How Brilliant Residentials Create Whole-School Change

Kim Somerville, coordinator of the ‘Brilliant Residentials’ campaign, explains what pupils, teachers, schools and all those involved in youth development can gain from high-quality residential stays – and how to develop your own.

Learning Away began working closely with 60 primary, secondary and special schools in 2009, to demonstrate the positive impact of high-quality residential learning. The schools have developed and tested a wide range of residential programmes, for example working to boost GCSE attainment, support transition, or inspire KS2 writers. All have been inclusive and affordable, and the experiences have ranged from camping in the school grounds, to staying in Hampton Court Palace.

The impact of the Learning Away experience, which had funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, was evaluated over a five-year period using over 12,500 pre- and post-residentials surveys completed by students, parents and staff, as well as over 100 focus groups. Independent evaluation by York Consulting commented: “Learning Away has shown that a residential learning experience provides opportunities and benefits/impacts that cannot be achieved in any other educational context or setting. The impact is greater when residentials are fully integrated with a school’s curriculum and ethos.”

As most teachers who have been on a school trip with an overnight stay know, residentials provide the unique opportunity and experience of living with others. This transforms relationships and develops a strong sense of community and belonging between staff and students involved. Sir Tim Brighouse has commented: “Over their first 16 years, children are in school for about 15-20% of their waking time, with the enormous balance in their homes or the community. That’s why home background and good parenting are so important - but it’s also why time spent in school matters, and why we need to make the most of it. Having a residential at once raises the time available for influencing the child to 100%, at least for the duration of the trip.”

The Learning Away evaluators found that this sense of community supports a wide range of positive social and learning outcomes, long after the return to school.

So what are the impacts and benefits of having 100% of a pupil’s time available for these few days? And how does this experience translate into short, medium and long term outcomes for them?

Impacts of Learning Away

  • Improve students’ engagement with learning Improve students’ knowledge, skills and understanding in a variety of ways
  • Support students’ achievement
    • increased progress in learning
    • improved confidence and motivation
    • students having a better awareness of their strengths and weaknesses and knowing what to do to improve
    • a more collaborative approach to learning.
  • Foster deeper relationships Improve students’ resilience, self-confidence and well-being
  • Boost cohesion and a sense of belonging
  • Provide opportunities for student leadership, co-design and facilitation
  • Smooth students’ transition experiences
  • Widen and develop teachers’ pedagogical skills

For a more in-depth version of the evaluation findings, you can download Learning Away’s published summary.

With the support of notdeadfish, Learning Away is now supported by a Consortium of organisations committed to providing more residential experiences.  They have launched a #BrilliantResidentials campaign which urges schools to make a cultural shift away from viewing high-quality residential learning as an enrichment activity. Instead, it should be firmly embedded as part of each young person’s entitlement.  The Learning Away website now hosts over 100 good practice case studies, alongside material to help ‘make the case’ for residential experiences and a series of practical free resources for teachers and visit leaders.

Learning Away’s checklist can help to develop your next high-quality residential. These residentials are school trips with at least one overnight stay, which are:


  • 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
  • planned so that learning is embedded and reinforced 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.

More information on what makes a Brilliant Residential can be found here.

The campaign is supported with further Learning Away ‘legacy’ funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.

Join the campaign

You can pledge your support to work with others to provide more Brilliant Residentials here.

Wherever you are, you can use the tools in the campaign pack which can be downloaded here to put Brilliant Residentials on the map.

Follow @LearningAway on twitter, like Learning Away on facebook or email