In June 2015, York Consulting published its evaluation of the Learning Away residentials project, identifying the impacts of overnight stays on young people.
Learning Away set out to support schools enhancement of young people’s learning, achievement and wellbeing by using innovative residential experiences as an integral part of the curriculum. The initiative was funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation from 2008 to 2015, and 60 schools across 13 partnerships were involved. Residential experiences included camping on school sites, locally, and further afield, partnerships with outdoor education organisations, and school exchanges in both urban and rural settings. Each partnership of schools had a distinct identity and focused on the challenges and themes relevant to their particular context, from GCSE attainment to community cohesion, from family support and raising aspirations, to cultural diversity. Rather surprisingly, perhaps, there are few direct references to environmental education.
The conclusions of the evaluation report begins:
“Learning Away has shown that a residential learning experience provides opportunities and benefits and impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting. Throughout the evaluation process, impacts on relationships (both student-student and staff-student) and on students’ confidence were strongly and consistently demonstrated. The strength of relationships developed was significant and often unexpected. There was also strong evidence that impacts in these areas led to positive outcomes in terms of students’ engagement with, and progress in, their learning, as well as their self-belief and expectation that they would make progress and succeed.”
Chris Loynes, the project director, talked enthusiastically at the recent Lessons from Near and Far conference about the impact of residential experiences on pupils’ health and learning. He said that pupil-pupil and teacher-pupil relationships changed, and stayed changed to some degree, after such experiences, that power shifted, and that pedagogy changed back in the classroom. He said that there was also a change of culture in the school resulting in fewer expulsions, and less bullying.
You might think from the picture at the head of this post that these young people are probably not going to be engaged in environmental education – although are you really sure?