Unleash learning outside the classroom with a school trip

Liz Laybourn, Head of Burgess Hill Girls, says a cultural and personal challenge is an opportunity that young people should grab with both hands

Some of the most meaningful education takes place beyond the school gates and away from the influence of parents. In an education system that is too often cloistered and risk-averse,
the opportunity to take young people out of their comfort zone on a residential trip should be grabbed with both hands. 

As soon as students step on the school bus, we can break the umbilical cord that ties young people to social media platforms – no phones or tablets allowed! The opportunity for a digital detox is no small matter, with research showing the negative impact of social media on young people’s health and wellbeing, including sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out. Forcing young people to operate outside the digital ‘bubble’ that too often defines their lives at home can pay huge dividends. 

Near or far: which is best? Long-haul overseas trips to exotic destinations don’t necessarily have the most impact; a two-day adventure trip within the UK can be every bit as beneficial. Building self-confidence and self-esteem is fundamental to any young person’s development and helps to extend their perception and appreciation of the world around them. 

Trips offer young people a unique opportunity to claim their independence, make their own decisions and build new friendships and can bring about positive, long-term change both in and out of the classroom. 

Pupils may feel that they know their classmates and teachers well from day-to-day contact in school, but the experience of living with them in a residential community can add a completely new dimension. It raises key issues such as interpersonal skills, including leadership, teamwork and trust and respect. Residential trips can also make a major contribution to the acquisition of academic knowledge and development of life skills. Living alongside one another in shared accommodation in sometimes challenging conditions for a significant length of time teaches teamwork – and patience!

Teaching students about a country’s culture in a classroom environment is all well and good, but providing them with the opportunity to experience it first-hand is completely different. In an increasingly globalised world, insight into different cultures and learning respect for different people and unfamiliar customs is of enormous importance.  

Liz Laybourn

And in our all-girl school environment, this has particular resonance. Young women need to be able to understand, and thrive in, cultures with markedly different expectations of them than they experience in the UK. Meeting other young women whose life experience has been very different to their own is a real eye-opener. Living in a culture that contrasts with what they are used to – if only for a few weeks – can achieve a depth of understanding that goes far beyond the clichéd stories they may have read in the media. 

Away from the cultural arena, outdoor activities offer valuable often non-competitive, avenues for achievement, as well as opportunities to develop independence and self-reliance. By facing up to the challenges, overcoming fears and anxieties, young people can make major strides in confidence. 

Whatever the destination and the length of the trip, perhaps the greatest benefit is only revealed once the familiar routine of school life is resumed. Students who may have struggled with learning or lacked enthusiasm are suddenly transformed. Fuelled by new insights into their studies, they become star students, full of intellectual hunger and curiosity.

And you can’t put a price on that.  

To learn more about Burgess Hill Girls, please visit burgesshillgirls.com

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