Walsall Academy in Bloxwich was announced as the winning school of the 2020/21 ‘My Best School Trip’ Award during the online awards ceremony. 

Walsall Academy's Outward Bound residential

The winning trip involved students taking on a 36 hour non-stop adventure race across some of England’s highest mountains. 

It was for the Key Stage 4 Outward Bound Trust residential organised by shadow headteacher Jon Clarke which involved a group of Year 10 students embarking on an adventure based at the centre in Ullswater, Cumbria. 

He has now secured his school £1,500 to spend on a future educational visit after being announce during the ceremony broadcast online on Thursday 20th May.

About the trip

The aim of the trip, which took over a year to plan, was to develop the students’ own drive for change and personal effectiveness through team-based activities, as well as competition based around Expeditionary Learning practices.

The course had been developed over a number of years and was focused on a school based target but also a National target of raising boys’ attainment. The group taken were all classified as disadvantaged and live in one of the highest areas of deprivation in the country and all were achieving well below their expected levels of progress.

Walsall Academy's Outward Bound trip

The residential had a life-changing impact on the students involved. 

Jon explained: “The week began with the two groups developing a shared set of values called the ‘HOWLS’ - Habits of Work and Learning. As their skills developed, their tasks increased in complexity culminating in a 36-hour non-stop adventure race across some of England’s highest mountains.

“You know you are having a real developmental process when at 1am after leaving the centre at 9am the previous morning, you are still high up in the mountains in snow being led by the group heading towards their brief rest point.”

What the pupils thought

“I was allowed to sleep out under the tarp snuggled up in a warm sleeping bag looking at the stars.  It was the most amazing night I have ever had.”

Dan, year 8 student

“I wanted to climb the waterfall on the last day of the course.  I was really pleased it rained so hard, so we had a challenge with water rushing past us as we climbed.”

Chloe, year 8 student

About the Award

The ‘My Best School Trip Award’ recognises outstanding school trips that give children a rich and rewarding experience, achieve a range of objectives and help embed learning back in school and is open to teachers of Key Stage 1 to 4.

Following a judging process, four finalists were chosen for the 2020/21 ‘My Best School Trip’ Award. 

The judging team whittled the entries down to a shortlist of ten which were considered by a panel of experts. From those, the panel chose four finalists and the winner was announced during the School Travel Awards ceremony on Thursday 20th May. 

The judging panel selected three other entries as finalists for the award.

They were:

  • Carisbrooke College, Isle of Wight: for their KS4 trip to China entered by teacher Joe Briscoe who wanted to encourage students to aspire to travel and explore more of the world. 
  • Kingfisher Special School, Oldham: for their Key Stage 2 trip to Gallery Oldham entered by teacher Carrie Ball. It was part of a dance project which took place over four visits with the children exploring an exhibition, taking part in art activities and then performing in front of a small audience. 
  • Queen’s Park Primary School, Brighton: for their Key Stage 2 trip to the Deneway Nature Reserve, entered by teacher Mhari Smith. It involved two groups of Year 5 children and working with Sustrans cycling charity. 

The judging panel consisted of Learning Away ambassador Peter Carne, OBE, Dr Anne Hunt, chief executive of the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom, Justine Lee on behalf of the School Travel Forum along with STO publisher Rob Yandell and STO editor Keeley Rodgers. 

Last year’s winner

The 2019/20 winning school was Kingswood House School, Surrey, for their Year 9 ‘Making of Modern Britain’ trip.

Ian Mitchell from Kingswood House School in Surrey explains more about the trip he entered and his reaction when it won the 'My Best School Trip' Award.

“It is a great accolade to be acknowledged by the judging panel at School Travel Organiser; this reaffirms our belief and commitment in offering life-changing experiences for all our pupils to enjoy.”

Ian Mitchell, deputy headteacher, Kingswood House School, Surrey

Mr Mitchell entered the six-day trip which had a very simple premise – to take learning into the wider world and to bring the wider world into learning. It took in many parts of Britain including Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Runnymede and the former coal-mining valleys of South Wales.

With links to a wide range of topics from PSHE and Music to History, Geography, English and PE, Mr Mitchell said the trip has spawned a complete learning module to help pupils become better independent learners.

He added: “Over the years, a strong ethos of education outside the classroom has developed at the school to such a degree that trips have become a cornerstone of our multi-sensory and inclusive approach to education. The school is buzzing because of receiving the award!”