Our poor children don’t even get to go on the school trips their parents used to regularly go on because of the paranoia in schools about missing lesson time. It is such a sad state of affairs that the kind of broad, enjoyable and indeed community-enhancing trips that we used to do as school children are been denied to our own children in the name of academic rigour and the avoidance of ‘slippage’. Trying to run a trip during the school day is almost impossible in schools today, particularly at secondary level.
So what has driven us to this state?
Well for starters, schools now are so obsessed with ‘progress’ and academic success that many have lost the plot in terms of the broader picture of what education is all about. Schools, that used to be outward-facing and closely linked to their local community have become closed bastions of academic progress, constantly fearing the next Ofsted visit or change in policy at the Department for Education.
What is the value of school trips?
Children get a lot of experiences that enrich their learning. But of cause, these are not easy to measure!! I have been lucky enough to take some really life-changing trips for children during my career. To see children look at famous monuments and visit historic places in real life has often brought my subject to life far more than any interactive whiteboard can ever hope to do. I’ve dug soil pits and helped children to see and understand the history of the land right in front of their eyes. I have stood on the coast and watched children throw oranges into the sea to demonstrate long shore drift and then shown them how their local coastline is eroding on a weekly basis. These days, I have to do all of this in the classroom in case my trips make them miss valuable school time, particularly in a core subject (Maths or English) Heaven forbid if a child misses one of these subjects, even for one lesson.
I have gone on trips abroad and experienced the fantastic learning experiences that this offers, not only in terms of the curriculum but also in terms of social development (oh, the government doesn’t really recognise this as it can’t be measured yet!!)
What can we do as parents?
I think because of the present education climate, we just have to do the best we can and money permitting, try to take out children to local places of interest. A visit to our local church to look at how the building is constructed, how old the gravestones are can generate lots of historical awareness. If you have countryside near you, a weekend walk looking at the natural environment can stimulate interest that can help learning at school. My young children love collecting bits of twig, stones and discarded bird feathers and we then spend time discussing them when they return home. Often this can stimulate fascinating questions and even art work. My 5 year old loves to stick what he has found on paper and use paint to create some imaginative collages.
We spent a wonderful few days over half term visiting the local coast. The children had to wrap up warm but we scavenged on the beach, built sandcastles and decorated them with what we found lying around. We talked about everything from castles to fossils and different types of sea fish – it was just what education should be about – spontaneous, exciting and child-led (and not a National Curriculum level in sight!)
These are all the kinds of things that schools used to encourage years ago, but sadly not anymore. I’m afraid its up to us as parents now.
So, the next time a letter comes home about a school trip, think how lucky you are that your child’s school still values trips!!
What do you think?