The Brilliant Benefits of a Residential Experience for Students

Photo credit: Emile Holba

Teenager Ben* was reluctant to go on a three night residential with his school in East Kilbride. He was on the cusp of disengagement from his lessons and the cost of attending was too much of a financial burden on his family.

After much encouragement from his teachers, the school cajoled Ben into going and supported him with the costs. The trip was a sports development residential offering Ben a chance to take part in sports he loved but had not previously been able to study in depth.

Ben flourished on this residential becoming re-engaged with his studies. When he got back to school he took part in after school activities, and accepted a leadership role in the school, returning on the residential the following year as a sports leader. Tony McDaid, former Headteacher at Ben’s school says,

“There is no doubt that residential activity played a pivotal role (in re-engaging Ben) and it came at just the right time for him.”

Ben has now left school and is studying Sports Coaching at University.

Ben’s story is just one example from the compelling findings of the Learning Away action research programme, which spanned 5 years with 60 primary, secondary and special schools, developing and testing a wide range of inclusive and affordable residentials ranging from camping in the school grounds, to staying in a palace. The action research produced overwhelming evidence about the numerous positive impacts a residential experience can have on pupils, improving their: resilience; attainment; relationships; and engagement with learning.

Another school in Kent used their residentials to directly enhance attainment in core subjects for those students identified as borderline C/D. This made a life changing difference to student Mellissa* who had very low confidence and persistently refused to go to school.

Following an outdoor activities residential in which core subjects like Maths were integrated into activities like archery, Mellissa left school with grade C and above in English, Maths and Science and went on to study at construction at college. Her teachers are convinced that without this residential Mellissa’s refusal to attend school would have almost certainly led to her becoming neither in employment or education.

Whilst Learning Away believes all residentials have their benefits, they want to encourage schools to run highly effective ‘Brilliant residentials’ to get the very most out of these learning experiences. They are now campaigning to ensure that children of all ages from all backgrounds are provided with a Brilliant Residential experience in school.

East Ayrshire Council is one of the first in the UK and the first in Scotland to announce that all pupils across their 54 schools will be entitled to a high-quality residential learning experience during their time at school.

The Learning Away website provides all the evidence you need to ‘make the case’ for residential experiences, as well as a series of practical free resources and over 100 good practice case studies.

You can get behind the #BrilliantResidentials campaign, which is supported by further ‘legacy’ funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation by making your pledge or downloading the campaign pack. If you know a school who is providing high-quality Brilliant Residentials they read about the Learning Away champions school scheme.

*Names have been altered

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‘Fairer School Funding’ – what does it mean for you?

With the recent announcement of the government’s new funding formula, there are huge concerns that already cash-strapped schools are set to loose even more and make cuts on, amongst other things, learning outside the classroom activities. These activities are now more important than ever in order to extend experiences beyond the classroom, raise achievement and social mobility, and reduce the attainment gap.

‘The report, The implications of the National Funding Formula for schools, finds that half of primary and secondary schools face large real terms, per pupil, cuts in funding of between 6-11 per cent by 2019-20.’ Education Policy Institute.

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How Outdoor Play is Improving Children’s Mental Health

As our colleagues at Natural England join together with leaders in the health sector to discuss mental health,dementia and the natural environment, we bring you this guest post looking at mental health in children, and how outdoor play, and learning, can help. Mental health is often perceived as an issue for adults however over half of mental health problems in adult life, excluding dementia, start by the age of 14, and three quarters by age 18. Today in the UK, 1 in 10 of school aged children suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder – that is around three children in every school class. The Natural Connections Demonstration project recently reported that 90% of children said they felt happier and healthier when learning outside, and in addition, 72% of teachers also reported a positive impact on their health.

Our guest blogger Sam Flatman is an outdoor learning specialist and an Educational Consultant for Pentagon Play. Sam has been designing outdoor learning environments for the past 10 years and believes that outdoor learning is an essential part of child development, which should be integrated into the school curriculum at every opportunity.

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Leave More Trace?

Today’s article comes to us from one of our most popular guest bloggers, Chris Loynes, a Reader in Outdoor Studies at the University of Cumbria. 

The North American approach of ‘leave no trace’ has crossed the Atlantic to the UK and to some other Europe wide outdoor education programmes, especially those with US provenance or influence. At face value this exhortation seems unquestionably a good thing. However, I will suggest that, in many cases it is either turning a blind eye to the more significant human impacts on nature of visiting a wilderness area (Alagona and Simon, 2012) or introduces an ethic that could be counter to sustaining the rich natural/cultural landscapes of Europe (Beery, 2014) and the related educational endeavours to engage young people with this heritage and it’s continued flourishing. At the very least ‘leave no trace’ needs some thought and some clear boundaries before adopting it as an ethic for your outdoor education practices.

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The ‘Outdoors Indoors’ and Making Gains: the impact of outdoor residential experiences on students’ examination grades and confidence

This week’s blog comes to us from Dr Carol Fuller. Carol is a sociologist and associate professor at Reading University. She works closely with Fiona Craig and colleagues at Ufton Court Adventure, researching ways in which outdoor residential visits impact on confidence, self-esteem and educational outcomes.


Research I am involved in looks at the ways that how a student identifies themselves as a learner, in terms of their confidence to achieve educationally and in terms of their future career ambitions, is key in explaining their educational aspirations and outcomes. My research explores how attitudes towards education and future educational and career aspirations are not always directly related to actual attainment or potential to attain but are the result of a student’s own understanding of their chances of success.

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Re-blog: Are we at a turning point for outdoor learning?

Jim Burt is Natural England’s Principal Adviser for Outdoor Learning& Outdoors for All. He recently published a blog on Natural England’s pages:

There’s a real buzz around getting kids into the outdoors at the moment – outdoor learning, outdoor play, outdoor education, wild time, whatever you want to call it, everyone’s talking about how important it is to get our children outdoors. From celebrities like Ben Fogle, to commercial companies, to renowned educationalists like Sir Ken Robinson, people are lining up to endorse the value of getting kids away from their screens and into nature. There’s even a new book from well-known author Richard Louv, Vitamin N, presenting us with over 500 nature-oriented challenges. Is this a tipping point?

View the full article here

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