Off the beaten track

School trips can be so much more than museums and ice cream, says editor Stephanie Broad

With independent schools aiming to provide a truly rounded education that focuses on the ‘whole person’, school trips provide opportunities to complement the syllabus, bring context to international students and learn about cultures in far-flung places.

Edge Grove Prep School in Hertfordshire recently paid a visit to Sri Lanka, to combine a cricket tour with the chance to explore a new country and its traditions.

Ben Evans, headmaster of Edge Grove, says: “This was the first overseas trip for a few years and the first time to Sri Lanka. There has been a regular ski trip to Europe and, historically, an exchange visit to South Africa, plus other trips to the States. We chose Sri Lanka because I lived there for six years and because it is a developing country with a very long history and fascinating culture. Cricket is also very important so it seemed the perfect place to go. We knew that the children would have a great experience from start to finish.”

Edge Grove pupils take the opportunity to play some cricket

Sixteen students went on the trip, many of whom had not been abroad without their parents before. Learning to look after themselves, as well as play cricket in a hot and humid climate, meant the students needed to retain their team spirit whilst out of their comfort zones.

The trip also provided a cultural education. The students played against an underprivileged school, raised money to donate kit, visited historical sites, tried new foods and experienced the history, religion and culture of a very diverse country. Ben continues: “School trips are about so much more than just visiting another country. They should be about experiences, challenging the children to go beyond their comfort zones (with support), teaching children to manage their time and needs without having to be constantly reminded, and learning something new about themselves. Trips such as ours are about having fun, working together as a team, enjoying success or failure and being supportive to each other. These are all skills that they can bring back to school as well as having memories that will last a lifetime.”

Bishopstrow College, a British school with an international cohort, uses school trips to teach pupils about British and European culture and history. This helps students find more in common with peers in further education and in the workplace, creating better integration of cultures. Mark Jeynes, director of the college, says: “We believe that by offering a rounded education, alongside the English language and academic study, sports, music and drama, our students will be better prepared to face the challenges and grasp the opportunities available at their next school. The college runs fully supervised trips at weekends. Some allow students to discover places of cultural, geographical and historical interest; others encourage students to sample the great outdoors, through walking, hiking, cycling and other physical pursuits.”

Some of Bishopstrow’s recent trips have included a visit to the Roman Baths, where some of the college’s Chinese students enquired: “Who were the Romans?” Other excursions have included a trip to the Imperial War Museum, combined with a trip to see the poppy exhibition at the Tower of London. The London visit was organised for senior college students and coincided with their study of the First World War as part of their IGCSE history course.

Oundle School’s Sub-Aqua Club was started 30 years ago and is a branch of the British Sub-Aqua Club. Typically, it recruits 16 pupils in the fifth form who qualify as ocean and sports divers. Around eight of these then undertake dive leader training in the lower sixth. Qualified dive leaders are then able to assist by leading less experienced divers and thereby gain real leadership experience.

Their training starts in the school pool and progresses to sheltered water and eventually to the sea. Pupils benefit by developing a new skill and many continue to dive for the remainder of their lives. The training encourages divers to respect the water and their own safety limits. Many of them develop a strong interest in wildlife as a result.

Oundle divers

The club’s Red Sea expedition is an opportunity to extend pupil’s diving experience and to encounter the rich sea life that lives on some of the finest reefs in the world. Two of the staff who run the club are biologists and they encourage pupils to look carefully, reporting back on what they have seen.

The senior master says he is “always impressed by the way the pupils take on the challenge of cold murky water with great spirit during their training and want to become qualified divers, so that they can use their qualification to dive all around the world.”

School trip travel tips 

Gill Harvey from the The School Travel Forum (STF) offers schools some advice for making school trips more successful for teachers and pupils alike 

Popular destinations

The recent STF 2015 School Trip Survey found that the UK is still by far the most popular destination for residential trips, with activity centres in this country consistently attracting high visitor numbers. The top five group travel destinations are London, northern France, Paris, Italy and the rest of France.

Topping the ‘wish list’ of destinations teachers would like to visit but haven’t yet is Iceland, with New York, the rest of the USA and Barcelona also favoured.

Iceland’s fascinating geology makes it immensely popular with geography and geology students, while the politics, architecture and historical aspects of the other overseas destinations provide the opportunity for cross-curricular learning. European battlefield trips also remain enduringly popular because of their ability to strike a chord with pupils studying WWI and WWII history. 

Travel methods

Coaches are the most widely used means of transporting pupils on school trips.  Statistically speaking, coaches and buses are six times safer per mile than cars. This is due in part to the installation of seat belts. It’s important for teachers to explain firmly to pupils that seatbelts must be worn while travelling. 

The benefits of outdoor learning

There is much research into the positive impact school trips have on our educational lives and, on a personal level, school trips create special lifelong memories. 

  • Outdoor learning can have a positive impact on long-term memory by reinforcing the link between cognitive and affective learning.
  • Evidence suggests that outdoor learning fosters the development of specific academic skills, as well as improved engagement, achievement and stronger motivation to learn.
  • A significant volume of research indicates that outdoor learning can impact positively on children and young people’s attitudes, beliefs and self-perceptions – independence, confidence, self-esteem, personal effectiveness, coping strategies.
  • Pupils develop more positive relationships with each other, with their teachers and with the wider community.
  • Outdoor learning increases knowledge and understanding of the natural world and environmental systems and processes, and this knowledge and associated affective development are related to responsible attitudes to the environment. 

Tell us about your school trips – email the editor 

Edge Grove Prep School W:

Bishopstrow College W:

Oundle School W:

School Travel Forum W:    

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