I am currently in France on a half-term school trip. I enjoy these trips immensely − not only to see young people get such great value from an experience which they simply can’t have in the classroom, but also because it provides a great context for valuable work with the more vulnerable learners in our school.

The students are involved in a range of activities during the week-long exchange, including:

  • attending lessons in the French school.
  • excursions to famous landmarks.
  • having an Anglo-French disco.
  • enjoying a sports afternoon.
  • ten-pin bowling and karaoke (the French singing is always interesting!).
  • living with a French family, where we have the chance to enjoy all their customs and really be a part of the family for a week.

I have got to know some of the staff at the exchange school well over the last few years and it is a pleasure to not only be in touch with the student’s activities but also involved in social events extended for staff!

Whilst preparing for trips abroad it is really important to plan for all eventualities. These are a few details that I ensure are taken care of before every school trip.

  • All risks must be laid out and scrutinised in a thorough pre-trip risk-assessment.
  • All students must sign a ‘contract’ agreeing to what behaviour is expected on the trip, and the potential consequences of those standards not being met.
  • Parents and carers are informed about the activities and the expectations of the trip, usually during a relaxed evening meeting.
  • I make sure that all the staff involved are ‘team players’ and in tune with the ethos of the trip — there is nothing worse than a member of staff being there who isn’t fully committed.

After a really tough year to date, this trip was entirely the tonic we needed. If I had been at home I would have been continuing work-related issues and worrying about the term ahead. As it stands, I have such a packed week I didn’t even have time to think about life at home! And we also had the added bonus of giving 40 young people an opportunity that was truly memorable.

In-line with our policy on inclusion, all students are allowed to apply for this exchange even though only 40 students can attend. It is often a difficult to include students with specific needs in UK schools; in foreign countries where attitudes differ immensely it can be even more challenging. But on my quest for a more inclusive world I don’t limit myself to educating my school, or locality. The French staff were very interested in hearing what I do, as there is no equivalent in their schools.

Stay tuned for the return visit in 4 weeks time!

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