SPECIAL SECTIONS: EDUCATION
FOR EVERYTHING that children learn at school, teachers often say that some of the biggest jumps in maturity come when pupils are taken outside the classroom. “The increased levels of maturity that travelling abroad brings out in young children is quite astonishing,” says Ben Evans, headmaster at Edge Grove Prep School in Hertfordshire.
He thinks that taking pupils abroad in a school context “broadens their horizons, as the expectation to behave responsibly and confidently is somehow magnified the minute they cross the UK borders”.
He also lauds the experience from an educational perspective. “What is remarkable is their natural thirst for discovery and adventure, their ability to adapt and communicate with different nationalities with ease and also to inspire others around them,” he says, adding that “although children are out of their comfort zones when abroad, it seems that the unknown does seem to bring out the best in their ability to concentrate and focus”. From his experience, “being somewhere completely different engages the mind and most children will try that much harder to succeed”.
Last spring the school ran a ski trip, and Mr Evans recently accompanied a group on a cricket tour to Sri Lanka. As well as the value of the experience for fostering maturity and learning new things, it also taught pupils to challenge stereotypes, such as the assumption that food in a developing country would be unenjoyable. “It is interesting to see how these views are altered when they experience the true reality, such as having some of the loveliest food they have ever tasted.”
In his opinion, overseas trips can actually help pupils-years-down the line, in the world of work.
“The nice thing about travelling is that all skills are transferable,” he says.
“I’d also argue that modern life necessitates the acquisition of these skills if you are to succeed in life. The world is actually very small and communication with people of different nationalities is essential as is having an understanding of their cultures.
“Overseas trips not only engage young minds but [promote] the adaptability and ability to react to different circumstances without panic or mental collapse — a formidable skill to have in any workplace environment today.”
What makes for a successful overseas trip?
“Make sure you are clear on the purpose of the trip and whether you really do need to go overseas,” he says. “Can the same outcome be achieved by staying in the UK?” Structure is vital, high ratios of staff are essential and the trip should be affordable to enough parents to make it viable.
Mr Evans is also a believer in UK-based trips. His school went on an “expedition week” in June and destinations since then have included the National Portrait Gallery and Regents Park Open Air Theatre.
In Jewish schools, staff value trips for all the same reasons as elsewhere — and also for the potential they hold for Jewish education and bolstering Jewish identity.
At Immanuel College, an independent Jewish school in Hertfordshire for boys and girls aged four to 19, there are trips to the theatre, museums, parks, other open spaces and old-age care homes throughout the year.
In terms of residential trips, year seven pupils are given the option of going to Amsterdam where, among other things,
they see the Anne Frank House Holocaust memorial and year nine pupils have the chance to go to Israel, where activities include water sports on the Sea of Galilee and tours of Jerusalem.
In year 12, pupils are offered a trip to Poland, during which they learn about the Jewish history of the country and about Holocaust history, including visits to camps.
“We offer a range of educational day trips throughout the academic year to pupils in all year groups in both the prep school and senior school,” says Paul Abrahams, an assistant head, elaborating: “At Immanuel we actively encourage trips for the immense educational, social and cultural value that they offer to our pupils.”
Immanuel pupils are inspired by Amsterdam
Immanuel year nines plunge into Israeli life. Below: Edge Grove students learn transferable skills on a ski trip