School trips can be a very effective way to enhance children’s education. For example, taking a group of kids around a 3D printing company is not the same as watching something similar on Youtube.
For a start, they can ask questions of people who actually do the job and, therefore, have the ‘inside’ information. For example, they can tell you what happens when such and such a widget is a centimetre too short, or what happened when the fire alarm went off last week. Those kinds of titbits help to bring the whole thing to life.
And then there’s the sheer buzz and awe of seeing all these weird and wonderful machines in operation. And larger-than-life ones too, not just the size of the one sitting on your desk.
For some children, a school trip offers the opportunity to see things they otherwise wouldn’t. For example, did you know that there are some ‘townies’ who have never seen a cow?
OK, so you’re convinced. You’ve come across something you think would make a great experience for the kids. How do you go about organising the thing?
We suggest dividing the tasks into three categories: before, during and after, and the Groupcall suite of products can help out every step of the way.
- Start planning as early as possible. Some events or experiences could be booked up for a year in advance.
- Make sure the trip ties in with a stated objective. This may be from your own subject curriculum, or it may address one of the school's wider aims.
- Start 'recruiting' staff. You'll need one adult for every ten children, and if it's a mixed group you'll need both male and female staff.
- Prepare a case for the trip to go ahead. Even if you don't need it for your senior leadership team, you'll want to be able to convince parents – especially if they have to fork out some money. Pay Our School, a third-party addition to Groupcall Messenger, allows for collection to be managed digitally, saving the confusion associated with cash or cheque payments.
- On that subject, let parents know about the trip, and why you deem it important. Surveys can be sent out via SMS and email on Messenger with quick responses if necessary, allowing you to gauge the perceived value.
- Think about adding the trip to your MIS as an assessment criterion. For example, will going on the trip help pupils to achieve a key performance indicator (KPI), or could it count for an e-certificate on completion, highlighting achievements to parents, courtesy of Messenger?
- Complete the necessary forms for your school. Groupcall’s third party addition, Parent Paperwork can make this process easier with its digital forms.
- Prepare pupils for the trip by giving them both homework on the subject beforehand and activities to complete while they're there. For example, a museum visit might entail filling in a 'Treasure Hunt' quiz.
- Keep a running log of everything you're doing to prepare for the trip – just in case something goes wrong. You'll want to be able to show that you haven't been negligent.
- Make sure you have a smartphone or tablet with children's details on it. If you have Groupcall Emerge to synchronise everything to the MIS, this will be easy.
- Establish a means of communicating with children, and they with you, if you get separated. That should not happen, but if it does, what's the plan?
- Also establish a meeting point and time, especially if the pupils are older, and part of the visit will entail them going off in small groups by themselves.
- Let parents know when you have arrived, when you are setting off home, and of course when the inevitable delays on the way back come about – all via Messenger, of course.
- Use the trip in your lessons, ie build upon the experience.
- Let parents, the SLT, other staff (who may have had to cover for you) and the Governors or Trustees how successful the trip was. It will not come across very well if you just go around telling everyone, though, so a better approach would be to draw up a brief newsletter, blog post or video about it – involving the kids in the process too. Messenger can also be used to ensure that the letter is reaching its destination and is being read.
- Evaluate what was good, and what not so good, to inform your planning. Would you do the trip again? Would you organise it differently? Don't assume you'll remember such details: write them down and save yourself some headaches later on.
As a famous general once said, failure to plan is planning to fail. School trips can be a great way to build relationships with pupils and parents, as well as to educate them. Don't allow inadequate planning to cause needless worry for them, their mums and dads, or yourself.