Emma Lee-Potter

Situated in the foothills of the Howgill Fells in Cumbria, Sedbergh School is determined to make maximum use of the magnificent scenery.

Sedbergh’s 550 pupils enjoy everything from river swimming and kayaking to ghyll scrambling and mountain biking but one of the most important days in the school calendar is the Wilson Run.

Every spring up to 190 sixth formers take part in this arduous ten-mile race (it was cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic but went ahead in June this year). Pupils must qualify in advance and the current record is held by former head boy John Campbell, who ran the course in one hour, eight minutes and two seconds in 2016.
“The run is a huge day for the school and a big rite of passage for our sixth form pupils,” says headmaster Dan Harrison, who has completed it “lots of times” himself.

Fraser running through the fells
Wilson Run 2021 Winner, Fraser

“It’s a hard run that tests you in all sorts of ways but generally speaking if you train for it you will qualify. Our elite runners will qualify first time but after that they help others to qualify. It’s a teamwork and leadership exercise so when it comes to the last qualifying event they support runners round the course, carrying water and food, helping with navigation and encouraging them.”

Outdoor pursuits are an integral part of life at Sedbergh, with 26 different sports and numerous adventurous activities on offer. Year 9 pupils take part in the John Muir Award, which encourages participants to “connect with, enjoy and care for wild places”, while older students get the chance to do the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award.
The co-ed school is 98 per cent full boarding and Mr Harrison is convinced that pupils benefit hugely from spending so much time outdoors.

Mountain biking through the puddles
Mountain Biking is one of the most popular activities at Sedbergh School

“It’s scientifically proven that exercise helps with academic success,”he says. “It improves fitness and health, helps to reduce mental health issues, connects pupils with their surroundings and nature, and develops skills like leadership and teamwork. “Pupils here have a real ‘can do’ attitude. Our students come back years later and say that a lot of their success is down to the lessons and resilience they learned at school. The biggest thing they all talk about when they pop into my office is their Wilson Run experience and the time they got.”

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