Overcoming trip planning stress

School trips allow pupils to improve relationships with their teachers and each other, as well as enhance their confidence. However, the costs and time involved in organising such trips can be a challenge. Alex Derbyshire, maths teacher and rugby tour manager at Pate’s Grammar school shares how he overcomes these challenges

I strongly believe school trips are essential for developing character and life skills in students. This belief is shared by the School Travel Forum, which reports that schools take an average of 2.7 residential trips a year, resulting in higher academic achievement.

It showed that 61 per cent of students achieved higher than their expected grade, 23 per cent of parents saw better school attendance, and 71 per cent of students felt teachers better understood their learning habits.

The School Travel Forum also went on to say that it has resulted in better relationships, with 71 per cent of students saying they felt they knew their teachers better, 70 per cent saying they got on better with their peers, and 84 per cent of teachers saying learning away improved relationships.

Improved personal development and well-being also featured highly with 87 per cent of students saying they felt more confident trying new things. Also, 74 per cent of parents said their children were more willing to try new things, and 60 per cent of teachers noticed improved confidence, resilience and well being.

Overcoming barriers

According to Ofsted, “when planned and implemented well, learning outside the classroom contributes significantly to raising standards and improving students’ personal social and emotional development.” But here is the issue; despite 84 per cent of teachers wishing they could take more school trips, 67 per cent said that the cost and organisation time were the main barriers to making this happen.

However, using Travelopia’s planning Toolkit, I resolved these issues and reduced time spent coordinating schools trips by 75 per cent, ensuring that much‑loved events continue year after year.

About the school

Pate’s Grammar School is an outstanding grammar school with academy status, located in the Hesters Way area of Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. It caters for 1,100 pupils – 605 boys and 495 girls all aged between 11 and 18 – and is a Beacon school.

Students achieve the highest academic standards, whilst also benefitting from broad extra-curricular activities, exceptional pastoral care and first-class facilities.

Every other year, the school arranges a much loved international rugby tour to the southern hemisphere for seniors and one to Ireland for juniors – a job which takes approximately one full working month, spread over an 18 month period, to complete. A fellow teacher is responsible for organising a hockey trip with a similar itinerary for the girls and both are helped by the school administrator.

The challenge

I joined the school in 2008 as a maths teacher and was soon appointed tour manager. This means I am responsible for the coordination of the school’s international rugby tour for seniors and a trip to Ireland for juniors during October half term.

As a lover of sport and a keen rugby fan, I seized the opportunity and organised the school’s first junior rugby tour to Ireland in 2010, as well as the first international rugby tour in 2014. In addition to matches with competitor schools, the itinerary for the international rugby tour included a number of cultural experiences designed to broaden students’ awareness of the history and culture of the countries they visited.

Each trip takes me roughly one full month over an 18-month period to complete, and at times puts me under considerable pressure, increasing my workload significantly.

As far as I’m concerned though, all this hard work is priceless because it gives our students the opportunity to broaden their minds and gain character traits such as persistence, resilience, self discipline and the ability to work with and show consideration for others. This is absolutely crucial in preparing young people for success at school and in their adult life in the working world.

In fact, our last tour to South Africa – which incorporated a visit to The Goedgedacht Trust, a charity providing real solutions to tackle poverty amongst rural children and youth – had such an impact on three of our students that on their return to England they independently organised and completed a charity cycle ride. This raised £1,500 and is a stunning illustration of the social responsibility such trips engender in our students.

As much as I loved planning such events, balancing it with my demanding role as a maths teacher eventually took its toll. So when Travelopia approached me to trial its new personal online trip portal, I was keen to take part.

The solution

Designed to take the stress out of organising a school trip, Toolkit from Travelopia is a personal online trip portal that can be used to change a quote from participating operators and into a school’s very own interactive tour website, accessible by staff and parents at the click of the button and from any device.

This is the first digital school trip management system of its kind. The Toolkit allows me to dispense with the time‑consuming task of preparing and mailing out numerous letters home. It also allows me to personalise our trip, upload photos, videos, itineraries and contingencies for extras such as meals and activities.

Parents can register their interest by using a simple online form and can upload their child’s dietary requirements and passport information, significantly reducing the time spent by our school administrator entering data.

It also allows me to determine access options for staff – including the head, the bursar, PE staff and our school administrator – spreading the workload and ensuring that at any one time the relevant parties can obtain a clear and accurate view of progress and payments. An email function contained within the site allows finance staff to send payment reminders to parents. And a two- stage verification process ensures that all data is safe.

Using the Toolkit

I’m currently organising the school’s South Africa Rugby Tour 2018 from Edwin Doran Sports Tours. This involves a 14-night stint for 40 boys in Gauteng and Western Cape with four rugby matches for each of our school’s A and B teams. In addition to this, there will be various sightseeing tours and four days charity work at The Goedgebacht Trust.

The itinerary includes flights to Johannesburg airport, coach travel to Konka Camp, information on the various matches, team‑building activities, a training session, an escorted game drive to Mabula Game Reserve, a flight from Johannesburg to Cape Town and a tour of Langa Township. At Cape Peninsula the boys will visit Boulders Beach, Hout Bay, Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, and also visit Robben Island to learn about the struggles of Nelson Mandela.

This will be followed by an ride to the top of Table Mountain, four nights charity work at The Goedgebacht Trust, a match at the Swartland Festival, interaction with the children from Goedgebacht, and then other matches.

It’s quite a feat as you can see – and our new Toolkit online digital tour management platform has simplified the process significantly and, based on the initial reduction in workload at the organisational stage, will save us an estimated 75 per cent of time formerly spent updating data, chasing students, tracking payments and updating parents.

When we first presented the new portal to parents they sighed with relief, pleased to learn that they would no longer have to rely on their children to be the rather unreliable vehicle of communication for letters home from the school.

They were also happy to learn that they could now directly input dietary and passport data, track their instalments, and in the future receive regular updates on their child whilst they are away. L

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