Blog written by Ian Coyne, Commercial Director of Anglia Tours Ltd.
When seeking the LOtC Quality Badge, a provider must be able to demonstrate that they have the ability to tailor their products to fit in both with the current curriculum and the school’s specific requirements. All good Tour Operators will, I am sure, engage with their customers at the earliest possible opportunity to find out exactly what it is the school wants their pupils to get out of a field trip. They are also likely to ask about preferred travel options, potential dates and budget limitations. However if the operator is truly going to demonstrate it has the ability to tailor a tour and not simply offer their standard ‘off the shelf’ package, the first question should not be ‘where do you want to go?’ but ‘what is it that you are teaching?’
This question was at the forefront of our thinking when we first began to design tours to support the new GCSE History specifications which were introduced in 2017. If we really wanted our tours to support modules like the new Thematic Studies, it meant we would not only have to reappraise the locations we felt groups should visit but also the very content of the tour itself. One of the six key criteria of the LOTC Quality Badge is to ‘meet the needs of users’, We therefore began our task by consulting with the very people who would be asked to teach these modules in class. We asked teachers:
What learning points did they feel the tour should cover?
What educational outcomes should the tour achieve?
What resources would they like to see the pupils have access to?
These were questions we did not ask solely in the planning phase but ones we have gone back to time and again both as the specifications were being taught and as we took on board the wealth of feedback we received.
It was a fantastic boost to get our tours validated by those teaching these specifications; the very people with years’ of experience in field trips. However the icing on the cake was achieving a first in educational travel – securing endorsement of a tour itinerary from an examination board. It was far from a simple paper exercise. This first endorsement, like those we have secured since, was only attained after the exam board’s subject specialist had accompanied a tour, talked with the teachers and pupils and seen, at first-hand, exactly what the tour delivered. It was wonderful to hear that not only did he thoroughly enjoy the experience but that he felt the tour would ‘bring the topic alive for students, helping them to visualise the more physical problems of the environment in a way which a text book cannot’ – a terrific affirmation and evidence that we really do have the ability and the desire to provide tours which have real academic value.
With the first cohort to study these specifications having sat their GCSEs this summer, we all now have a far clearer idea of the type of questions the exam board will pose and what skills they are looking for students to be able to demonstrate.
The framework provided by the LOTC Quality Badge ensures we continually review our experiences to ensure they meet learners’ needs and act upon feedback. Our desire for continuous improvement in what we offer and for ensuring that each of our tours remains wholly relevant means that the cycle will begin again, but that is the type of challenge we relish!
About the Author:
Ian Coyne first led his first Anglia battlefield tour in 1998, since which time he has guided in more than 400 groups on tours to the First World War battlefields, Germany, Poland and the Netherlands.
Having spent over 20 years in the Public Sector, in a number of different operational roles, Ian now combines his guiding commitments with the role of Commercial Director. This means he is responsible for Anglia’s Sales & Marketing activity and overseeing new tours and products. It is a role which includes the development programmes for endorsement by UK exam boards.