Family residential programmes – their impact on learning and behaviour

Key features

  • Family residentials involving parents
  • Holiday cottage used as a venue
  • Primary and secondary schools working together

Family residential and behaviour intervention programmes are run by the SMILE Trust for children and young people from the three primary schools and one secondary school involved in the federation. These residentials aim to help targeted young people acquire basic life skills, respond better in social situations and improve their performance in school. Children and young people (and other family members) are taken on three-day residentials to a Peak District holiday cottage that simulates a home situation. While they are there, they engage in shared activities such as arts and crafts, cooking, games, walks, bike rides and other outdoor activities.

This case study is based on an interview with one of the teachers involved and describes:

  • the benefits of residentials to children and young people
  • their impact on relationships between children, young people and their teachers
  • the impact on parents and families.

Benefits of residentials to children and young people

Young people come back from the residentials with greater self-esteem and with a better understanding of themselves, their personality and skills. The biggest change when they return from residential is that they are more motivated, have a strong sense that they can do better, and as a consequence perform better in their school work, responding better to adults – especially their teachers.

An example of one of the successes of the programme is shown by a Year 8 student who, before he went on the residentials, was completely against the idea. He saw no reason why he had to be with teachers out of school when he already spent a lot of time in school with teachers around him. He thought there was no point in a residential, believed that all he needed was to toughen up, and just going on a residential was not useful to him. He had a history of being violent and argumentative and was hard to deal with. In Year 7, many thought he wouldn’t make it beyond one term because he had been involved in 16 violent incidents within a short space of time since arriving at the school.

By the end of Year 8, he had only been involved in one serious incident during the academic year and there were clear signs of a significant change in his behaviour. He had now been on those residentials. What has been observed is that he likes the attention he was given during the residential’s family setting, something that was missing in his family life at home. He loved being included in family discussions, but felt he was always ignored at home and he would often have to make his own conclusions about issues and guess what was going to happen next in his life. It became clear that what this young man was craving for was stability, security and communication. Now his father appreciates that his involvement in the residential programme was a better tool for stabilising his son than the boxing classes, which he previously thought was the best option to change his son.

Student-teacher relationships

Young people return from the residentials having developed a greater trust in the school system and their teachers. They know that they now have adults they can talk to when they have problems in future.

The residentials also has an impact on the teachers involved. As a result of their involvement in the residentials they see and better understand that young people need space and time to recover from an upsetting situation, and so in similar situations in school, the teacher allows a considerable amount of time for them to calm down, rather than rushing to blame them or find an immediate solution. They are given a ‘time out’ pass or opportunities to talk to a member of staff who helps them to understand what has happened and the consequences.

The residential situation provides time and a safe space for the young people involved to sit down and talk to someone about any incident. This experience is then more easily carried over into the school situation.

Parents and families

Most of what the residential coordinator is doing with the families during the residentials is building role models for the parents. A lot of the work with parents is focused on how: they can have different types of conversations with their children; they can help children to be up and ready for school; and how they can structure activities at home to enable everyone to respond to each other better. At the family residential, parents have the chance to experiment with these ideas and to discover which one works for their family situation.