A school exchange – reducing costs by camping and identifying low-cost activities

Key features

  • A rural-urban school exchange
  • Experiencing contrasting locations, cultures and religions
  • Low-cost camping - using school's own tents

The Twickenham and Goonhavern Learning Away partnership is made up of two schools – Goonhavern Primary, located in the rural coastal setting of Cornwall, and Twickenham Primary, located in a suburb in North Birmingham. The aims of their programme are to enable children to experience contrasting locations, cultures and religions; raise aspirations; develop a wide range of interpersonal skills and help prepare children for the transition to secondary school.

Structure of the Programme

The programme takes place over two stages. Children who have previously attended the residential are involved in the planning stage and are asked to share their ideas about activities. Activities planned throughout the week are designed to address the key aims.

Stage 1 – Autumn Term

30 Year 6 children from Goonhavern Primary School visit Birmingham for a five day, four night residential. Children and staff stay in a local authority outdoor education centre, which is close to Twickenham Primary school.

Stage 2 – Summer Term

The second part of the programme involves 32 Year 5/6 children from Twickenham Primary school visiting Goonhavern. Staff and children camp for four nights at a campsite within walking distance of Goonhavern School.

Programme Costs

There are four key elements to consider when funding our residentials:

  • travel to the location
  • travel arrangements whilst at the location
  • accommodation
  • activities.

Travel to the location

Due to the distance between the two locations travel costs are high. The only way to reduce this would be to take fewer children on each residential or travel to a closer location. However, it was felt this would ruin the essence of our programme and we have therefore looked at other ways in which we can reduce costs and sustain the programme.

Accommodation

The two schools have purchased four eight-person tents for the children and five smaller tents for staff. Twickenham Primary School uses these tents to camp at a local campsite when they visit Cornwall in the summer term. The majority of children bring their own camping equipment (sleeping bags, etc.) and the school provides the equipment for families who struggle to provide it. Whilst there is still a charge for the campsite, this significantly reduces the overall cost of accommodation (approximately half the cost of the local authority education centre). Camping also provides an experience that many of the children would not have otherwise.

Unfortunately due to the time of year they visit Birmingham, it is not suitable for the children from Goonhavern to also camp.

Travel whilst at the location

When the programme first started, each school used local coach companies to transport them between activities. This was a significant cost. Through fundraising efforts Twickenham Primary School have managed to buy a second minibus. Using these two minibuses, plus one that is hired for the residentials, staff are now able to transport children between activities, therefore reducing the need for other independent transport providers. Not only does this cut down on costs, but it also allows staff and children more flexibility. The campsite that Twickenham School uses is within walking distance of Goonhavern School, again reducing travel costs.

Activities

The range of residential activities provided have evolved over the last three years to ensure that we meet the needs of the children. The Learning Away Coordinators at the two schools have researched and identified new activities that still allow us to meet our aims, but are significantly more cost effective. Each school makes more use of the host’s schools resources and many of the activities now offered are heavily subsided through charities and local education authorities, or are free. For example, Aston Villa provide a coaching day (to help develop interpersonal skills) for free.