1: Overview – start here!

Residentials present a unique set of challenges for special schools, but these need not be seen as barriers to taking young people on overnight trips.

The benefits of brilliant residentials are just as relevant to young people with special needs as they are for any other young person – perhaps more so, as they may be less likely to experience this kind of shared experience.

This suite of resources explores how the Learning Away partnership special schools planned, delivered and evaluated brilliant residentials; sometimes collaborating with other local schools and residential providers, sometimes innovating on their own.

Sanderson High School has run residential experiences for its students for many years and is a member of the Calderglen Learning Away partnership. The school caters for young people with additional support needs aged between 11 and 16, and is located on the same campus as Calderglen High School – the schools share several buildings.  Both schools make good use of an innovative integrated curriculum and shared lessons.  Young people also have the opportunity to spend informal time together.

Of particular note is the way in which Sanderson High School integrates residentials with the school’s ‘independent living’ curriculum, providing a real world context for the skills young people learn in those lessons.  The school used its Learning Away funds to successfully explore the feasibility of extending residential experiences to young people with the most complex needs, using specialist residential providers The Bendrigg Trust and The Calvert Trust.

Hallmoor School is an all through special needs school that is a member of the Pilot Partnership’s Learning Away programme in Birmingham.  Initially, they collaborated with the other primary schools in the Partnership so that they could all offer integrated residential experiences and benefit from the shared development of curriculum resources.  The residentials have a significant impact on young people’s personal and social skills and on engagement back in school, and Hallmoor’s school council subsequently and successfully argued for the residential programme to be extended to all year groups.  Additionally, some of the teaching and learning strategies used on the residentials, such as video making, have been integrated into the wider school curriculum.  Another positive outcome was shared sports days, which now take place in partnership with the local primary schools.

Charlton Park Academy is a special needs school for young people aged between 11 and 19 and is part of the Thomas Tallis Learning Away partnership in south London.  The school already had strong links with an outdoor centre that specialises in providing residentials for young people and adults with special needs. Involvement with Learning Away enabled Charlton Park to extend and refine its offer by focusing on two areas: taking students with complex needs away, and providing work experience for older students. The biggest impacts were seen on students’ confidence and, interestingly, on the confidence of their parents.  Parents found themselves ready to allow their children more independence, enabling the young people to take part in activities their parents had previously considered ‘too risky’.