During its first action research phase, which took place between 2009 and 2015, Learning Away worked closely with over 60 primary, secondary and special schools in 13 partnerships across the UK, funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. The aim of Learning Away throughout this phase was to enhance young people’s learning, achievement and wellbeing by developing, piloting and evaluating the impact of residential experiences as an integral part of the curriculum.
The programme was independently evaluated using a mixture of quantitative and qualitative data collected from Learning Away schools via surveys, existing school data, focus groups and case studies. You can read more about we found out here.
Towards the end of the first phase, a consortium of organisations was set up to lead Learning Away into the future. Learning Away is now in its second, campaigning phase. Its vision is for more children and young people to enjoy Brilliant Residentials and the life-changing experiences they offer. You can discover more about this campaign here.
Whilst all well-run residentials are valuable, the evidence from Learning Away shows that high-quality residentials, or what Learning Away has called Brilliant Residentials, are even more valuable. Learning Away has suggested that there are 11 core principles that, together, lead to Brilliant Residentials. You can find out more about what we mean by Brilliant Residentials here.
One of the guiding principles of a Brilliant Residential is that residentials are evaluated rigorously. However we also know that many schools can struggle with this because of time constraints, or are unsure how to evaluate residential programmes. Learning Away worked with its school partners to make evaluation an inherent part of their residential practice, and the learning from this process is shared in this toolkit.
In 2017 Learning Away commissioned a survey of a number of teachers in England to find out more about the residentials they were providing for their students. The findings, published in the State of School Residentials in England report, (available here) showed that many teachers highlighted evaluating residentials as an issue, and one of the barriers to them providing high quality, or ‘brilliant’ residentials. Teachers who were keen to use structured approaches to evaluation felt that they lacked the necessary tools or skills.