In the fifteen years that I have been teaching I have been involved in many school trips and I believe they are one of the most significant things we can do for our students.
They can have a long-lasting impact. My Grandad would tell me at great length all about his school trip Norway in an old Merchant Navy ship and his visit to Italy to see Herculeanum and Pompeii by bus in 1938. When he was in his 90s the images and events he described were as clear as day. They opened his eyes to the world around him that he may never have seen otherwise.
I don't remember much from my Primary School days, after all they ended over 28 years ago, but a narrow boat ride down the Grand Union Canal and the visit to Wokey Hole are at the foremost of my mind as I write this. In secondary school numerous museum trips are probably to blame for my eventual careers path!
What I am suggesting is that our students probably won't remember specific lessons and whether the learning objective was perfectly structured in twenty years time. But we hope that the overall knowledge and the pleasure of learning remains. School trips help to expand their horizons and support the desire to learn about the world around them and hopefully prepare them to be lifelong learners.
However, organising a trip can be tough on teachers. They take time and a lot of effort to do well and come with a great deal of responsibility. So I completely understand why many teachers shy away from them.
I've put together a few ideas here that I found useful if you are planning your own academic visit.
Why organise a trip?
You will probably have to write a proposal explaining the value of your planned trip. It's worth being detailed here if your SLT need convincing, especially for exam groups.
1. It broaden's young peoples' horizons.
This is possibly more obvious with a less well-off cohort but regardless of your school demographic all of our students benefit from new experiences. Showing young people that interesting, engaging and inspirational places exist beyond their home town or holiday destinations can have a big impact on aspiration. On a trip to a castle a few years ago we saw stone masons and stained-glass window artists in action. As they worked we watched them and I realised that I wish someone had said that these jobs were viable career paths when I was a child. Seeing these kind of things in action can plant a seed in the mind.
2. Trips deepen subject knowledge.
Possibly the most persuasive point for SLT. As a history teacher nothing I can say or show on a IWB can compare with actually visiting a place of historical significance. It could be a trip to Canterbury Cathedral with year 8 learning about Thomas Beckett or Sachsenhausen Concentration Campwith GCSE students studying WW2 and the Holocaust. The young people gain a deeper understanding of the events and greater sense of the people involved.
3. Develops positive student/teacher and peer relationships.
I think that is one that is often overlooked or in some cases dismissed. In my experience, taking students on trips allows them to see teachers as human beings. Having fun and engaging with them away from he more formal school environment can develop camaraderie that is often transferred to the classroom on return. The sis also evident among peers, whereby new friendships across classes and year groups are formed and carry over back to school. It is lovely to see a GCSE lad chatting with a year 9 in the playground having met on the WW1 battlefields trip. Similarly I have had many a sixth former reminisce with me abut their Year 7 reward day trip to France!
MY TOP TIPS:
Get lots of quotes from different companies. The prices and itineraries can vary considerably. Also think about whether you could do a self guided trip. This is very possible and can give you more flexibility as well as keeping the costs down.
Speak with the PTA. Often they have some money available to help support educational trips that will benefit the students.
Get in touch with the borough risk assessment person that signs off trips if you are going abroad. They also may require you to use particular paperwork or software to complete risk assessments.
If you are going abroad in Europe make friends with the relevant people at the British Council. You will need a List of Travellers form (sometimes referred to as Visa Waiver Scheme) for all non-European travellers. Just make sure you get it signed and school stamped before you travel! Click here for more information from the British Council.
Many destinations and educational establishments have risk assessments already completed. It is worth asking as this will save you a great deal of time and effort and probably be much more thorough.
Make pocket-sized laminated cards with key information for each student. It should include the hotel name and telephone number, your number and the one school one in case they get properly lost. It is also worth including a few phrase sin the local language like "Hello", "please may I have...", "Thank you" and "Please help me I am lost!" My students have always enjoyed trying it out in the shops.
These are just a few ideas that have made my life easier. What tips do you suggest to trip-newbies? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.