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Headmaster's Blog

Why school trips matter

One of the more notable trends I’ve observed over my thirty years in education has been the decline in the number of school trips in some schools. Pressure on budgets, concern about risk, and the bureaucratic load of health and safety and child protection legislation have combined to make it harder for schools to take children out in to the wider world.

This decline is a real shame. An increased focus on managing risk is well-meant – the welfare of children in our care must be paramount – but we are in danger of losing sight of the other side of the coin: the phenomenal benefits that school trips offer. We need to ensure we ask ourselves not just what the risks of a proposed trip are, but also what the benefits are; clarity about what is to be gained enables effective preparation to ensure student safety and wellbeing.

While the majority of learning will take place in the classroom, there is no substitute for real experience in the wider world. Some of the most lasting memories from my own school days are from field trips. I remember not just the visit to a rubber plantation when at school in the Far East, or later to Devon for my Geography O Level, but also many of the concepts and facts learnt there.

Cementing knowledge and bringing learning to life may be the primary aim, but school trips, particularly residential ones, also provide great opportunities for personal development. Interpersonal skills, such as teamwork, negotiation, and leadership can all be developed as children learn to live and work alongside their classmates in new settings. The opportunity to use their initiative and discover just what they are capable of helps improve self-confidence. This improved self-belief in turn impacts positively on a student’s classroom achievement as they gain faith in their abilities.

At BGS we offer trips to all year groups, not just to enrich and enhance the curriculum, but to allow our students to undertake new challenges, take risks and develop self-confidence and resilience. From our Outdoor Education programme which sees children at BGS learn navigation, camp craft and cookery skills, to Language exchanges which enhance learning and allow students to experience another culture, to overseas expeditions such as trekking in Morocco, all give the children at BGS the chance to move out of their comfort zone and learn to cope in new, and sometimes challenging, situations.

It is human nature to worry more about the unfamiliar than the everyday, but the chances of serious accident or injury on a school trip are far lower than those of being hurt in a car crash, a risk many of us regularly expose our children to. Why do we do this? Because we judge the benefits of car travel to be worth the risks involved. I would argue it is the same for school trips. It may be a complex world out there, but we do not prepare our children for it by keeping them away from it.

Rod MacKinnon
Headmaster, Bristol Grammar School