School expeditions abroad – Look for ELF!

Dan Mew

With so many different school expeditions on offer, how do you possibly select the one that is right for you and your students? When you search the internet, there are an abundance of companies claiming to have the perfect offering for your school trip, so it can be difficult to know which to choose and whether you have made the right decision.

This process doesn’t have to be as daunting as you might expect. With the right checklist of what to look for in a host company and what you want your students to achieve, you can get it right.

Here is my shortlist of what to look for in a school trip abroad. Use this as your ‘go-to’ and I am sure that you will make the right choices and have the gold standard of school expeditions!

  • School expeditions abroad - STF and LOTC accreditationsLook for a company that has accreditations relating to school expeditions, such as the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge (LOtC) and School Travel Forum (STF) approval. If a company has approval from these organisations, you can trust that they are a reliable provider and this will make achieving SLT approval that much easier. In addition, check if they have approval from supporting organisations within the sector, for example ABTA and ATOL, to provide further reassurance that they are a reputable provider.
  • Look for a company that can offer what I believe are the three key aims from a school trip – Education, Life-learning and Fun. (I like to call this ELF!) It goes without saying that a school trip should be educational but I think that life-learning is something that often gets overlooked. For me, this is as important as the educational side of things, as it is preparing our children for life ‘in the real world’. Finally, what would a school trip be without fun? This is an essential for any school trip; after all, if a child is not having fun, they are less likely to engage and learn.
  • Choose a school trip which is a learning experience rather than just a trip. For me, this means that you are really making the most of the opportunity to develop your students in different ways. For example, how about selecting a trip which requires fundraising in preparation for the expedition? This allows even more personal development for your students and enhances the learning experience and the fun! This makes the trip much more of a ‘journey’ for your students rather than just a two-week break.
  • Look at cost and support for the trip – it would be remiss of me to advise that cost doesn’t come into this, but I think that the key here is choosing a travel provider which offers value for money, rather than just going for the cheapest. Looks at what the company offers you in return for your money; if this is a great deal of preparation support and organisation, this must be considered a positive. We all know that teachers have little time to dedicate to matters outside of the classroom so a company that provides organisational assistance surely has to be on the checklist.
  • Know your final objective from the trip and then plan to achieve this. This will also help you when gaining trip approval from SMT, governors and parents. Let me assume that student development and fulfilment are on your list of aims; to meet these, I would say that you need to select something relatively challenging, with the opportunity to learn, and something where your students will be able to see the impact that they have made. A sense of achievement from your students will mean a great deal to you, at the end of the day.

It is impossible to incorporate absolutely everything you will need to consider here, but this is certainly a good starting point. This will get to the stage where you have a good shortlist to work from. After this point, I am sure that you will learn which is the right organisation and trip for you and your students from talking to certain companies. I am sure that you will get that feeling of satisfaction and reassurance when you meet the ‘right’ company, and if they are the right company they will provide all the support possible to make your experience that little bit easier. So, get to the shortlist stage and then after that, trust your instincts…sometimes you just get that feeling, right?

School expeditions abroad

Rachel Northover