Today’s blog comes from Kim Somerville, coordinator of the ‘Brilliant Residentials’ campaign for Learning Away. In the post, Kim explains what pupils, teachers and schools can gain from high-quality residential stays.
Learning Away began working closely with 60 primary, secondary and special schools in 2009, to demonstrate the positive impact of high-quality residential learning. The schools have developed and tested a wide range of residential programmes, for example working to boost GCSE attainment, support transition, or inspire KS2 writers. All have been inclusive and affordable, and the experiences have ranged from camping in the school grounds, to staying in Hampton Court Palace.
The impact of the Learning Away experience, which had funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, was evaluated over a five-year period using over 12,500 pre- and post-residentials surveys completed by students, parents and staff, as well as over 100 focus groups. Independent evaluation by York Consulting, published in 2015, commented:
“Learning Away has shown that a residential learning experience provides opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting. The impact is greater when residentials are fully integrated with a school’s curriculum and ethos.”
As most teachers who have been on a school trip with an overnight stay know, residentials provide the unique opportunity and experience of living with others. This transforms relationships and develops a strong sense of community and belonging between staff and students involved. Sir Tim Brighouse has commented:
”Over their first 16 years children are in school for about 15-20% of their waking time, with the enormous balance in their homes or the community. That’s why home background and good parenting are so important – but it’s also why time spent in school matters, and why we need to make the most of it. Having a residential at once raises the time available for influencing the child to 100%, at least for the duration of the trip.”
The Learning Away evaluators found that this sense of community supports a wide range of positive social and learning outcomes, long after the return to school.
So what are the impacts and benefits of having 100% of a pupil’s time available for these few days? And how does this experience translate into short, medium and long term outcomes for them? The evidence collected throughout the initiative shows that Learning Away residentials:
- Foster deeper relationships “The student-teacher relationship built in a week on residential is similar to that of a relationship built over an entire year in a normal class situation” (staff survey).
- Improve students’ resilience, self-confidence and wellbeing
- Boost cohesion and a sense of belonging
- Improve students’ engagement with learning In long-term follow-up surveys, 82% of KS2 pupils said their teachers and lessons on the residential helped them learn
- Improve students’ knowledge, skills and understanding
- Support students’ achievement
- Smooth students’ transition experiences In partnerships focusing on primary-secondary transition, staff from both phases stated that a residential was “worth half a term” in terms of gains students made in acquiring skills and relationships helpful for the secondary school environment.
- Provide opportunities for student leadership, co-design and facilitation
- Widen and develop pedagogical skills
You can read more about these findings on our website, or download our summary report. You can also watch the BBC Report which covered the profound impact of a Brilliant Residential experience. Through this action research, Learning Away has developed guiding principles to help schools develop their next high-quality ‘Brilliant Residential’. The Learning Away website hosts over 100 good practice case studies, alongside material to help ‘make the case’ for residential experiences and a series of practical free resources for teachers and visit leaders.
I am now leading a national campaign for Learning Away to make #BrilliantResidentials an entitlement for all children from all backgrounds. I’d love for you to join us. You can contact Learning Away at: www.learningaway.org.uk – @LearningAway – #BrilliantResidentials
Photo Credit: Emile Holba