After successfully running several camps for Year 3 and 4 pupils in the grounds of the local secondary Academy, staff from two Nottingham schools decided to join together to provide a new two-night camp for Year 5 in the grounds of Newstead Abbey.
This case study describes the benefits of working in this way, some of the planning involved and the impact of these residentials on the schools, the teachers and the young people who shared these experiences.
Background – why did we decide to work together?
Whilst away on a PHF Learning Away event in 2010, teachers from Bulwell EAZ decided to offer a new Learning Away opportunity for children in Year 3 and 4 who at that time didn’t currently have a chance to go away. All agreed that there was a need for a low-cost option and as the primary and secondary staff from the Bulwell schools were together, we could really get our many heads together to look at options. We came up with the idea of the primary schools staying overnight in the secondary school (that happened to be an Academy offering different holidays). At last there was an advantage to a school being open at different times as it meant, with the kind agreement of the Academy, that we could stay there in pairs of schools overnight.
The Academy is a new, shiny building with brilliant security, which was very attractive to us primary teachers who didn’t feel our own buildings would be safe enough. The staff from the schools had met at a couple of Learning Away collaborative events, but we didn’t really know each other. Several planning meetings were held, coordinated by our wonderful EAZ manager. Although we were going to hold the camps with pairs of schools, a big group of us met to plan so that each camp had similar objectives and activities.
As these Year 3 and 4 residentials had been so successful, staff from two schools in the Bulwell partnership decided to be more adventurous by jointly planning and running a new two-night camp for two Year 5 classes in the local grounds of Newstead Abbey.
How did the camp benefit the pupils?
As well as the many documented benefits of any Learning Away residential, there were some additional benefits specific to joining up with another school. Up to 60 children attended each camp. The children got to meet other children who live locally and new friendships were made. The children got a chance to show a new/different side of themselves as they worked with adults and children who didn’t pre-judge them. The children got to try different activities that their own staff had previously never thought of, as adults from other schools provided different expertise and interests. For example, they had great fun Bollywood dancing, practising circus skills and building dens all thanks to different staff offering an activity.
How did the camp benefit the staff?
Planning and leading any residential is hard work but by having a leader from each school, the workload could be more easily shared out. This meant that more adventurous activities such as cooking for ourselves could be tried, as the task didn’t seem so onerous. It also meant that only one staff member with previous experience of Learning Away was needed – this was important in the smaller schools with lots of keen, but inexperienced, staff.
It was also brilliant CPD for staff as they could see someone else leading an activity they wouldn’t have tried, like orienteering, which gave more confidence to staff new to residentials. Long-term working relationships were formed between staff, which helped other aspects of school life as well. For example a leading literacy teacher from one school provided an INSET day at another following a late-night discussions about writing across the curriculum and in return this school provided a script for the play at the literacy teacher’s school. These examples of sharing practice would just not have happened if the two teachers involved had not met through Learning Away.
What have we usefully learned about planning shared residentials?
The advantages of bringing schools together far outweigh any possible pitfalls, but there are some to consider in making a smoother camp for everyone. Having now run four successful camps together, here are our top tips:
Get the adult roles right
- Have a set leader from each school – don’t let other staff suddenly arrive and take over.
- Be clear on who is managing children, particularly if an adult is a volunteer who isn’t used to managing behaviour.
- Divide up roles fairly depending on the adults available from each school. For example, who will do the cooking and who will lead the activities with children?
- Share strengths and support each other. For example a new teacher might be more confident leading rounders than den building or managing a whole group activity.
- Mix up the children in the groups, but ensure there is a minimum of one adult from each school per group.
- Share out leadership of activities over the camp.
- If one person is talking to whole camp, have a respected adult from another school standing next to that person.
- Ideally all adults would meet before the residential, but this is not always possible. So provide name badges and have a shared understanding of each other’s skills.
- Ensure all adults have enough information, understanding of and training for their role on camp. Share risk assessments, timetables, etc. so that everyone knows what they are doing and when.
- Be flexible and adapt to the weather and the needs of the children and adults – you can’t plan for all eventualities no matter how many meetings you have or emails you send.
Plan for the children’s needs
- Adults from a school need to know their own children, so a camp too early in September is not the best time!
- Share need-to-know information (e.g. medical info), but don’t share personal opinions on children as they behave differently on a residential and it’s good to avoid pre-judging them. Having said that, if a child does have special needs, make sure someone from your school is able to support where needed, so that the children and adults feel supported.
- Introduce everyone at the beginning of the camp and set rules out clearly.
- Spread children out, mix them up but go over rules with mixed groups so they hear them at the same time.
- Team building activities are essential at the start of each day.
- Decide when it is appropriate for children to be with own school (e.g. showering and sharing in tents).
- Have name badges with colours agreed in advance for groups.
- Provide down time for the children, so they can choose whom to be with. Don’t force new friendships all day.
- Plan quiet time activities to meet everyone’s needs.
Above all … have fun, it’s worth it, it’s enjoyable and the children will always remember it!