PUBLISHED 30 September 2021
Following the Year 9 residential, we interviewed Head of Geography & Residential Trips Lead, Mr O'Loughlin:
When was the trip and were there any obstacles in the way when it came to booking?
This outdoor residential was held in the second week of the Autumn term, halfway through September. Whilst this might seem a strange time to go, it means that the students are straight off on their residential at the start of the year. This means that the many benefits of the residential can be revisited throughout the rest of the school year. It also means we usually catch the best of the late summer weather; this year being no exception!
A trip of this nature normally takes about a year to fully plan. Obviously, this last year has seen many different challenges and so final preparations could only be made in the last few weeks before the end of the summer term of last year. It was about this time that I thought that the residential was more than likely going to go ahead and so I could start planning dorm lists and group lists.
The two Covid tests at the start of the term were slightly stressful as this brought a new level of uncertainty to the planning. Would students in year 9 test positive, if so how many? If a student had to isolate for ten days, would they be free to join the residential at the end of the isolation? Would parents want to send their children away if there as a positive case in the year group?
Fortunately, no one in this year group tested positive at the start of the year!
How did it feel to get children back outside on a residential?
In a word, Fantastic! The last two years have been difficult for many different reasons, and year 9 have not had an uninterrupted year in secondary school. To be able to take this year group away and allow them time to reconnect with their friends and make new ones in the year group has been a great way to start the school year. To see them grow over the week has made the hard work and stress of planning this trip all the more worthwhile.
I also do not allow the children to bring their mobile phones. A week of digital detox is an excellent opportunity for the students; especially this year as most young people have spent much of the last two years looking at a computer screen! This made a big difference as during ‘down time’ the children were with each other, in the moment, rather than looking at a phone screen.
How did the children react to the activities on offer and have you seen an improvement back in the classroom?
The children were great on the residential. I believe in a ‘can do’ approach to the activities and whilst we encourage all the students to have a go, this is very much challenge by choice. We do not force any child to do an activity, but will, alongside the rest of their group, encourage them to give everything a go.
There was one child who had never been on a mountain before, managed to climb halfway up Wetherlam. It was clear to see that this was absolutely her limit, both mentally and physically, so she was brought down the mountain and the rest of the group carried on to the top. Whilst climbing a mountain is something I don’t think she will ever do again, she definitely discovered that there is more in you than you think.
Back in school, with time to reflect, the students completed a series of questions about their experience on the residential trip*. 95% said they now had a better relationship with their year group than before the trip. 85% said they were more independent and just as crucially 90% claimed they had a better relationship with their teachers after this residential.
I think it is too early to tell the long term benefits of the residential on classroom attainment, but I am very hopeful this will be the case.
What would you say was the best thing about the trip?
I don’t really know where to start with this. The pleasure in seeing young people outside being challenged in what they do, how they help others, how they in turn ask for help and how they so often rise to the challenge and exceed their own, and others’, expectations of what they can achieve.
On a personal note, having time with other staff members who share my enthusiasm for outdoor education, who are prepared to give up time with their families, to help me offer these opportunities, who inspire me to keep on planning new residential trips for the students, is special and I am forever grateful to them.
Why are residentials important to the pupils at your school and do you think they are needed more than ever at this time?
An education is much more than a grade at the end of a course. A holistic education provides many opportunities for the development of the whole young person. A residential is a perfect occasion to provide many opportunities to allow this to happen.
It is an opportunity to learn as much about yourself as about the world around you. An opportunity to discover your own personal strengths and weaknesses alongside how much you have to offer the person next to you who is struggling. An opportunity to discover what it means to be the best version of yourself.
Are residentials needed now more than ever?
In an ideal world, residentials should be available to all young people as a part of their overall education. I think they have a valuable part to play in providing many opportunities that some students have not been able to partake in over the last two years. In that respect, yes, they are needed more now than ever before. Let's make the residential a positive legacy of covid.