At Easington Colliery Primary School, we recognise that our pupils need to develop important skills to aid their learning. So we have aimed to improve our children’s attitude, motivation and resilience. We want them to be able to keep on going when things get difficult, develop problem-solving skills and a teamwork spirit; learning how to work together and support each other. What better way than to get out of the classroom and learn how to camp! And to do this with every year group in the school.
Initially we had a blanket approach to each year group’s first camping experience, i.e. to experience camping at first hand and begin to acquire basic camping skills and develop teamwork. However as our Learning Away programme developed a differentiation in our approaches for each year group emerged, as we recognised the different impacts residentials have on pupil engagement and consequently achievement and progress.
In year two of the programme, Year 3 went to Edinburgh as part of their curriculum work, but stayed in tents to keep the cost low, so that all pupils would be included. Year 6 pupils went on a transition camp with their new secondary school and other feeder primary schools. Gradually we found an improvement in the skills we wanted to develop in the children.
Each time the children had a residential linked to a curriculum topic, we noticed an impact on quality of work, engagement and achievement. This is the way forward for our school. We are now in a better position to identify the curriculum and life skills we are hoping to develop, and have seen development and improvement over the last four years in the children’s attitudes and resilience. There has been an improvement in attainment and SATs results are now equal or above the national average. However as there have been other changes in school, we cannot confidently say that this improvement is entirely down to these camping experiences, but they have undoubtedly contributed.
Taking every year group camping has, over the years, had other impacts. Their self-motivation, resilience, self-belief, aspiration and capability were impressive compared to their first camping experience. The pupils told us that by going camping in the same tents each year, they had noticed how they became better at putting up and taking them down – knowing how to do it, being stronger, working together better and helping others less skillful. This gave them a clear picture of how they progressed in their tent pitching skills, which they said gave them greater confidence, more independence and helped them to realise they could achieve things and make progress from year to year. They were also so much better at working together. As one Year 5 pupil put it:
“We now all work together as a team, not falling apart. We all have something to do. Not being nasty to each other, not being bossy.”
This year, Year 5 went camping to explore our local limestone landscape and Year 4 are now planning a camping residential linked to their next Viking topic on the Farne Islands.
The costs of all of these camping residentials have been low, between £20 and £30 per pupil, so uptake and therefore involvement has been high. Between 80-90% of our pupils have taken part in these residentials.
Our next step is to embed these skills into the classroom. A member of staff was trained in a scheme called ‘MAGIC’ habits:
This fits in really well with the aims we have for our children, is now deployed throughout the school and is used as we plan all of our residentials to ensure that are integrated into the curriculum. The children realise the importance of these skills, not only for learning but for life. As a result, we have seen a big improvement in the pupils’ attitude to learning and their attainment has risen.
It was their willingness to have a go. Because, even though they could do it, it wasn’t an easy task and they worked together as a team with the big tepee tents. It took about 8 to 10 children to actually put one tent up. They all seemed to know … they negotiated between themselves who was doing what. There was no fuss or hassle or squabbling between them. It was very mature. Within about 40 minutes the camp was made.
Year 6 teacher, Easington Colliery Primary School