Inspiration through exploration

turning young adults into role models for the next generation

They did it!!

The 2017 Expedition returned to Scotland on 5 April following their 10-day expedition in the Arctic.
The selected team completed rigorous training over the last ten months with the support of their teachers, parents and a hand picked team of experts providing them with the mental and physical fitness of elite athletes.

The following team of exceptional young adults were immersed in the wilds of Greenland, each hauling their 45kg sledge for 100km.  Over ten days, team-work and resilience were paramount as they cooked and camped on the sea ice, met members of the Inuit community, navigated through some of the world’s remotest terrain and marvelled at the Northern Lights.  Their confidence soared with every step.

These 10 pupils from the north of Edinburgh were selected from both Broughton High School and Fettes College. The three girls and two boys from Broughton High School are part of the FetLor Youth Club that provides services within the north of Edinburgh. 

The additional pupils on The Polar Academy Leadership programme benefitted from much of the same training and skills development as the expedition team. 

The Polar Academy 2017 ExpeditionThe Polar Academy 2017 Expedition
The Polar Academy 2017 Expedition
The Polar Academy 2017 Expedition

The Polar Academy 2017 Expedition team is:

Lena Ascherman – Broughton High School
Findlay Fairley – Broughton High School
Arran Goddard – Broughton High School
Harry Letts – Fettes College
James Mackman – Fettes College
Owen Readman - Broughton High School
Max Roberts – Fettes College
Iona Wardner - Fettes College
Lara Welch – Fettes College
Anna Ziemons McLean – Broughton High School

Pupils on The Polar Academy Leadership programme:

Chloe Armstrong – Broughton High School
Lily Intihar – Broughton High School
Agata Lipowski – Broughton High School
Gabriela Mitrushi – Fettes College
Hannah Moore – Fettes College
Gregor Wenman – Fettes College

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Money raised For 2018 Expedition...


Total required: £170,000


The Polar Academy

The Polar Academy identifies ‘invisible’ 14-17 years old secondary school children, crushed by a lack of self-esteem and gives them the chance to redefine their physical and mental limits.

Participants are put through a rigorous ten-month training programme before being immersed in the wilds of Greenland, navigating through some of the world’s remotest terrain for ten days.  Their confidence soars with every step. 

On their return to Scotland, each pupil shares their experiences with their peer groups, speaking to more than 20,000 school children in their region.  They are living, breathing proof that dreams are attainable and that ordinary pupils can achieve the truly extraordinary.

Watch our video of last year’s expedition to learn more.

What we do

We unlock the vast potential within young adults and turn them into positive role models for their community and families. Each year The Polar Academy will inspire and motivate thousands of young adults, positively demonstrating that by ‘inspiration through exploration’ anybody can achieve their absolute potential.

How we do it

The Polar Academy conducts visits to schools and offers a selected number of the young adults, between the ages of 14 and 17 years old, a truly once in a lifetime opportunity to be part of a major Arctic Expedition. This expedition will be beyond anything that they have ever determined to be possible and will positively change the lives of the participants and their families. Returning to the UK as true role models they will have a wide ranging and positive impact on their communities, as each participant will give back to their peers and community a programme of positive outcomes – each participant is tasked with inspiring a minimum of 3000 other young adults in their community.

Who we are

The Polar Academy is the brainchild of, and is run and managed by, Craig Mathieson. Craig is an accomplished and respected explorer, having led the first dedicated Scottish expedition to the South Pole, taken a 16 year old youth to the North Pole and led many other expeditions to the Arctic. In 2013 he was awarded the title of “Explorer in Residence”, by the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Together with his team of professionals from the SportsScotland Glenmore Lodge, the National Outdoor Training Centre, they make up the training and expedition team.

Why we need to do it

Passionate about inspiring the next generation, Craig has shared his experiences with many schools. The replies he received to questions such as “what do the pupils aspire to?” and “what motivates and inspires them” led him to conclude that irrespective of social background, many young adults have very little self-confidence and motivation and are of the general opinion that they will not be able to achieve anything significant in their lives. Craig decided to do something about addressing this; it was out of this experience that the concept of The Polar Academy was born.

Our Team

Craig Mathieson

Craig Mathieson

Head of Polar Academy

Jess Ridgeway

Jess Ridgeway

Mountain Ski Leader

Dr Mike Wild

Dr Mike Wild

Expedition Doctor

Nigel Williams

Nigel Williams



Picture this! From the snowfields of Greenland to presenting in Scottish schools about its work to inspire youth through exploration, here’s a snapshot of The Polar Academy in action…

Our Trustees

Chris Tiso

Chris Tiso is the CEO of Tiso Group, the leading national retailer of outdoor clothing and equipment. The outdoor adventure specialist retailer was founded in 1962 by Chris’ parents Graham and Maude.  Following the loss of his father in a boating accident, Chris took over the running of the eponymous business in 1992 at the age of 21.  He has since led the growth of retails outdoor adventure specialist.

The company has 14 stores across four facias covering Scotland and the English Lake District with a group turnover of circa £30m and approximately 350 employees.

In addition to being a founding partner and active supporter of The Polar Academy, Chris’ many commitments within the outdoor world include as the Honorary President of Scouts Scotland and as ambassador of Countryside Learning Scotland.

Tiso Group is an active supporter of Scottish Mountain Rescue, The Sandpiper Trust, The John Muir Trust, The Polar Academy and Stuart Johnston’s Mountaineering Scotland courses Climbmts.  Tiso also sponsors the Edinburgh and Dundee Mountain Film Festivals.  Passionate about the great outdoors and inspiring adventure, Tiso Group is currently the main sponsor of the ‘Return to Everest’ Mollie Hughes expedition that departs in April this year.

John Gilmour

John Gilmour was born in the North of England. Though a Yorkshire man to the bone, he has lived all over the world including Bermuda, Hawaii, northern Spain, Liverpool, Dorset and, most recently, in Perthshire. 

Prior to teaching, John served in the Royal Navy in both the surface fleet and submarines. He subsequently moved into teaching, where he has enjoyed a career in both maintained and independent schools for the last 19 years. 

He is a sailor at heart with a passion for his family, the ocean, watersports, mountains and making journeys under his own steam.  Prior to his move to Scotland, he spent 15 years as a crew member, helmsman and coxswain of the Swanage lifeboat crew.

He is now the Headmaster of Craigclowan Prep School in Perth.

Keith Neilson

Edinburgh-born Keith is the co-founder and CEO of Edinburgh-based tech company, Craneware plc. It is the leader in automated revenue integrity solutions that improve financial performance for healthcare organizations. Founded in May 1999, Craneware launched its first product in October 1999 and by September 2007 was listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange. Today Craneware employs approximately 200 staff and serves one in four registered U.S. hospitals.

Educated at Balerno High School and a graduate of physics at Heriot-Watt University, there were early signs of Keith’s entrepreneurial spirit when he programmed games for computers and sold them to friends at school!

The technology entrepreneur, who at school aspired to be an architect, is passionate about helping to make a difference in work and life. When time permits he loves to relax in the Scottish highlands.

Andrew Ford

Andrew Ford is the managing director of the specialist tax advisory firm, Barr & Ford Limited.  Vice chairman of the Glasgow branch of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, Andrew has specialised in tax for over 20 years, working in both big 4 and mid tier accountancy practices, and as Head of Tax for a legal firm.

His areas of expertise include all areas of the taxation of wealthy individuals, including resident but non-domiciled individuals, and also transactions and employee incentive planning.

A graduate of the College of Law, York and the University of London, Andrew is a former climber and has been a valued trustee of The Polar Academy since January 2014.

Mike Hancock

Mike is the founder and director of Cornhill Building Services. Established in 1994 and with a multi-disciplinary workforce of over 90 employees, the Edinburgh based business has steadily grown to establish itself as a leading Scottish building contractor.  With a client base that includes University of Edinburgh, The Edinburgh Academy, Seaforth Properties, East Lothian Council, West Lothian Council and Dunedin Canmore Housing Association, Mike overseas a business with a turnover in excess of £10m. 

CBC was one of the first organisations to support Craig Mathieson’s vision for The Polar Academy. In 2015, Cornhill Building Services completed work on the stylish Polar Academy ‘HQ’ in Bo’ness.  

Equally committed to a rigorous fitness regime, Mike is also a competitive endurance runner and mountain-biker.

Mike Robinson

Mike has been CEO of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS) since 2008, leading one of Scotland’s oldest and most respected educational charities through a period of modernisation and restructuring. He was previously Head of Development at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Head of Marketing for the RSPB.

He is also a board member and founding member of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland (SCCS), helping to deliver the Scottish Climate Change Act and Scottish Climate Justice Fund. His various other senior positions include as an advisor on the Scottish Advisory Group for Rewilding Britain.

A graduate in Business and Marketing from the University of Stirling, Mike’s diverse outdoor interests include climbing.



March 2017


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January 2017


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October 2016


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April 2016


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Baillie Gifford
Cornhill Building Services
Royal Scottish Geographical Society
BeWell Expedition Food
Karol Marketing
Lottery Funded
Glenmore Lodge
Road Haulage Association
Beeline PR
Links Design

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01506 825115

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© The Polar Academy 2017. The Polar Academy is a charity registered in Scotland no. SC044605.