Useful tips on planning an educational visit for your school group
School trips and educational visits can impact positively upon children of all ages and abilities. Such valuable experiences should be viewed as an important part of a broad and balanced curriculum.
Learning outside the classroom helps to enhance the personal, social and emotional development of all learners. Stimulating new environments provide an opportunity for creative kinaesthetic learning. This can be particularly beneficial to pupils with SEN and disabilities and can help consolidate classroom learning, teach life skills and build on social skills, whilst improving self-confidence, self-esteem and independence. A well-planned trip is an excellent opportunity to broaden horizons and improve understanding of different environments.
It is generally recognised that educational visits are memorable and inspiring experiences for learners and can help to motivate and enthuse young people, which can ultimately enhance academic studies and achievement. According to an OFSTED report, Learning outside the classroom: How far should you go? (Ofsted 2008), learning outside the classroom contributes to improved development in all of the Every Child Matters outcomes, especially “enjoying and achieving”, and “achieving economic well-being”. Educational visits are therefore highly rewarding and enriching for both teachers and pupils alike.
Many locations, such as museums, galleries and outdoor pursuit centres, have tailor-made programmes which have been created specifically to meet the learning needs of children with SEN. If they don’t already have something specific devised, they may be able to recommend certain activities that can be adapted or they might even be looking for your input into planning and piloting targeted sessions. The multi-sensory learning approaches used by many learning outside the classroom providers have the potential to embed knowledge and develop skills.
The visual and sensory kinaesthetic learning opportunities provided by school trips and visits encourage students to engage with different environments and different people in new ways. Such hands-on, sensory-rich experiences are helpful in supporting in-depth experiential learning and understanding, particularly amongst pupils with SEN.
Planning an educational visit
Set learning objectives and goals. What is the focus of your visit? Keep this in mind throughout the planning stages and when liaising with the host organisation so they can recommend or tailor workshops for you. All visits should demonstrate educational value.
Plan in advance and discuss the activity or visit with your group; showing photographs or videos of the venue and talking through the activities on offer can help reduce anxiety. It might also be useful to discuss behavioural expectations. Many organisations offer free pre-visits for teachers which provide the opportunity to assess the site and prepare in advance. Creating a countdown calendar is a great way to get students excited and ready for their experience.
Communication is key to a successful trip. Let the education staff at the site/venue know the needs of your group in advance so they can plan accordingly and support you. For example, would it be helpful for resources or signs to be printed in a certain format? Do you have a young person in the group who uses a wheelchair? Can you request a quiet breakout space for your group? Do you need breaks in the timetable for medication? Most destinations are able to make reasonable adjustments to accommodate all learners where possible, especially if you let them know your requirements in plenty of time.
A checklist for your visit
Each school will have different needs, policies and requirements. However, there are number of important points to remember when planning your visit:
- gain approval from the appropriate management team
- make contact with your LEA outdoor education adviser
- research places and activities of interest and check costing and funding options
- check the school insurance policy is suitable for the proposed visit
- provisionally book a date with the education site/centre and communicate clearly regarding the needs of your group
- ensure you have enough staff/volunteers to accompany the group off-site with appropriate cover on-site.
- double check the staff-to-pupil ratios with the site and with your headteacher
- plan transport to the site, taking account of the individual needs of pupils
- send a consent letter to parents/carers highlighting dates and times, cost and any equipment needed
- visit the location to familiarise yourself with the facilities and take photos to show your students ahead of the trip
- complete a risk assessment. Many venues have ready-made risk assessments you can download. Some pupils may need specific risk assessment and care plans
- pay for the sessions/activities booked
- brief the staff team who will be accompanying you on the trip
- give relevant details such as relevant mobile phone numbers and arrival and departure times to office staff and senior management
- call all the organisations involved (including travel/coach companies and the host site) to confirm final details and group numbers a good few days before the visit
- prepare a list of medical information for each pupil and ensure on the day that you have all the medication required. You will also need a general first aid kit and details of emergency contacts for pupils
- print, photocopy or prepare any resources or activities sent to you from the site you are visiting which may be needed during the visit. For example, some sites may require you to split students into groups ahead of the visit
- create a Plan B. A contingency plan may be needed in case of any unforeseen circumstances such as extreme weather
- enjoy the trip!
While planning an educational visit can sometimes seem time-consuming and laborious, the visit itself is a fantastic, unique learning opportunity to be enjoyed by all involved. Refer back to your goals and hopefully you will have a great sense of achievement at the end of the day, with motivated and enthused learners to boot.
Eleanor Bond is Deputy Marketing Manager at the National Justice Museum, Nottingham: