Residential school trips and pupils who have Down’s syndrome


Sharon Smith’s top tips on including pupils who have Down’s syndrome when you plan a residential school trip.

Every pupil in your school is entitled to full inclusion in all school trips—this includes residential trips. Excluding pupils who have Down’s syndrome from trips or treating them worse than other pupils, can be seen as direct or indirect discrimination. Here are some tips for making sure your trip is inclusive of pupils who have Down’s syndrome:

  1. Start with an assumption that pupils who have Down’s syndrome can attend school residential trips—many have done so successfully.
  2. Ensure that your budget for the trip includes any costs for accessible transport or required adaptations and equipment for activities.
  3. Start planning early. It is important that you allow sufficient time to plan for an inclusive residential trip. This will allow time for any additional staff training (eg in meeting medical needs).
  4. Work with the family of the pupil who has Down’s syndrome as early as possible:
    1. Invite them to a meeting to discuss their aspirations and any concerns that they might have
    2. Discuss their child’s specific medical or access needs, and work together to think creatively about how these can be met
    3. Consider whether it would be helpful for the parents to visit the venue in advance
    4. Together, produce a one-page profile about the pupil to provide to the activity provider and all staff attending the trip
    5. Ensure you have open communication with parents before and during the trip, as they might find residential trips a worrying prospect.
    6. Do not ask the parents to attend the residential trip or to stay nearby unless you are asking all parents in your school to do this. Any support that they choose to offer should be seen as optional and not an expectation or condition of attendance.
  5. Work closely with the venue to ensure that all activities planned will include all pupils and find out if their team will need any further training to support pupils who have Down’s syndrome.
  6. Consider friendship groups and who the pupil who has Down’s syndrome will spend time with or share accommodation with. Ask them who they would like to be with if possible.
  7. Consider what activities you will run in the evenings and how the pupil who has Down’s syndrome will be included. For instance discos might be overwhelming for pupils who have sensory needs or ‘free time’ might be challenging for pupils who struggle with friendships.
  8. In the run up to the trip, help the pupil who has Down’s syndrome prepare by:
  • Using social stories to explain the routines and what will happen. This should also include information about which staff will be helping and who they will share a bedroom with. Ensure that they know in advance who to speak to if they are worried during the trip
  • Make a book with photos of the venue and activities planned to help them visualise the venue.
  • If possible, take them to visit in advance or show them videos of the activities from previous trips
  • Work with the family to help the pupil prepare and be organised—see Tanzie’s case study below to see how they approached it.
Sharon Smith
Author: Sharon Smith

Sharon Smith
+ posts

Sharon Smith is an Education Advisor at the Down's Syndrome Association, and she is also Tanzie's mother.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here