Staff and student involvement

A strong commitment to active staff and student involvement in the planning, provision and evaluation of residentials ensures a strong sense of ownership. This involvement results in engaged, independent and collaborative learners and teachers with rising aspirations.

One of the big changes that has happened in Learning Away partnership schools is the extent to which staff and students design and deliver their own residentials, using three main strategies:

Co-construction and co-design

Co-construction and co-design of learning is a partnership between teaching staff and their students to develop and deliver creative learning. Read more about co-construction here in our free resource.

DIY residentials

Teachers are well placed to develop high-quality residential experiences that integrate with the curriculum, address specific student needs and work within the constraints of the school, its families and community. See here for more information about this approach.

Student leadership

Using student leaders on residentials can take the pressure off staff – they become a ‘bridge’ between staff and younger students, and can enhance the residential experience for all involved.  Read more about the practicalities of student leadership here and explore our free resource.

The independent evaluation of the first phase of Learning Away shows that staff and student involvement in residentials has many benefits for them, and for schools, which are outlined below.

Benefits for students

Staff and student involvement in residentials help:

  • develop activities specific to students’ needs and learning objectives
  • staff gain a better understanding of how students like to learn and like to be taught
  • develop a shared learning community where all participants are equal leading to increased ownership, engagement, confidence, independent learning, and problem-solving skills
  • students develop maturity, team-working skills, communication skills and promote democratic approaches to decision making
  • increase equity between staff and students, leading to better relationships that can be built on back in school
  • develop leadership skills, increased motivation and aspiration
  • to reinforce learning
  • students become role models.

Benefits for staff

Staff-designed and led residentials provide:

  • invaluable staff development opportunities, for example developing leadership and pedagogical skills
  • opportunities for staff to share practice and learn from other disciplines
  • opportunities for career development for both teaching and support staff
  • alternative models of curriculum delivery that identify, develop and celebrate staff skills that may otherwise remain undiscovered.

Benefits for schools

Staff- and student-designed and led residentials help to:

  • embed, reinforce and progress learning from the residential back in school
  • facilitate the integration of the residential experience fully within the school curriculum
  • develop capacity within schools by ‘skilling up’ new staff and giving experienced staff additional responsibility
  • make residential programmes more sustainable, because schools are more self-sufficient in delivering them
  • significantly develop staff understanding of experiential learning
  • create a staffing structure with progression, focusing on responsibility for residential learning
  • increase student and staff commitment to residentials
  • encourage student responsibility and creativity  that can lead to leadership roles in school and on residentials
  • facilitate parental engagement and parents’ willingness to send their children on residentials
  • give residential learning a greater profile within the school.

A range of student and staff involvement models are emerging from across the growing community of Learning Away schools.

For example, a key feature of the Walney partnership’s primary to secondary transition programme is its co-construction model. Aims and implementation are planned by a steering group of staff, but the activity programme is designed by Year 6 students.

Canterbury High School works closely with a range of local outdoors and heritage providers – negotiating with them to use the facilities and buy in expertise when needed, but running most teacher-designed activities themselves. Their residentials are also self-catered, with the Academy’s student chefs (studying for NVQ Hospitality and Catering) planning and providing meals.

The Christ Church partnership of primary schools regularly uses the same provider, carefully planning the activities on each residential to provide variety for students from year to year. Parents and children are involved at the planning stage, putting student voice at the core of residentials – as well as helping to allay parent anxieties.


Be inspired by our case studies from Learning Away schools.

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.