Summer term for many teachers means taking children out of the classroom. For new teachers this can be daunting, particularly if you have never organised a school trip before.
Whatever the destination, teachers and instructors agree that the benefits of taking pupils on a trip compensate for the worries. A report from Ofsted called Learning outside the classroom: How far should you go? revealed that pupils' participation and achievement can benefit significantly from getting involved with activities outside the classroom. However, it also said schools and colleges were not reaping the full benefits.
While some schools are deterred by health and safety, financial and workload concerns, the report shows schools that have curricular provision classed as outstanding or improving have overcome these barriers so it's worth going the extra mile.
"I was joining a trip to an amusement park and we had troubles with pupils being on time. We had to wait in the rain, and their parents weren't happy when we returned because they had been waiting to pick them up. Regardless of the problems, it was the best experience ever to take the pupils out," says Liana Peck, a newly qualified teacher in food technology and textiles at Holgate Sports College in Barnsley.
Despite the planning required, the benefits are immense, adds Laura Nightingale, an instructor at a facility centre for outdoor learning in Cumbria. "It's a powerful experience to give the child," she says.
"You will learn more about your pupils during school trips, which will be useful in the classroom. Refer to it when the pupils say they can't do something - say `you managed it on the trip, didn't you?'"
Being outside also helps to get a good vibe from pupils, says newly qualified teacher Victoria Burns from Lancashire. "Pupils with challenging behaviour behave like angels once you get out. You also get to know people and I can be friendlier."
In case the unexpected happens, it is vital you get the support you need in order for everything to run smoothly. "We had a child who twisted her ankle on a trip, we informed the parents and borrowed a wheelchair - everything turned out fine. But it would have been scary for a NQT," says Gill Hampton, a head of Castlechurch Primary School in Staffordshire, which won the Learning Outside the Classroom awards.
Ms Burns says that on one trip she attended the pupils were supposed to be collected from the place they were visiting, but one parent didn't arrive because they thought the teachers were coming back with them. "Luckily I could contact the school office to ask for advice and then they phoned the parent," she says.
One current obstacle is that the recession has made it harder for parents to fund school trips. Ms Nightingale says some schools are cutting the number of pupils they send.
Ms Hampton adds. "Cost is a problem. But all children have to be able to go." She introduced a scheme where if pupils managed a week without detention they got Pounds 1 knocked off the price. If in doubt, speak to senior management regarding funding because there could be other options
Next week: Writing reports
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- Make sure you get the headteacher's verbal consent and then start the preparation work.
- Does you school have an educational visits co-ordinator? Make sure you contact them since they can help you with health and safety issues.
- Visit the The Learning Outside the Classroom website (www.lotc.org.uk). It covers places to visit that are free of charge.