Teacher Talk: Louise MacInnes, Dorridge Junior School

Date Posted: 24/06/2014

Louise MacInnes has taught for six years across Key Stages 1 and 2 at Thomas Jolyffe Primary School in Stratford-upon-Avon and now teaches Year 3 at Dorridge Junior School in Solihull.

Q. How many school trips have you organised?

A. As a teacher of Primary school age children I have organised many trips across various aspects of the curriculum, from Literacy, Science, History and Geography to PE. These trips have included local walks, visits to neighbouring schools and trips involving two hour coach journeys. I have organised trips for small groups of five or six children to whole year groups of 90 children.

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

A. This can very much depend on the trip. Many locations are accustomed to visiting Primary schools and provide well organised learning opportunities tailored to meeting the needs of individual schools and the curriculum.

When organising a trip a teacher must consider the health and safety of all attending through risk assessment; the purpose of the trip and what learning opportunities it will provide - prior to, during and after their visit; transport; groupings; as well as adult to child ratio - ensuring your helpers are CRB checked; the day’s timings; and of course parental consent. Naturally these tasks can vary in the required detail and the time taken to prepare.     

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

A. Primarily I will look at the purpose of the trip and the learning opportunities and experiences the children will obtain. I look for opportunities for children to learn through experience as much as possible. Obviously health and safety is also of primary importance.

Q. What are the main challenges?

A: Definitely the risk assessment. Many locations provide standard risk assessments suited to its venue with schools in mind. However a teacher needs to compliment this to suit their own pupils, with extra considerations such as travel to and from the location and ‘what to do’ in case of exceptional circumstances. This process takes a considerable amount of thought and time.

It is also hugely important for teachers to visit the venue prior to a trip to ascertain every detail, such as where the toilets are and where the children will eat their lunch. These details can have a huge impact on your trip.

Q. How do you think attractions could do more to encourage teachers to take their pupils on visits?

A. Any attraction that can provide opportunities for children to ‘experience’ their learning through immersion in practical activities, and that can offer knowledgeable staff to complement the children’s curiosity and questioning, is always an advantage. Another high consideration is cost. This can also add up when accounting for travel.

Q. Do you have a favourite destination?

A. I rate many venues for their different experiences. At the top of my list is the Roman Baths in Bath - visited when learning about the Romans, and Cadbury World in Bournville - when learning about the Aztecs and chocolate. Both visits provided learning opportunities across the curriculum, aside from the obvious!

The Roman Baths naturally provided a wow factor for the children, giving them the chance to see first-hand the aspects of Roman life we had been learning about in class. Cadbury World was a hugely interactive experience for the children and the ‘Aztecs talk’ from very knowledgeable staff gave the children the opportunity to see and touch artefacts and try on clothing.

These are experiences that we simply could not provide in the classroom setting. I am very sure that the children will remember their experiences for many years to come. Cadbury World naturally had an added ‘bonus’ for the children and staff!      

Q. What can you suggest to teachers to overcome concerns?

A. When organising a trip for the first time it can be a little overwhelming. Ensure that you maintain a list of what needs to be done and stick to it. Schools can maintain slightly varying policies - on top of the non-negotiable requirements - for organising a trip. Make sure you know what details your school requires.

Q. What are the main advantages of learning outside the classroom?

A. The advantages are huge! Children learn at their best through real life experience. Need I say more?

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

A. Children are naturally excited by the opportunity to undertake a school trip. I have seen children’s confidence grow enormously as their learning and knowledge has developed through first-hand experience. Trips can also provide opportunities to make topics relevant to children’s lives.     

Q. Any final tips you can pass on?

A. Be brave and go for it. Planning a trip can be nerve wracking to begin with. Where possible, plan in cohesion with your year partner or gain support from colleagues. Once you have undertaken one trip the next becomes much easier.

Pictured: Learning about the Romans at the Roman Baths.


School Travel Organiser's Guide