Megan Deakin discusses how school trip safety fears should not stand in the way of student learning potential
It is widely reported that learning outside the classroom brings considerable positive impacts for students of all ages. Whether it be a visit to a local museum or a residential trip, such experiences can transform pupils’ learning by developing their skills and understanding, improving achievement and enhancing confidence and relationships.
“When planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributed significantly to raising standards and improving students’ personal, social and emotional development,”Ofsted says.
A study conducted by the action research project, Learning Away, concluded that residential trips provide opportunities for schools to enhance vital study and life skills, as well as promote resilience and responsibility. What’s more, they determined that ‘a residential learning experience provides opportunities and benefits that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting.’
But the impacts don’t end with pupils, staff also benefit from delivering outdoor learning experiences. Learning Away highlights that teachers’ involvement in trips offers opportunities to try different approaches to teaching, as well as strengthens relationships with their students. These experiences have the most impact when integrated with the curriculum, and are reinforced once back in the classroom.
This message is reiterated by Tim Hoyle, head teacher at Huddersfield Grammar School. As a school, they’re committed to offering pupils a rounded education by supporting indoor learning with inspiring experiences beyond the classroom:
“It’s improving their horizons, it’s improving their teaching and it’s improving their relationships with the children. Everything about going away on tour is a positive learning experience.”
BARRIERS TO OVERCOME
Whilst the benefits are evident, there are barriers to teachers taking their students out of the classroom. Information compiled by the School Travel Forum highlights that for 64 per cent of teachers, safety and risk are a concern when organising a school trip. Student safety is therefore a significant issue for teachers considering an educational visit.
The safety and protection of students whilst under the care of school institutions has to be of paramount importance, but with the right measures in place these concerns can be eased.
A strong supporter of outdoor education, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) fully recognises that learning outside the classroom brings the curriculum to life, as well as helps pupils develop their risk awareness and prepares them for their future. The HSE states that ‘striking the right balance between protecting pupils from risk and allowing them to learn from school trips is essential for realising all these benefits in practice.’
When recently asked about the risk involved in schools taking pupils on trips, chief executive of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC), Elaine Skates, asserted: “To anyone who thinks that school trips are too risky I would ask them about the risks of not taking children outside the classroom for learning, the risks of not expanding their horizons, the risks of not helping them to achieve all they can.”
Elaine recommends that anyone arranging a trip should put their learning objectives at the centre of the planning process, rather than starting with a risk assessment. “Think about what you are trying to achieve for your young people, what their needs are and what the learning objectives are.”
In doing so, teachers and students will gain the most benefits from the opportunities they are given. She goes on to say that pupil safety should be carefully considered through effective planning and prudent selection of providers: “As long as you plan the school trip effectively and you are using venues and providers who you know are of good quality, perhaps because they hold the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge, if anything does go wrong you will be recognised as having done everything possible.”
The safety of young people is a fundamental consideration when organising experiences beyond the classroom, but ultimately it is learning that should be at the heart of planning a visit.
Pupil safety should not deter teachers from offering their students opportunities to learn in a real-world setting. It’s these very experiences that enable students to put their knowledge and skills into practice in a new way, as well as gain considerable benefits as they develop as young people. Through effective planning and careful selection of providers, concerns over safety and risk can be mitigated.
The Learning Outside the Classroom (LOtC) Quality Badge – a national accreditation awarded by the School Travel Forum on behalf of CLOtC – giving trip organisers confidence and peace of mind in the educational quality and safety of experiences provided. The majority of Local Authorities in England & Wales accept the LOtC Quality Badge which minimises or eliminates the amount of paperwork required, meaning you can spend less time form-filling and more time travelling.