School Trips: The value of experiences

PGL – 2017 / 2018

School Trips: The value of experiences

I never thought I would feel the need to defend the purpose of school trips and excursions, but with the increasing pressures in education, reducing budgets and what feels like less time in our hands, it seems that extra-curricular activities and trips are taking a back seat.

I think my passion for this topic of discussion, like most, stems from my own experiences as a pupil. I was lucky enough to have been able to go on a variety of trips myself, from local day trips to abroad week and weekend holidays, each linking to a different part of the curriculum.

Since leaving school, I was able to assist and chaperone on trips at my previous high school whilst at university and later my own as a qualified teacher. This added a whole new meaning to ‘school trips’ as I was able to see first hand the importance of these experiences to pupils from a new aspect; as a teacher.

I think it comes down to our own pedagogy, whether we as teachers feel that pupils ‘need’ these experiences or not. When planning trips, events and activities no matter the scale, i’m sure we have all experienced varied dilemmas.

For example, issues that can cause planning / pedagogical dilemmas..

  • Pupils that misbehave in school – Can they be trusted in an external environment? Do they deserve to experience something that could be seen as a reward?
  • How do you decide which pupils can go/attend? – first come first serve? on a reward/achievement basis? those who need encouraging? anyone?

We all have different opinions on how to over come issues like these, and most of the time they are specific to that situation as it never seems to be a ‘black and white’ clear cut answer.

However, it frustrates me that the amount of these experiences have started to dwindle across the board. To me, the benefits of school trips outweigh every possible “con”. The planning time can be spread out if done in advance and you can speak to other schools / staff for advice, tips, templates etc. If there is a will there is a way and I think we must stick to our morals in order to provide pupils with these experiences, more now than ever (but that’s a whole other topic).

Ski Trip – Italy, 2018

Hockey & Football Sports Tour – Barcelona, 2018

But always remind yourself and others of the benefits.

  • Improving pupil’s attitude to learning and school overall – by allowing pupils to represent their school in an external environment and providing them with different experiences than their usual classroom/school setting, pupils can find a new found respect for teachers, peers and their school.
  • Expanding pupil’s horizons by introducing them to different experiences, cultures, countries and landmarks (to name a few) that they may not otherwise have come across. Remember those pupils who may not have ever left the country or even the local area, they are the ones who will value trips the most and will always remember and appreciate them
  • Developing teacher/pupil relationships – sometimes, all it takes is seeing pupils in a different setting to tap into their strengths that could help you back in school and vice versa. This is one that I have been able to see first hand. Those pupils that you may not have come across much, you could become a member of staff that they then feel more comfortable with. The pupils that you have had problems with in the past, perhaps their behaviour is poor and you haven’t been able to find the right strategy with them. School trips can break these barriers.
  • Helping pupils connect with their peers – mixing friendship groups, team building, helping different year groups associate with one another. Once you remove the familiar environment and the majority of their usual friendship groups, pupils can feel more comfortable socialising with peers they may not know that well, which can help with social issues back in school.
  • Consolidating learning – seeing the information that they are learning in the classroom, now in reality can help add a quality of wonder and fascination in pupils which can allow them to understand a specific topic in more detail.
  • Learning a new skill – how can pupils explain what they are good at if they have never been able to try much more than what is immediately available for them. For example pupils who live near the coast may be better at water sports/outdoor adventure rather than inner city pupils due to their immediately available resources. Why not take the latter to try water sports and open them up to new skills?

Watersports – France, 2014/2015

My top memories of school trip benefits:

  1. Taking a pupil on a school trip for their whole year group who was one of the worst behaved pupils in the school – I got a minor eye injury that looked a lot more serious at first due to the swelling, this pupil came up to me at lunch time in front of the other members of staff (and was the first out of the whole cohort) to ask if i was ok and if I needed anything. This pupil also engaged in every activity with great enthusiasm and mingled with peers they didn’t usually socialise with. They received an award for their enthusiasm on the final night and in response, said thank you to everyone for allowing them to come and said to the deputy head who came on the trip ‘thanks sir for taking me, I think we used to annoy each other but you’re cool’ it meant a lot for them and for the staff.  A new level of maturity and respect was developed and has filled this pupil with confidence that staff see them in a new light.
  2. Seeing a pupil who was very quiet socially and did not have any of their ‘friendship group’ on the trip with them, make new friends. This pupil was taken in by other peers, socialised, took part in activities together and became more confident in school which helped them in group tasks and feel closer to their peers. This started in year 8 and continued through to year 11.
  3. Pupils having new experiences. When taking a group of pupils abroad to France, we saw pupils who had never been away from their local area visit a different country, try different foods and experience different cultures, weather, scenery.. the list goes on. This same pupil tried rock climbing, abseiling, kayaking, caving and canoeing which they had never experienced before. The trip not only provided them with typical fun memories with friends but their first taste of foreign culture and a new set of skills too.

I hope that we still continue to provide these experiences to our pupils and that we remind ourselves of the benefits when situations try to dissuade us from planning them.

What benefits or experiences do you have of school trips? Tweet me ‘@thepediary‘.



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