Tips to get the most from your school trip

When planned well, school trips give students unrivalled opportunities to learn in the real world, enable them to grow in confidence and self-belief and can lead to better engagement when back in the classroom. Justine Lee from the School Travel Forum gives five tips for successful trip planning

Educational visits provide students with some of the most valuable and memorable learning experiences. When planned well, school trips give students unrivalled opportunities to learn in the real world, enable them to grow in confidence and self-belief and lead to better engagement when back in the classroom. The School Travel Forum gives five tips for successful trip planning

By following these five steps, you can ensure your school and students get the most from your next visit or tour:
1. What’s the point of your trip?

Planning is more than making sure you have the correct consent forms and that everyone has the right kit. To ensure you and your students get the most from the experience, it is important to consider what you want to achieve through the trip.

Sometimes schools fall into the trap of ‘doing what they have always done’. To maximise impact, take a step back and think about your learning objectives and how an educational visit or tour can help meet these objectives.
Consider how can an educational visit help deliver the objectives in your school development plan as well as what experiences your pupils lack. Think about what experiences you want your pupils to have to help them expand their horizons and what barriers to learning exist within your school and how can a school trip overcome them. This could include improving interpersonal relationships, and temporarily removing negative influences.

Consider how an educational visit or trip support the learning of different groups of pupils, such as those on the Pupil Premium, boys/girls, SEND, higher ability groups, and so on.

Where do your staff lack confidence or experience and how can a school trip support staff CPD? How can the visit or tour be part of a progressive learning journey?

Schools should also think about how they can build on the experience once they return to the classroom.

2. Get more from your school tour provider

Often planning for an educational visit focuses on practicalities – risk assessments, permission slips, payments etc. If you are using an external provider for your trip, talk to them during the planning period. A good travel organiser will suggest activities and locations that best meet your learning objectives. These can then be incorporated into your trip. By working together, you can capitalise on your knowledge and the expertise of your visit provider.

Remember to consider wider curriculum outcomes – for example around personal development or across different subject areas – in order to derive the maximum benefit from the visit.

As well as improving subject specific knowledge, wider benefits include improving attitudes to learning, improving personal development outcomes such as resilience, confidence, independence, and teamwork.
Trips can also give students a better understanding of different faiths, cultures or socio-economic groups as well as improve physical or mental health and improve relationships.

Consider how the visit links to classroom teaching. Your tour or travel provider may also have ideas on activities to do when you return to the classroom to help you build on learning from the visit once back at school.

All venues and providers holding the LOtC Quality Badge will be able to tailor your visit to meet your learning objectives and the individual needs of your learners, so don’t be afraid to talk to them rather than settling for an ‘off the shelf’ programme or spending hours trying to put something together yourself.

This way of working means you will need to set aside some planning time with the travel organiser, but it will lead to a stronger school/provider relationship and a better learning experience for students.

Jamie Gardiner, chair of School Travel Form board, said: “The majority of schools recognise the importance of school trips and the benefits that they bring in terms of engagement with learning and improved relationships and social skills. However, organising these experiences can sometimes be a challenge, and we know that teachers are extremely busy. Using a travel organiser provides schools with a ‘one-stop shop’ – a dedicated resource of people who know the destinations and understand the needs of schools, who will help teachers plan and organise their visits, provide advice and support to minimise stress and help everyone involved get the most from the experience.”

3. Join together to maximise resources

If you have a small group, planning a residential with another school can help make the trip more cost-effective, reduce planning and staffing burdens and add value to the experience for your students. You will also have the chance to share best practice and learn from the experience of other schools.

Joining with other schools for a Year 6 residential has been proven to help pupils transition to their secondary school.

Talk to your Outdoor Education Advisor, they may be able to recommend a local school who would make a suitable partner. Or contact other schools in your local area yourself with your idea.

4. Try a different time of year

Certain times of year are extremely busy for schools, making releasing staff even more of a challenge. Organising a visit or trip ‘off-season’ can help with fitting it into the timetable and enable staff to be released to support the experience.

An autumn school trip also provides an ideal platform for pupils to bond with their classmates and get to know their teacher better. Teachers get to see students in a different light and develop a better understanding of how to motivate them and to get them working together. Research has found that autumn educational trips lead to improvements in behaviour and pupil’s ability to follow instructions in the classroom. Students are also more engaged with learning.

Trips at this time of year means you can build on these relationships and reinforce what was learned throughout the coming year.

Jon Clarke, shadow head teacher, Walsall Academy said: “The main benefit of travelling in the autumn or winter is building an association between the real world and what is being learned in the classroom. For students learning a new subject as part of a new class, a school trip at this time of year can boost self-esteem, invigorate their passion for the subject and give them confidence. Running a trip or residential at the start of the academic year gives you more time to embed the learning and see the impacts. Students also get the opportunity to get to know their teacher on a different level which can develop better relationships and give them a new level of respect for their teachers which leads to higher outcomes in all aspects of the students’ development.”
5. Use an accredited provider

The Department for Education recommends that any school using an external provider for their educational visits or trips should use one that holds the Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) Quality Badge. This is the only accreditation that recognises the quality of the educational experience and risk management. Using a LOtC Quality Badge accredited provider will also help to reduce paperwork.

When travelling overseas, it is important to also ensure that your travel provider is a recognised member of ABTA or has ATOL protection. This provides additional financial protection and support when outside the UK.  
Gill Harvey, chief executive, School Travel Forum, said: “It is heartbreaking to hear when a school falls victim to bogus operators. Unfortunately, the growth in the internet and niche travel markets means there are more unlicensed providers around. It can be tempting for schools to think that running a school trip independently will save them money, but it exposes the school to significant financial and personal risk. Using companies holding independent accreditations such as the LOtC Quality Badge and ABTA or Atol recognition protects you and your school, meaning you can travel with confidence.”


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