Teacher Talk: Jo Bratton, Samuel Whitbread Academy

Date Posted: 05/09/2013

Jo Bratton with some of her pupils on a beach.

Pictured: Jo (centre) likes to get totally involved with a school trip.

Jo Bratton has taught PE for the last four years at the Samuel Whitbread Academy in Shefford, Bedfordshire. This autumn she takes up a new position at the Dukhan English School in Qatar.

How many school trips have you organised?

Jo: As a PE teacher I have organised or been involved in a whole variety of trips. I run weekly fixtures, transporting pupils to other schools to play them in competitions or day trips for sporting events.

On a larger scale I have organised four residential trips. These include a multi-sports tour to Barcelona where I took 32 pupils and four members of staff; a cultural exchange with an American high school in Wisconsin; and a ‘learning outside the classroom’ outdoor adventure trip for 20 pupils who were identified as future PE teachers.

How much time do you spend researching and preparing for a trip?

Jo: The American exchange took months of research and pre-organisation. This was down to the fact that I did not use a company and had to organise every element, so things such as flights, transport, and a breakdown of every single costing all had to be thought about.

However, I ran the sports tour through a well-known company. This took all pressures off me; I simply had to do the risk assessments and correspond with parents.

The learning outside the classroom trip for the young leaders was a different experience altogether. The students organised the whole trip, researching where they wanted to go, what learning objectives they wanted to achieve, how we were going to get there, cost and activities.

Obviously there were some restrictions, such as the official risk assessment and releasing money from the school accounts, but other than that the whole trip was their doing and made it all the more special.

Pictured: Learning outside the classroom gives students memories they will never forget,   says Jo.

What are the main criteria you are looking for in deciding where to go?

Jo: Value for money, whilst maintaining safety, with maximum enjoyment for as many people as possible. This is a big ask, but I feel most companies try and cater for this which is why it’s so competitive.

What are the main challenges?

Jo: Definitely the risk assessment. Schools won’t pay until the process is completed, companies won’t send their risk assessments until you have paid the deposit, your own risk assessment process can’t be completed without this and you can’t get pupils involved in the trip until the risk assessment has been approved. You have to get one of these processes in place to allow you to go ahead.

Do you think attractions could do more to encourage teachers to take their pupils on visits?

Jo: Certain attractions yes, but as the majority of my trips are sports tours the companies fight for your custom. The best companies promote what they can offer, so it’s normally a case of sifting through their advertising and company reviews.

Do you have a favourite destination?

Jo: My favourite was Blue Peris Mountain Centre in Wales. This offered so much to the students and I loved being outdoors and trying all the activities. The students also loved it, which is the main thing, and it really brought them out of their shells. As they had organised the whole trip it added a real sense of achievement and pride.

What can you to suggest to teachers to overcome concerns?

Jo: Make sure you speak to lots of people who have organised trips as everyone’s experiences are different. I always write lists of things to think about before starting off.

A pupil in a kayak.

Pictured: Jo says that pupils love to see a 'human' side of you, so jump in that kayak!

You could also go on a trip leader’s course. My best way of learning was to get on a residential that other experienced teachers were running and shadow them. I would also go through a tour company for your first trip. After the first time it gets a lot easier.

What are the main advantages of learning outside the classroom?

Jo: It gives students a real experience and memories they will never forget. If you add learning to this it just reinforces their knowledge on a whole other level.

I think it’s great for students as they get a real passion for learning through trips, and are inspired to become more imaginative and creative through being outside the classroom walls.

Have you seen pupils flourish as a result of a trip?

Jo: Definitely. It brings out confidence and their true personalities. I dared to take more challenging boys on the sports tour and I was a little nervous, but they behaved impeccably and became heroes to the rest of the students.

The experience helped them when we got back into school as we could remind them of how good they were and how rewarding it was.

On the Blue Peris trip quieter students became leaders, and on the ski trip I watched students who had never skied before tackle blue runs and they were so proud of themselves.

On the rugby tour the boys beat teams older than them, were engrossed in another culture and came back more mature than before. The American exchange trip allowed low confidence students to immerse themselves into a new family, a different culture and try out new lessons. Trips are phenomenal for getting students to flourish.

Pupils from Samuel Whitbread Academy on the beach.

Pictured: The pupils of Samuel Whitbread Academy enjoying a splash about on the beach.

Any final tips you can pass on?

Jo: Do it! It’s always worth the hard work. Keep parents and carers in the loop as they really value communication. My biggest piece of advice is to get completely involved on the trip.

Yes, the trip is for the students but they love it if you get stuck in with them and this really helps back at school. They love to see a human side of you and your passion helps to inspire them. So get on the high ropes course, jump in that kayak and join in the karaoke.

Learning outside the classroom not only helps pupils learn but it helps to build strong learning relationships between pupils and staff.

School Travel Organiser's Guide