The case for the overnight stay

An overnight stay – in a residential centre, bunkhouse, camp or spending the evening together under the stars in shelters built in the school grounds – achieves a different outcome from a day of activities.

In many cases the biggest challenge of the trip for students isn’t the adventurous activities, it’s being away from home for a night, sharing a room or tent with people they don’t know very well, and preparing and eating meals together.

Residentials provide the opportunity to experience living with others. This experience transforms relationships and develops a strong sense of community and belonging between staff and students involved. The sense of community supports a wide range of positive social and learning outcomes long after the return to school. No matter how carefully planned the activities are on a day trip, how exciting the venue or how experiential the learning, it will still finish at or around the end of a normal school day; day trips cannot incorporate the extended communal and informal time on a residential that our research suggests can be so transformative.

So what is it about the residential experience that uniquely builds this lasting and impactful sense of community? What impact do the new ways of learning and more collaborative real-life activities carried out during residentials have on both students and teachers? And how do these experiences translate into short, medium and long-term outcomes for students?

Learning Away has developed a diagram, setting out in more detail our theory about the changes that happen to learning through brilliant residential experiences.

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

Download a copy of this theory of change by clicking on the link below.


As a result of the first phase of our action research, Learning Away has made a series of recommendations for schools, providers, policy makers and researchers. We are convinced these will not only support the development of high-quality residential learning, but also encourage its shift from enrichment to entitlement.

In this short film, a Learning Away coordinator, teachers, a TA and a parent, who’ve all been involved in recent residentials, make their own persuasive ‘case for the overnight stay’.


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