Through action research during the initial phase of the project, we found impacts in three key areas:
- The informal relationships between staff and students that develop on residentials, and the relationships between students themselves, lead to impacts that persist long after the return to school. Relationships between students in the playground and the classroom became more constructive, leading to less bullying, better attention and new friendships. Teachers said that they understood their students better and trusted them more; this allowed them to use new teaching methods, some of which were first developed on the residentials. Students agreed that they had more trust in and respect for the adults working with them.
- The involvement of students in the leadership and co-design of residential programmes grew out of the enhanced levels of trust and reflected the opportunities for progression and responsibility. Students’ sense of involvement and responsibility in their learning continued in school, especially when leadership roles were identified and encouraged. You can read more about how to involve students in leading and co-designing brilliant residentials in our free resources.
- The development of resilience, confidence and wellbeing through residential experiences transformed into optimism and constructive attitudes to learning in the classroom. Students often reported increased persistence when they found tasks difficult and more belief in their ability to cope. On occasions groups of students independently planned approaches to support each other’s progress.
We also found that residentials can provide considerable support for transition at all key stages, and especially between primary and secondary school. Students involved in transition residentials consistently reported being more at ease after transition; staff claimed that behaviour was much improved and classes made more rapid progress through the curriculum.
As our thinking developed, informed by the practice of our sixty partner schools and findings from our independent evaluators, we came to understand why and how residentials’ ability to foster these qualities (deeper relationships, resilience, confidence, and leadership skills) builds a ‘Learning Away community’.
Learning Away has developed a diagram, setting out our theory about the changes that happen to learning through brilliant residential experiences – and explaining why we think this sense of community can translate so powerfully into short, medium and long-term outcomes for students.
We hope this theory, supported by York Consulting’s robust evaluation evidence and the many inspiring case studies developed with our partner schools, will encourage more head teachers and governing bodies that high-quality residential learning should be firmly embedded in the curriculum as a part of each young person’s entitlement.