They developed lower-cost models – residentials that were significantly less expensive per head than the more ‘traditional’ residential packages provided by outdoor education centres, to which many of our schools were committed before they started Learning Away.

This suite of resources aims to offer an insight into the practicalities of running effective lower-cost residentials. It includes detailed information about how schools brought down the cost of residentials, incorporating suggestions for overcoming barriers, and the roles of students, staff and parents in enabling successful Learning Away experiences.

What are lower-cost residentials?

Schools were very clear that non-traditional lower-cost residentials must be as purposeful and effective as the traditional educational visits of the past. It was a pre-condition that reducing the overall cost must not affect the overall value of the experience – in fact, schools aimed to increase the value of the experience by involving students and staff more thoroughly throughout. In order to create cost effective residentials, the Learning Away schools tested a range of strategies including:

  • Camping
  • Using school grounds as the residential venue
  • Using local sites as residential venues
  • Delivering more activities themselves
  • Using student or adult volunteers to support residentials.

On evaluating their lower-cost models, the Learning Away schools found more than a purely financial transformation; lower-cost models led to lasting and positive cultural changes: staff became more confident at planning and leading activities; programmes of activity were better integrated into the school curriculum; and student participation increased. The increased involvement of staff in residential activities also had a welcome effect on staff-student relationships, which evidence showed was maintained once everyone returned to school.

The Learning Away ‘lower-cost’ partnership schools

The seven-school Bulwell partnership in Nottingham developed a progressive range of lower-cost residential experiences in a strong partnership with their local outdoor education service. Their Learning Away programme focuses on building confidence, resilience and independence as young people move from one learning phase to another, and ensures that all primary-aged children in Bulwell have the opportunity to go on residentials throughout their school lives.

In this short film Linda Abbott, the Learning Away Coordinator for the Bulwell partnership, gives an overview of their low-cost residential model.

The Canterbury High School worked on a programme to support Key Stage 4 students with GCSE / vocational attainment. The school has worked with a number of partners, negotiating a teacher-led programme of activities with outdoor centres and heritage venues including Hampton Court Palace. This residential was a unique experience for Canterbury students and staff as well as the Historic Royal Palaces education team and was the first of its kind at any of the HRP sites. All activities were planned jointly with the Canterbury teachers, and the school’s trainee chefs (studying for NVQ hospitality and catering) provided the catering.

Hanover Primary School in north London took Year 6 away for a week on a ‘back to basics’ residential, where the focus is on living and working together as a community. As well as taking part in staff-run camp-based activities, children play a central role in every aspect of camp life: they cook all their meals on fires; build their own structures and dens; and learn to chop wood and whittle. Staff, students, and volunteers learn to live in a radically different way.

The South Hetton partnership developed a series of residential experiences and opportunities from Foundation Stage, through the primary phase and into Key Stage 3. The aim was to enable smooth transitions between key phases in school when children, and some vulnerable groups, can become disengaged with learning. The schools want Key Stage 2 children in particular to have the opportunity to mix and work with others who will be going to the same comprehensive school to help to alleviate the worries of joining a new school.

The Walney partnership schools designed an innovative, student-led residential programme focusing on primary to secondary transition. A key feature of the programme is its co-construction model. Aims and implementation were planned by a steering group of staff, but the programme of activities was designed by small groups of Year 6 pupils from across the partnership.