Kim Somerville – on behalf of the campaigning group ‘Learning Away’ – looks at the worrying results from a new study examining ‘The state of school residentials in England: 2017’.
‘The state of school residentials in England: 2017’ study, assesses the quantity and quality of residentials currently delivered in schools. It is the first study of this kind in England and is based on analysis of data from tens of thousands of schools and educational establishments over the last five years. It found that far too many children are missing out on the powerful learning and life experiences residentials offer, with only one in five children experiencing a residential every year. More worryingly still, the study found a picture of patchy and inequitable access with young people in in the poorest areas the least likely to participate. Furthermore, only around half of teachers said they believed the residentials they delivered were affordable to all pupils.
Residentials are often the most memorable experience of students’ school days; for their teachers, they are rewarding, if exhausting. Learning Away’s initial research report stated that they “provide opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting” and “the combination of activities and shared experience of living and learning with others makes a residential a unique learning opportunity.” They have even been described by teachers as “worth half a term in school”.
Surely if these experiences have such a significant impact, all children should be entitled to have them during their time at primary and secondary school.
It is reassuring that the study shows that residentials in schools are generally of high quality but availability and cost is stopping many poorer students from participating. Schools are attempting to address this problem, often by using the pupil premium, but as funding is squeezed, this will become an increasing problem.
The study was compiled by education ‘think tank’ LKMco, funded by Learning Away. It draws from a national database used to organise trips by approximately 25,000 schools as well as a survey testing the quality of residentials according to the ‘Brilliant Residentials’ principles. Speaking about the findings from the teacher survey Loic Menzies, Director at LKMco said:
“The teacher survey found that the design and planning of residentials is an area of strength for schools. Teachers who organise residentials know what they hope to achieve from them and why they are important. This offers some assurance that the investment from parents and schools in residentials is focussed on meeting students’ abilities and learning needs. However the survey found that too many residentials are not valued as an essential part of schools core offer to all students but are seen as an added optional extra.”
The study suggests that schools are much less likely to organise residentials in the autumn term, preferring to arrange residentials in the spring and summer. It seems few schools are recognising residentials’ potential to foster deeper relationships between staff and students, which are sustained back in the classroom for the rest of the year. Learning Away believes that the impact, quality and accessibility of residentials could be improved if schools consider providing more autumn and winter residentials.
Which is why Learning Away are running a #WinterResidentials campaign raises awareness about the benefits of residentials for schools in the winter months, encouraging schools to provide more residential experiences for children and young people of all ages and from all backgrounds.
The benefits of Winter Residentials
Evidence collected from the Learning Away action research highlights a number of benefits of taking students’ on a winter residentials. These benefits include the opportunity to:
- Boost students’ resilience, self-confidence and wellbeing
- Improve students’ engagement with learning, including positive changes in behaviour and attendance.
- Allow time for all learning to be embedded and reinforced back in school
- Foster deeper relationships which are sustained back in school. Winter residentials allow relationships between staff and students to become more trusting and respectful back in the classroom.
- The longer nights and shorter days offer new learning opportunities on an outdoor residential such as: astronomy; night walks; exploring in the dark; and enjoying exhilarating winter weather. The beginning of the school year is also a good time of year to introduce key subjects with inspiring hands on learning indoors through activities such as exploring art galleries and museums.
- Winter residentials can also be more affordable giving schools the benefit of a greater return on investment. Why not have a sleep-over in the school hall or within the school grounds to keep costs low? Many residentials providers have reduced rates, or offer discounts over the winter period.”
Visit www.learningaway.or.g.uk to read the full study and find out how to get involved in the #BrilliantResidentials and #WinterResidentials campaigns.
About the Author
Kim Somerville has been working for the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom (CLOtC) since 2016, successfully leading the national campaigning work of the Learning Away Consortium to improve outcomes for children and young people; ensuring every child benefits from high quality residential learning experiences.
Kim has over 15 years of senior leadership experience, working in the field of education and passionately championing the benefits of educational opportunities for all. Kim joined CLOtC having been the Director of Marketing & Communications at Leeds Trinity for eight years, where she was responsible for growing the reputation of the University; increasing student recruitment; and working with schools and partners to widen participation to higher education. Prior to this, Kim was the Marketing Manager at Leeds University Union, a charity that helps over 30,000 students love their time at university.
Kim recently started in post as Head of CLOtC, after CLOtC’s chief executive Elaine Skates, moved on to become the Head of Learning and Skills with the Heart of England Forest.