Is a school trip worth the hassle?

This week started, as all do during the term, with Assembly. Our Monday assemblies are an eclectic gathering of the school community. On some occasions we will have visiting speakers, we invariably have a musical performance from our students; it is an opportunity to report on events that have taken place and remind us all of those taking place during the forthcoming week. They are book-ended on a Friday with Meeting for Workshop, which is a time of quiet reflection led by our Quaker Elders. 

To get back to my point! This Monday was particularly busy, as befits this time in the term, and we were treated to two short films. One was from Tom Ruddle, who had taken a group on a kayaking activity over the course of the term on Saturday mornings. The other film was from Matthew Curtis-Dyke, who led a trip to Iceland during the October break. Although different in location and content, there were several themes in common: students enjoying themselves, students trying new things and challenging both their skills and confidence, staff enjoying the company of students and vice versa – memories created that will last a long time!

Trips and activities – whether near or far – are the staple of life at Sidcot and I am extremely grateful to those members of staff that give so generously of their time to run them. I am also really impressed by the spirit with which students get involved. We talk about ‘living adventurously’ and these types of activities really embody this maxim for all involved. I was, therefore, interested in a booklet published by the Times Educational Supplement, on the subject of school trips. The first chapter was entitled ‘Why we need to fight for the school trip’ and the second, ‘Is a school trip worth the hassle?’. These rather contradictory statements perhaps provide an insight into why fewer and fewer schools are providing this kind of opportunity to students. Decline in the uptake of the Duke of Edinburgh Award and the contracting out of overseas trips to third-party providers – two trends that we are conspicuously bucking at Sidcot – are indications that the ‘red tape’ associated with trips and adventurous activities is proving too much for schools, particularly in the increasingly litigious culture in which we find ourselves.

And I can quite understand why this is the case. However, the counterpoint to this trend lies in a broader understanding of where learning takes place. You don’t need to go to exotic locations to develop resilience, team-working, risk-taking and confidence-building. But breaking the four walls of the classroom provides the much-needed context for personal development which, in turn, feeds back into more effective learners – a virtuous circle.

IWK – December 2017