Why work with a centre off-peak?

Key features

  • Off-peak, winter residential
  • Joint planning with a centre

The Christ Church Learning Away cluster is made up of three primary schools in Merseyside, with a shared vision for child-centred learning through a creative, relevant, engaging, and experiential curriculum.

Their aim is to develop residentials as a means of transforming the curriculum – developing a progressive programme of learner centered, thematic, first-hand experiences as a catalyst for profound, meaningful learning. It is important, therefore, that the schools find a way of reducing the cost of each residential in order to allow children to take part in multiple experiences over their school career.

The schools work to forge long-term relationships with charitable and residential learning trusts, located in more affluent and/or geographically contrasting areas. By using these sites year-round, and particularly during the off-peak winter months and early spring, the schools begin negotiations from a strong starting point.

  • Centres have been very willing to work with the school to plan tailored programmes. The teachers decide the learning outcomes they want for their pupils, and negotiate with centres around which activities can best support these objectives. Some are delivered by expert centre staff, and some by the teachers themselves.
  • Working off-peak can mean lower costs. Some centres have been able to offer a discount to encourage schools to use their services during the colder months. With the right clothing, this needn’t be a barrier – and the discount helps the Christ Church schools run more residentials, supporting their goal of a progressive programme of experiences that all students participate in as a core part of their learning during their time at primary school.

Learning Away Advisor Chris Loynes recently visited a snowy Year 6 residential with his camera:

Bedford Primary School made good use of the wide range of activities at the YMCA centre at Lakeside, Cumbria. They also made the most of the snow and the evenings for staff and pupils to get to now each other in new and active ways. A snowman competition was especially popular!

I followed one group as they set off from the main centre with their teachers in the biggest canoe you have ever seen. Some way down the lake they landed and swapped buoyancy aids for helmets. They then took on the challenge of carrying a bucket of water across an extended challenge course without spilling a drop. Motivation was high as any water left in the bucket was to be thrown over the instructor’s head! The course took the best part of an hour with different pupils finding themselves at the front and rising to the challenge of solving problems and organising the group. Not all task focussed, they also found time to give encouragement and support to pupils struggling with the ropes and logs along the way. Everyone made it to the end – including most of the water – a little topped up with icy fistfuls of snow!

It was dusk as they paddled back with the snow covered Lakeland hills and gentle waves catching the rosy glow of the evening light – something that stopped most pupils for a moment’s reflection. Then they were ashore and the bucket of water was duly thrown over the instructor!

Back at school a focus group of Year 6 pupils from the residential enthusiastically told me how much it made a difference to their relationships with each other and with their teachers. They were also, they claimed, more confident, happier to try new things, persevere and help others out.

Lakeside did a grand job providing accommodation for a two form entry year group, offering specialist and appealing activities, working with the staff to produce a programme combining instructor and staff leadership and working well with the pupils to draw out the collaborative working and personal achievements the experience was set up to foster. The group benefited from a good discount out of season and had the added advantage of snow to play with!

Learn more about how the Christ Church partnership schools make direct links between their students’ residential experiences and their thematic curriculum on their school partnership’s profile page and other case studies.