Developing new relationships

One of the most significant impacts of the first phase of Learning Away, highlighted by the evaluation, was on relationships – both peer relationships between students and those between staff and students at both secondary and primary level. The evaluation also suggests that these improved relationships continued after the return to school and had longer-term benefits.

Benefits to peer relationships

Residentials offer a safe space for students to:

  • develop new peer relationships, including across age groups, cultural and social barriers and between genders
  • develop more trusting and respectful relationships by getting to know peers better
  • shift existing power relationships – less confident or quieter students can be seen in a new light, those students who are popular and outgoing in school become more willing to associate with less confident or quieter students, and students feel more comfortable to interact with others
  • develop students’ social skills and skills to form relationships, for example learning how to talk to different people, learning how to start conversations and make people feel comfortable.

“I felt really happy because I got to mix with different people that I wouldn’t normally mix with.” (Primary Student Focus Group)

“There was a lot more flexibility between the groups, especially between the boys and girls, who tend to be in separate sides of the classroom by their own choice.” (Secondary Staff Focus Group)

Benefits to student-staff relationships

Residentials have the potential to transform student-staff relationships by:

  • giving staff and students an opportunity to develop new relationships as well as enhance/change existing relationships by getting to know each other better
  • providing a more relaxed and equal context where attitudes towards one another can be changed – the teacher can join students as a ‘non-expert’ in activities, so flattening the normal hierarchy that exists in schools
  • providing better insights and understanding into each other’s behaviour, and how to respond to each other helpfully
  • giving staff and students time and space to develop more trusting and respectful relationships.

What I liked best about the residential: “Getting to know the teachers. It sounds strange but you don’t see teachers as teachers. In school you see teachers as scary and strict but on the residential trip they’re so much nicer. You see them as normal human beings” (Secondary Student Focus Group).

Read and watch more about the impact of Learning Away on relationships here.

Be inspired by our case studies from Learning Away schools.

Have a look at our theory of how change happens through brilliant residentials.

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

Read our independent evaluation report.