The first phase of Learning Away explored whether high-quality residential learning programmes can boost interpersonal relationships, cohesion and a sense of belonging – not just for individuals, but across a cohort of students and the whole school community.

The evaluation evidence indicates that student-student and teacher-student relationships can be significantly enhanced through residential experiences (learn more about why, and the impact this can have on individual students’ achievement).

There is also evidence that these enhanced relationships can significantly impact on the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom. Where the levels of trust, understanding and empathy developed on the residential are sustained back at school, teachers feel confident about adopting new pedagogies that engage students. In turn, students feel comfortable taking risks to further their learning and make good use of their new or improved collaborative skills.

Developing students as leaders on residentials also has a wider impact on their leadership in school. Many secondary students involved in Learning Away residentials become role models for their peers, learn to be effective student leaders around school, and lead enrichment activities.

In the evaluation evidence, staff and students reported a sense of increased cohesion at classroom level. Focus group discussions with primary students refer to the sense of community developed while on the residential and to other children feeling like their family. The time spent together on the residential – working and living together, and getting to see what others are like ‘after hours’ – clearly reinforces this sense of cohesion.

Residentials can provide opportunities for students to develop new relationships through working with a wide range of staff and young people outside their normal peer groups. Teachers have noticed that students who attended the Learning Away residentials are more open to suggestions from others outside their friendship groups. The communal and collaborative activities residentials offer cement these relationships and foster cohesion.

Learning Away has developed a diagram, setting out our theory about the changes that happen to learning through brilliant residential experiences – and explaining why we think this sense of community can translate so powerfully into short, medium and long-term outcomes for students.

We hope this theory, supported by York Consulting’s robust evaluation evidence and the many inspiring case studies developed with our partner schools, will encourage more head teachers and governing bodies that high-quality residential learning should be firmly embedded in the curriculum as a part of each young person’s entitlement.


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

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