If asked to note your most memorable experiences from your school days, I imagine, like me, a school trip will feature high on the list. Taking part in an educational visit, however, whether residential, a visit to an art gallery, museum or sporting event, means more than simply an opportunity to leave the school grounds.
Educational trips, however, in some schools, are becoming increasingly rare events. A recent survey undertaken by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) painted a picture of diminishing opportunities for children to learn outside school. Over a third of schools in the UK reported that school trips have declined over the last three years and a mere 37% of schools reported that the children in their care had taken part in a school visit in the last twelve months; one cannot help but feel an element of concern.
Concern that school children have less and less opportunity to explore the world outside the classroom has been growing in recent years, so much so, that a report was commissioned by MPs in the House of Commons. The report found that health and safety regulation, along with the associated form-filling and fear of litigation, was the main culprit for the decline in numbers of children being taken on school trips.
One of the key recommendations of the report published by the House of Commons was that: ‘to ensure learning outside the classroom is taken seriously by all schools, there should be an individual entitlement within the National Curriculum to at least one out of school visit a term’.
At Wandsworth Prep, whilst we believe that outstanding teaching and learning can take place in the classroom, we also believe that there is no substitute for real experience in the wider world. School trips can contribute significantly to the acquisition of knowledge and development of skills. Studies of the natural and man-made world; the present and past; science and arts; language and music can all be enhanced outside the classroom and, allow children the opportunity to face a range of challenges that can enhance their self-esteem and personal development.
In recent weeks, children across the Key Stages at Wandsworth Prep have enjoyed and benefitted from a number of local visits. Children in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 took part in a story telling workshop at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, an opportunity to enhance their vocabulary and understanding of language; so very pivotal to success at their age. Children in Years 3 and 4 took part in an installation art workshop at the Tate Modern, led by an expert artist; an experience, I doubt, could have been entirely replicated in a classroom.
On Wednesday 18th November, children in Years 1 to 4 enjoyed the magic of the stage production of Roald Dahl’s Matilda. If we expose children to drama and theatre, they are likely to develop an appreciation of the arts. At Wandsworth Prep, we also seek to nurture the talents and interests of all our children. How many children, I wonder, will be inspired by their visit to Matilda to seek a career in the dramatic arts?
Bridget Saul - Headteacher