Summer Update

By Honor Wilson-Fletcher MBE,
British Exploring Society CEO

The stories we tell and the successes we share should be about the young people we are here to serve. It’s one of the best bits of all our jobs. Just this once, though, for a moment, as we joyfully escort young people back out into the wilderness with our estimable leaders I’d like to shout out, very loudly, for my team. They have worked tirelessly, through so many repeated practical glitches, frustrations, changes, amendments, obfuscations, barriers and delays. It would have so much easier not to programme any expeditions this year.

I cannot convey to you all the level of professionalism, determination, and grit it has taken to deliver our expeditions this year – a ludicrous amount, for a UK-based season. I am in awe of my own team. Forgive me for sharing this with you all – and I hope my team will forgive me for sharing this with you all, too.

The Social Mobility 2021 report presented to parliament on the 20th July confirmed that nearly 1 in 3 young people in the UK – 4.3million – now live in poverty. Disadvantaged pupils now lag 7 months behind their more privileged peers, and youth unemployment has hit 16 -24-year-old working-class men particularly hard – with a drop of 8.7%. In some regions of the UK the increases in inequality are greater. In the North East, child poverty has risen by 11 percentage points in five years.

Tackling these inequalities benefits us all, as (for example) less stressed childhoods lead to better educational outcomes, lead to better life outcomes, and a greater contribution in society. For some time we’ve been providing life-defining adventures to young people most likely to be excluded from challenging experiences outside the classroom, and we’re working hard to understand how best to respond to the increasing challenges some young people face now.

We can’t work with everyone, sadly – so where, and on whom, do we focus our efforts?

The Red Cross recently published a Vulnerability Index which looks at UK-wide health and well-being and socioeconomic vulnerability. British Exploring Society has used this to refine our approach to partnership working. In recognition of the increasing ‘gaps’ in outcomes for young people, we’re going to focus on securing partnerships in five clustered areas of more pronounced vulnerability flagged by the Red Cross. There are many more.  As our capacity grows, we’d like to increase the number of areas – but this initial focus allows us to learn more about these (quite large) areas, hopefully develop relationships with dedicated regional funders and partners who can help us understand more about the challenges faced in the areas they serve.

Importantly, we will continue to welcome and encourage young people from any location onto our programmes – but our partnership working will be focused on these five areas. If you think you can help us, provide us with a steer, a contact, or are particularly interested in our development in any of the following clusters – please would you get in touch?

  • Scotland – Argyll and Bute, West Dunbartonshire, North Ayrshire, Renfrewshire, Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire, Perth and Kinross, Dundee city, Inverclyde, Fife
  • Far North East – Newcastle Upon Tyne, North and South Tyneside, Redcar and Cleveland, Northumberland, Gateshead, Sunderland, County Durham, Hartlepool, Stockton on tees, Darlington, Middlesbrough and Scarborough
  • North West – Wyre, Blackpool, Fylde (Preston), Sefton (Southport), Liverpool, Halton, St Helen’s, Wigan, Bolton, Salford, Manchester, Tameside, Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Hyndburn, Burnley
  • Midlands – Stoke on Trent, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, Walsall, Dudley, Walsall, South Staffs, Coventry, Solihull, Redditch, Cannock Chase, Wyre Forest, Bromsgrove
  • East London and Coastal – Southend on Sea, Basildon, Castle Point, Havering, Redbridge, Rother (Hastings) Barking & Dagenham, Eastbourne, Thurrock, Thanet, (Margate), Rochford, Swale, Medway, Newham

We already know that the next cluster on our list of targets is in Wales. More to follow – and we look forward to hearing from you.

Get in touch


I joined British Exploring Society as CEO in February 2016. Previously I was CEO for 6 years at the Aldridge Foundation where I helped establish 12 state schools in some of the most deprived parts of England.

By Honor Wilson-Fletcher MBE,
British Exploring Society CEO