England educational visits - We're on a roll

Target the small and local if you want to find fulfilling places to visit with your pupils, says Hannah Frankel

You don't have to scour the country for rich and fulfilling educational visits. Small local trips have the edge on their better-known counterparts, offering hands-on experiences and better value for money.

"Distance is a major consideration for us because of the rising cost of diesel," says Anne Newton, an administration assistant from Toll Bar Primary School in Doncaster, who helps organise school trips. "If the coach journey is too long, we find the pupils are tired and lethargic when they arrive. We make sure the trips we go on aren't more than an hour away."

Just travelling within the vicinity, Toll Bar manages to squeeze in three residential trips a year, plus more than 20 day trips - excluding extra- curricular sports or literature visits.

Staff create a trips wish list that Anne and the visits co-ordinator weigh up in terms of cost, relevance and distance. Governors then make the final decision based largely on risk assessment.

"It has to be hands-on and visual," says Anne. "A lot of our pupils are from deprived backgrounds and they won't be having these experiences with their families, so it's important they are well-maintained and interesting.

"We invite parents along too and are starting to get quite a few Romany mothers as well, together with a member from the school's Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service."

For Anne Penn, headteacher of St James's Primary School in Dudley, the most popular trips are those with an environmental or outdoor element. They take pupils as young as five on residential trips throughout the year to the Kingswood Centre in Wolverhampton for adventure learning (www.kingswood.co.uk), or day trips to Ray's Farm in south Shropshire (www.raysfarm.com).

"Year 6s always bring up the school visits in the leavers' survey," says Anne. "No one remembers sitting their Sats, but they remember the trips from reception onwards. They're a vital part of school life."



Bush Farm Bison Centre, Wiltshire (www.bisonfarm.co.uk)

Learn about the Bison breed and their importance to Native Americans. The farm trailer ride takes pupils up close to the bison, as well as elk, rheas, raccoons, prairie dogs, chipmunks and rare breeds of sheep, pigs and poultry. A tepee is also available.

The Ragged School Museum, London (www.raggedschoolmuseum.org.uk)

Dr Barnardo's Free School for the Poor gives pupils an authentic and memorable slice of Victorian life in the East End. The school room and kitchen play host to role play, hands-on exhibits and talks.

The Dudley Canal Trust and Limestone Mines, West Midlands (dudleycanaltrust.org.uk)

Take an underground boat trip to discover the subterranean world beneath Dudley, mined in the 1700s to feed the furnaces of The Black Country. The tour depicts the working life of the miners, as well as spectacular views of the cavern and canal junction.

Trinity Sailing Foundation - Tall Ship Sailing, Devon (www.trinitysailing.co.uk)

This sailing school offers pupils aged 14 and above accredited sailing experiences around the south coast of Devon, Cornwall, the Channel Islands and Brittany. Young people help above and below deck.

Mosely Old Hall - National Trust, Wolverhampton (www.nationaltrust.org.uk)

Hands-on activities, storytelling and artefact handling bring the Tudor and Stuart periods to life at this historic building. Children can wear period costumes and activities are delivered as if in the past. Moseley Old Hall's extensive outreach facility is also worth considering.

Celtic Harmony, Hertfordshire (www.celticharmony.org)

Pupils will find themselves weaving, spinning, grinding grain, making bread, hunter-gathering and trading at this Celtic Iron Age village. The day ends with storytelling around the fire. Also on offer is the Forest School programme, including archery, falconry and bushcraft.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you