High-quality residential learning can offer rich opportunities for student leadership, co-design and facilitation of learning. As a result, many Learning Away schools are involving young people more actively in the development and delivery of residentials.

Secondary students are involved in leading primary-aged children in outdoor, team-building and problem-solving activities. Older students are also mentoring younger ones, following appropriate training.  Year 6 primary school pupils are leading activities on their school residentials and continuing to take on leadership roles in the classroom and playground.

Action research outcomes from the first phase of Learning Away indicated that the wider impacts of young people taking up leadership opportunities included:

  • increased confidence, particularly being given responsibility to lead activities;
  • providing a role model for other students;
  • improved organisational and presentation skills;
  • improved independence and maturity and the development of interpersonal skills learning to communicate with a range of individuals (staff, parents, professionals, peers and younger children);
  • an enhanced learning experience as a result of student involvement in designing and planning the residential.

Involving students in the co-design of residentials has also had significant beneficial impacts on engagement; it provides rich pre- and post-residential classroom activity, ranging from contributing to planning or making decisions about residential activities to organising the whole residential.

As a result of residentials, teachers in Learning Away schools noted that:

  • different children were coming forward as leaders
  • there was evidence of students showing increased empathy towards each other
  • students were beginning to compromise more when working in groups
  • students were involved in decision-making about when and how activities were delivered.

Impacts were also felt by young people under student leadership:

That we wasn’t getting taught by teachers, we were getting taught by students so it was kind of fun. It was better cos you didn’t have as much pressure as you would with the teacher. You both understand each other and it’s better.”

Secondary school student

This increased engagement has resulted in increased confidence and cooperation among students, and has helped teachers better identify young peoples’ strengths and leadership skills. Evaluation evidence suggests that brilliant residentials provide a context and activities where students can become leaders and demonstrate their leadership skills in ways that have not been possible within the school environment.

Watch this short film to hear staff and students discuss the student leadership programme at Bulwell Academy, the ways it supports their Learning Away residential programme and its impacts on the school, community and, most importantly, the students themselves.


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, including Student Leadership and Co-construction.

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.