Lower-cost models

Most school partnerships in the first phase of Learning Away developed lower-cost models for providing residentials, making sure they are affordable and can be financially sustained long-term by the school.

An unexpected outcome was the variety of enhanced educational benefits, including:

  • Making greater use of school staff has improved curriculum integration and improved relationships.
  • Staying local to reduce transport costs can lead to increased participation (by both students and staff).
  • Camping or finding cheaper places to stay can support co-construction, thematic approaches, curriculum and developmental benefits, and improved collaboration with other schools and providers.

Here, we outline some of the approaches developed and trialled by the Learning Away partnership schools:

When Learning Away began, Hanover Primary School planned a Year 6 camp as its approach. Although camping kept costs low, it was the educational potential of the camping experience that really attracted them – like an overnight Forest School. Steadily, other schools have adopted camping for one or more of their residentials, seeing both the educational and cost benefits. Even if staff find camping a step too far, they have been happy to attend during the day to support the activities. Visit Hanover’s school partnership page to see their video and written case studies and learn how they achieved their brilliant residentials.

School grounds have become popular venues for activities and camping residentials through Learning Away. One primary school in the Walney partnership has large grounds that have now been developed as a campsite and Forest School. All the schools in this partnership use the site for extended day visits for Key Stage 1/2 transition events and residential camps for Key Stage 2/3.

Bulwell Academy – a Learning Away secondary school – has a large covered area bounded by the school buildings providing shelter, security, activity and camping space. Many local primary schools use the site for residentials – in a school that children taking part in the residentials may move on to at the end of Year 6. Learn more about the Bulwell EAZ programme.

Many Learning Away schools are finding local residential facilities are readily available during the school week. For example Scout Activity Centres are busy at weekends, but largely empty during school days. Costs are lower and the associations running them appreciate the additional income. These facilities are also set up for self-catering, further lowering the cost and adding a rich activity to the residential programme – cooking together is often a favourite residential activity with young people.

Working together with other schools to book centres, campsites and transport such as coaches also increases purchasing power and can lead to useful discounts. The same applies to booking outside experts to provide activities  for which school staff are not trained. These people appreciate the regular work and will often offer a discounted price for repeat business.

The SMILE Trust has developed a particularly unusual model. Together, the schools hire a holiday cottage, during term times, year-round. The owners can still hire the property out at full price to holidayers outside of term-times and appreciate the reliable income, so offered the schools an affordable deal. This arrangement gives the schools a regular venue to run small group residentials. Learn more about the SMILE Trust’s model here.

Some Learning Away schools have developed closer, more effective relationships with the centres they use frequently. School and centre staff have developed resources and bespoke programmes together and also, in some cases, co-constructed these with students.

Many schools have negotiated access to resources without centre staff, designing their own programmes of activity for the duration of the residential. Learn more about the Canterbury Academy’s Year 10 residential delivered in partnership with Rock UK. Bedford Primary School, one of three schools in Learning Away’s Christ Church partnership in Merseyside, shared this case study about working with a YMCA centre. Schools have also used centres to train older students, who have then gone on to support residentials for younger students.

Schools are making use of a range of adult volunteers (e.g. governors, parents, local community, Higher Education students). This can reduce supply cover costs, but has other benefits including bringing in different, specialist expertise and supporting parents and governors to understand the value and impact of residential programmes. Several schools are also developing older students as leaders to deliver activities and mentor younger students. For practical advice, see our advice about staffing brilliant residentials.


Two of our Learning Away schools, Goonhavern and Twickenham Primary Schools, have developed an exchange between their schools in contrasting landscapes and socio-economic situations – rural Cornwall and inner city Birmingham.


The visits take place at different times so that one class hosts their visitors and the experience is returned later in the year. The children attend classes and the hosts visit the campsite of their visitors as part of an extended school day, as well as share in local trips that reflect the culture and landscape of the area. The schools use each others’ transport and camp or use low cost accommodation where they can to lower the costs further. Learn more about the Twickenham/Goonhavern programme.

Read more about how Learning Away schools develop lower-cost models in our free resource.

In this short film, the Learning Away coordinators in the Bulwell EAZ and Canterbury Academy partnerships outline why their schools decided to develop lower-cost residentials.


Be inspired by our case studies from Learning Away schools.

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.