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Top Tips For Planning A Safe And Successful School Trip

Matt Crisp February 2, 2024

A good school trip can enhance the educational experience, and also provide an opportunity for the students to bond and get a taste of different cultures and landscapes. Longer school trips may be many younger school children’s first time away from home, helping them to develop a sense of independence and adventure.

There’s no doubt that planning a successful trip takes a lot of effort on behalf of the organisers. This can feel like a daunting task, especially in these uncertain times when parents may be stretched to the max with their budgets. There is an obligation to meet health and safety standards and ensure that all the right paperwork is in place.

Here are some top tips to take the stress out of the situation and help you plan a successful and rewarding school trip for all concerned.

Plan well in advance of the big day

The first and most important piece of advice is not to be in a hurry, but start the planning well in advance. Research potential destinations, investigate travel options such as coach hire, and put forward possible dates and budgets to others who are involved. 

If you are planning a longer trip involving overnight accommodation or travelling abroad, start planning 18 months in advance. A day trip should be pencilled in 12 months in advance. 

This may seem over-cautious, but it will allow you to put everything in place without rushing, and give you more flexibility to make any alterations should the need arise. It’s also important to inform parents of the dates as soon as possible to minimise clashes with their own plans. 

Consider the purpose of the trip

Ideally you should aim to organise a trip that has educational value, but will also be interesting and enjoyable. Consider the age group and learning stage and abilities of the children involved and plan the destination and activities accordingly. 

It could aim to enhance one particular aspect of the curriculum, such as a trip to a science museum or a historical site, or it could combine subjects, such as a field trip that provides insights into geography, biology, and local culture or history. It may be an activity based trip that allows children to develop practical skills or meet physical challenges.

The UK has a huge range of suitable destinations, many of which provide specific facilities and itineraries for school parties. For example, National Trust and English Heritage often provide school trip options that are both inspiring and educational, with the chance to try on costumes, get involved in reenactments of events, and so on.

Plan the itinerary

Once you have firmed up the date, purpose  and destination, flesh out the details with an itinerary. At this stage, consider if all activities will be mandatory or optional, and what the individual needs and requirements of your individual students may be. At this point, additional costs may arise so be sure to inform parents as soon as possible.

Ideally, aim for a range of learning activities and fun and engaging activities that will not only be intellectually stimulating, but also make the trip enjoyable and memorable for the students. Remember that the trip is not just there to reinforce what the students learn in the classroom, but to help them develop social and life skills as well. 

Consider transportation

Hiring a coach is often the most practical and cost effective transportation option for a school trip. Check out online reviews and ensure that you use a reputable and reliable company who employ skilled and experienced drivers and maintain a good fleet of vehicles. Make sure that the type and size of vehicle is appropriate for the size of the party. 

Remember to include staff members and volunteers in the head count. Also consider if you have a suitable staff to student ratio that is appropriate for the age range and abilities of the children. If it is a long distance trip, ask the coach operator to factor in some breaks to give the students a chance to stretch their legs and use the toilet.

Make a risk assessment

It’s important to ensure that you meet your duty of care to students and maintain health and safety standards on the trip. Carry out a risk assessment of general priorities, and also of those specific to the activities and venues involved. Identify any potential hazards and consider if any extra support is required for your students.

Have emergency plans in place and contact details for the parents of each child to hand, and make sure you are aware of any specific dietary or medical needs.  Make sure that there is first aid provision in place and that all staff are briefed in the right action to take if an adverse event occurs. 

It may be necessary to visit the venue in advance to complete your risk assessment in full. This can be useful to help you get your bearings and be more familiar with the venue when you are guiding students. 

You should also have insurance in place, and ensure your planning is compliant with the government guidelines for health and safety on educational trips. 

Discuss the trip with the students in advance

To help your children know what to expect and to build up a sense of anticipation, discuss the trip in advance with your students. Explain the reasons for your choice of destination and go over the details of the itinerary. You may even suggest some reading or research around the destination that they could do in advance to help them feel more engaged.

Also establish ground rules and expected standards of behaviour on the trip, to enhance safety and make a favourable impression of your school to outsiders.

Ask for feedback

After the trip, ask your students to discuss what they got out of it, and what they thought was enjoyable, interesting or worthwhile. This reinforces their own experience and helps you plan for the future.