Driving a creative Primary curriculum

Key features

  • A progression of experiences
  • Integrated with the curriculum
  • Improved staff-pupil relationships

The Christ Church Learning Away partnership aims to provide a high-quality, annual residential experience as an integral part of our creative curriculum for all pupils from Year 2 to Year 6. These are not presented to parents or children as ‘extras’ or ‘holidays’, but rather as an important part of the term’s area of research.

Our partnership is made up of three primary schools in the Bootle and Litherland area of Merseyside: Bedford Primary, Christ Church CE Primary and Lander Road Primary.

As most of our residential experiences take place at Crosby Hall Educational Trust (CHET), which provides a safe, contrasting environment in a rural setting close to our schools, we feel it is important to ensure that pupils do not repeat the same sorts of activities year after year. Our experiences are therefore very carefully planned to extend and enhance the areas of research (termly themes) being explored in class.

Parents and children are involved at the planning stage and are asked to share their ideas for events and activities. This puts pupil voice at the core of our residentials as well as helping to allay some of the anxieties of the parents. Following these initial consultations, dedicated planning days prior to the residential visits then take place at the centre, working closely with the CHET staff. Our model of developing bespoke residentials is new not only to us, but also to the centre, which had previously tended to offer a menu of activities from which schools could choose.

We spend a lot of time referring to the skills they build while they are away. Upon return to class we continue to reiterate these skills daily, to allow the children to be more independent. The skills are displayed as ‘Thinking Caps’ as a constant reminder.

Back in class, we plan activities to build on the skills and experiences the children have had on residential.

  • Literacy lessons draw on pupils’ memories of the residential, such as soundscapes of things pupils had heard during a night time walk, and descriptive poetry.
  • In art, pupils make photo collages of the residential learning activities, and in ICT they produce photo stories of their visit, highlighting what they enjoyed and learned.
  • One group of children became a marketing team for the venue of a Year 6 residential, producing persuasive leaflets and advertisements to boost visits.
  • Another group of children used skills they learned during an orienteering activity on residential to produce their own trail round school. The pupils then led sessions with some of our younger children and taught them the orienteering skills that they had learned.

Pupil voice plays an important part in this process, with children discussing the objectives covered during the residential, highlighting those still to be addressed and with the opportunity to include additional strands of enquiry which might have emerged at the residential.

Staff have seen a real benefit to holding residentials at different times of the year and the positive impact that this has had on staff / pupil relationships. Similarly, they have seen a marked impact on pupil engagement and motivation.

Below are some examples of the brilliant residentials we held in the 2010/11 school year.

Christ Church CofE Primary School

So far this year, Christ Church Primary has held a Year 3 residential linked to Romans, a Year 4 residential covering the theme of Diversity and a Nature Detectives residential in Year 2.

Prior to the Year 3 visit, the pupils had partly covered a literacy unit on myths and legends. During literacy lessons, they wrote and prepared their own drama performances based on Roman myths which they later performed as the after-dinner entertainment at CHET. Class work had also started on the theme of the Romans and the children developed a sound understanding of Boudicca and the Iceni tribe. Before the visit they designed and made shields, explored mosaic techniques and looked at Roman costumes. They were asked to bring along materials for simple togas to be worn during a Roman banquet. During the residential, the children were either Romans or members of the Iceni tribe and activities such as shelter building and orienteering were put into a Roman context.

Bedford Primary School

At Bedford, Year 2 went on a Night at the Museum residential. Children participated in a wide range of activities, including a night-time walk and a ‘dinosaur dig’, which were suggested by parents and children prior to the trip.

Children were given a balance of activities, taken directly from the enquiry strands of the Medium Term Plans designed by the class.

Activities encompassed all areas of the curriculum and daily evening reflection time was included to allow children to evaluate the residential and assess their learning as it happened. This was particularly valuable and thoroughly enjoyed by the children – especially as it took place in pyjamas over hot chocolate and biscuits!

Lander Road Primary School

Lander Road has undertaken three residential visits so far this year, involving well over 100 children. These have been based on such diverse topics as Witches and Wizards, Friends Around the World and Crime Scene Investigators. The latter involved a wide range of activities, including investigating a crime scene discovered in the woods and the production of environmental art, inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy. All the activities the children were involved in either built upon work begun in class or led on to further learning on our return to school.

Evening sessions were as important as daytime activities, with, for example, the children being invited to a formal meal (with teachers acting as waiting staff), and performing a series of plays that they had written themselves back in school during their literacy lessons.