Trips and Visits

I was extremely fortunate to attend a school that believed in the value of a broad curriculum that was enriched by a range of experiences.  During my secondary education I travelled on residential visits in Derbyshire, Shropshire, France, Belgium, Russia and Italy.  These visits taught me so much – my history GCSE was enriched by standing on the Normandy beaches as we discussed the D-Day landings.  My confidence was developed through a terrifyingly beautiful journey through the Moscow underground. 

 When I started as headteacher I immediately encouraged our staff to look at ways to enrich their curriculum offer through trips and visits.  The team responded superbly and we rapidly moved from being a school that offered one or two trips a year, to one that now has a residential opportunity for every year group and runs a huge range of visits both day and residential, home and abroad.  We are a Duke of Edinburgh Centre and I am always keen to know how new staff are able to add to the rich tapestry of opportunities our students can access.

 On reflection though, I made some mistakes along the way.  At first I would blindly approve any trip request that came my way, delighted that staff were prepared to offer our students a new opportunity.  My thinking has now evolved into a clear set of guidelines that govern whether a visit is approved.

Link to our development plan

  • The trip leader should make it clear on the application to organise paperwork how the trip will link to the six themes of our Aim High Agenda.  In our quest for a simple, focussed and strategic approach to school improvement we must ensure that our trips enrich rather than distract from our core purpose.

 

Time to reflect on our learning

  • We have spent a long time discussing the barriers to learning that our most vulnerable students face.  We feel it is really important we create time to discuss learning at school, replicating the conversations that many of our more fortunate students have around the family table. There should be a debrief meeting with students (and parents where appropriate) following every trip/ activity, reflecting on the learning from the visit.

  • Senior leaders must attend the student debrief following any new trips so we can properly evaluate the impact of the visit.

 

Cost-neutral visits

  • Unfortunately, our tight financial position means we cannot subsidise the costs of visits in the way we used to.  We have to look ever more carefully at the financial implications for ourselves and our students.  Cover costs should be included as part of trip budget.  Any students who owe the school money will not be allowed to attend a trip until the debt has been cleared.  The trip leader should ensure that no trip runs at a loss. Any losses will be charged to department budget

 Timing of visits

  • In the past we have failed to consider the wider impact of some of our visits on the students on the trips and also those left with cover lessons in school.  Teachers of year 11 and year 13 cohorts will not be allowed to go on trips from Feb-31st May if it affects their GCSE/ A-level classes

  • No year 11 trips will be approved unless they can demonstrate that they fulfil a part of the students’ core requirement

  • Timing of Year 10 trips should be planned so as not to impact on any controlled assessments

  • Residential visits will be staggered and ideally will take place to incorporate half-terms/ weekends/ holidays.  We are extremely fortunate to have a staff team who are prepared to do this.

 Access to visits

  • We want to ensure we track our students experiences so that there is equity of access for our most vulnerable students.  The trip leader should work with the Head of Year to ensure that a proportion of Pupil Premium students are actively encouraged to participate, and parents contacted where appropriate.  We need to use our professional judgement to inform us about who will benefit most from each opportunity we offer.

We will continue to offer a broad range of trips and visits, providing our students with memorable experiences that enrich their studies. But we also need to reflect more on the impact of each visit on the students and the wider school. We will ask ourselves better questions to ensure the right visits go at the right time with the right students.

Mark Lewis