Chris Green is a Cambridge graduate, recently retired from a career in Education. This has consisted of two periods teaching in secondary schools and also two major attempts to make well-run Summer Camps part of our national provision for young people.
Chris taught at St. George's School, Harpenden and at the Chase High School, Malvern.
On the Summer Camp front, Chris worked in French "colonies de vacances" while he was at university, and continued to do so for several years, finally becoming qualified to direct holidays in France. Inspired by what he saw as the enormous educational potential of such residential opportunities for children from different schools and different backgrounds to have a positive holiday together, Chris lobbied the British educational establishment to get something similar going in Britain. The Council for Colony Holidays for Schoolchildren was established in the mid-sixties with a launching grant from the then Ministry of Education. Chris left teaching and spent 18 years full time with Colony Holidays. After he and those who had set it up with him returned to teaching in the eighties Colony Holidays sadly went out of business. In 1996 Chris set up the Active Training and Education Trust (ATE) as a successor body. He has worked without payment for twelve years to get this organisation going.
In recent years Chris has been Convenor of the Summer Camps Forum, a meeting ground for all organisations which run any kind of Summer Camp in Britain. He was awarded the MBE in 2011 for services to education through summer camps.
Chris Green says: " All I have seen in the nearly 30 years I have spent with the two Summer Camps organisations, and in the schools where I have taught as well, leads me to believe passionately that the opportunity to spend a week or so a year living in a rural setting with others from all backgrounds and parts of the UK, taking part in a varied programme of active and creative children's leisure activities, away from TV and computer games, can be a truly life-changing experience for youngsters from both well-off and disadvantaged families. I am also certain that the young volunteers who train and then work with the children benefit greatly. We need to change hearts and minds, to convince parents that their children will benefit and be safe, to convince children that they will have a fantastic experience and gain in confidence, and to convince schools that encouraging their pupils to go to Summer Camp will increase enthusiasm and positive attitude for learning.
The Council for Colony Holidays for Schoolchildren was set up as an educational Charity in 1963. The Chairmen were successively Sir John Wolfenden, Lord Hill of Luton and Lord Vaizey of Greenwich. The Council consisted of representatives from all the main educational Associations, also HMI Assessors from the Department of Education and Science, the Welsh Education Department, the Scottish Education Department, and the Northern Ireland Education Department.
Chris Green and Colin Hogg started working full time for CCHS in September 1965. A new headquarters was established, thanks to the good offices of John Brooke the then Chief Education Officer for Worcestershire, in a former children's home near Malvern. As operations grew this became too small, and in 1970 CCHS moved to Linden Manor in Upper Colwall (also on the Malvern Hills) where they had a residential centre with 60 beds, an office block, and three staff flats. In addition to Colin Hogg, the following working with Chris Green made important contributions over the years at a senior level: on the education and training side Chris Atkinson, Dick Orton (a very talented young educator who was tragically killed in a motoring accident at the age of 30), Alan Kirk, Jane Orton, Patrick Hibbin, and Phil Badley, on the bursarial / finance side Michael Sharp, Alan Bassett and Phil Reeve, and on the administration side Pam Heptinstall.
Numbers grew rapidly to 5,000 or so per year. Centres used were mostly boarding schools or similar premises rented during vacation periods, in many different areas, from the LEA hostel in Stornoway (Isle of Lewis) or the village hall on Hoy in the Orkneys to boarding schools near Chichester, near Barnstaple and in the New Forest. Some Anglo-French holidays were run, some in Britain, some in France. In the mid-seventies some 300 children attended holidays each New Year, 800 or so at Easter, 50 each in the three Half-Term weeks, and about 4000 in the summer. Holidays lasted 7, 9 or 12 days, and catered typically for 8-11 year olds, 9-13 year-olds, 12-14 year-olds or 14-16 year-olds. Numbers in any one holiday were from 30 to 80. Some 1500 children from poorer homes took part each year, sponsored by LEAs. An accompanied travel system was run in collaboration with National Express, who made available half of Derby coach station on travel days.
Each year around two hundred 17 to 25 year-olds attended seven-day residential training courses to work as Monitors, to take responsibility for groups of 8 - 10 children. The HMI Assessors regularly cited these courses as "good practice". Training was also developed for Assistant Directors and Directors to take overall charge of the holidays. The experience of being given responsibility for a holiday of 60 children, a staff team, and the premises where it was taking place, at 25 years old, was a challenge but one which was of tremendous value to those who did it. By the early eighties well over a hundred people had gone through all the stages of training and were qualified to run a colony holiday.
Colony Holidays also collaborated with other organisations to run holidays. An offshoot in Northern Ireland took 2000 children a year from all parts of the community. Puffin Club holidays were another collaboration, with groups of 50 Puffin Club members spending a week or ten days at a colony centre, joined by a couple of children's authors, and with a visit from Kaye Webb as the highlight. There were Heritage colonies, in collaboration with the National Trust education department, and holidays for inner city children in collaboration with Manchester University Settlement, Birmingham Settlement and the WRVS.
In the early eighties Chris Green returned to teaching, and other senior people also moved on. A more commercial leadership (i.e. people from business backgrounds) took over. For several reasons (among them numbers not growing) Colony Holidays first joined with another holiday company and then closed in 1985. Many people were devastated at what had been lost, and there were several attempts to keep colony-type holidays going locally.
Now, thirty and forty years on, many hundreds of adults regularly get in touch to pay eloquent tribute to all that their times at Colony Holidays meant to them while they were children, and how much the experiences have helped to shape the kind of adults they have become, their career choices, the way they have brought up their families, and the way they see life. All of them agree, as does almost everyone who knew Colony Holidays, that the experience of a Summer Camp offers an opportunity unlike any other for fun, for learning, for growth, and for seeing more clearly through the commercial and other distractions which surround young people, to what really matters in life.
The Active Training and Education Trust was established as a new Charity in 1996, to revive some of the important educational methods, skills and ideas that had been lost with the demise of Colony Holidays and to make them relevant to the educational and social set-up of today. Many people who had been involved with Colony Holidays have helped with time, money and publicity. Chris Green retired from teaching and worked without pay for twelve years. Baroness Mary Warnock agreed to be the first Chairman, and is still President. Her successors as Chairmen have been Dr. Eric Macfarlane OBE and David Fawbert OBE. The governing Council again consists of representatives from the educational Associations.
ATE has shown beyond any doubt that the children and young people of today enjoy the experience of a Colony-type summer camp every bit as much as their predecessors in 1975, benefit every bit as much, and find it every bit as life-enhancing. Indeed it is arguable that children need such experiences today even more than they did in the seventies. Like their Colony predecessors children go home from ATE singing and happy, with more self-confidence, better social skills and new friends from all parts of Britain.
ATE has also re-established high-quality training courses for young people to work as Monitors, Assistant Directors and Directors in the holidays, and has recruited a good number of excellent 18 to 25 year-olds to take part. ATE now has around 30 people who are qualified to run the holidays, 50 who work as Assistant Directors, and 200 or so who work as Monitors. Up to 50 new monitors train each year. As with Colony Holidays, everyone who has taken part over the 12 years would agree that what is on offer both to children and to young leaders is something of exceptional value.
Headquarters staff has been of necessity small. ATE operated first "off the kitchen table", and then in 2006 it moved to an office in central Malvern. A residential centre type headquarters would be wonderful, but has so far been out of reach. Working with Chris over the years major contributions to ATE have been made by Helen Fairest and Ian Johnston on the education and training side, Karen Smith on the finance side, and Sue Duff on the administration side. Chris retired from ATE gradually between 2006 and 2009. His successor was Barry Walmsley, who was part of Colony Holodays and had been a crucial support to Chris ever since ATE started. Now Barry is taking a back seat, ang the director of operations is Liz Macartney, assisted by Katie Hilder. There are some young development officers who work one day a week in different parts of Britain to raise ATE's profile and help recruit both children and monitors.
As well as its holidays (known as "Superweeks") ATE runs residential weeks for schools, also residential weekends based on Maths, Drama or Science to which teachers bring groups from different schools, FunDays in schools, and anything similar which schools ask for. A number of weekends for teachers who want to teach more actively have also been run, and in 2004 a Conference on "Fun, Creativity and Imagination in Education" was held at Brasenose College, Oxford, attended by 80 or so education professionals.
In 2003 and 2004 ATE was involved in the government Get Real scheme (later renamed Do It 4 Real), whereby children from all backgrounds were offered subsidies to attend Summer Camps under the "Positive Activities for Young People" programme. About 100 children in 2003 and 300 in 2004 were added to ATE Superweeks. With a couple of exceptions, where vetting procedures were not as they should have been, this worked really well, and added to the rich social mix of the Superweeks. A slot on the 6 o'clock News in 2004 about Summer Camps featured some ATE holidays and interviews with ATE staff.
Thus ATE has been able to get a dynamic and energetic organisation back in being. The unique repertoire of games, songs and children's leisure activities built up by Colony Holidays over twenty years is back in use, and it is being updated and added to by a group of creative and exciting young people who never knew Colony Holidays but are enormously committed to ATE. There is also high-quality training being delivered to young staff
It cannot be overemphasised what a valuable and unique resource this repertoire of ideas and this training expertise represents, and how important its contribution to education and to childhood in Britain could be. At a time when we agonise over why our children are not as happy as they should be, and when all too many of them feel alienated from society, it would be a sad waste not to make use of expertise which is ready and waiting and which could make a real difference for the better to lots of young lives.