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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