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The state of school residentials in England

A new study examining ‘the state of school residentials in England: 2017’ has been released this week by Learning Away.  The study, which assesses the quantity and quality of residentials currently delivered in schools, is the first of its kind in England. Based on analysis of data from tens of thousands of schools and educational establishments over the last five years, it found that far too many children are missing out on these powerful learning and life experiences, with only one in five children experiencing a residential every year. More worryingly still, the study found a picture of patchy and inequitable access with young people in in the poorest areas the least likely to participate. Furthermore, only around half of teachers said they believed the residentials they delivered were affordable to all pupils.

The full report can be downloaded from http://learningaway.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/Learning-Away-The-state-of-school-residentials-in-England-2017-.pdf



Residentials are often the most memorable experience of students’ school days; for their teachers, they are rewarding, if exhausting. Learning Away’s initial research report stated that they “provide opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting” and “the combination of activities and shared experience of living and learning with others makes a residential a unique learning opportunity.”  They have even been described by teachers as “worth half a term in school”.

Remarking on the study and the accessibility of residentials for all students, Joe Lynch, Chair of the Learning Away Consortium said:

“This new study provides disturbing evidence that disadvantaged students are missing out on the transformational impact of residential experiences. Surely if these experiences have such a significant impact, all children should be entitled to have them during their time at primary and secondary school.  It is reassuring to see that residentials in schools are generally of high quality but availability and cost is stopping many poorer students from participating.  Schools are attempting to address this problem, often by using the pupil premium, but as funding is squeezed, this will become an increasing problem.’

The ‘state of school residentials in England: 2017’ forms part of a longitudinal study tracking any changes in the scale and quality of residential delivery over time. The report presents the findings from a study by education ‘think tank’ LKMco, funded by Learning Away. It draws from a national database used to organise trips by approximately 25,000 schools as well as a survey testing the quality of residentials according to the ‘Brilliant Residentials’ principles.

Speaking about the findings from the teacher survey Loic Menzies, Director at LKMco said:

“The teacher survey found that the design and planning of residentials is an area of strength for schools. Teachers who organise residentials know what they hope to achieve from them and why they are important. This offers some assurance that the investment from parents and schools in residentials is focussed on meeting students’ abilities and learning needs. However the survey found that too many residentials are not valued as an essential part of schools core offer to all students but are seen as an added optional extra.”

The study suggests that schools are much less likely to organise residentials in the autumn term, preferring to arrange residentials in the spring and summer.  As schools return for a new academic year, it seems only a few are recognising residentials’ potential to foster deeper relationships between staff and students, which are sustained back in the classroom for the rest of the year. Learning Away believes that the impact, quality and accessibility of residentials could be improved if schools consider providing more autumn and winter residentials, as Lynch explains.

Going on a winter residential is a great time to kick start key subjects with inspiring hands on learning. Doing this in the first term allows time for learning to be embedded back in school which we know has a long term impact on students’ progress and attainment.  Winter residentials can also be more affordable giving schools the benefit of a greater return on investment. Schools can keep residentials low-cost by having a sleep-over in the school hall or within the school grounds.  Many residentials providers have reduced rates, or offer discounts over the winter period too.” 

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said:

“Many leaders of outdoor education centres are NAHT members. We are acutely aware of the negative impact of funding pressures. At our annual conference this year delegates voted in favour of campaigning for protected funding to enable all children to have access to high quality outdoor education and residential experiences. The benefits of residential experiences and outdoor education are indisputable. It is distressing to learn that they are not available to all students. The education funding crisis is only going to reduce opportunities to participate in residential activities, which is why we are campaigning for protected funding to enable children to have greater access to high quality residential experiences. We want more residential opportunities, for more children, more of the time.”

To help schools make their residentials more inclusive and effective, Learning Away are running national #BrilliantResidentials and #WinterResidentials campaigns supported by a website which hosts free resources for teachers and over 100 good practice case studies. This includes planning information, activity ideas, downloadable templates, presentations and films. Talks and workshops are also running across the UK and training modules are being developed to specifically support teachers with the planning and execution of Brilliant Residentials.


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