01952 810799 
sres_centres@sandwell.gov.uk 
You don't always get what you expect. Trump. Brexit. Who saw it coming? And persistent, at times torrential rain in June. You didn't bargain on that when you booked your summer educational visit and bought your shorts and shades, did you?! 
 
However, every cloud has a silver lining - if you look hard enough. 
Hi-ho, a teacher on 5 Live found one. He'd taken his class to Chester Zoo in June and it poured cold rain all day. Surely that spoiled the experience for the children? On the contrary, he said, it made it. The children wrapped up, got to see the animals without the crowds, got under cover for lunchtime, had loads of attention from the zoo staff, and will remeber it for years to come. Because it was different. "Way better", he said, than last year's hassle of over-heating children, slippery sun cream and crowds of people to negotiate. So, accidentally, it was better. 
 
But can you plan for an outcome like that?  
 
Well, it's British weather so you can't. Not exactly. But, hold on a second.... surely that sounds like the experience you'd be more likely to get in the autumn or winter! 
 
 
 
"To get the best value from 
a residential, I'd plan to go 
in the autumn or winter 
every time" 

Sunset at Plas Gwynant 

The case is strong: not too hot, darker cooler nights with stars and torch walks and campfires, and better sleepers; better appetites, no biting insects, nettles and hayfever! And of course, our creative and expressive arts residentials aren't affected by the weather anyway.  
 
AND it sets up the rest of the school year with transferable skills, shared experiences and reference points, and stronger relationships
 
 
 
 
Getting a greater return on your investment. 
A residential in the autumn, winter or spring is usually cheaper. 
 
There is a cost to residentials in money, time and effort. Viewed as an investment, you'll want the best return, and this often offers it. You'll recognise things in your pupils that it's hard to simulate in a classroom environment, so a well planned residential at the earliest opportunity in the school year gives you more chance to embed learning, deepen the outcomes, for less money, 
 
Ok it might rain, or hail, or sleet; but we know that's possible in June. It might even snow...... wow, that could be brilliant! 
 
I'm not saying that summer residentials aren't great. They are; i've enjoyed working outdoors with groups every bit as much in the summer as at other times of the year. But, objectively, the arguments in favour of planning your residential visits for earlier in the school year really do add up. There's been the Learning Away "Winter Residentials" campaign over the last couple of years highlighting these benefits. 
And with the new Ofsted framework judging schools on their intent to have an ambitious curriculum developing skills beyond the academic, including a Personal Development judgment, many school will be looking carefully and creatively at how residential visits can provide support. 
 
Schools and parents want best value and maximum return. I'd recommend working with residential learning providers to plan and structure your residential visits, with a focus on autumn and winter. 
 
It will be darker, it might be colder, it could be wetter - but with all that, you'll know you'll get a silver lining. 
 
With best wishes, 
Richard Oakes is Sandwell Residential Education Service's Manager, and school governor. 
Our autumn-spring late availability and offers are available HERE  
Learning Away's infographic exploring the evaluated impact of Winter Residentials is HERE 
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