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By Kate Element — Supplement Editor

Everyone loves a trip out and we all know that the benefits are often immeasurable. Now, with a recent government initiative encouraging learning outside the classroom, there’s even more reason to start planning some great days out

The beauty of a visit to somewhere new – whether it is a science centre or a zoo, a theme park or a museum – is that it can spark new interests and set children off on exciting journeys of discovery. And it is not just the academic learning that is important on a school trip. Giving the children the opportunity to be creative, to develop their personal and social skills and to learn how to cope when facing unfamiliar situations and challenges, is all part of the valuable experience. And you can be sure that children will remember their days out long after they’ve forgotten some of their other classroom lessons! The life skills they learn will be with them forever.

Don’t worry

As long as you can show that your organisation of the trip has been meticulous and risk assessment has been an on-going aspect then whatever happens you will not be personally liable for negligence.

Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto

In recognition of the value of all sorts of school trips, from an exploration of the school grounds to fieldwork studies abroad, the government launched the Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto on 28 November 2006. The aim of the Manifesto is to raise achievement through ‘an organised, powerful approach to learning in which direct experience is of prime importance.’ It states that this ‘is not only about what we learn but importantly how and where we learn.’ It continues, ‘Quality learning experiences in ‘real’ situations have the capacity to raise achievement across a range of subjects and to develop better personal and social skills.’ ‘We believe that every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and personal development, whatever their age, ability or circumstances.’ To find out more about the Manifesto and how your school can be involved:

Experiences beyond the classroom can:

  • improve academic achievement
  • make learning more engaging
  • nurture creativity
  • reduce behaviour problems
  • stimulate, inspire and improve motivation
  • provide challenge and the opportunity to take acceptable levels of risks
  • improve attitudes to learning

Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto, November 2006

Planning for Success

The key to a successful day out is in the pre-planning and organisation, but also your ongoing professional management of the trip. Before you even book your day out, think about the following:

  1. The objectives – why you are going, what you are hoping to achieve? A pre-visit to the venue will be extremely helpful. If this isn’t possible, at least gather as much background information on the venue as you can. Many of the venues listed here offer free teacher pre-visits and educational resources. Make sure the objectives are communicated to all involved, including the children and any of your adult helpers.
  2. Which staff will accompany you and the level of other adult help you need. Consider the support requirements for children with all forms of special needs. If necessary, check that the venue is accessible for wheelchair users.
  3. Which safety systems you need to address, such as risk assessment. Check your school’s policy on educational visits and the local authority guidance. Involve the children in discussion about any possible risks and what they can do to help keep everyone safe. For example, discuss the need for good behaviour on the bus so that the driver is not distracted; talk about the need for a buddy system so that nobody gets lost.

And afterwards, make time with the rest of the staff for a review of the visit and document this for future use.

Finally, make sure the benefits of the day are shared with everyone and celebrate the success stories!