School trips and Language Learning

Blog post written by: Jenn Parker, Digital Content Co-ordinator for educational travel providers Adaptable Travel.

In 2019, it was revealed that sadly the UK was facing a decline in students opting to study languages at GCSE and A-level. Amongst the reasons for this was student perception, with many students deterred by their perception of languages as difficult subjects.

As a teacher it’s fantastic when you are able to bring a subject to life and share your passion with your students, but it can be disheartening when students lose faith in a subject. However, immersive and engaging school trips and extra-curricular experiences could be the answer to engagement issues surrounding modern foreign languages (MFL). Offering plenty of opportunities to show students that these trips and activities allow the curriculum can be explored by learners of all types.

Experiences such as residential trips allow your students to immerse themselves in the subject in a dynamic and engaging way helping to dispel any myths and doubts and ultimately connecting your students with their curriculum. As you and your group engage with each other in new and vibrant settings, it is the perfect opportunity to maximise engagement and learning, bringing the subject to life and tying classroom learning to experiences, which can prove particularly useful when handling challenging topics.

Without further ado, let’s discuss what language can trips do for your students and how to unlock the potential of an MFL trip!

Bring learning to life
It can certainly be argued that language studies have a natural appeal to aural and verbal learners, as a majority of curriculum activity centres around students developing and utilising these skills. However, school trips and educational visits offer an opportunity for all types of learners to interact with the language and its core principles. As your students explore a range of immersive experiences language skills will start to appeal to logical and social thinkers too! School trips and the array of activities which come with them allow your students to navigate through visits with a combination of their skills, reading, interacting with native speakers and utilising opportunities to develop their skills in relaxed, real-life settings.

Explore culture and identity
School trips can often serve as students’ first and only times travelling internationally, offering them a completely unique opportunity to explore cultures outside of their own. Exploring cultures in this way can help your students cement their understanding of core language principles, as they discover more about the national identity, history and culture of the language they study. In doing so, languages become opportunities for your students to engage with the world around them experiencing the rich tapestry of cultures, faiths and histories which make up our globe. As they explore new countries, cities and experiences first-hand your class will develop personal experiences as well as ones they share with the peers. Given that peer contact informs much of their understanding of the world around them, shared experiences help students to connect with each other driving engagement and conversation in the classroom.

Boost skills and confidence
Learning a language is undoubtedly a process which takes time, effort and consistency, all of which have their foundations in structured classroom activities and regular sessions. However, a languages trip offers your students an opportunity to put their skills to the test, developing their aural and verbal skills with comfort and confidence in authentic environments. Speaking a foreign language can be daunting, particularly for beginners and those newly embracing a new language. Cue a language trip, the perfect way for your students to dive into language practice. Travelling with a group your students will rely on their strengths and develop their weaknesses in a pressure free, relaxed environment benefitting from the comfort of their friends, classmates and teachers all while embracing the opportunity to get key practice with native speakers. As they discover the value of their skills your students will feel inspired to speak more regularly, with a confidence backed up by experience.

Listen to the figures
As teachers we’re sure that you’re no strangers to school trip struggles, from costing to places and of course approval, the process can sometimes seem a gamble. However, the good news for language students is that schools are more likely to approve and run MFL trips than any other subject! According to the 2019 STF Residential Survey, a whopping 70% of schools organised language trips throughout 2018 and 2019. This means that although school trips come with their difficulties, school approval and student engagement with languages trips seems to be growing. These figures suggest that there’s never been a better time to look into language trips, removing much of the risk of school trip planning with higher rates of school approval and student engagement.

Shop around
The importance of shopping around for the best deal and package has never been more prominent, as further data from the recent STF Residential Survey displays. Amongst the factors which influence school trips the top 5 across over 200 UK schools included parental cost, school budget, term time travel and time management with others including paperwork and workload as well as educational value. Shopping around and knowing exactly what you want from a trip will not only help with the success of the planning process but also help the trip to run smoothly from start to finish.

Final advice:
To help you maximise the impact of your next language trip here’s some final tips that are definitely worth noting before you book:

Reduce Paperwork, Time management and Workload
A sure-fire way to reduce the paperwork and admin duties of a school trip is to work with a travel operator. Often the process for this involves requesting an initial quote, confirming student numbers and choosing from a selection of curriculum activities on offer at specified destinations. An important thing to remember when using services like this is that there is likely some level of correspondence necessary between yourself and the operator during the operation and booking stages. However, you can rest assured that a majority of the logistical, costing, booking and planning will be done for you and this often comes with ABTA and ATOL assurances. If you’re unsure of which providers to use STF (School Travel Forum), CLOtC (Council for Learning outside the Classroom) and ABTA or ATOL certified members are your best bet for ensuring peace of mind that you’re getting the best service possible.

Reduce Parental and School Costs
There’s a number of ways to keep cost down to a minimum when booking a trip.

  1. Competitive Pricing – Price matches, price promises and similar guarantees will give you peace of mind that you’re travelling at the best possible price.
  2. Travel Options – You can also cut costs by quoting on a number of travel options including air, train and coach so ensuring that your provider can arrange various travel options will help control cost.
  3. Free Staff Places – Checking what offers your travel providers run on staff places and ratio allowances will help keep school costs to a minimum, increasing the chances of trip approval.
  4. Student Numbers – It’s probably a given that the more interest in a trip the lower individual costs will be as most providers cost based on paying travellers. If you are running short on numbers, it might be useful to consider cross curriculum trips allowing two or more subjects to benefit from low cost travel and opportunities to explore what destinations have to offer. Although if travelling by coach it’s worth noting the number of passengers per coach, to avoid a costly supplement for additional coaches.

About the Author
Jenn Parker is the Digital Content Co-ordinator for educational travel providers Adaptable Travel.
In her role Jenn uses her passion for travel and adventure to inspire groups of all ages to use travel to embrace the cultures, histories and identities of the world around them.
Adaptable Travel is an educational travel provider offering safe, cost effective and innovative school trips and college tours across the UK and internationally. With over 25 years of experience in educational travel our trips aim to stimulate learning with bespoke curriculum itineraries designed to bring learning to life.

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