Curriculum integration and progression are inexorably connected. The key is to plan strategically for progressive residentials – thinking about the benefits current Year 3s will enjoy on their Year 6 residential, for example. Whilst it may not be possible to know exactly what knowledge the curriculum will require in four years’ time, the skills necessary to fully access the curriculum are likely to be the same.
Some Learning Away partnership schools integrated a specific and different subject into their residentials each year; others utilised a cross-curricular, project-based approach each year. In every case however, there was a clear vision for enriching and deepening young people’s understanding of the subjects tackled through innovative and memorable learning experiences.
Louise Edwards, Learning Away Cooordinator for the Pilot Partnership (East EAZ) explains,
“The ‘big idea’ that underlies all our Learning Away residentials is ‘respect’. We want young people to gain more self-respect and to respect other pupils and staff. A related and relatively new challenge for our partnership was rapidly increasing cultural diversity and we benefitting from involving more than one partnership school in each residential.
Before we could tackle cultural diversity and respect for others, we knew we needed to work on young people’s self-respect and understanding their place in the world – starting in Year 2. We planned their first residential around a woodland setting and after getting to know the place and the plants and animals living there, the pupils become part of a role-play to campaign to save the wood from development. Although it was a challenging topic, we felt it was an essential building block for the other themes.
Two years later in Year 4, building on the experiences and confidence gained from the first residential, we felt young people would be ready to approach cultural diversity. Adventurous and group problem solving activities were combined with food, dance and art projects drawing on the various cultures present in each camp and we used specialists to help us with these activities.
The third residential in Year 6 then explores what each young person is like, what others are like and how each person can shine at something, regardless of their academic skills. Of course, at the start, we weren’t sure what the central theme of this final visit would be, but it evolved into script writing and film making because the pupils enjoy it so much and it connected so meaningfully with key subject skills.
Over the course of the residential, pupils, even the very youngest, discuss really deep concepts. Progressive residentials are a bit like a hothouse in which accelerated learning goes on – young people make a big leap forward. In their thinking, they’ve moved along academically and they’ve matured personally, even after just one night away. On a residential, there is intensity and time to talk to others about the experiences and to reflect, for deeper learning to take place. Somehow, integrating their curriculum into residentials ‘joins up the dots’ for some our pupils.”