We know that designing and delivering teacher-led residentials can mean an extra draw on already-stretched resources, but the experience of Learning Away schools is that – with the correct planning and support – the benefits far outweigh the costs.


In the first phase of the project, Learning Away researched the value of teacher-led residentials: learning experiences planned by school staff, sometimes in close partnership with residential providers. Teachers are well placed to develop experiences that integrate with the curriculum, address the specific needs of students and work within the systems and culture of the school, its families and community. Brilliant residentials also provide excellent opportunities for teachers to develop deeper knowledge of the young people they work with, build more effective relationships, and trial new teaching and learning approaches.

Learning Away schools have learnt to make good use of other people as staff on residentials. Experts can be bought in for specialist input. Parents, governors, community members and student teachers will often volunteer. Older students have been trained to lead activities and support younger children, with all the added benefits of leadership experience this brings for them. This variety of people can contribute to the quality and lower the cost of residentials.

In this section of the website you can learn more about how to build, train and support a broader team to deliver maximum impact during and beyond your brilliant residential.


Staff support and wellbeing

We know that residentials have greater impact when staff are fully involved in the management of the residential programme and the delivery of its activities (formal and informal, educational and social).

However, there are undoubtedly additional demands placed on staff when they have a lead role in delivering these activities, take part themselves, organise and support social/recreational activities and supervise their students overnight (and for some residentials, at weekends).

Learning Away schools have used a number of strategies to acknowledge these demands, including:

  • providing invaluable ‘down time’ for staff (as well as students)
  • planning overnight stays on a rota basis
  • giving staff time in lieu to recover from the night (or weekend) before
  • not expecting all staff to attend every day of the residential (particularly where the residential takes place at a location close to the school).

Schools recognise that to get the most out of their brilliant residentials for students, it is important to reduce the strain on key staff where possible – and to share responsibility across a wider staff group where they can.

A number of schools have successfully encouraged a wider group of staff to participate by using these types of in-kind support alongside raising staff awareness about the classroom practice and career development advantages of residentials. Often those staff who have already been on residentials are themselves the most persuasive advocates among colleagues.

Learn more about the benefits brilliant residentials can have for teachers and schools.


Learning Away schools report that a good deal of staff training and development (with the exception of the legal/health and safety aspects of school visits) works best when it is experiential – go along with others who are more experienced, and you will pick it up as you go.

Where this expertise doesn’t already exist within a school, schools have worked in partnership to develop several effective models for finding more formal opportunities for staff to ‘experience’ residential practice. These include:

  • visiting another school’s residential, or visiting a school when it is planning or preparing for a trip
  • sharing a residential with staff from another school
  • holding planning and experiential CPD days with other schools on- and off-site
  • running staff residentials.

One partnership of three primary schools during the first phase of Learning Away persuaded over 30 colleagues to camp by holding a CPD day at the site planned for a student residential later in the year, bringing about a huge leap in teacher understanding of the experience and their willingness to get involved.

As more staff gain experience, competence and confidence, planning becomes less formal, giving schools more flexibility. Staff also relax, leading to more spontaneous residential experiences and less stress.

Use of volunteers

Learning Away schools have found that it often makes sense to make use of adult volunteers on residentials – it isn’t always possible, affordable or even desirable to staff a residential with only teaching or support staff.

Working with volunteers can contribute to the quality and lower the cost of a residential and provide additional expertise. Parents/carers, governors, community members and student teachers can be approached to volunteer, and, if necessary, be supported with some training before the residential.

On a camping residential the higher staff:student ratio needed can put a significant demand on staffing, and Learning Away schools have often used volunteers to boost staff numbers. The input these volunteers provide is not just a matter of ‘making up the numbers’. They can contribute a wealth of skills, experience and energy, which has benefits for both the young people and school staff.

For example, every year, Hanover Primary School takes its Year 6 students away for a week on a ‘back to basics’ residential camping experience on the edge of Epping Forest, where the focus is on living and working together as a community. Volunteers are central to the model, and are sourced through a number of long-term partnerships with external organisations. Learn more about Hanover’s approach to using volunteers here.

Schools find, when they start asking around, that there is a wealth of expertise and volunteering that they can tap into within their communities. With a little bit of creative thinking, careful planning and the creation of working relationships with outside organisations, it is certainly possible to identify other adults who can enable residentials to happen and help ensure that more residentials are financially sustainable.

Buying in ‘experts’

As school staff have become more experienced in, and confident about, running Learning Away residentials, they have developed a clearer idea of their aims – both for the residentials themselves and for their integration with the school curriculum.

As a result, staff have kept more control over residential activity programmes and have increasingly designed and run more activities themselves.  This development has kept costs lower and brought additional benefits in terms of improvements to group cohesion and to staff-student relationships, which are sustained post-residential. Learn more about the benefits brilliant residentials can offer to teachers and schools.

In some school partnerships, staff have been able to pace their energy levels by working with student leaders to deliver activities so that staff get a break from leading themselves.

As part of the move towards increasingly ‘DIY’ residentials, staff have also become more adept at buying in ‘experts’ in a more focused way.  During their planning for the residential, they have identified activities that need specialist training or knowledge then commissioned either someone from the residential site, or an outside ‘expert’, to deliver these.  This process has meant that school staff can be much more specific with commissioned staff about the aims of their session, what they would like students to get from it, and how it fits with the overall programme.

It is absolutely possible for schools to design and deliver their own bespoke programmes with specialist input as needed, rather than go with a set programme totally delivered by others.  It may need some extra thinking and planning time, but the benefits of this far outweigh the time costs.

Learn more about building partnerships and co-constructing brilliant residential programmes with existing residential providers.

Student leadership

Using student leaders on residentials can take the pressure off staff – they become a ‘bridge’ between staff and younger students, and can enhance the residential experience for all involved. The first phase of Learning Away also showed that student leaders benefit greatly themselves in terms of confidence, motivation, achievement and career direction.

Several Learning Away school partnerships have developed student leadership programmes that progressively train and support older students to work on residentials with younger students. Student leaders have been involved in setting up and striking camps, running sports activities, designing and running subject-specific activities, and supporting younger students during residential activities and informal time.

These programmes, over the course of the first phase Learning Away, became an integral and highly-valued part of these schools’ residentials. While staff could have viewed having extra students along as just additional work, this has proved simply not to be the case – student leaders have become integral to residential staff teams and are a crucial part of the residentials.

Three main factors have been central to the success of these schools’ student leader programmes:

  1. High quality training for student leaders: Schools have developed specific training programmes for their leaders to ensure that they have the right skills both to run activities and to work with younger students in an informal setting. Sometimes these training programmes have included a residential just for student leaders to immerse them in a similar experience to the younger students, and to give them intensive time together as a group.
  2. School staff provide committed, ongoing support for young leaders: Schools have identified one or two named members of staff who go through training with the young leaders, support them through their first residential experiences and prepare them for ‘solo’ experiences with less support as they become more confident. Student leaders have found this level of support and a high trust relationship with staff crucial in terms of their development and confidence as leaders.
  3. Negotiating clear expectations about staff and student leaders’ responsibilities: School staff and student leaders have sat down together and planned timetables and activities for the residential. The resulting clarity has meant that everyone knows who is doing what and when, and also has an understanding of how each other works with younger students – student leader style can be a bit more informal than teacher style, but each have become equally important and accepted on residentials. As time has gone on and staff and students have both become more experienced, their expectations about each other’s roles have become much clearer.

Experience and clear expectations have also meant that everyone is more relaxed on residentials, and relationships between student leaders and staff have flourished. Student leaders have really appreciated being treated like adults and staff have become increasingly impressed about the ability and attitude of student leaders.

Student leaders have also benefited in the long term. For some of them, the experience has been life-changing and has influenced their career paths, as well as heightening their aspirations around further study or employment.

Two of the Learning Away action research partnerships – Calderglen High School and Bulwell EAZ – have produced a resource to help other schools design student leader programmes for their residentials, which is available here.

In this short filmed interview, the school sports coordinator in charge of Bulwell Academy’s student leader programme describes how it works and the ways their student leaders support the Learning Away partnership’s primary school camping residentials.