Residential experiences provide powerful learning opportunities for young people of all ages and abilities. Find out why staying away overnight is so beneficial.

Making the case

We are convinced – by wider research, our evaluation findings and the wealth of on-the-ground experience shared with us by our Learning Away schools, staff and young people – that residentials can be highly worthwhile and impactful ways of teaching and learning.

It is also clear to us that brilliant residentials – inclusive and affordable residential trips that are high-quality, led by teachers, fully integrated into the curriculum, and planned so that learning is embedded and reinforced back in school – can provide extremely powerful learning opportunities for young people of all ages and abilities, as well as having an impact on teachers and schools as a whole.

Here, teachers involved in the Learning Away programme explain why they believe these experiences are vital:

Learning Away’s five years of action research with schools and its independent evaluation have generated significant insights and understanding about how and why residential learning can and does achieve these benefits. We have developed a theory of change that describes the changes that happen to learning through brilliant residential experiences.

As a consequence, we now believe that we understand how to plan, design, deliver and evaluate brilliant residentials, so that their benefits to the curriculum and to learning are maximised.

We are also discovering that residentials do not need to be expensive, and can offer good value for money.

This section outlines in brief the key benefits for learners, staff and schools, and explains why staying away overnight is so important.

Benefits for learners

Learning Away has demonstrated that providing high-quality residential learning experiences can lead to significant benefits for learners of all ages. Residential experiences can transform the learning experience of young people and raise their aspirations within school and beyond, into the wider community, further study, and the world of work. Residentials provide opportunities for schools to enhance vital study and life skills, and promote the alternative three Rs of risk, resilience and responsibility.

Our evaluation findings make it clear that involving children and young people in brilliant residential experiences can lead to:

  • improved achievement, attainment and progress
  • new and developing skills and understanding
  • improved learner engagement and motivation
  • greater enjoyment of learning
  • improved behaviour and attendance
  • significantly enhanced relationships with both staff and peers
  • enhanced resilience, confidence and wellbeing
  • more successful transition experiences
  • meaningful opportunities to develop and practise leadership skills
  • raised aspirations
  • greater cohesion and a sense of belonging.

Find out more about these impacts here.

Benefits for staff

Learning Away has shown that residential experiences can have significant benefits for the school staff involved in their planning and delivery. These experiences have greatest impact when they are fully integrated with the curriculum, and are embedded and reinforced once back in school.

Teachers’ involvement in brilliant residentials can provide them with many opportunities to learn and experiment with a range of new, powerful pedagogical approaches to teaching.  Having experienced how successful these approaches are in engaging their learners on residentials, our research shows that teachers then develop them as part of their ongoing classroom practice in school.

In addition, residentials help staff to further develop their understanding of their students, both as learners and as people. Learning Away has demonstrated that this is a major benefit of taking young people away on a residential and has a lasting impact in the classroom.

Brilliant residentials also provide new professional development opportunities and can foster new and enhanced relationships with other colleagues, as well as staff in other schools.

Find out much more about the impact on staff of their involvement in residentials here.

In these two short films, the headteacher at Calderglen High School and five staff members from the Bulwell EAZ and Canterbury Academy Learning Away partnerships describe the impact the residential programmes in their schools have had on themselves and other staff involved.

Benefits for schools

Learning Away has shown that residential experiences can have significant benefits for schools. Not only can they can help teachers to develop and extend their practice, but they can also contribute to transforming a school’s culture and ethos.

The schools involved in the Learning Away programme have used brilliant residentialsto achieve breakthroughs in learner engagement, attainment and progress in core subjects, and teacher-student relationships – and have demonstrated that these outcomes can lead to wider, positive changes back in school. They have used residentials to deliver more successful transition experiences for their students (at all key stages) and have provided evidence that these experiences help to improve behaviour and attendance. Many of our schools have used the pupil premium to fund their residential programmes because they have been able to demonstrate how they help to ‘narrow the gap’ in attainment.

Find out more about how brilliant residentials can help to transform your school here.

The case for the overnight stay

An overnight stay – in a residential centre, bunkhouse, camp or spending the evening together under the stars in shelters built in the school grounds – achieves a different outcome from a day of activities.

In many cases the biggest challenge of the trip for students isn’t the adventurous activities, it’s being away from home for a night, sharing a room or tent with people they don’t know very well, and preparing and eating meals together.

Residentials provide the opportunity to experience living with others. This experience transforms relationships and develops a strong sense of community and belonging between staff and students involved. The sense of community supports a wide range of positive social and learning outcomes long after the return to school. No matter how carefully planned the activities are on a day trip, how exciting the venue or how experiential the learning, it will still finish at or around the end of a normal school day; day trips cannot incorporate the extended communal and informal time on a residential that our research suggests can be so transformative.

So what is it about the residential experience that uniquely builds this lasting and impactful sense of community? What impact do the new ways of learning and more collaborative real-life activities carried out during residentials have on both students and teachers? And how do these experiences translate into short, medium and long-term outcomes for students?

Learning Away has developed a diagram, setting out in more detail our theory about the changes that happen to learning through brilliant residential experiences.

We hope that this theory, supported by York Consulting’s robust evaluation evidence and the many inspiring case studies developed with our Learning Away partner schools, will help to convince more headteachers and governing bodies that high-quality residential learning should be firmly embedded in their school’s curriculum and ethos as a part of each young person’s entitlement.

You can find out more about this brilliant-residentials-theoryofchange

As a result of the first phase of our action research, Learning Away has made a series of recommendations for schools, providers, policy makers and researchers. We are convinced these will not only support the development of high-quality residential learning, but also encourage its shift from enrichment to entitlement.

In this short film, a Learning Away coordinator, teachers, a TA and a parent, who’ve all been involved in recent residentials, make their own persuasive ‘case for the overnight stay’.