(Image by Kevin Nicholson, provided by Farms for City Children)
Blog Post written by Justine Lee, Communications and Fundraising Manager at the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom
Your next school trip could be the most impactful educational experience your students will take part in this term, but it’s easy to fall into old habits when planning a programme.
You had a great time last year, you know what to expect if you go back…and before you know it you have been going to the same venue for 10 years to do the exact same activity!
Here are six ways you can make a change to what you do for your next learning outside the classroom (LOtC) session or school visit – without an unreasonable impact on your own workload:
1 Let your students lead
At its simplest level this could be asking learners where they would like to go to find out more about the topic being studied. At the other end of the spectrum you could involve them in planning the whole experience.
Helping to plan and manage a school visit/LOtC session can have enormous and lasting benefits for young people. Taking responsibility for themselves and others provides pupils with a sense of ownership.
This approach has been found to improve engagement, confidence and attitude to working with others. It also empowers young people and allows them to take control of their learning experience. After the session or visit, encourage them to reflect and look at how they might do things differently next time.
2 Look for the badge
Breaking free from a regular annual trip means finding a new location or provider, checking insurance, risk assessments, health and safety and emergency policies, safeguarding… but don’t panic, because you can circumvent all this by choosing a LOtC Quality Badge holder.
This accreditation is the only national award which endorses good quality education provision and effective risk management. Providers with this accreditation have been assessed and meet all the appropriate safety standards and liability insurance.
3 Don’t reinvent the wheel
A new venue or location also means a new lesson plan, new activities to develop. Take the pressure off and make use of the wealth of material available online.
Many destinations offer resources for all ages and Key Stages, covering the whole curriculum. Packs usually include lesson plans, curriculum links, case studies, tips and recommendations, location/setting ideas and activities.
These will save you time and ensure your students enjoy an engaging and value-added LOtC session/visit.
If you are using an external provider to help deliver the session, talk to them too. They will have information sheets and activities along with examples of what they have done for other schools, and will know what works well. They will also work with you to ensure the experience meets your desired learning outcomes.
4 Cut the admin
There’s no need to waste time repeatedly sending out and chasing permission slips. As school visits are part of the curriculum, written consent is only needed if the trip
- has a higher level of risk assessment and/or
- is outside normal school hours.
It is however good practice to tell parents about a forthcoming trip, of course, and give them the opportunity to withdraw their child.
5 Embrace change
The world around us keeps evolving, new opportunities emerge and no two classes are ever the same. Making a alteration to your usual annual school visit can bring as many benefits for you as the experience itself does for your students.
Taking your learning outside the classroom more often can help engage and motivate your pupils as well as improving their behaviour back in school; while new venues or experiences can give you added insight into your subject, which you can build on in future lessons.
6 Get what you want
Start your planning by considering exactly what you want to achieve for this particular student group. Think about what learning locations and activities will help you to meet your objectives.
It is always helpful to remember what you are doing all this for. A bit of time spent reflecting on the learning objectives will ensure that you get the best value from your educational visit. It will also make it more interesting and enjoyable for you!
About the Author
Justine Lee is Communications and Fundraising Manager at the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom – a national charity which champions all forms of learning outside the classroom, across all ages and across the whole curriculum.
You can find guidance on planning, running and evaluating LOtC experiences at lotc.org.uk.