Travel, inspire, educate – ten schools’ stories

Connecting the classroom to the world beyond through educational travel can have a transformational effect on students, and the EJOY Award was created to celebrate these stories, while also offering inspiration to other schools and teachers. The journeys were selected based on a scoring system that encompassed, amongst other criteria, the activities, experience, pre and post trip opportunities, responsible tourism and the cultural impact of the trips. In no particular order, here are the selected finalists.

Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Blackburn
The school took pupils on an 18 day community/education project in Uganda, including a three day safari in Murchison Falls National Park. This caught our eye as particularly good value for money. The trip was based around the primary school in Kampala with which QEGS have an on-going link. In addition to their trip funds, students raised a further £12,000 for the link school in a host of pre-trip events and further visits are already in the pipeline. An eye-opening travel experience.

King's College School, Wimbledon
This was close to being the cheapest trip entered into the competition, and it was certainly one of the most specialist and in-depth. Travelling to Leiden University and other research centres in Holland for five days, the 15 students heard about current research being done in low temperature physics, astrophysics and robotic engineering, through talks on electrical conduction through a wire made of a single line of atoms, quantum communications, cryogenics and the exciting discoveries of planets orbiting stars outside the solar system. Staying in a typical Dutch family run hotel ensured a responsible approach to sourcing accommodation. An inspirational trip for budding Einsteins.

Caterham School
Caterham School's ongoing school link and expedition programme to Tanzania is a model example of how communities can come together and shows how responsibly arranged school links benefit all concerned. The 16 day trip happens every summer and a very special bond has developed between the two schools. Time at the link school is complemented with challenging adventure in the form of a trek on Mt Meru (10th highest peak in Africa).

Silcoates School

Encompassing so many different aspects of Indian life - people, music, dance, yoga and general 'life experience', and adventure - this school trip really stood out for us. Arranged through Inspire Worldwide, 19 days in Goa saw 22 students undertake building renovation, education, tourism schemes and real integration into the local community. A commitment to return with four more trips within ten years ensures a responsible approach and the promise of ongoing support.

The Wey Valley School, Weymouth
In December, The Wey Valley School travelled to Nepal for 3 weeks. The aim was to experience a third world culture, foster a spirit of adventure, forge community links with Okhle village and Bayapani School and develop leadership qualities amongst the students. The expedition was open to all and cost was kept to a minimum by independent organisation of flights, insurance, travel, guides, accommodation and food. You can hear more about how this trip was organised in-house at the school by two teachers at our educational travel conference in Bristol.

The Coopers' Company and Coborn School
34 students from The Coopers' Company and Coborn School undertook an audacious 29 day expedition to Madagascar this summer, all arranged in-house through one inspired teacher. As 'journeys' go, the mix of transport, project work, ecosystems, challenges and wilderness environments made this trip really something special. The experience gained in such a unique destination and the commitment to local guides and communities, resulted in an incredible educational experience.

Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form
This ten day project in Romania is an excellent example of how adventure and real life educational experiences can be found within Europe's shores, and at a reasonable cost too. A building project assisting the ostracised Roma community ensured students saw life at the 'other end of the spectrum' from their own. Being just a short flight away no doubt brought this home all the more. The trip proved to be excellent value for money and it is no doubt an experience that will shape the students' lives a great deal.

Exeter School
Namibia and South Africa: 17 days
Exeter School's combined rugby and hockey tour of South Africa and Namibia really is a fantastic example of how a sports trip can be developed into so much more than just sport. From giving the older pupils key responsibilities, to pre-departure fundraising and the sheer variety of the itinerary, this sports tour really stood out for us. The combination of team sport, comradeship on tour, real-life experiences and adventure made for a truly excellent all round educational experience for the 42 students involved.

Stamford Endowed Schools

Chilean Patagonia: 31 days
This was the most expensive trip entered into the competition, and also probably the most challenging - both in terms of physical challenge whilst on expedition, and also in the difficulty in arranging in it. The range of activities and adventures the 40 students undertook was in itself amazing and included a week long Duke of Edinburgh snow-shoeing expedition, sea-kayaking amongst the fjords, avalanche awareness training on a self-supported week long winter trek, and a SES-funded community camp for 200 local children. Whilst impressive, it was how the teacher went about arranging this trip in an innovative and responsible manner that really made it stand out for us. If ever there was an example of just how much a teacher can achieve in educational travel and adventure - both for his/her own students, and the community and economy of the destination, this is it. Truly inspirational.

Ashton Park School

Kenya: 22 days
Ashton Park School's ongoing link with Kenya is model example of what can be achieved when the whole school community comes together in the name of international educational partnerships. The 'Inspirations School' project started in 2004. The school in Kenya then had 2 classrooms and 48 pupils. With funds raised by the Ashton Park community, plus numerous expeditions to Kenya, the Kenya community now have 550 pupils at the school, with a target for 800 by 2014. The 2012 expedition saw 15 students travel to Kenya for 22 days. With local guides, sports events, video link ups, building projects and adventure, this was an all-round trip and a great example of how travel and international relations can permeate and inspire all areas of a school's community.

Congratulations to all the above entries for making it through to the finals. All ten of these schools are now preparing more detailed submissions to the panel of EJOY judges, the winner being announced at the Educational Travel Conference in Bristol on 12th October.