The concept of the school trip has changed over time. Once, a trip out of the classroom amounted to little more than a jaunt to the local museum, whereas today, the potential for taking youngsters out of the confines of the classroom is vast. With ever-expanding options for destinations and learning experiences, it is little wonder that parents have rising concerns about taking the school trip plunge. It is the job of schools to make sure that these worries are alleviated so that our kids today don’t miss out on one of the most valuable educational experiences.
Access to learning is paramount if we are to arm our youngsters with the tools they need to succeed both academically and socially in this world, and the best bit is that acquiring knowledge doesn’t only have to take place in the classroom. In fact, our world is a haven for learning and simply bursting with opportunities that every child should have the chance to grab with both hands.
The benefits of a school trip definitely outweigh any potential issues and I want parents to trust that their little darlings are the teachers’ number one priority when they are in their care. Sending children away with the school has so many plus points, not least the fact that I don’t know any youngster who wouldn’t relish the prospect of spending time away from home, hanging out with their friends. Bunking in with mates, sharing new experiences together and making memories that will stick with them forever are all part of growing up, learning and developing, and when teachers pitch an idea for an excursion, they need to focus on these positives.
By exposing the next generation to different environments, cultures and countries, we empower them with the tools they need to enhance their personal development, grow in confidence and experience a blossoming sense of responsibility. A trip outside of school often engages children who are otherwise disinterested in the school room setting, and this can be an incredible boost to pupils, teachers and parents alike.
For a parent, however, the worry can be very present, so I feel it is really important to encourage headteachers and teachers alike to tackle some of the issues and offer solutions to concerned parents:
Tackling the Obstacles to School Trips
Yes, trips can be expensive. I know that teachers are always doing their utmost to keep costs as reasonable as possible but sometimes the cost can be a deal breaker for mums and dads. It is sensible to plan as far in advance as possible (so people can save up) and choose off-peak dates so that the costs can be kept lower. Inexpensive travel options should also be considered, for example, travelling by coach instead of by plane, and the itinerary needs to be tailored to accommodate the demographic of children in the class. Using a tour operator can help with this.
Suggest places to buy second hand equipment the children might need for the excursion or have a sale organised at the school. Skiing can be particularly expensive, for example, so this will be appreciated.
Communicating regularly and in detail with home relieves some of the stress and worry, as does including them; encouraging parents to get involved with fundraising for the excursion helps them feel more of a part of things and also relieves some of the financial burden.
Health and Safety
This is again down to communication with the school. Mums and dads should get a detailed itinerary of the trip, with any higher risk activities highlighted and explained in detail. Always highlight the exciting parts of the activities and the sense of achievement the youngsters will have taking part; parents love to know their child is accomplishing things.
Of course, you can share the school’s health and safety policy and relevant risk assessments for extra reassurance.
What Will They Really Learn?
Teachers must make an effort to highlight the benefits of the trip from the academic and social side. Parents want to know what they are spending their hard earned cash on.
I appreciate that, as a teacher, you may not like bombarding parents with information, but if you push the positives and make them feel involved, they are more likely to get on board.
Whatever the learning objectives, teachers should demonstrate to parents that when youngsters are given the opportunity to be in any new environment they develop new perspectives, learn more, are encouraged to ask questions and contextualise theoretical learning that will stick with them always. Bringing any theory off the page and putting it in context is invaluable for children when it comes to understanding what they are learning. They begin to make connections with what they experienced in the classroom and this often boosts motivation and enthusiasm.
The Activities Offered
Every child is unique and they all have different fears, anxieties and worries, therefore it can be quite tempting for some parents to keep them away from a school trip in an effort to avoid these. Teachers need to make it very clear what is on offer in terms of activities and then parents can help get their children prepared for the trip. Invite mums and dads to inform your staff about their child’s worries so that they can be dealt with sympathetically. Children often perform differently away from home and this is a great opportunity for them to do that and concurrently for them to grow socially and emotionally. Parents need to be encouraged to ‘cut the apron strings’ and reap the benefits of an increasingly independent child.
Getting pupils ready for a trip can also be a daunting prospect for families, so the school must be clear on what equipment and clothing is required. Worrying about whether to send your child with shorts or trousers, for example, is a worry that parents really don’t need to have. Guidelines regarding money, mobiles, confectionary and behaviour should all be made clear too so that they know exactly where they stand when they are preparing their child.
If parents are encouraged by the teaching staff to consider the many advantages that a school trip can offer their children, then hopefully any resistance will start to shift. Teachers can help by providing more information and getting those at home as involved as possible while keeping costs down where they can.
It would be a shame if learning outside of the classroom became redundant. There really is no substitute for bringing the curriculum to life and engaging students in a way that only a school trip can.
John Gardiner is the Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specialising in educational trips in destinations all over the world.