‘Never again will trips and visits be taken for granted’

With restrictions on day and residential visits now relaxed, Ben Evans, headmaster at Windlesham House School, talks about why these opportunities are so important for children

School trips of any sort are an essential part of children’s learning; they bring the curriculum to life in a way not possible in the classroom and they also allow for the development of essential life skills such as risk-taking, confidence-building, curiosity and independence. Above all though, they are a lot of fun. 

The absence of trips over the past year will have impacted negatively on children’s learning and their overall school experience.

So much of the school curriculum is built around key and integral trips and visits, which add essential flavour and excitement to children’s education. As teachers we can all remember those outings from our own childhood school days with great clarity; perhaps far more so than endless days spent sitting inside a classroom? 

Not only have children missed out on the collective experience of being and learning together outside of school (not to mention the joy of the coach trip!), but also the awe and wonder of bringing their learning to life – be it inside a historic building, knee-deep in a river or testing their risk-taking skills while climbing a mountain.

Bringing learning to life

Ultimately, the curriculum has been covered and children have made progress during the course of the last year, but the outcomes have been impacted in terms of enrichment of that learning and nurturing a deeper understanding. 

School trips enable teachers to bring learning to life and for children to put the theory into practice, as well as explore everything they have learnt. It is the equivalent of the pages of a textbook coming to life and the children stepping inside of it – there is nothing more valuable nor worthwhile.  

Residential trips also play an important role in children’s learning and attainment. The skills learnt and developed through outward-bound activities transfer perfectly to the classroom and school in general, ensuring children become confident, resilient learners who are able to work collaboratively, lead and listen to others. 

There is always the added benefit of teachers forming stronger relationships with pupils when outside of the classroom while they are in different, and sometimes challenging, environments. Children also get to see their teachers in a totally different light too – often demonstrating risk-taking themselves when abseiling down a cliff, for instance.

A child’s education races past far too quickly and as schools we can never afford to waste a single moment. School trips form such an essential and integral part of a child’s learning journey, which is why I’m glad we are back in the driving seat.

Children have missed out on being together outside of school


Virtual trips served their purpose

Many schools attempted to conduct virtual school trips during lockdown via online learning. It was necessary for all schools to take a creative approach to online learning during the recent school closures, and virtual school trips were an important and enriching part of this provision.

With the country in lockdown, it allowed access to important learning resources and gave pupils a different perspective on their curriculum topics – be it a virtual tour through a museum, art gallery or around a Tudor castle.

Organisations worked hard to provide these experiences and they will continue to play an important part in schools’ planning and resourcing. It is not possible to take children out of school as often as the curriculum may demand, so online, virtual resources which are now readily available and of high quality, will remain an important element of schools’ provision. 

Whilst online and virtual visits play an important role at school, it cannot be argued that they will ever completely replace physical trips

Whilst online and virtual visits play an important role at school, it cannot be argued that they will ever completely replace physical trips. From the youngest age, the preparation, planning and excitement of a school trip is so important and together with the academic and social benefits, they are irreplaceable.

Learning to work together, being part of a team, taking responsibility and acting independently, investigating, exploring and researching are all skills that are gained and developed through school trips. 

Add in the fun, enjoyment and academic enrichment and we begin to realise what has been missed over the past 18 months and what fantastic opportunities lie ahead. Never again will trips and visits be taken for granted.

Memories made, lessons learned

Many teachers will have fond memories of school trips. My personal favourites range from discovering and exploring a deserted medieval village on Dartmoor to re-enacting the Battle of Hastings on Senlac Hill, the vertiginous climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower and watching elephants have their daily bath in a Sri Lankan river. 

Each one of the many trips I have accompanied was a valuable experience for the children involved and will have left them with lasting memories. Namely, getting slightly lost at Euro Disney, eating too many sweets on the coach and feeling sick, forgetting to take a coat on a 25-mile walk on Dartmoor, plus learning to wash your own clothes by hand, and we can all agree that school trips go far beyond the confines of the school curriculum.

Above all, trips must be fun and enjoyable but have important learning outcomes whether they are based on curriculum-learning objectives or essential life skills. Trips should bring learning to life and introduce children to new and fascinating opportunities. That’s why I am relieved that these invaluable opportunities are back in the frame once more. 

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