Learning Away residential cost models: The DIY approach to brilliant residentials

Key features

  • Activities delivered by both school and specialist staff
  • Accommodating whole year groups or combining two schools
  • Using a range of different venues

Cost is often identified as one of the main barriers preventing schools from offering residential experiences to all of their students as an integrated and progressive part of their curriculum. To help schools make decisions about how best to run their own residentials, this suite of case studies explores the costs involved in different models.

Learning Away schools that took a DIY approach by organising their own residential experiences cost on average £52.30 per pupil per night (cppn). This is a saving of over £14 cppn compared with Learning Away residentials making fuller use of residential providers.

Nevertheless these schools still purchased a varied amount of specialist facilities and staff leading to a significant price range from £22 to £90 cppn. Although this increases the cost by, on average, £17 cppn compared with the low cost camping approach taken by some Learning Away partnerships, these schools concerned found the flexibility to buy in services useful for a number of reasons:

  • Accommodating a whole year group or combining two schools on the same trip in larger facilities led to economies of scale.
  • Supplementing school staff with centre staff meant that larger groups could be released from school.
  • They were able to access specialist facilities such as ropes courses, environmental science labs, adapted facilities, sports equipment, etc.
  • They were able to access external staff with specialist skills.
  • They had exclusive use of venues.
  • These services created the right ambience, for example an authentic work setting for business studies.
  • It was easier to control costs from one year to the next or in response to group size by buying more or less services.

A DIY approach

 

DIY

The Pilot Partnership kept the price down on three different trips (ranging from £22.57 – £43.59 cppn) by using low cost bunkhouses on Scout Association campsites. These were booked midweek when Scout groups were not making use of them. This accommodation enabled schools to staff the trips with their own staff and volunteers and to self cater, adding considerable educational value to the residentials as well as helping to control costs. The extra funds were then spent on bringing specialist staff in to organise activities such as adventure games, cultural experiences, script writing and movie making.

Taking students from two or more schools on each trip ensured the accommodation was as full as possible, spreading the accommodation cost over more students. Bulk booking of the centres and staff and bulk buying of food also helped to keep prices down. Funding for these residentials came from a combination of school funds, fund raising, PTA’s, parents and pupil premium.

Calderglen High School offered specialist subject residentials in PE, music and, detailed here, drama (£71.79 cppn). The vertical structure of the age spread increased take up as well as offering a mentoring model in which older students coached younger ones. Nevertheless the small size of the groups impacted on the overall cost. The intensity of coaching over two or three days using specialist facilities and staff also added to the cost, but was highly valued for its impact on student progress and engagement in school afterwards, making these trips very worthwhile in the view of both staff and students. Funding for these residentials came primarily from parents supported by fundraising by the school and the students.

Thomas Tallis Secondary School delivered an annual two-night, three-day residential for Year 12 students studying Business Studies at A-level (£90.71 cppn). Students worked in teams, completing a range of challenging day-long projects designed to test and extend their business skills and knowledge, and immerse them in real life learning. Each day was based at a different London business venue, and at the end of each task teams presented a ‘pitch’ to judges from a variety of London businesses.

Whilst this was the most expensive residential with a DIY approach, both students and staff found it highly valuable in terms of increasing students’ confidence, independence and specific business skills. The most significant costs were accommodation and food. Part of the experience for the students was to have a taste of both university and business life, so accommodation was based in one of the London School of Economics halls, evening meals were taken in restaurants and each student received an allowance for lunch, which they spent independently.