Key Features

Co-constructed Key Stage 1 residentials
Residentials with a personalised theme, linked to the curriculum
Residentials programmes designed to meet specific local issues

This case study describes in detail the programme of Key Stage 1 residentials planned and delivered by the schools within The Pilot Partnership of primary and special schools. It outlines their impact on the schools and children involved and explains why and how they decided on a personalised theme. It also gives tips on how to successfully undertake similar residentials of this type for the youngest pupils.

It has been written by Louise Edwards the Director of the Pilot Partnership and their Learning Away Coordinator.


Our network of schools is part of a former Education Action Zone (EAZ) and so as such are very familiar with working in partnership with other schools, sharing resources, sharing and developing good practice. Within our network is one all age special school that we were very keen to include in the project. The schools all fall within a very small geographical area of Birmingham, which is one of the most deprived communities in the country.

As such the schools, and a large proportion of the families, experience many of the indices that include high levels of poverty, unemployment, poor health, high benefit claimants, crime, and in particular domestic violence. The area was at the time categorised as ‘white working class’ and was later to be categorised as an area of ‘troubled families’. Many pupils had low aspiration and also held prejudices that we wanted to tackle within our work. Mobility between partnership schools has always been high and also to and from other schools outside of the partnership. This often links to disruption in the domestic lives of the families of the pupils or to parental disagreement with one school and so an ensuing decision to move their child to another local school occurs.

Our EAZ partnership is now called The Pilot Partnership (TPP) and we have worked together as a partnership since 1999.

Choosing a personalised theme

When originally planning our residential programme, we were certain we did not want to use the more traditional format of choosing an outdoor education centre and then selecting from a menu of activities, as this was not going to address our aims. We also wanted our children to co-construct the residentials where possible and to take part in the domestic activities of cooking, cleaning, etc. We also hoped that by planning a shared curriculum, we could minimise some of the impacts of mobility on the pupils in that they would meet a recognisable curriculum at their new school.

Therefore we decided that we would construct a programme of three residentials, that would begin in Year 1 or 2, develop in Year 3 and be completed in Year 5. These three residentials would have interconnecting progressive themes and be based around some of the challenges that the local schools and community were experiencing.

We sought to address two of our main challenges and two further aims:

  1. Low aspiration and self-esteem through to teenage years that were then often associated with teenage pregnancy, bullying, under-achievement and school refusal.
  2. An influx of ethnic minority families that was building some racial tension and prejudice in an area that experiences high voting levels for political parties such as the National Front and BNP.
  3. That our residentials would no longer be ‘bolt-on’ but ‘built-in’ and so we would plan for this in a very careful way.
  4. The residentials also had to be very affordable and inclusive. We wanted all children involved – and this included those who were some of the youngest and/or with special educational needs.

The three residential themes

With these aims and challenges in mind, we then created together the three residential themes and constructed the curriculum modules that would support the residentials in school.

 Residential Theme Curriculum Module
Residential 1 (KS1) Conservation and Respect’15 minutes to Save the World’
Residential 2 (Years 3-4) Cultural Diversity ‘Piecing Together the World for Peace’
Residential 3 (Year 5) A Chance to Shine‘Lights, Camera, Action!’

This concept was our main starting point. However, it is important to say that we did not reach this stage quickly and decisions were also not taken by one person. The group of eight schools worked together to agree on needs, intentions and how we were going to advance. Laying out this method of working was very important to our future successes and achievements.

The rest of this case study focuses on the Key Stage 1 residential, with its ‘Conservation and Respect’ theme.

Planning the Key Stage 1 residential – initial research, group planning, resulting aims and supporting resources

1. Initial research

There were two sections to the planning – the actual curriculum module that would go before and after the residential, and then the planning of the residential itself (the learning and practicalities of the experience).

The Pilot Partnership (TTP) was commissioned by the group of schools to lead them through the project and carry out as many support activities as possible. Schools have reported that this was particularly helpful to them and the types of support undertaken are discussed later.

TPP researched information that would help us to write the new skills based curriculum that we were hoping to achieve. This coincided with the publication of  the 2010 ‘new primary curriculum’ (although not actually introduced). Being skills based, we decided to use aspects of this archived curriculum as it was perfect for our purposes.

TPP then prepared the curriculum planning day – for the initial construction it was undertaken in two days with the wider group, but in subsequent years this reduced to one day and for the most recent period just half a day. This gradual reduction is because we have managed to refine our needs over time.

TPP also researched a possible venue for the project so that there was something to show to the group when we met initially. The venue, which in this case was the Peckwood Centre, a local charity-owned residential centre and ancient woodland, was identified as it needed to be very low-cost to meet our sustainability criteria. The venue is discussed in more detail later.

Before the start of the first group planning day, TPP asked the schools to ask the children a series of questions so that they would be able to participate in the planning of the day. Staff brought along their responses to the first group day.

2. Group curriculum planning

On our group planning days, we asked for attendance from the designated lead coordinator plus the class teachers who would be delivering the project. In the early stages this ensured everyone who would be delivering the work had an ’emotional’ investment in it. These planning days gradually reduced to half day in latter years and required the attendance of fewer people as the work had become more embedded in the curriculum.

Group planning activities included:

  • Introduction to Learning Away, the residential plan and the three themes, how Children’s University will link into the modules, and to the pupil’s personal profiles;
  • Confirmation of all dates and prices for the Autumn term residentials;
  • Overview of the curriculum module for the first residential and completion of the new curriculum grid – to include the children’s ideas if these are available;
  • Detailed planning of the curriculum module;
  • Planning of the residential experience, discussion and presentation of the prepared activities and related documentation including copies of risk assessments, packing lists, letters to parents, etc. and resources information.

It is worth noting that in 2010 the work was just beginning and so required more step-by-step leadership to develop the module of curriculum support for back in school (this was to meet our aim of ‘built-in’ not ‘bolt-on’ residentials). By 2013 the work was embedded and required little in the way of curriculum planning. By this time the planning meeting was more about any changes to previous procedures and agreements.

The sessions from 2010-12 included leading teachers through conversations about the skills we wanted the pupils to develop, building mind maps and medium term plans. Extracts from the most recent curriculum planning can be seen below.

TPP Year 1 curriculum plan

TPP Year 1 curriculum plan.2

3. Main aims and intended outcomes (for this work and residential)

  • Children and parents will understand the programme of residentials that they are about to embark on and begin to understand how it will be built upon to help them succeed.
  • Children will be able to visualise their ‘future self’.
  • Children will be able to articulate what respect means to them. They will have an understanding what we mean by respect and how it can be shown in all its forms and at a variety of levels.
  • Children will be able to articulate what we mean by ‘the World’ and begin to articulate its vulnerabilities.
  • Children will have confidence to be apart from their parents/carers overnight.
  • Children will begin their personal profile and will be able to identify which aspects of the residential  feet most and least comfortable for them.

 4. Supporting resources, tools and activities

Over the years we have been able to produce a range of resources that have been tweaked and expanded so that we now centre the half day planning day around a shared CD Rom that staff can take away with everything they need on it. It includes copies of:

  • A PowerPoint presentation for parents about the centre and the visit;
  • All curriculum planning and the mind map;
  • The timetable of activities;
  • Risk assessments ready to use that can be amended to include any special or specific pupil considerations and then countersigned by the school;
  • A suggested packing list;
  • A timetable of dates and visits for each school including further group planning and evaluation dates;
  • A video and audio clip to start the module of work (about the centre and the mission that the children are to achieve);
  • The pupil personal profile ‘It’s Good To Be Me!’;
  • Sample letters for children staying overnight;
  • Sample letters for ‘day trippers’.

Following these planning days TPP carried out a series of additional support activities including:

  • Booking the venue and organising coaches;
  • Purchasing and distributing equipment (plus oversight of its return, check of condition, etc.);
  • Processing payments;
  • Writing up curriculum and activity plans, and follow-up resources;
  • Constructing timetables;
  • Producing risk assessments;
  • Overseeing evaluation processes;
  • Preparing the PowerPoint presentation and audio clip;
  • Acting as central link point for all schools.

Logistical planning – venue and programme, managing parental concerns, risk assessments, menus, equipment and first aid training

1. Choosing the venue

We chose the Peckwood Centre because it met the following criteria:

  • It was close – within 30 minutes of all of our schools;
  • It offered a rural experience;
  • It offered basic cabins and equipment so that children could become involved in cooking, cleaning, etc.
  • It was very good value for money.

2. Planning the programme

All of the staff involved visited Peckwood for a group planning session. This day was all about the actual practicalities of the residential itself. The first things that we tackled were what would actually happen during the residential and how we would staff it. Unlike many other residentials, the staff involved took an active part in every aspect of the programme – along with the able assistance of the children!

We wanted the children to be involved in every aspect of the domestic activity. We therefore ensured that whilst they were timetabled for curriculum learning activities, they were also timetabled for activities such as cooking and cleaning. Much to our surprise and delight, the children valued this domestic side of their activity on the residential as much as the other activities. For many of them, this was the first time they had ever helped an adult to produce their meal and the first time they actually understood where their food came form and how a meal had been constructed.

3. Managing parental concerns

We knew that many of our parents would be worried about their children being away from home overnight for the first time and so we felt it was important to show as many photos of the centre as possible and to share all aspects of the plans.

Some parents felt that Year 1 was too early for an overnight residential experience. These children were therefore offered a ‘day trip’ to the centre that lasted into early evening, in the hope that they could take part in most of the activities and that confidence would grow for future residentials. We felt we had to be pragmatic at this stage as the children were young and we just needed to keep them involved with as much of the strategy as we could. We did find that these concerned parents allowed their children to attend subsequent residentials and also some of their younger children to go to the Year 1 residentials in later years.

To provide even more reassurance for parents, one of the schools involved now provides an additional overnight ‘sleepover’ in school before they go to Peckwood.

3. Managing risk

TPP completes all risk assessments for the group, which avoids an additional workload for each individual school. Our risk assessments also include a timetable of activities, menu, etc.

The risk assessments are constructed so that they can be used as a reference handbook throughout the residential and hopefully this makes them more likely to be read and used for each activity. It also provides clear procedures in the case of an emergency. Titles in this risk assessment handbook are:

  • Safeguarding procedures;
  • Travel to and from centre;
  • Staffing;
  • Daytime: the venue and environment;
  • Daytime: activities;
  • Residential and after-dark arrangements;
  • Food preparation and food safety arrangements;
  • Medicines arrangements;
  • Emergency procedures.

These risk assessments can be seen in detail below.

Peckwood Risk Assessment updated Sept 2011

4. Menu planning

We all agreed that each schools would have the same menu on every residential and then it could be planned as a group and even bought in bulk.

When planning the menu, TPP researched all Public Health requirements for the storage and preparation of food. As a consequence, we decided to have a meat-free menu. This meant that we could avoid the necessity to store the meat separately and avoid the complications of children handling raw meat or meat being incorrectly cooked. Being meat-free also gave us an easy solution to planning for children and staff who were vegetarians

5. Equipment

As our schools are located in a deprived area, we found that items such as sleeping bags were a major challenge. We therefore bought a set of 30 sleeping bags and 60 liners.

The issue that then arose was the logistics of getting everything washed and passed on to the next school in time. Therefore we needed to build this in as an activity in our planning.

Over the years, and because we also do the two other residential programmes, parents have started to invest in a sleeping bag and some schools have managed to procure them cheaply for parents. In the past two years we have spread the ‘ownership’ of the original sleeping bags and liners across the network. They are then gifted to the school on the understanding that they are ‘lent’ across the network when required and returned after the residential.

Another similar challenge was children having the right outdoor clothing. Most schools decided to invest in waterproof trousers and coats for the children and to buy spare wellies.

TPP also bought a range of other equipment e.g. torches, pans and cutlery and this was then shared across the network.

6. First aid training

We decided from the beginning that we would ensure that all staff attending the residentials were trained in Paediatric First Aid. TTP organised numerous sessions of this training over the first three years, but during the latter years we have found that there are far fewer staff who need the training, as many have already been through the programme.

What happens during the residential – the programme of activities

This is the typical programme that has evolved over the five years our schools have delivered these Key Stage 1 residentials:

Day 1

10.00   Arrival at Peckwood and familiarisation / orientation of children to site

10.30   Session 1 – Nature trail

11.30   Break

11.45   Session 2 – Nature evidence gathering

2.45     Lunch (packed lunches brought with them, with FSMs provided by school)

1.30    Session 3 – Environmental portraits

2.45    Session 4 – Team building and problem solving activity 1 (blindman’s friend)

3.15    Session 5 – Team building and problem solving activity 2 (river crossing)

3.45    Break

4.00    Session 6 – Preparation, etc. for evening meal

4.30    Evening meal (prepared by children as part of session 6)

5.15    Session 7 – Team building and problem solving activity 3 (shelter building)

5.45    Session 8 – Pupil profile booklet

6.45    Session 9 – Camp fire and night walk

7.45    Children go to dormitory and get ready for bed

Day 2

7.00    Wake up, get dressed, pack bags, tidy dormitory

8.00    Breakfast (selection of cereals)

8.30    Session 10 – Damaging the environment

9.30    General tidy up before leaving site

10.00  Return to school

It is worth noting that we had to adjust some of our planning and timings to take account of seasonal changes when residentials were repeated at different times of the year e.g. one of our activities was to find different leaves, but these weren’t available in late Autumn.

A much more detailed programme plan can be downloaded here.

TPP KS1 Peckwood residential planner


From the outset we wanted to be able to demonstrate the impact of our work and so we developed our own evaluation strategy. We also wanted the impact evidence for other reasons, such as attracting additional funding. Most of all, we wanted our own evaluation system to be something that had outcomes for our pupils.

Pupil Personal Profiles

Our solution to this was our residential pupil profile; a diary the pupils completed over each residential and eventually took away with them in Year 6. We felt that this would give them a celebration of their own development over the years and help them to see how taking part in new situations can be positive in developing confidence and character. We called our diary ‘It’s Good to Be Me!’ and you can download a copy of it below.

TPP It’s Good To Be Me Pupil Personal Profile

An extract of the pupil personal profile that pertains to Key Stage 1 can be seen below. This profile then continues and develops through the child’s entire residential career at our primary schools. Each residential builds in time to the completion of the profile.

TPP KS1 residential Pupil Profile

Curriculum evaluation

As previously mentioned, with each of our residentials as they have been developed and modified, we have undertaken a formal review process. This has included a ‘what worked?’ and ‘what didn’t work?’ approach, but also has taken account of changing curriculum needs and  any changes to the profile of our school communities.

For our Key Stage 1 curriculum module, the children were ‘Eco-Warriors’. Either side of the residential and back in school, work on the theme was integral to the work in the residential. Children produced posters, held protest parades, wrote letters to the council, etc. to campaign on behalf of the forest’s preservation. They also did a great deal of research about woodland wildlife, flora and fauna and, despite their young age, had deep and meaningful discussionss about why such habitats should be preserved. For many children this was really their first experience of thinking beyond themselves and their own needs.

Final thoughts – what we’ve learned

Our schools and teachers now feel confident that they can continue to deliver these residential experiences to their younger pupils. This level of confidence and creative thinking has had a direct impact on the schools involved; staff have learned alongside pupils to take more risks, take the curriculum outside and to approach the curriculum in a more creative way to engage their ‘harder to reach’ pupils. We have found that we have been able to move our work to another level when developing creative curriculum approaches. We find that we come from a shared understanding and can then work on moving on to the next level beyond.

Some of our NQTs, who talk to other colleagues outside of the partnership, express a level of surprise that all schools aren’t “doing it this way” – it is all these new teachers have ever known.

Challenges still exist in getting all pupils to stay overnight and there has been a lot of reflection about this. One of our schools surveyed parents and their responses were often to do with food concerns. This school is now working with parents to get them involved with the planning of menus for the residential. Asian Muslim girls still tend to be the group who least attend, but we are working on strategies to make this less of an issue.

Although the prospect of taking such young children away overnight seemed daunting at first, the benefits have far outweighed any concerns. Pupils who return are more confident and able to think beyond their own selves. They return with a fire for learning and and want to continue with the work they had undertaken during the residential.

We have found that building our residentials into a progressive and cohesive trio of residentials (Years 1-2, Years 3-4, Years 5-6) makes them have more impact overall and presents them as a holistic strategy to both pupils and their parents.

Building the curriculum element around the actual residential also makes an enormous impact, as the residential is then an integral part to the work rather than an ‘added’ activity. The residential visit provides for deeper learning than that in the classroom.

Most of all, for many of our pupils who do not travel beyond their immediate environs, it has widened their horizons and hopefully started them on a journey of learning outside of the classroom that they will continue into adult life.