By Chris Young, Telegraph & Argus
A scheme that has helped 600 Bradford children experience a life on the high seas – despite living 70 miles from the coast – was celebrated at a reception in Bradford City Hall.
And the programme has so much impressed the Lord Mayor of Bradford that he said he will push for it to continue despite the Council facing huge budget cuts.
Pupils at 22 primary and seven secondary schools across the district have taken part in a Maybe Sailing experience, which for many involved seeing the sea for the first time.
Run as a partnership between Bradford Council and the Maybe Sailing trust, 2013 has been the most successful yet for the programme.
At the reception, pupils who attend Bowling Park, Brackenhill, Green Lane, High Crags, Lees and Oldfield primary schools spoke about how these experiences inspired them, and helped teach them important life skills.
Setting off from Whitby and Hull, the pupils involved in the programme – year six and above – man the tall ship Maybe, built in 1933. They venture into the North Sea for short sails over a 24- hour period to longer voyages as far as Holland and Germany.
The pupils help set the sails and steer the ship. For many it is the first time they have been away from home.
Next year Maybe Sailing will be circumnavigating the British Isles, meaning pupils from Bradford will have the opportunity to venture even further afield.
The Lord Mayor, Councillor Khadim Hussain, hosted yesterday's reception and afterwards said: "It was fascinating to hear the children talk about this.
"Some of them have never been to the sea before, and some have never been away from home. It seems to have really equipped them with confidence, and skills like teamwork, discipline and even cooking when they were out at sea.
"It is great that the Council is supporting this initiative and I hope we continue to do so.
"It benefits quite a large number of young people and they all look forward to it. I will definitely push for it to continue, despite the cuts to the budget."
Councillor Ralph Berry, the executive member for children's services, said: "This initiative has captured the imagination of our schools more than any other adventure programme."