Introducing family residentials

Date Posted: 02/09/2015

It’s a new term, and with everything that’s going on with regards to trying to settle both old and new students in, perhaps extended school trips aren’t looking as feasible as you might want them to be right now.

You can’t take your entire English department on a trip when they’re busy trying to engage pupils with the works of Jane Austen for the first time, can you? But did you ever consider calling for aid from outside of the school walls? 

We’re talking about families. Families, and the recent findings of special initiative programme Learning Away that prove not only that learning outside the classroom is a constructive experience in the course of a child’s education, but also that taking family members on a residential trip can have incredibly positive outcomes on pupil engagement in school and even parenting strategies.

What is Learning Away?

Learning Away is a project that has run from 2008 until this year, and aims to support schools in significantly enhancing young people’s learning by using innovative experiences as part of the curriculum – outside of school.

The initiative has proven several points throughout. In June this year, York Consulting published an independent evaluation of Learning Away residentials, identifying their impacts. These included students fostering deeper relationships with others, improving resilience and self-confidence, and smoothing a student’s transition experience. You can read the full report here.

Where does family come into it? 

Most recently, the programme has explored how a family residential is an extension of learning outside of the classroom. The concept is a fairly new one, but the study has proved that taking one or more members of a student’s family along on a trip can prove most beneficial to all participants.

The term ‘family residentials’ refers to stays of one or more nights away from home including children, school staff, parents/carers and siblings.

Schools who have entered the Learning Away programme have used a variety of residential settings (holiday cottages, campsites, school grounds, youth hostels and activity centres), with the aim to run lower-cost residentials in order to ensure maximum participation from the families they believe will derive most benefit.

In most cases, families themselves are closely involved in collaborative pre-residential planning in order to maximise their value and ensure families feel comfortable and supported throughout.

What have results shown?

Learning Away focus groups, consisting of families and professionals involved in family residentials, have identified a number of key benefits and successes for both parents/carers and children.

An increase in confidence, communication skills and the retaining of positive relationships have been witnessed in both adults and children.

Parents and carers in particular are able to access training and skill development which can be used long after the trip is over, while children are shown to have a reduction in conflict with siblings and significant improvement in engagement at school.

Key success factors from a school’s point of view include working with children and young people in a safe environment and enabling them to try new activities and alternative ways of behaving. The children in turn can show their parents or carers what they have learnt and what they can now do.

How can you get involved?

The Learning Away website has combined a series of case studies, activities, templates and videos to create an extensive resource library for schools wishing to commit to their own family residentials.

The website offers students, families and teachers a chance to place objectives down before a trip, as well as helpful materials which can be modified to suit a family’s specific needs.

Kit lists, success stories and interviews with families who have been on residentials are all easy to access also.

For more information, visit the Learning Away website.

School Travel Organiser's Guide