School trips outside of the classroom environment can improve pupils’ personal, social and emotional development, and strengthen relationships between students and teachers. However, taking a group of children out of school may seem daunting, so how do you make sure your trip is a successful one? Here are our top tips.
It may seem obvious, but securing the support of the headteacher before finalising the trip is essential. It’s also a great opportunity to sound out ideas and feel reassured that you’re on the right track for your trip. Talk through the details with them, such as timings, destination, budget and activities; their opinion can help guide your planning, and you can make sure you get their approval before you begin.
Give parents as much notice as you can and keep them updated throughout the planning process. Get their written consent early on. Help make their lives easier by providing a schedule with as much detail as possible, including phone numbers so that they can get in touch in an emergency. Make sure they know the timings of the trip, such as when they’ll need to drop off and pick up their child, and give them a checklist of what to bring. It’s also a good idea to send a reminder or two before the trip (including the day before), to avoid no-shows and to answer any last-minute questions.
It may be tempting to plan an extravagant schedule of activities, but you don’t want to run over budget. Good financial planning will help minimise the cost to the school, and to parents. If you’re going on a trip abroad you’ll want to make sure that it’s not just children from more well-off families who can attend. Be imaginative: financial constraints don’t necessarily mean that you can’t take your students on a trip that’s both exciting and educational. Little things, such as pupils bringing their own packed lunches and water bottles, will help you stick to the budget.
Think carefully about the dynamic of the students as a whole. For instance, it might be best to keep similar ages together. If it’s an educational outing, consider their abilities and knowledge: pairing very able students with those who require more support may cause stress or frustration.
One of the greatest benefits of a school trip is the opportunity it gives pupils to learn and socialise in an informal way – both with their friends and also with other students who they wouldn’t normally spend time with. Find a balance between students making new friends and having the reassurance of being around people they know.
When planning the group, you should also consider students who tend to act out or cause issues. Try to keep these pupils separate from each other, and make sure staff on the trip are aware of who they are and how they can keep them engaged.
Keeping your students safe throughout the trip is a top priority. Start by conducting a full risk assessment of every aspect of the outing, and retain this on file. Make sure you have an adequate ratio of staff to pupils, and ensure that staff have first aid training and know the location of the first aid kit. When requesting written consent for the trip, also ask parents to provide any relevant medical information pertaining to their child. Keep a checklist of this and make sure that these pupils have their medication or any other equipment they may need before setting off.
A contingency plan is vital too. Give each pupil a document that contains information such as an agreed destination to meet in case students get lost or there is an emergency. If pupils have mobile phones, send this information in a message as well. It’s also a good idea for one or more of the teachers to wear a fluorescent jacket or carry a flag that students can easily see and follow, minimising the risk of them getting separated from the group.
It’s vital that students are aware of what’s going to happen next and what is expected of them. In class, ask them to carry out research on the place you’re visiting – you want students to get excited about where they’re going so this background knowledge will help them get the most out of the trip. Spend time going through the schedule and discussing what they need to bring. For example, what kind of clothing they should wear, and any work they need to produce during the trip. Make sure they’re aware of the contingency plan and that they know what to do in an emergency.
If the idea of organising a school trip single-handed seems too daunting, you can always recruit a travel specialist to help smooth out the details. Access to this experience can help to make sure that everything goes to plan. During the planning stages, it’s also a good idea to keep a written account of everything, from the risk assessment to any issues that come up on the day. That way, you can refer to your notes if any questions arise – plus you’ll already have a strategy that you can use as a template for future trips.
Managing a school trip may sound like a lot of work. However, by planning ahead you can minimise problems on the day. The more trips you organise, the easier it will get, especially if you have the right support.
Paul Bevan, the Director of Study Experiences, explains that they aim “to provide you with information and support right from the moment you book, to lessen your workload and alleviate pre-trip stress”. This kind of support can help you make the most of your next trip. Most importantly, if you’re relaxed and feeling motivated, your students will be too. For more information, contact Sport Experiences.