How to successfully launch a school trip

Inge Hol

Inge Hol is the director of educational programmes at Spark Spanish in Southern Spain. Originally from the Netherlands and with a degree in Neuropsychology, she decided to follow her passion for languages and become an English teacher in Spain in 2007. After teaching for several years, she has specialized in teacher training, school trip coordination and course design.


Inge’s biggest goals are to provide students and teachers with a unique and stress-free experience when they are on a school trip. She enjoys seeing many schools returning year after year, and even students coming back to do their DofE, take an A-level or IB-course or complete a work experience programme at Spark, confirming her belief in how school trips provide a unique value and experience. Inge is currently working on writing a book on teaching languages which should be out later this year.

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Image credit: James Emery // Flickr Image credit: James Emery // Flickr

School trips: few question the wonderful opportunity trips offer students to enjoy a new experience, learn new skills, practice a language, get to know a different culture and so much more. In fact, many teachers, school administrators, students and parents can’t imagine school life without them. But not all trips receive enough interest to go ahead.

How can you avoid putting in so much of your time and energy in finding the perfect trip, the perfect destination, the perfect programme (with corresponding learner outcomes), all at a (nearly) perfect price, only to find three students "We need to know what our win will be and how we will benefit from it."signed up to the trip? Or your SMT not even giving you permission to launch?

I’ve seen many passionate and experienced teachers overlook two key concepts to successfully kick off a trip. The first one is the WIFM issue: “What’s in it for me?” When we are make decisions, we need to know what our win will be and how we will benefit from it. Equally important is the second: what are possible problems and how do these risks weigh up against those WIFMs?

Let’s look at four different target (groups of) people whose WIFMs you need to discover and address in order to get your trip rolling.

WIFM target #1: You

This is where it all starts - you need to feel that there is something that you will get out of that trip. Maybe you want to inspire your kids, you realise school was never designed to pass exams but to prepare students for the real world. You want to get them out there and show them what it is all about, share your passion with them, get them to experience something new and different. You probably have a clear idea of your WIFM, otherwise you wouldn’t be considering a trip in the first place, yet you might have your reservations.

Sit down and make a list of your concerns and decide how to overcome them. Here’s some ideas to get you started:

  • Are you unsure of the quality and suitability of the programme? Make sure you work with an agency or educational institution that allows you to completely tailor-make any programme and who takes your wishes into account with anything they do. A good provider guides you through the process of decisions needing to be made to make sure you and your students get what you are looking for.   

  • Getting the shakes just thinking of the words “risk assessment”? Any decent agency or educational institution should instantly be able to pass on their own risk assessments, emergency plans and insurance policies as well as those of any suppliers they use. With their documents, that is likely about 80% of your own risk assessment done. If they can’t send this, look elsewhere and save yourself time and worries.

  • Do you fear the trip will be too stressful? Can you see yourself running around like a headless chicken, trying to find the coaches whilst dealing with a homesick child, finding your entrance booking number somewhere on your phone that doesn't have internet whilst also trying to negotiate dietary options? Key ingredient for any successful trip: a 24/7 bilingual chaperone or local trip responsible who essentially runs the trip for you. A good chaperone should deal with all the logistics so you can focus on what is most important: bond with your students and enjoy the trip with them (all WIMFs for you too!).

WIFM target #2: Your SMT

The Brexit uncertainty, terrorist attacks… paradoxically there are many reasons why now is even more important than ever for schools, teachers and parents to encourage students to get know other cultures, learn another languages and develop respect and understanding for others.

Apart from educational responsibilities, school trips are also in the school’s interest for other reasons: they are good for their name and prestige, contribute to better exam results, increase students’ (and their teachers’) motivation and create valuable educational experiences that can’t be taught in the classroom. Obvious WIFMs you’d think, so what are their concerns?

Their concerns? Safety and risk prevention. I know it’s a lot of work to go through all those forms needed to be filled out and procedures to take into account when planning a trip, but they are all there for a reason. The best way to deal with this quickly and efficiently?

  • Play by the rules - don’t fight it, complain or complicate things. Just ask for the trip’s organisation manual, work out what you need to submit and when and allow for more than enough time to do this all.

  • Get those risk assessments of the agency or educational institution, your SMT will appreciate you making their job easier and filling in their paperwork correctly in one go.

  • Do an Inspection Visit. You can get the big bulk of the paperwork out of the way and in this way your SMT can guarantee to the parents, governors and others that everything has been thoroughly inspected and approved.

WIFM target #3: The students

With no students signed up, there will obviously be no trip to run. Your students are (or should be in my opinion) the main reason why you are putting in all the blood, sweat and tears to get this trip organised. Now, let’s acknowledge an uncomfortable truth some teachers struggle to admit: most students won't share your reasons for the importance or value of a trip. You think: more exposure to the subject, new skills that students will learn or practice, more cultural awareness, more independence… I am sure you can come up with many other great outcomes and learning opportunities. But let’s be honest: apart from the odd student here and there, that won’t get the majority of your students feel excited to sign up for the trip.

Does this mean the trip isn’t worth it after all? Of course not: they’ll get all those great outcomes along the way anyway, it’s just not their number 1 reason to sign up. The key is to find out what makes them want to come, what are their WIFMs? Here are some ideas:

  • Fun times hanging out with their friends. (Show them photos of the venue, the bedrooms, the dining area so they can picture themselves having fun together).

  • Exciting excursions, unique activities and other things they will be doing. (Use photos, ask what they expect to see / do and whether they’ve ever done anything similar before - get them excited).    

  • Recognition - Add in fun competitions: can you do daily quizzes or keep responsibility charts with points or prizes to win during the trip?

  • Those great language outcomes that you had in mind? Remind them how the trip will help them with their homework or their GCSE exam later this year!

WIFM target #4: The parents

While most parents can generally appreciate the value of a school trip, the majority of them will be looking at three key factors when deciding whether or not to go ahead or not:

  • Price.
  • Added educational value.
  • Safety.

Disneyland Paris or Barcelona for your French or Spanish trip? Awesome destinations, but what’s the added educational value? Does Disneyland Paris offer any insight into the French culture and / or language? Barcelona absolutely is a beautiful destination with lots of culture, but you might struggle to find enough opportunities for the students to practice their Spanish, as it will likely be Catalán or English that they will hear. Do students have to take the Metro around the city each day on their own to get from their host"Most students won't share your reasons for the importance or value of a trip." family to the meeting point? If so, how can you guarantee the students’ safety?

Added to that, parents know that your students will most likely at some point in their lives go to France or Spain on holiday at some point, and both these destinations are probably high on the list anyway: Barcelona for the weekend with some friends or Paris with a boyfriend or girlfriend.Where is the WIFM for the parents? What’s the trip’s added value, that you are aware of but that they can’t see? What are the students going to see, do, learn, experience that they wouldn’t otherwise with their family, friends or partner? Find it, market it to the parents, convince them it is worth their money and then see those permission forms being handed back in!

I’ve seen teachers become demotivated at organizing school trips because they somehow can’t seem to get the trip started and end up give up after a few attempts. I, like many educators, thoroughly believe that school trips are one of the greatest ways of bringing learning to life and of providing students with a real opportunity to have a unique experience. Trips provide students AND teachers with great memories and valuable skills and I hope that this article has given you some ideas on how to get a new trip off the ground.

How do you tackle school trips? Let us know below.


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