In September 2013, a group of twenty-three Year 5 children from Snape Wood Primary School in Bulwell, Nottingham took part in a two night residential to Newstead Abbey.
As the school is situated in an area of high socio-economic deprivation, this is low cost camping trip aimed to enable the children involved to achieve in a more positive and inspirational environment. Furthermore, this learning away experience was purposely planned to take place early in the new school year to assess the impact on the development of relationships with parents and students.
One of the main concerns for parents with young children is them staying away from home. This was particularly evident on this trip, as the children stayed away for two nights with new teachers and support staff that they were not familiar with. Parents need to be confident their offspring will be safe, secure and happy away from home. This can be difficult with new teachers to trust. One parent expressed her concerns at the beginning of the trip suggesting “some children feel very anxious about staying away from home overnight and need particular care and preparation”.
Although there appeared to be initial concerns from some parents, overall, the vast majority believed the experience to be a positive step for their children in building effective relationships with their new class teacher. A parent who considered residential experiences to be “very valuable”, felt that her child would “get a lot out of having a residential a trip at the beginning of the year”.
“The main reason for sending [my daughter] on the trip was to get her to know her new teacher and to form good relationships with the other children in the class early on, so she would have a positive experience in Year 5”.
She also thought it would help her as a parent to build a good relationship with the class teacher. This is particularly evident as she now volunteers in the class as a parent helper.
At the end of the residential, many parents said their children “couldn’t stop talking about the trip” and “couldn’t wait to do this type of activity again”. The vast majority believed their children’s enjoyment at school, confidence, and willingness to try out new activities improved because of the trip.
After the residential, the parent who expressed concerns about her daughter staying away from home said, “She is becoming more independent. She now enjoys sleepovers with trusted friends and family and attends after school clubs every week. She is much more confident in social situations”.
Another parent in the class suggested, “My child gets on better with her teacher and teaching assistant because of the trip”.
The camp was also successful in building relationships with the wider community. The lead teacher of PE at the feeder secondary school, The Bulwell Acdemy, involved Year 10 student leaders in the Newtead Abbey Camp. They worked with the primary school on some problem solving activities. He believed the camp had an impact on the wider community and relationships between pupils and staff, as they prepared for their transition to secondary school.
He also remarked on the impact on these Year 10 student leaders,
“The opportunities afforded to our Young Leaders through the Learning Away programme have been extensive and highly effective in their continuing development and education. Those involved have responded extremely maturely to the demands and challenges placed upon them and thoroughly enjoyed the experience of working with young children on a variety of camping residentials. Whilst delivering a range of activities and challenges to groups of primary children, many young people have been placed outside of their comfort zone. However, this has enabled them to step up to the challenge and develop a diverse range of holistic skills and competences.”
The Year 5 class teacher and visit leader has noticed the positive impact of residential on her own relationships with pupils. “Pupils have demonstrated outstanding teamwork, communication and a high degree of personal responsibility. Their confidence has developed hugely along with an ability to use their initiative thoughtfully and sensibly. This has been particularly evident when tackling activities back in the classroom after the residential, which they may have found difficult before. It is certainly beneficial to give children experiences early on to aid the transition into a new class”.
“There is no doubt in my mind that our Learning Away residentials have been hugely beneficial to primary and secondary students in both schools. Students, invariably, cite a tremendously positive attitude towards the process and there is huge demand to be involved from students who have seen what their peers are engaged in. For those who have the opportunity to go on our residentials, the increased maturity in their attitude within school (and presumably other aspects of their life away from school) is plain to see through their relationships with adults and their peers, their attitude to school work and a pro-active approach in offering support through events, activities and general helpfulness”.