It is crucial to view evaluation as an integral part of planning and delivering brilliant residentials, but we know that schools often struggle to evaluate their residentials effectively.
Evaluating your residential provides the evidence for celebrating students’ successes and achievements, as well as identifying what has not worked so well. It helps you to check whether what you are doing is still meeting the needs of young people and their families, and creates a basis for next steps in your students’ learning.
It is likely that you evaluate the classroom-based activities that you develop already; the reasons for evaluating outside the classroom, on residential, are no different.
Evaluation is useful for four main reasons:
Impacts and benefits of a residential experience ^
Evaluation indicates whether or not an intervention – in this case a residential – is effective and has achieved its purpose. Without evaluation, it is impossible to know whether an intervention is (or is not) having a positive impact on learning. Evaluating a residential, or programme of residentials, will tell you what, if any, impacts and benefits the residential is having on students, staff and the school as a whole.
Impacts and benefits of the evaluation process itself ^
Being involved in both the design and implementation of evaluation is a valuable experience for both staff and students, especially if the students are involved in the process as active participants. This approach is known as ‘participatory evaluation’. Participatory evaluation also provides a meaningful way for everyone to learn about the process of change, based on their own experiences.
It’s important to remember that effective evaluation is not an add-on that is done to those involved. Instead it should be seen as a collaborative process that is done with all those involved.
Planning for future residentials ^
Evaluation guides future action. It can help to identify strengths and weaknesses in the residential experience. By investing evaluation time in carefully recording what is being done and by measuring outcomes, it is easier to review the experience, identify improvements and plan for future residentials. Evaluation is not just about demonstrating success, it is also about learning why things don’t work.
Making the best use of your evaluation evidence ^
Evaluation can justify the experience and gather support for future residentials by illustrating to others what has been achieved. It will help to demonstrate whether you have used your resources – people, time and money – effectively. For example, when Pupil Premium is used to fund residentials, evaluation can provide evidence for its effective use. The identified impacts and benefits can then be shared with other interested parties e.g. parents and carers, senior leaders, other staff, governors and Ofsted.
Evaluation can also provide powerful evidence of the educational value of the experience to a range of potential funding providers.