Changing Minds: The Lasting Impact of School Trips

Changing Minds

What the resource is:
This is a study of the long-term impact of the relationships between eight schools and the National Trust through the Guardianship scheme.  There are currently over 100 schools in England and Wales participating in the Trust's Guardianship scheme which is based largely around conservation and environmental issues.  The National Trust believes that regular contact, dialogue and two way relationships with schools and other groups has the potential to bring about life changing opportunities.  The study provides evidence of the benefits of the scheme, seeks to identify key factors contributing to their success and makes recommendations for future improvements.

The aims of the resource:
In recent years the importance of learning in the ‘real' environment outside the classroom has been increasingly emphasised by both researchers and policy makers. Outdoor learning has the capacity to arouse learners' interest and improve behaviour.  The impact on cognitive and emotional development is less well documented and there are few studies which look at the long term impact of outdoor learning, hence the need for this report.

Key findings or focus:
Virtually all students agreed that the work they did as a result of the Guardianship scheme was fun, exciting and enjoyable. There was evidence of the development of social skills and research skills, but the benefits in terms of knowledge and understanding were harder to pin down. As regards long-term impact, the most striking observation was the students' continuing concern to protect the environment they had visited.  The report emphasises that the professional commitment of teachers, particularly the Headteacher, was an essential component in all the schemes.  It also acknowledges that there is considerable potential to make links with both initial and in-service training programmes.

The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
The report is systematic and well-grounded.  It provides evidence to support the professional judgement made by many teachers about the value of fieldwork and real life learning situations. However the report says little about gender and ethnic diversity. It is a pity too that seven of the eight schemes studied involved primary schools, with a strong focus on rural rather than urban locations.  However, the wider observations and insights that are offered in the report are particularly valuable, especially those to do with pupils' attitudes and whole school change.

The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
There is now scope for students on ITE programmes to gain experience of working with pupils in contexts beyond the classroom.  The report meets this demand half way by flagging up the potential to extend the Guardianship scheme in the direction of in-service and initial training.  ITE tutors across the country might consider how best they might make links with the National Trust and other organisations to give the next generation of students the opportunity to gain experience of outdoor learning.  This is an opportunity which should not be missed.

The relevance to ITE students:
Recent reports about children's lack of well-being have attracted widespread media and political interest.  Many commentators argue that children today live their lives in highly restricted environments and that their development is impoverished as a result. The Guardianship scheme is one of a number of national initiatives which could help schools to begin to redress the balance.  In this way ITE students could be provided with strategies to help children lead lives which are healthier in the widest sense of the term.

Reviewed by:
Dr. Stephen Scoffham

References:

Austin, B (Ed) (2007) Letting the Outside In: Developing Teaching and Learning Beyond the Early Years Classroom, Stoke on Trent: Trentham

CABE (2007) Our Street: Learning to See, London: Commission for Art and the Built Environment

DfES (2006) Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto, London: DfES (available free from DFES Publications, Order Ref 04232-2006 DOM-EN)