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Affordable and varied residentials for impactful school trips

Residentials are a right of passage and a key tool used by schools to support transitions. At YHA alone, over 200,000 young people missed their transition time away this year – whether the traditional year 6 post SATs residential, NCS summer camps or University Fresher programmes.

This makes it even more important to ensure that we use the residentials we can have to best effect, drawing on best evidence of what works.

Now, to declare an interest, part of my job is to sell YHA residentials to schools. So, know that when you read this. But my passion for their import comes from personally experiencing their transformative power and seeing this power in action with thousands of children across my career.

Myths about residentials

It is worth exploding two of the myths of residentials:

1. They do not have to be far away or expensive

I will be upsetting my own sales team to say this but one of core values in the residential comes in the time away and seeing relationships in a new light. This can be just as easily achieved in a campout in the school hall or in tents on a school field. Further away and in new contexts like those that YHA offers definitely have their own benefits but low or no cost on school grounds can be very effective

2. High octane, extreme sports are great but not essential

YHA has great activity centres for adventure sports. And Education Endowment Foundation are clear that adventure activities have their own positive impacts. But these are not an essential component of transition residential success. Quiet time, problem-solving activities, chances to talk, opportunities to meet new people or to see known people in a new light, connections to nature – feedback from young people and teachers consistently rates these things as just as beneficial as jumping off something very high!

Residentials and transition

At YHA we have worked together with schools to develop the best models on transition residentials – using both our own evaluated residential work with over 200,000 children and young people every year, and drawing on evidence from the biggest study on residentials, Learning Away.

In partnerships focusing on primary-secondary transition, staff from both phases stated that a residential was “worth half a term” in terms of gains students made in acquiring skills and relationships helpful for the secondary school environment. Secondary teachers benefited from getting to know new students in a relaxed environment and developed a better understanding of their needs prior to transition.

“The fact he’s come to high school knowing staff he can really trust has had a big effect on him.” – Secondary Staff Focus Group

Post residential, 67% of KS2 pupils said they found it easier to make new friends because of the residential.’ – Learning Away Evaluation 2015

Learning Away identified the key factors that make an effective and #BrilliantResidential and at YHA we build these into all our provision.

What makes a residential brilliant?

Brilliant residentials are school trips with at least one overnight stay, which are:

  • fully integrated with the school curriculum and ethos
  • designed and led by teachers and, where appropriate, students
  • inclusive and affordable for all students
  • deliberately and collaboratively planned to meet students’ specific learning needs, and to embed and reinforce learning back in school
  • part of a progressive programme of experiences
  • designed to include a wide range of new and memorable experiences
  • designed to allow space for students to develop collaborative relationships with both peers and staff
  • evaluated rigorously
  • supported by senior leadership and school governors

Brilliant residentials can play a vital part in the transition experience and YHA’s work with schools, Learning Away and the pilot project with Moulsecoomb Primary School show consistent success in:

  • building student confidence in transition
  • supporting new friendships
  • developing different relationships with teachers

Attendees at the Transition Ed Conference 2020 explored the factors that help build this success and considered how autumn and winter residentials may be able to support both transition and the return to school for children who have been away from full-time learning for the longest time in their school lives.

Further reading

Residentials: unlocking the potential – Every Child Should

School residentials: enrichment and inequality – The Centre for Education and Youth

The YHA offer

Build your own

Our research showed how much schools value the potential to create their own approach – to reduce costs but also tailor an approach to meet the needs of their students. So, for the first time this year we have included Exclusive Hire options over the summer and into the autumn. A chance for a school to book a whole hostel to build their own transition residential from £299 per night.

Supported programmes

For YHA’s full range of programmes, visit our Groups website.

Written by Jon Smith

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