Don't be tripped up

12th October 2007 at 01:00

From research to troubleshooting, Ian Jones has top tips for organising the perfect school outing.

In the modern classroom, there are lesson plans, targets, learning objectives, plenaries and all the other jargon that sometimes gets in the way of the enjoyment of teaching.

But on a school trip there is none of this and you can show the young people very clearly why you love the subject you're teaching, whether through having them order a sandwich in a cafe in Paris, getting them to help their mate across a bog, or watching Shakespeare in Stratford.

Here are a few tips to help anyone who wants to organise a trip for the first time:

INITIAL PLANNING

Decide why you need a trip.

See the head for suggested dates.

See the school trips coordinator: he or she will guide you through the mountain of paperwork that's about to hit you. The co-ordinator's job is to ensure the trip goes ahead safely, both for you and the students, and that you haven't bitten off more than you can chew.

RESEARCH

Use companies with the necessary licences (preferably ones previously used by colleagues) for residential trips. It will take the pressure off you with regard to risk assessment and other paperwork. If you're confident, you can probably organise a day trip yourself cheaply and with less hassle.

Shop around the travel companies for the best prices and don't be shy about telling a company if you've had a better price elsewhere. Many will price match if you give them a written quotation.

Decide on the minimum number of children to make the trip worth running and cost it according to that. You can always give money back if it gets cheaper; it's a lot harder to ask for more money if you've under-priced and trips aren't usually allowed to run at a loss.

It is a good idea to do a pre-visit, to familiarise yourself with the areas where you will take the kids.

QUALIFICATIONS AND STAFFING

A simple one-day first aid course should be enough to cover you legally for most trips (Check this with your local authority).

If you want to do your own adventurous trips, you will need the proper qualifications and these aren't easy to gain (and rightly so). They are also very expensive and aren't automatic pass courses. However, if you enjoy that type of thing, go for it. Visit the British Mountaineering Council website (www.thebmc.co.uk) for advice on a wide variety of qualifications you can take.

Staff ratio guidance varies according to the activity and the age of the students.

TROUBLESHOOTING

Have contingency plans. Don't be afraid to use the support you have available. Members of the senior management team didn't give you their number because they were bored. I've never been in trouble for asking for help on a trip. Don't let a little problem build so it becomes an issue.

When choosing children to go on the trip, you can't eliminate them on the grounds of poor behaviour, but you can use health and safety reasons.

Don't ever let the children anywhere near alcohol, even if it's legal where you go.

You can have a drink, depending on your school but don't get drunk, even if it is your night off.

On my mountain leader training, we were told to always remember that the pupils were someone's "precious little parcel"; so while on a trip, treat them as you would your own "precious little parcel". It works quite well as a rule of thumb.

Ian Jones teaches at King Edward VII College, Coalville, Leicestershire

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