Progressive programmes

A progressive programme with a sequence of coordinated, pre-residential and residential experiences from ages 4 to 18 brings cumulative learning benefits for young people and staff, grows confidence, widens horizons and raises aspirations.

Benefits of a progressive programme

The Learning Away evaluation highlights how progressive residentials:

  • Develop and enhance learning skills, and enable students to see progress and improvement.
  • Improve interpersonal skills, as this teacher illustrates: “He found team work and communication with others very challenging. He often gets very emotional if things don’t go his way. During his second Learning Away experience, he successfully integrated into team work, something he was unable to do the first time he went away when he often chose to sit out of activities.” (Student Impact Survey)
  • Give students a clear picture of how their skills and knowledge have developed, which helps them realise they can achieve and progress – both on the residential and back in school.
  • Grow confidence and independence year on year, e.g. through students working in teams, leading activities and acting as role models/mentors for younger students.
  • Lay solid foundations for learning by reducing the age of students’ first residential experience, maximising the skills and relationships developed.
  • Facilitate the engagement of students and their families, particularly those students who historically might not have participated in residential learning. For young children, running a pre-residential extended day helps build parents’ and children’s confidence about staying overnight.
  • Help raise students’ and parents’ expectations and aspirations about their children’s access to different and challenging experiences: “There’s an expectation from parents that we will have a residential every year. They talk to parents in other schools and realise their children do so many things that other schools don’t do.” (Primary Staff Focus Group)
  • Help embed and develop staff skills and confidence, as this staff member comments: “I have gained confidence in dealing with new people; I am more efficient at organising activities and my time management skills have improved… I am more adventurous as a result – I have gone abroad on my own since the first experience and feel I could tackle anything!” (Staff Survey)

Examples of progressive programmes

Here’s one primary school teacher summing up their school’s programme and the motivation for moving to a progressive model:

“Prior to Learning Away we’ve always done a final Year 6 residential just before they went to secondary school. We thought that as the children come into Key Stage 2 if we had something that was more progressive, rather than throw them into a long-term residential, like four or five days and a big distance away they can gradually build up their confidence about what that experience might be like.

We started off two years ago doing one overnight residential for each year group in Key Stage 2. We felt that as we started when they are very young, Year 3, that one night was enough but that over the next couple of years they could build up until eventually they got to Year 6. The whole of the year group wanted to go because they’d had such an amazing experience on residentials previously. Before, when they got to Year 6, because it was so daunting and they’d not necessarily been on a residential, the interest wasn’t as high. It’s given them the confidence to want to do that at the end of Year 6.” (Primary Staff Focus Group)

The Bulwell EAZ partnership in Nottingham has taken advantage of local sites to develop a progressive residential model, using both school and heritage locations as camp sites. Overnight camping starts with one night in Year 2 and Year 3-4 respectively, then two nights slightly further afield in Year 5.   The Year 3-4 camp uses the local secondary academy school site – an extremely secure setting, which also supports children to become familiar with the ‘big’ school to which most of them will go.

The Christ Church partnership in Merseyside takes its youngest students on ‘extended day’ visits to the residential centre they know they will stay overnight at in subsequent years. This allows children and parents to become familiar with the site, and supports these very young children to experience valuable informal activities, like a shared meal and campfire activities, before returning home later in the evening.

You can read more about how to get started with planning residentials here.

Watch this short filmed interview to find out more about Bulwell EAZ’s progressive Learning Away programme.


Learn more about the Learning Away partnerships, and be inspired by our case studies.

Access free resources to help you plan your own brilliant residentials.

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

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

Read our independent evaluation report.