Progression of subject skills and knowledge

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.”

Progression of key skills

At Twickenham Primary School in Birmingham, termly educational visits (residential or day trips) for every year group are connected to the school’s topic based afternoon sessions.  Participating in Learning Away helped the school review the purpose and logistics of residentials, examining how they could make a greater contribution to young people’s educational and personal development.

The programme of residential experiences transformed from a single Year 6 experience just before the move up to secondary school, to a yearly entitlement, building up young people’s knowledge and skills.  In Year 3, they spend just one night away on their residential – by the time they reach Year 6, they are away from home for four or five nights and adapt quickly to the new learning environment because the rule and routines are familiar.

Building on residentials can also have an impact on the numbers of young people participating.  Where they are unused to staying away from home, a four or five day residential in Year 6 can seem too daunting; where progressive residentials are planned for each year group, schools notice that far more families allow their children to participate.

Assessing outcomes

After the Hampton Court Palace residentials, Canterbury Academy examines young people’s progress in key areas of the curriculum and in personal development.  In this assessment slideshow, the teaching team describes academic progress over the course of the residential as “outstanding”. For example, by the end of the five-day residential, 75% of learners had achieved or bettered their end of year English target and in Science, 69% of learners made progress in every area.

Evaluating the learning

An important advantage of integrated curriculum residentials is the ability to use existing assessment and evaluation techniques to monitor and record young people’s attainment and progress.  It’s vital that the learning that takes place during a residential is acknowledged and included in records of young people’s overall progression.  Whilst residentials often generate new approaches to learning, introducing new assessment frameworks can be counter-productive and shouldn’t be necessary; be sure, however, to remember to record young people’s personal, social and emotional development in addition to their academic progress.

South Hetton Primary School describes its programme of residentials and school based learning as ‘seamless’ – meaning that lessons have clear objectives and a consistent assessment structure, which young people are familiar with.  However, the additional aim of developing young people’s self-confidence and independent learning skills means that learner self-assessment takes on added meaning during residentials.  Interactive and dialogue-generating tools such as learning logs, diaries and focus groups are used by the South Hetton team to help pupils evaluate their experiences.

A sample learner reflection tool can be found here – it was developed by the Pilot Partnership (East EAZ) for their film-making residentials with Year 5s and 6s.

Additional guidance, reflection tools and case studies can be found in the Curriculum Integration Resource Library.