Increasing student engagement with subject-focused secondary residentials

Key features

  • Increased take-up at exam-level
  • Residentials as an entitlement
  • Curriculum for Excellence

Calderglen is a recently-formed secondary school in East Kilbride. Residential experiences have been planned as an integral part of the new Curriculum for Excellence and they are now an entitlement for all students in the school. This case study is an illustration of how both student and staff engagement is high and integration to the curriculum and impact on attainment is evident.

Calderglen places a significant emphasis on enterprise, health and wellbeing and the creative arts. Inspired by the International Children’s Games to be held in Lanarkshire in 2011 and Commonwealth Games in 2012, Calderglen and its feeder primary schools decided to hold their own sports event – the Calderglen Games. Residential camps in sport, enterprise and the arts prepared students for the Games and have already had a significant impact.

The Drama residential, held over two days in March 2010 at New Lanark Youth Hostel, offered students across the age range a chance to work together intensively. As a result, take up of Drama as a subject has increased, and students taking examinations in the subject last year achieved the best results the school has ever known. The annual school play, dormant for several years, has been revitalised through the efforts of the older students on the trip. A new Drama club for younger pupils in the school has also been launched.

The sports camp was similarly successful. One student said: “It was brilliant to learn different techniques from the coaches. Our teachers in school teach us well but I learnt new ways to play which I thought was great.” Students were able to assess their level of performance in each activity, identify strengths and weaknesses and plan improvements.

Staff felt that students’ attitudes towards learning improved. For example, one student commented “I feel that my skill level for all of the sports has increased and now hopefully I will go up a grade.” Most of the students who had been on the residential increased their motivation, work ethic and attainment levels whilst almost all students improved their performance in at least one activity.

Several students commented on the fact that their confidence in their sporting ability had been boosted. The young people also said that the fact that they were able to stay in the same room in the accommodation with their peers was good. It gave them a chance to make friendships more concrete: “I traded phone numbers with people I didn’t know very well before. It helped that we were playing football at 9:30 in the evening.

Work done on the residentials was put into action at the inaugural Calderglen Games, held in Summer 2010. All feeder primary schools took part during National School Sports Week, and Calderglen was selected by Sport Scotland and the Scottish Government to pilot an initiative called Calderglen Community Sports Hub which aims to improve sport and physical activity in the community. In addition, a banner at Glasgow Central station advertising the Lanarkshire International Children’s Games features a PE student from the school.

The then Calderglen Headteacher, Tony McDaid,  ensured that residentials reach all students at least three times during their school life (including those attending the SEN school located on the same campus). For example, plans were made to develop transition residentials with primary school partners in 2011-12; it is hoped that the impact on school life as well as young people’s attainment of the Calderglen residential programme will more than justify the cost to the parents, staff and trustees.