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'Nothing ever becomes real, until it is experienced.'

The Residential

Trips and residentials are a fundamental part of school provision. Few would argue that they aren't rich in memorable experiences. But because they're unpaid, it would be fair to ask why we should put ourselves out. In this short article I've unpicked the impact and rewards of going over and above.

As we climbed into the minibus and headed home, it's fair to say that I felt exhausted. Ennerdale water is such a beautiful place in June. This was my first school residential, and I was 22 years old. After painting a wall mural with the children in a large special needs school, I then secured a post as a teaching assistant. This was mainly due to the fact that the deputy head had spotted that I had instantly clicked with the children. I would agree, this was not a career choice, it was something lovely that occurred indirectly after 4 years of studying art.

'This residential was one of many opportunities that presented in my new school setting. We had a big white bus with a trailer full of canoes and a roof piled high with BMX bikes. .'

My three colleagues were experienced and great company as I would discover. And as we arrived at the lake district, and we pulled into our lakeside lodge, I was genuinely excited. Over the next few days, we explored and discovered. We had twenty or so children, all with very different special needs. Some had conditions that I had never heard of, others just did not cope in mainstream school. Not only did we have the lodge to ourselves, but it felt like we had the whole of the lake too.

I can recall having a barbecue. The sun was still high and warm, and we sat and chatted around the fire. Some of the children relaxed and read, others played with the balls that we brought whilst a good few tinkered and fixed bikes, riding them through the woodlands around us. In the 30 years that followed, I did residentials pretty much every year. I have hundreds of memories just like this. As a headteacher, I continued to look forwards to these, seeing the benefits and knowing how significant they are for the children.

'The reason for this short story is the fact that this has polarised my Twitter feed this weekend. This is because residentials are unpaid and voluntary. Some people also feel like this is an experience that is not acknowledged by some parents.'

I could feel the same. My first TA job was 6K a year. I signed on the dole in the school holidays. I'm not sure that I ever met these parents either. I'm sure we've all had residentials where not only do we not get a thankyou, but the parent turns up late to collect their child. But if you've ever asked your children about their most precious memories in your school, just as they're about to leave, they will nearly always tell you a story about their school residential.

In the end, these experiences helped to make my career. People noticed and acknowledged my disposition. This was rewarded with additional responsibilities, senior leadership and a great CV. I now know as a school leader that this is the kind of person that you would like to work in your school. By the time I became a headteacher, I would often ask myself this question. Did I go the extra mile just because I was the headteacher? Or did I become the headteacher because I was willing to go the extra-mile?


Residentials, like after school clubs, summer fayres and other commitments, are important. I have a history of working in schools within challenging circumstances, where many of the children could be unlikely to receive these experiences first hand. It would be nearly impossible to understand exactly how significant these moments can be for so many children. This in itself is powerful invitation.

I have always looked forwards to residentials and I honestly see them as a perk of the job. The idea of spending time together away from school is special. It brings you closer to the children and staff, which improves the quality of your working life. You will never connect with your team like you will on a residential. The laughter, the teamwork, and when you get back, the stories that you will share and there's really no tired like residential tired.

Kids in pyjamas. After a day when you've hiked and talked, you see the children settle in the evening. They appear from their rooms in their pyjamas and slippers ready for hot chocolate. And at this point, you're parenting. You will find yourself comforting them, learning about who they are, and entertaining them with a bedtime story. This is a privilege. You have been trusted by their parents to do this.

About the Author

David Rushby

Former Teaching Assistant.

Observations, learning walks, book studies and parent and pupil surveys for your ipad or tablet

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