It was an explicit aim of some Learning Away partnerships during the first phase of the project to raise the aspirations of their students, whether this was in relation to their progress and attainment in class, their ambitions for further study or their future careers.

These partnerships’ programmes included residentials to environments beyond the normal experience of the students, and partnering with business, a university or another school in order to raise awareness of other ways of life and wider opportunities. In some schools success was quantified by the number of students applying to university or an increase in the number of students applying to universities beyond the nearest city.

One primary school partnership conducted exchanges raising rural children’s awareness of the city and urban children’s of the seaside. However, this exchange went beyond the contrasting destinations and made the most of the facilities in each others’ schools, giving the visiting pupils the opportunity to experience new subjects and skills unavailable to them at home.

For others raised aspiration was a secondary benefit of a residential experience. In the first phase of Learning Away a number of staff reported students, who had previously found school challenging, gaining confidence in their new-found abilities and improved relationships. Staff reported that this new confidence led to students becoming more engaged with learning and making more effort to take personal responsibility for their achievement. In other cases a greater knowledge of the concerns or interests of students developed through time spent together on residential allowed staff to steer students to appropriate subjects or career possibilities on return to school.

Raising aspiration involves suggesting new identities perhaps not felt to be realistic (or sometimes even desirable) by students and their families and communities. Yet creating social mobility remains a key task of education. One of the more novel approaches to this task was the family residential run by the Smile Trust partnership. The school had been working to raise the aspiration of the whole community, including their students. Residentials were a very effective tactic in supporting specific families in which both children and parents were struggling with school in various ways. The ripple effect of this work throughout the community and the school contributed to an ongoing shift in the aspirations of the neighbourhood.  This was partially evidenced by the growing number of students entering the newly-created sixth form, including some of those involved in the family residentials. Our findings indicate that residentials can support communities in their development well beyond the boundaries of the school.


Be inspired by our case studies from Learning Away schools.

Explore Getting Started and access free resources to help you plan your own brilliant residentials.

Have a look at our theory about how change happens on brilliant residentials.

Read our recommendations for schools, providers, policy makers and researchers. 

Read our independent evaluation report.