It seems that Jack Whitehall had some bad experiences on school trips as a teenager. The episode of his BBC3 comedy Bad Education titled ‘School Trips’ featured a visit to a small farm which was a masterclass in how not to organise an educational visit. It was clear that no-one had undertaken a pre-visit to check whether activities were age appropriate; health and safety procedures were minimal, and pupils were poorly supervised. They were also aspects of the visit of particular concern to those working in farming and the natural environment; farm staff were unable to communicate effectively with young people – clearly none of them had completed their CEVAS training! – and some very questionable animal management practices were observed. Perhaps if Mr Wickers and his colleagues had chosen a venue with the LOtC Quality Badge accreditation, they would have made adequate preparation for the day, and given their pupils a valuable learning experience, rather than an at best tedious, and at worst unsafe, experience at an unregulated venue. It certainly highlighted the importance of visiting farms which are prepared for school visits.
Now, Whitehall has followed this up with a full length Bad Education film in which Mr Wickers and his class go on one last trip after finishing GCSEs. This time, Mr Wickers is taking his class on a residential to Cornwall which results in sword fights, attacks by swans, and a misadventure on a zipwire. Again, he is shown to be have very little understanding of the natural environment, particularly animals, and leads his pupils into dangerous situations because of his lack of knowledge and preparation.
Should we be worried by films that replay the stereotype of school trips – pandemonium and chaos, where students run wild and teachers lose control? Films like this reinforce the idea that school trips have very little to do with learning, and much more to do with aimless activity. Or does the fact that comedies continue to mine the school trip for material indicate that learning outside the classroom holds a particular place in our consciousness? School trips, good or bad, remain the most vivid memories from our schools days. Research shows that well-planned and managed LOtC supports attainment, engages young people with their learning and makes learning memorable. Even the terrible experiences highlighted in these comedy shows offer pupils an opportunity for growth and personal development – at the very least, it improves their resilience to cope with difficult situations.
The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom has a range of resources and information to support good quality learning outside the classroom, which maximise the benefits for the children and young people involved. Users can access information on the value of educational visits for young people’s learning, as well as advice on how to plan and deliver valuable learning outside the classroom. Information from Ofsted shows that the more learning outside the classroom is planned and integrated into the school curriculum, the more beneficial it is for learners. The first pitfall for most of the comedy school trip experiences is a lack of planning.
Providers working in the natural environment also have a role in offering support and information for teachers to ensure that they are prepared and confident to lead learning in the natural environment, and can find support and information to help them organise educational visits which have an impact on pupils’ learning and development.