School trips can be a little daunting – last week Sarah was swearing in my face and threw a box of slime at my leg… can we really release her onto the general public?
My beg here is an un-resounding YES! PLEASE DO! Some of the students we work with, especially those in care, difficult homelives, those who’ve experienced extreme trauma, abuse and neglect, do not have the opportunity to have such experiences at home.
I live in Brighton.
I have met students who haven’t visited the beach.
Below are my tips on how to organise a successful school trip; what to consider before, on the day and afterwards to make the day(s) as smooth as possible and a positive memorable time for your students.
Sometimes simple can be best – the park, the beach, a library. You may find this is the first time for some of your students (I recently took some 13-16yr olds to a book shop for the first time in their lives), and can be easier to organise. Good places if you’re new to trip organising.
If you visit a venue or event contact the organisers before hand – often they have quotas around supporting vulnerable people in the community – the likeliness is that some of your students will tick that box – I have received many discounted and free tickets just by asking! – Also, use it as an opportunity to mention some of the possible behaviour; useful wording is “there may be some swearing or other more aggressive behaviour, it would be best if easily offended staff are not allocated to us” – that usually gets the message through!
If anything happens and there are legal implications these cover you. Get someone to check over them.
Check your school’s policies – usually offsite the child: adult ratio is higher – for a reason!
In addition, ensure you have a mix up staffing skills. I am an English teacher by trade, when I first started leading school trips it was a shock to the system – I am used to young people contained in a room generally sitting still; there is a big difference in being responsible for students ‘out there’. PE teachers who often lead mini-trips to swimming/boxing etc. can be useful. If you are a Senior Leader consider this carefully – ensure less experienced members of staff have support.
Introduce trip to students
I got a great idea recently from an Education Psychologist for this one. Print out visuals that students can see, maybe take home, before the event. Maps of the route to the venue, pictures of the place, a map of key things – particularly toilets. This can help anxious and/or autistic students prepare mentally for the differences they will experience on the day. It is also comforting for them on arrival when they find things/people they’ve already seen.
Even if it’s not lunch time have snacks available. The different routine can make students crave snacks at odd times – although best not to mention them until needed, otherwise they will eat them I the first 5 mins.
Check your transport
Have a Plan B.
On the day
Do as little as possible just before
Allow for the unexpected to come up, and don’t plan your Governor’s most important meeting of the year beforehand. I have had to, on more than one occasion, organise a student being picked up from school by another member of available staff at the last minute – the phone calls and logistics needed here could not have happened if I were busy.
Allow extra time
Allow at least double the amount of time it takes to do anything. The new stimuli and excitement will slow the students down. One morning trip I did that was due to return before lunch, a student refused to leave for around 20mins and our mini-bus driver was the woman who set up lunch – good job I’d allowed 30mins extra for the journey! We persuaded her in the end by allowing her to slither like a snake back to the mini-bus – whatever works!
Re-iterate schedule and expectations
At the last stage you have all the students together revisit the schedule and your expectation. Try and mirror the rules you have at school – as these boundaries are familiar and easier to follow.
I always choose to make the phone rule the same – it’s still lesson time, phones are away.
Allocate someone who is not the leader of the trip to be in charge of taking photos. It’s a lovely job, most people like doing it. Also – if you have any students in care, be sure to tell the venue not to take any photos as this can cause safeguarding issues and compromise the child’s safety.
When things go wrong
Be prepared to be embarrassed a bit: the students may well be loud, sometimes swear and break down in their individual ways. None of these things are ‘wrong’ just their ways of coping with the new situations. If a students specifically oversteps a rule they may need time out one-to-one with a member of staff (hence why you have a high ratio), or in extreme circumstances a child may need to return to school or home – travel arrangements for this should have been covered in your Risk Assessments.
You will be making important, lasting memories for your students – do breathe and take that in in little moments during the day.
Thank you letters written by the students to the venues (especially ones that gave discounts) can be a smart move, and may help with setting up the opportunity again next year. It is much easier to re-visit a place you’ve already been to.
Use all those photos in assemblies, end of year books, mementos to go home with the students, it may even be possible to get in the local press. I feel very strongly about sharing positive stories about our young people in the press, who are so often discriminated against.