Inspiration through exploration

turning young adults into role models for the next generation

10 teenagers from Fife start the journey towards 2020 expedition

After recently completing a rigorous selection weekend at Glenmore Lodge in the Scottish Highlands, 10 teenagers from Coupar in Fife have been selected to benefit from the life-changing work of The Polar Academy. As part of their involvement, the eight female and two male participants will undertake a self-guided 100km, 10-day expedition in Eastern Greenland next April.

All of the youths selected for the expedition team (names listed below) are between 13-16 years of age and pupils at Bell Baxter High School in Fife where the school motto is ‘I am being prepared for life.’  An additional ten pupils from the school have been selected for the (back-up) leadership team.  Two of the participants, Emily (expedition team) and Stephanie Birrell (leadership team) are twins. Kirsty Simcock, a drama and guidance teacher at the school will also be part of the expedition team.

It is the second occasion in three years that a Fife secondary school has benefited from the transformative work of the charity.  In 2017/2018, pupils from Lochgelly High School in Fife participated in The Polar Academy, a charity that has been described as delivering Europe’s toughest youth training programme. 

The Polar Academy was set-up in 2013 Craig Mathieson, Scotland’s greatest living polar explorer.  His vision is to inspire youth through exploration and to help young people positively transform a life blighted by crushed self-confidence, anxiety and / or a lack of self-esteem.

Over the past six years, 50 year-old Mathieson has worked closely with teachers to identify what he calls ‘invisible’ youths. To date, five expeditions involving pupils from a total of eleven secondary schools have experienced the life-changing methods deployed by the charity that helps participants to redefine their physical and mental limits. Over 70,000 youths have already been engaged and inspired by the charity.

Carol Ann Penrose, who since August last year has been Head Teacher of Bell Baxter High School was previously the rector of Lochgelly High School and was part of the Lochgelly expedition team throughout 2017/2018.   She recalled: “The calm, understated approach of Craig and his guides really gets results. They quietly instil a ‘can do’ mind-set in the participants.  You come to recognise that with a little more self-belief you can accept and overcome challenges.”

Craig reminded the pupils from Bell Baxter High School that their selection into the programme, following a weekend of physical and mental challenges at Glenmore Lodge in early June is only the beginning of their 9-month journey to positively transform their young lives. He commented: “It’s a tough selection process and the pupils from Bell Baxter High School who have come through should be proud of their achievement. 

“However, now the hard work really begins. Supported by the school and their families, the youths will now need to fully commit to the programme that will include undertaking regular physical training. Like the many positively transformed youths who have gone before them, The Polar Academy will prepare the individuals to work as a team, culminating in a 10-day, unsupported expedition in Eastern Greenland. Everyone will haul their own 45kg sledge, navigate, camp and cook in temperatures as low as minus 30C. 

“In the months ahead, these teenagers will encounter and overcome challenges that steadily develop self-confidence and instil the realisation that with focus and effort the seemingly impossible can be achieved. They will return to Scotland as young adults equipped with a can do attitude. Crucially, they will be more than ready to inspire thousands of other youths with the message that with sustained effort and focus, goals and dreams can be achieved.”

In the Arctic, accompanied by a doctor and expert guides, pupils will conduct scientific experiments to support the Scottish school curriculum and to further understanding of the impact of global warming.  Mathieson, who in 2013 was named the first Explorer in Residence of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 129 years, is also a STEM ambassador for Scotland.

Despite its growing success, The Polar Academy remains wholly dependent on donations to deliver its programme that costs £170,000 to operate and to which the participants and their families are not asked to contribute.  Chris Tiso, CEO of Tiso the outdoor adventure retail specialist and Cornhill Building Services (CBS) are among founding supporters of the charity whose trustees are drawn from the fields of education, business, exploration and the media.

Wild challenge - The Polar Academy selection weekend included tough hiking in the hills near Glenmore Lodge by AviemoreJake Duncan Bathgate Academy grabs a drink on a hill summit during the selection weekend

The Polar Academy 2019/2020 expedition team
from Bell Baxter High School, Fife:

Emily Birrell
Sophie Blair
Lauren Calley
Ember Davidson
Eve Gill
Leah Graham
Blair McDougall
Molly Poolman
Kristian Smurthwaite
Molly Turnbull
+ drama and guidance teacher Kirsty Simcock

The Polar Academy
2019/2020 leadership team

Stephanie Birrell
Lara Burdett
Jorja Darlington
Louis Allison Finch
Rachel Murray
Boo Scott
Bryce Tyndall
Robbie Williams
Kayleigh Yorke
Charlotte Youngson

Donate via PayPal

If you would like to make a donation to The Polar Academy via PayPal, click the DONATE button below.

Donate via JustGiving

If you would like to make a donation via JustGiving, click the DONATE button below, or text POLA10 then the amount (£1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10) to 70070.

DONATE

Facebook Posts
Latest Tweets

If you would prefer to send a cheque or bank transfer please give Craig Mathieson a call on 01506 825115 or email info@thepolaracademy.org

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 a previous 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

MIC, IML, BASI

Scott Graham

Scott Graham

Exercise Physiologist

Mollie Hughes

Mollie Hughes

Guide

Luke Robertson

Luke Robertson

Guide

Hazel Robertson

Hazel Robertson

Guide

Gallery

The 2018 Polar Academy Expedition Team from Lochgelly High School in Fife recently returned from a 10-day, 100km journey through the wilds of eastern Greenland. The following images offer you a snapshot of their life-changing experience.

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.

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.

Debbie Byers

Debbie is the founder and director of Beeline PR, an Edinburgh-based consultancy delivering strategic communications for corporate clients and consumer brands. She has been actively supporting The Polar Academy’s PR campaign and fundraising initiatives since 2015.

With almost two decades of experience, Debbie worked for leading PR consultancies in Edinburgh, London and Glasgow before establishing Beeline PR in September 2011.

She is a business degree graduate and the past Chair of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in Scotland representing its 750-strong membership from the private, public and charitable sectors.

Debbie has climbed a few hills in her time and is now a keen runner.

Newsroom

EDINBURGH TO HOST ACCLAIMED EXPLORERS AT ‘INTO THE FREEZER’ EVENT

7 October 2019

EDINBURGH TO HOST ACCLAIMED EXPLORERS AT ‘INTO THE FREEZER’ EVENT

Read more

GREENLANDIC INUIT STUDENTS PREPARE FOR FIRST VISIT TO SCOTLAND

25 June 2019

GREENLANDIC INUIT STUDENTS PREPARE FOR FIRST VISIT TO SCOTLAND

Read more

FIFE’S YOUTH AGAIN TARGETED FOR HELP BY LIFE CHANGING CHARITY

19 June 2019

FIFE’S YOUTH AGAIN TARGETED FOR HELP BY LIFE CHANGING CHARITY

Read more

LIFE CHANGING … POLAR MEDALS FOR BATHGATE ACADEMY EXPEDITION TEAM

29 April 2019

LIFE CHANGING …
POLAR MEDALS FOR BATHGATE ACADEMY EXPEDITION TEAM

Read more

SCOTTISH POLAR EXPLORER HONOURED FOR SERVICES TO EDUCATION

6 July 2018

SCOTTISH POLAR EXPLORER HONOURED FOR SERVICES TO EDUCATION

Read more

ARCTIC BOUND … TEN BATHGATE ACADEMY PUPILS SELECTED FOR THE POLAR ACADEMY

25 May 2018

Long Haul

Read more

FIFE'S YOUNG ARCTIC EXPLORERS RECOGNISED WITH POLAR ACADEMY MEDAL

27 April 2018

Broomhall House

Read more

IT’S AN ‘ICE DAY FOR THE BEACH! FINAL TYRE HAUL FOR FIFE YOUTHS AHEAD OF ARCTIC CHALLENGE

12 March 2018

Lochgelly High

Read more

CRAIG MATHIESON - ADVENTURE PLANTS SEED OF CONFIDENCE IN OUR CHILDREN

29 December 2017

CRAIG MATHIESON - ADVENTURE PLANTS SEED OF CONFIDENCE IN OUR CHILDREN

Read more

EVEREST RECORD BREAKER TO INSPIRE YOUTH AS GUIDE WITH THE POLAR ACADEMY

29 December 2017

EVEREST RECORD BREAKER TO INSPIRE YOUTH AS GUIDE WITH THE POLAR ACADEMY

Read more

FUNDING BOOST IS GAME CHANGER FOR LIFE CHANGING CHARITY

21 August 2017

FUNDING BOOST IS GAME CHANGER FOR LIFE CHANGING CHARITY

Read more

CHARITY TO BENEFIT FROM FIRST RELEASE OF POLAR EXPLORER SINGLE MALT

23 July 2017

CHARITY TO BENEFIT FROM FIRST RELEASE OF POLAR EXPLORER SINGLE MALT

Read more

FIFE YOUTHS SELECTED FOR LIFE-CHANGING ARCTIC EXPEDITION

19 June 2017

FIFE YOUTHS SELECTED FOR LIFE-CHANGING ARCTIC EXPEDITION

Read more

EDUCATION AND BUSINESS BOOST FOR LEADING SCOTTISH CHARITY

March 2017

EDUCATION AND BUSINESS BOOST FOR LEADING SCOTTISH CHARITY

Read more

GREENLAND BOUND EDINBURGH PUPILS AIM TO SET UNOFFICIAL WORLD RECORD FOR TYRE HAULING!

January 2017

GREENLAND BOUND EDINBURGH PUPILS AIM TO SET UNOFFICIAL WORLD RECORD FOR TYRE HAULING!

Read more

ARCTIC BOUND … TEN EDINBURGH PUPILS’ SELECTED FOR LIFE CHANGING EXPEDITION

October 2016

ARCTIC BOUND … TEN EDINBURGH PUPILS’ SELECTED FOR LIFE CHANGING EXPEDITION

Read more

TEN EDINBURGH PUPILS RETURN FROM LIFE CHANGING ARCTIC EXPEDITION

April 2016

TEN EDINBURGH PUPILS RETURN FROM LIFE CHANGING ARCTIC EXPEDITION

Read more

Partners


Asnes
Bergans of Norway
Craneware
Tiso

Sponsors


Alfa
Lottery Funded
Baillie Gifford
Beeline PR
BeWell Expedition Food
Cairn Energy
Cornhill Building Services
Edinburgh International Marketing Festival
Glenmore Lodge
Hestra
Karol Marketing
Links Design
Merrell
MSR
Nordic Outdoor
Road Haulage Association
Royal Scottish Geographical Society
Smartwool
Snowsled
Tundra

Contact Us

Get in touch if you have any questions!

07951 972 532

Send us a message

© 2019 The Polar Academy. The Polar Academy is a charity registered in Scotland no. SC044605.