Planning your school trip

Advice for Educational Visits Coordinators

Chances are you are an EVC or party leader. You have been given responsibility for organising the school trip for year seven and you are wondering where on earth to begin. It couldn't be as simple as choosing a fun sounding venue and letting everyone know the date could it? No, unfortunately there is a bit more to it than that, especially for residential trips. This article deals specifically with day trips, and while the following is not exhaustive, it will hopefully give you some ideas for what you need to think about when it comes to planning your next school trip.

Educational Value

As a class teacher and Educational Visits Coordinator, one of the first things you need to do is justify the trip in terms of educational value. A day, half day or week out of the classroom is going to cost time and money, so it has to have an educational benefit to the children you are planning to take. Your planning should be aimed at getting the school trip proposal passed by your head teacher.

Consult the school policy and Local Education Authority guidelines for school outings. You may well find there is already a set procedure you need to work to. This should also help you research everything you need to get that head teacher to nod in approval.

The Cost

School budgets are tight so you will need to carefully work out the cost of transport and entry to the venue. Some venues are free for educational visits, but most will have a small cost to each pupil, and your chances of finding a coach operator willing to offer you free travel are about as likely as getting through the day without one of the children getting travel sick.

Cost is always a difficult one. For a lot of schools and LEAs, any contributions have to be voluntary, but without full payment from all parents, the trip may not be able to go ahead, so the letter you will send out to the children's parents has to be worded carefully, and try to point this out. You will always have a few parents who interpreted the words 'voluntary contribution' as meaning that they don't need to pay.

Adult to Pupil Ratios

The ratio of adults to children is a very important consideration for school visits. The ratio will vary with age and with the activity being undertaken. Check those LEA school trip guidelines and make with the venue themselves. You may need to find volunteers to accompany you, perhaps even some parents if your school cannot spare enough members of staff to accompany the trip.

Risk Assessments

As an Educational Visits Coordinator, you will know that Risk assessments are a big part of any school visit. As the visit organizer you should complete any additional generic risk assessment forms that might apply, as well as a specific visit risk assessment to address any further issues relevant to the specific venue being visited. Completed risk assessments will probably have to be handed in to the office or head teacher. The purpose of the risk assessment is to highlight any hazards and control measures associated with general locations or activities. The best school trip locations will then offer you their own risk assessments, which will identify the specific risks and measures for their venue.

Getting assistance from the trip venue

Before the trip, you will need to liaise with the people at the place you are intending to visit, to make sure that they understood what you require and to check whether they can help deliver the learning experience you need for your class. They often have information for you to be aware of, and sometimes forms you will need to sign. Most of the better school trip venues will offer free inspection visits. A lot of venues these days have websites that give virtual tours, show lots of photographs, and describe what they do really well, but you may need to see a venue with your own eyes to know whether or not it is suitable for your trip.

Once you know where you are going, and what you are planning to do when you get there, you need to make notes, both for the guides or helpers, and for the children. Again, the best school trip venues will have worked with many school groups before yours. They will probably have a dedicated educational officer, and quite possibly the kinds of study materials that will help you plan your lessons.

Access

The SEN and Disability Act 2001 extended the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) to cover education. Schools are required to ensure pupils with disabilities or special educational needs are not treated less favourably both in the classroom, and during extra curricular activities, including school trips. Ensuring reasonable access on school trips for pupils with disabilities should therefore form part of your planning strategy if your class or school group includes pupils covered by the act. Include in your risk assessments any pupils with disabilities so that reasonable adjustments can be made. You may need to provide disabled transport, or consult with specialist teaching assistants regarding care plans. And you should speak to the education officer at the venue to check that they have the appropriate disabled facilities or access.

Eating

Food is another important consideration. Most parents will provide a packed lunch for their child, but a free packed lunch may need to be provided for the children on free school dinners so they need to be ordered in advance. Some venues may offer to provide lunches either as an additional cost or as part of the booking price, but most will make provision for an eating area, or a lunch break period if you are taking part in a guided tour. If the parents send them all with cans of fizzy pop, bags of crisp and various other e-number stuffed snacks, it may be better to plan the more intense learning parts of the trip into the morning.

Plan B

Here is one you may not have thought of. Contingency plans in case of poor weather, or any other unforeseen circumstances! If you are unfortunate enough to find a venue is suddenly closed for urgent repairs, or the weather is bad enough to make travel unwise, it will pay to have a back-up plan. It probably will not happen, but if it should, make sure you are prepared.

Prepare the children

Another thing to prepare before the trip takes place is the children. This may involve them doing some research, or learning something about the place you are visiting. Think about your own holidays. If you jet off to Rome without knowing the first thing about the place, you'll see lots of buildings in ruins. But if you do some reading before you travel, you will know what you want to look at, and you will know what you are looking at when you do get there. Prepare the children before the visit and they will get a lot more out of the trip.

Prepare the parents

After all the groundwork has been done, you have to write to parents, giving details and purpose of the trip. We said earlier that you were trying to convince the head teacher to agree to the trip, well you are also trying to convince the parents. This isn't always easy, especially if your school is in a rather less than prosperous area where the parents may not have the money to send their children on a school trip. Permission slips then have to be collected in, and a final date given for payment. Don't forget, you need written details from the parents of any medical information regarding their child. Also travel sickness information.

Parents need to be advised on how their children ought to be dressed: uniform or no uniform (depended where you are going); sturdy shoes for walking; hooded coat in case of rain, sunhat or cream. If you do not tell the parents to prepare their children, no doubt it will be your fault if they got sunburnt or soaked!

Advise them to pack lunches in disposable bags so that the children do not have to lug a huge bag around all day. And they had to be advised on what they could or couldn't bring, for example, sweets, spending money, cameras, etc.

It may seem obvious, and to most sensible parents it probably is, but if you do not spell it out for them, you will get girls turning up in flimsy, 'holiday clothes', strappy high-heeled sandals and no coat, and the boys with forty quid stuffed in their back pockets, back packs big enough to carry all the equipment for a major expedition up Mount Everest, and 'borrowing' their dad's camera!

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It isn't really possible to write a guide that will be suitable for every school. Each will have different needs and requirements. The above is intended to give a few ideas to teachers who are perhaps not so familiar with the task of school trip planning. For national guidance, please visit: oeapng.info
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