Wynstones School has taken their children on trips for many years, with key trips throughout the different age groups.
Although they are not set in stone, there is a framework that creates stability and expectation, as well as a bank of knowledge within the staff on how to organise particular trips and what has worked and what can be improved the following year.
The youngest classes do local walks to the woods and fields; by age nine they have regular work mornings on a local farm, and then at the end of the year possibly have a night’s camping on the farm. As they get older, the trips get a bit longer and further from home. They are all related to the Steiner curriculum and age appropriate.
For example, in Class 5 (Year 6) they go to an ‘Olympic Games’ between most of the Steiner schools in Britain, that links to them studying Ancient Greece as a main lesson. This is a three-day trip to another school, with camping and taking part in traditional athletics.
For some of the bigger trips from age 14 upwards, the children are asked to engage in fundraising to help pay for them with activities like selling cakes at school or washing cars and holding a jumble sale. Most of the trips are camping, a few use youth hostels or group accommodation. For all of them we try to minimise cost but provide a memorable, challenging and fun time for the class.
Below are some guidelines based on our experience of organising school trips for many years:
What are you responsible for?
Schools should have a policy on educational visits that outlines the planning and organisational steps you need to carry out.
You have a duty to draw up and circulate the necessary documentation: risk assessments, proposed itinerary, emergency contact numbers and any special needs that must be accommodated.
Organisation, health and safety.
The lead teacher is responsible for filing a comprehensive trip form which covers details of the route plan, contingency for weather or injury, etc.
Make sure all the parental consent forms are filled in properly.
Risk assessments need to be completed for any of the pupils with conditions that need to be monitored such as asthma. This form is signed off by both the education lead and the business lead of the school. One copy is taken on the trip and one left at the school.
One key factor that has to be considered – particularly with walking and camping trips – is mobile phone signal. In the case of our Scotland trips where mobile signal is not available, the adults carry a satellite phone so that any emergency situation can be dealt with.
Adults should also have mobile phones with back-up batteries.
At least two of the adults should have a first aid qualification and of course there is a comprehensive first aid kit carried with the lead as well as basic ones by every adult on the trip.
When writing to acquire consent, you need to be aware of allergies, medication and relevant medical history. It is also worth checking on pupils’ swimming ability.
Regardless of the type of visit, details such as the pupil's name and address, full contact and emergency details and the name and number of the family doctor are a must.
It is good practice to supply parents with the following:
- A checklist of the necessary equipment, clothing and footwear which their children need to take
- Guidelines on the supply and amount of spending money
- The school’s expected behaviour – including notifying parents that if any rules are broken, the parent may have to collect their child from the trip at their own expense
- Details of the school insurance policy (so they know what is covered)
Transport and staff supervision
After accommodation, transport is often the main cost of a trip, so it needs to be done properly. If you book well in advance or have a good relationship with a travel company, you can often get good rates.
At Wynstones, the cost of the trip is estimated at the beginning of the year and parents are told what to expect with any changes being communicated as soon as they are known about.
Having a comfortable ratio of adults:pupils means it is far less stressful for the adults, and makes it a more enjoyable and safer trip for the pupils.
At Wynstones, we aim to have some continuity within the teaching staff going on the trip as this helps to support the guide and smooth the organisation. We usually have between 15 and 25 pupils and will always have four adults including the mountain guide, a female teacher and a male teacher with another supporting adult.
This is a comfortable ratio, meaning that if during the trip a pupil needs to be taken off, there is still an acceptable ratio.
- Plan early. The main thing when organising any trip is to start the planning early. Not only on paper but talking to the parents and pupils all the way through the academic year is a real help to make sure everyone is clear of what the plans are, and that they are all on board for the adventure.
- Shop around. Transport is a large part of the cost of any trip; we aim to keep costs to a minimum so that we are inclusive for all children.
- Make sure the whole school is supportive of the trip and informed of dates and times well in advance, so that pupil and staff absence don’t cause problems.
- Forget to inform parents of every detail, including what standards of behaviour are expected of pupils.
- Bow to pressure to take a child with either an illness or a record of behavioural difficulties on a visit.
- Be daunted by it all. If you plan properly and ensure the right support network is in place, trips should be both successful and enjoyable.