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History - Excellent excursions

Organisation and fun are both vital for successful school trips

Organisation and fun are both vital for successful school trips

The chance to have a day out of school in casual clothes at a beautiful historic location should be a dream for teachers. Yet throw in a hundred feral and hormonal Year 9s and suddenly the option of a normal school day becomes more endearing. Red tape and financial strains make many schools more than a little reluctant to venture out of the classroom. But it is possible to make outings enjoyable for both pupils and teachers.

As any good Boy Scout will tell you, preparation is key. Share disruptive pupils out evenly and use colours to signify groups so both teachers and pupils can identify where they should be during the day. If the venue is close enough, pay a visit beforehand to plan activities. Before you go, give other teachers and adults on the trip information about the day. A rough timetable of events, key mobile numbers, information on the venue and a map will all be gratefully received. Finally, if you have any PGCE students in the school, attach them to some of the more challenging groups. Even though they do not count as a qualified adult, they are still a useful extra pair of eyes.

How can you make the day stimulating for the pupils? First, whatever key stage you have taken, give them a worksheet to fill in through the day. A treasure hunt activity is an engaging way of getting pupils to find information. And if it is a GCSE group, make sure links are drawn to areas of the topic where you want them to find a deeper understanding.

Don't be afraid to ask pupils to complete tasks that are not just about reading and writing. For instance, a trip to the Second World War landing beaches or First World War trenches can be made more real by getting pupils to measure distances between the lines. Measure out a gap in a fence and get pupils to walk and jog through it all at once. This simulation of soldiers "going over the top" can be further advanced by getting some pupils to stand or lie still, pretending to be dead.

Another often overlooked but key ingredient to a school trip is the follow-up lesson. This should be geared towards sharing the findings of the day. Activities such as extended writing, leaflets and debates can be used to bring all the pupils' findings together and make the trip a purposeful part of the school calendar. And, best of all, everyone will have enjoyed it.

Dan Hartley is head of history and RE at Chulmleigh Community College in Devon

What else?

Psyched up for a school trip but don't know where to go? Try the field trip clips on TES Resources for inspiration.

Problems getting in the way of your dream excursion? Check out maxrayner's virtual volcano field trip and escape to Stromboli in Italy without leaving your desk.

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