The South Hetton partnership of three primary schools now spend so much time camping in the local area, it is difficult for them to remember how many residentials they have in a year. All of their residentials are fully integrated with the curriculum back at school. As a result of the success of their Learning Away residential programme, one of the schools has also joined the other two by switching to a thematic curriculum, in which the pupils have a say in the topics they study.
A popular theme has been the sea, as the schools are a few miles from the coast. A recent Year 5 trip combined swimming with life saving (PE), beach studies (geography and maths) and creative writing (literacy). Preparation in school involved trips to the local swimming pool to learn to swim. The carrot was a surfing session on the coast with a lifeguard. In class pupils studied the risks of the sea, the animals found on the shore and along the beach as habitats, and prepared experiments to carry out on the beach. Afterwards, the results of the experiments were analysed and creative writing projects led to presentations about the beach made at the other schools.
It was not just subject knowledge that integrated between the beach and the classroom. One group of pupils, who knew their literacy scores were low for the class, got together after the trip at the initiative of one of the girls. They discussed what they had learned about working together and supporting each other on the residential and that they could now use in the classroom to push each other in their writing skills. The results were a big leap in their results placing them near the top of the class. The teacher only became aware of what they were doing when she saw the results.
What worked well in this example is the pupil involvement in planning the residential, the explicit links between the topics covered on the trip and the classroom work before and after, the congruence between the teacher’s style in and out of the classroom and the interaction of residentials with different purposes leading to unexpected outcomes that would be impossible to plan or predict. It’s also worth noting that all the pupils who couldn’t swim learned so they could join the surfing session!
The pupil who set up the literacy ‘think tank’ in her class had been on a separate leadership residential which takes place annually. Four pupils from each class from Years 3 to 6 go way to an outdoor centre. Here, the live and work together; learning from the instructors a range of activities they can lead with groups in the outdoors. Back at school the pupils are able to ask for activity cards and the equipment during the lunch breaks so they can lead sessions with their peers. Other leadership roles have followed including attending residentials for younger groups as peer mentors and looking after the camping equipment. As can be seen above, the pupils are also taking their initiative in finding leadership roles for themselves in the peer groups.
Progression and integration can take other forms. The tents used by the schools as the base for their camps are large and tepee style making them difficult to erect. This was done deliberately as a teamwork and problem solving exercise. In Year 3 they are shown how to do it by staff. In Year 4 staff and pupils work together. By Year 5 pupils can do it on their own, and also take over the role of teaching Year 3.
One Year 5 pupil commented:
“When you see the tent go up and you did it all by yourself and you see others still struggling, you can help them. You see yourself getting better. If I get better at this, what seemed like a big task, then I can get better at other difficult things at school.”
Confidence comes from the visible signs of progression and the intrinsic rewards of being able to look after themselves and help others.