Learning Away schools see a boost in relationships between staff and students, and between groups of students, both during and after their residentials.  Spending extended time together in a variety of contexts is a key factor.

  • Residentials provide opportunities to break down existing barriers and hierarchies – for example, students and staff often spend informal time together; students take on leadership roles.
  • Students and teachers take part in different challenges and activities than cannot take place in school. A significant number will be new to everyone, and the teacher is not automatically the expert: residentials are a leveller.
  • Students see different qualities in each other, which impacts on their interpersonal relationships both on residential and back at school; existing power relationships are changed.
  • Students learn specific social skills that help them make and maintain strong relationships with peers and adults.

Staff-student relationships

Brilliant residentials are improving relationships between teachers and young people. Many Learning Away schools report that their residentials give staff and students time to understand each other better, and that these improvements transfer back into the classroom.

Hear the experiences of teachers and school leaders involved in the Learning Away partnerships:

Our research findings suggest that relationships are benefiting from changes to group dynamics. These changes result from new learning contexts and environments that lack the stress and pressure that some young people associate with their school and home life. The enhanced knowledge and understanding staff and students have of each other by being together in new, informal and close situations creates a mutual bond.

Teachers also feel that residentials enable them to see their students as individuals, to see them differently and to better understand them. Young people also see their teachers from a different perspective, appreciating when they are willing to take on new challenges alongside them.

“Seeing the children in a different environment and for a continuous length of time has helped us view them in a more three dimensional way. Having a significant shared experience has enriched relationships.”

Primary school teacher, Christ Church Partnership

Student-student relationships

There is strong evidence of improved peer relationships (reported by 74% of students in surveys during the first phase of Learning Away). Students become more tolerant and caring of each other while away on residentials and develop a wider circle of friends.

Evaluation focus group discussions have identified that residentials help develop new and more trusting relationships between students (including friendships across year groups and between schools), which were deeper because of the shared experiences and the time spent together. These relationships have a noticeable impact on their participation, with subsequent activities and group tasks benefiting from these new and closer relationships.

“The kids, in that environment, are a lot more happy to help one another, especially those children that don’t necessarily talk to one another… in school they normally stay in their little groups”.

 Secondary school teacher

The key elements of residentials that support improved relationships appear to be:

  • challenging teamwork activities, especially those that involve problem-solving or engage students in moral dilemmas
  • working with others outside of normal friendship groups
  • extended time beyond the normal school day
  • informal ‘down’ and social time when relationships made during organised activities can be cemented through play, eating together and conversation
  • different activities, places, clothing, sleeping arrangements, food and other new contexts.

The impact on relationships back in school

The action research findings from the initial phase of Learning Away show that these changes in the quality of relationships persist, making a significant contribution to engagement in learning and the emergence of a learning community.

“On a residential students have to trust your judgment… trust everything you’re setting up for them and that improves relationships. So they trust teachers more back in the classroom and understand they are being asked to do things for a reason”.

Secondary school teacher

The evaluation of the first phase of Learning Away found that, back in school:

  • Staff and students trust each other more after the residential; students feel better able to approach staff for help back in school. 71% of students felt that as a result of the residential their teachers had a better understanding of how they liked to learn best.
  • Student-student relationships are enhanced – student feel more comfortable with each other having got to know others better on the residential – the sense of community is sustained. 87% of secondary students and 49% of primary pupils remained in touch with new friends made while away.
  • Students have a greater ability to empathise with others.
  • Longer-term, changed relationships persist in class and around school.

There was also evidence of the impact of residentials on the quality of relationships within families and with people outside of school and not part of the experiences.

“From being involved in Learning Away, the pupil has benefited by building a better relationship with his sister, mother and staff/school. They continue to play well together, as a family. They communicate better, listening and compromising.”

Family support worker, Smile Partnership


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.