Planning School Trips: A Teacher’s Guide


Whenever a colleague approaches me, full of excitement and wanting to plan a school trip for Early Years Foundation Stage at the start of a new school year, all I really want to say is, “Are you -you crazy?”

I remind them that it’s a very busy term: the children have to settle in, there are basic assessments to do, home visits and, then, all the activity leading up to Christmas. Sometimes they are convinced, sometimes not. When it’s the latter, I reluctantly begin the mountain of paperwork that needs to be filled out.

I like/hate school trips. Every time a trip comes along, I feel the dread of responsibility, the distaste of paperwork, all the while knowing the fun it will bring to the kids.

Recently, our school business manager has tightened travel procedures, which means planning to take children on trips has become a huge operation.

More and more schools are now struggling with the cost of travel – but money aside, there are countless paperwork to complete before you even set foot out the door.

I remember, as a very young student teacher, naively laughing lightly when a teacher told me that she found school trips stressful. I just couldn’t figure out why. Fast forward to a few years later, when I had to take on the full and frankly terrifying responsibility of being a group leader, I understand where she was coming from.

It’s the horror stories we listen to in the staff room that make me imagine all kinds of terrifying scenarios. A child fell from a tree and broke his arm. Another decided on a whim to drive through a busy parking lot and had to be picked up early. Then there’s the particularly memorable story of a teacher who had to call the ranger because she and her students got lost in a 2,000-acre country park.

These stories haunt me.

I constantly worry, both before and during the day itself. Once you’ve completed the risk assessments – in which you have to imagine and then list all the potential worst-case scenario hazards – for each small part of the day, it’s hard to “miss” the risks.

When the day comes, I’m like a mother hen who counts little fluorescent yellow bibs at every opportunity. I try to relax and enjoy it, but it’s not until we get back to school, with every little kid and staff back in one piece, that I can breathe a big sigh of relief. .

When we are back, I often wonder if it was worth it – but then I remember the reaction of the children.

Once we rode on a train, then a ferry, and the sheer joy on their beaming faces and the laughter as the engine roared as we started moving was so beautiful. You would think we had been to Disneyland. They had the best time enjoying the simple pleasures and learning from the experience. This is the magic of school trips.

From this recent experience, I have reflected that there are certain things that help relieve the pressure.

How to plan a school trip

  • Give yourself plenty of time. This spreads out the paperwork over a few weeks. I’ve learned that it’s much better to break tasks down into chunks and allocate time in the journal each week to get things done.
  • Always go there to scout, even if you’ve been there before. It really helps inform the risk assessment. Ask yourself: “Where is the nearest toilet? Where are we going to gather to eat? Is there shelter if needed? »
  • Work as a team to discuss risk assessments and share some responsibilities. Ask “what if” questions to anticipate any problems: “What if the bus breaks down? “What if a child slips?” Who will be the pediatric first aider?
  • Plan for a generous adult-to-child ratio. Legally it’s one to five for the children in reception, but it’s really beneficial to take an extra adult to accompany any child with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) on an individual basis – some sites offer tickets free for additional adults when supporting SEND children.
  • Consider including an extra adult to “float”. On a recent trip, it worked really well: the floating adult didn’t have a group and could therefore be responsible for a lot of things; for example, being the passing patrol, walking in front to let the train guard know we are coming, and helping with behavior and bathroom exits.
  • Choose your best parent assistants carefully. We all know from experience that some parents are more helpful than others, so trust your instincts: you want support rather than added stress in the day. Most of the time, parents who have travel experience or are already volunteering or working with children are the best option.

Helen Pinnington is Head of the Early Years Foundation at St Thomas More Catholic Primary School in Bedhampton, Hampshire


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