School trips and guest speakers add context and external validation to teaching.
Bringing a subject out of a classroom and into the real world makes it come alive. It could be a school trip; art gallery (art), battlefield (history), river bank (geography or science) or a synagogue (RS). Equally it could be a guest speaker; counsellor (PHSE), poet (English) or a university lecturer. School trips and guest speakers are an invaluable teaching aid and enhance the experience of the subject.
Every school subject is enhanced by school trips
The good news is that every school offers trips. Where schools differ is in the frequency and ambition of these trips.
The majority of school trips are day trips, but the residential trip brings additional benefits. Yes, the pupil can travel further to a location of greater interest, particularly for history, geography or science. But in addition, there are the lessons of initiative, self-reliance and community that come with separation from the family. Residentials for outdoor pursuits are popular for this reason.
Again, schools vary in their use of residential school trips in their educational provision. Some stick to sports trips for an elite few, others stick to trips for the most senior pupils.
By the time they reach senior school, pupils can be doing multiple school trips per term to support their learning. After all, what is the point of studying glaciation if the pupil doesn’t see the rock formations created by it? And what is the point of drama if the pupil doesn’t see at least a handful of live performances?
As well as integrating school trips into curriculum some schools also offer an activities week, typically after summer exams. The activities vary from camping and adventure trips to trying new sports to a focus on art or drama or even science. The majority of activity weeks run for pupils between the ages of 7 and 16, though some schools offer activities based around a camping sleepover at school for children as young as Reception age (with parents).
There is a downside to school trips. And that is cost. Schools don’t pick up the cost of trips, parents do and they can be substantial and cumulative. It leads to lively conversations about the merits of a watercolour workshop in Aix-en-Provence rather than Suffolk, a geography field trip to the Grand Canyon rather than Cheddar Gorge, or of a cricket tour of Barbados rather than Somerset.
In much the same way as school trips enhance the curriculum, so does a school guest speaker programme. It is logistically easier than a trip and cheaper, but on the whole, the school guest speaker programme is underused. The idea is that a visitor with a particular experience or job role comes in to address the pupils and stimulate an activity. It could be an artist, a community leader, an athlete, an author, a notable alumnus, a parent. But currently most schools do little beyond visits from the fire service in a “people who help us” theme in Reception, or a careers fair starring parents or alumni from different professions in the 6th Form.
School trips are memorable for pupils, from the curriculum enhancing to the excitement of the trip itself. But there is a logistical challenge, more so with younger pupils and with residentials. Not many of us would give up our time to take on the responsibility and stress of corralling a large group of children around a museum or major city. It is the teachers that make them happen. Good teachers enthuse about their subject. Good teachers do school trips.