In this latest Opportunity Area update, we share news of an extra-curricular project that is helping to improve relationships, learning and engagement at a popular Scarborough primary school.

Hidden Horizons

With support from the Opportunity Area, Northstead Primary School commissioned an exciting after-school project led by Hidden Horizons, a Scarborough-based company specialising in delivering outdoor activities, including fossil hunting, stargazing and bush craft.

After-school clubs are certainly enjoyable but not an innovation. However, the difference here is that Northstead has tasked Hidden Horizons to work with vulnerable or disadvantaged children and their parents, to give families and children the chance to work together, strengthening relationships.

Rob Hallatt, OA Communications Officer, talked with Shaun Hopper (Deputy Headteacher at Northstead) to learn a bit more about the project and its impact so far.

Rob: Why this project?

Shaun: We started about two years ago. We decided to use some of our Opportunity Area money to enhance cultural experiences for our children. Hidden Horizons worked with us to get the children outside and into all kinds of weird and wonderful places within an hour and a half of school. That worked successfully and parents were really engaged in school life so with the easing of restrictions, we have restarted the project.

Rob: What makes it a successful project and how has COVID affected roll out?

Shaun: What Hidden Horizons provide, that we could not as a school, is expertise because they are experts in geology, experts in fossils and experts in outdoor learning. As a school, we might have one or two people who could do that, but actually having the time to enable teachers to do that is not possible. In terms of COVID, this time around the Hidden Horizons team have just been working with the children. Obviously, we have worked on maintaining good communication between home and school. We’ve shared with parents what we’ve done in each session so they can maybe try it at home to build on what the children have done already.

Rob: How did you select pupils for the project?

Shaun: The club is open to all children, including those who really enjoy school and learning but who also have a real keen interest in science and geography. We have been keen to get children involved who we might class as ‘disadvantaged’. We ring parents and send emails and messages saying, ‘Get them to this club’ and ‘They really enjoy this kind of thing in school’ and so on.

Rob: What has been the impact of the project so far?

Shaun: It is always hard to measure with something like this. When I’ve been speaking to the children they all say they really enjoy it and that has carried over into school life. I plan to run a focus group with the kids to ask, ‘What worked really well?’ ‘What didn’t work really well?’ ‘What did you most enjoy about it?’ ‘What did you not enjoy about it?’ ‘If we did it again, what would you like to do differently?’ and so on.

Rob: What has been the biggest challenge?

Shaun: Getting the children that we want to attend to sign up to the club, that is the biggest one. We have 191 children classed as disadvantaged at our school, roughly about 120 families. We have offered paid trips to York Maze and other experiences like that but we have struggled to get some families and children interested. We had about 20 families sign up to the project and they all went. Getting that engagement outside of the school day, that’s the challenge. We have looked at running things during school time to make sure particular children are definitely involved but then by doing this they could end up missing core learning during the school day. Doing the paperwork, finding a provider, securing funding from the OA… all of that was straightforward. Getting the children there and taking part: that has been the challenge.

Thanks to Shaun Hopper at Northstead for sharing details of the collaboration with Hidden Horizons and to Rob Hallett for leading the conversation.

At a Glance…

The Project

Extra-curricular activities for vulnerable or disadvantaged pupils, led by Hidden Horizons. Although the project is open to all children, there has been a drive to recruit pupils eligible for Free Schools Meals (FSM) at any point over the last 6 years, any pupils who have been looked after continuously for at least one day in the last year and pupils who have left care through a formal route such as adoption. Hidden Horizons has provided mainly outdoor practical activities on the school grounds and in the surrounding area, including woodland and beach. Parents have been encouraged to attend with their child to share the experience and to build a positive relationship with the school.


To enhance children’s cultural experiences through outdoor activities related to science and geography and to develop relationships with parents, grow engagement and build positivity around school and learning.


Reduced exclusions and improvements in inclusion within the groups attending. Better SEMH and wellbeing, as evidenced by informal feedback. Some evidence of attendance, enjoyment and attainment gains.

For more information, contact Gavin Hayman (NYCOA Project Manager):

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