The two schools in the Twickenham and Goonhavern partnership have developed an exchange approach for Year 6 pupils.
Each school spends a week in the other’s community; spending time in school together, exploring the local area and attractions and staying in self-catering situations nearby. The Cornish school stays in a self-catering outdoor centre and explores a city multi-cultural community. The Birmingham school camps in a farmer’s field and spends time on the coast, in museums and on the sea.
At £45.35 per pupil per night (cppn), the approach is not as cheap as it might at first sound. This is just above the average Learning Away residential cost. It is also a four nights away project making each trip relatively expensive. The biggest cost for each school is the transport especially the journey to and from their partner school. However staying away for longer makes the most of this investment.
A school exchange
Both schools have tackled the high transport cost head on by establishing PTAs and asking them to raise the funds to buy a minibus. This will cut costs for local visits and reduce the overall coach costs of the long haul return journey. For the Birmingham school camping helps to keep the cost down and both schools have learned which local visits are free or low cost and yet of high value to the pupils. Making use of local volunteer ‘experts’ has also helped – surfing instructors, football coaching programmes and so on.
The Birmingham school has introduced a progressive programme of one night residentials in local outdoor centres. These are intended to prepare the pupils for the big exchange trip as well as having impacts of their own. The cost of this extended programme has been partly born by parents who increasingly value the benefits of the residentials for their children. Pupil Premium is also a great help. In the mid-term the school is working with other local primary schools to buy and develop one of the local centres. This will reduce costs and increase the flexibility of the site, developing camping as well as dormitory options for overnight stays. The Cornish school will benefit as well when they visit.
Both schools have taken a broader perspective on their understanding of costs. Each has special resources – the beach, surfing and fishing in Cornwall, the cookery classrooms in Birmingham. Making full use of these while visiting allows each school to achieve educational outcomes they would have to invest in considerably if they were to achieve them in their own respective schools.