How to organise Primary School trips and visits (1)

School trips are a great opportunity to get out of the school environment and to experience a huge array of new and exciting learning situations – some directly linked to the curriculum and some not.

School trips fall broadly into 2 categories

  • Day trips out
  • Residential trips (UK or abroad)

Lets consider these separately

The first point to make will be obvious for more experienced colleagues but for newer members of staff its worth pointing out. “A trip out of school is harder work than a day in school….so don’t for 1 second think it will be an easy day out at….wherever you go!”

Deciding on your trip

The decision on trips generally comes from the Headteacher and largely rests with finance. Can the school afford to run a trip for classes and if so how many can the school afford during the year? Perhaps in the budget the school has managed to set aside some funds to pay for trips or to contribute towards lets say the coaches – or will all the parents have to be asked for “contributions”…with the inevitable few making no financial effort. In some schools the PTA may have been asked to raise funds for school trips and this is another source of income that is gratefully received.

I have been in schools where trips never happened which was a real pity – in one school we were not allowed to visit Duxford War museum for our topic on WW11 even though the school was in the locality!

The first steps: The easiest decision is to take a class trip that links directly to your current topic focus. However do make sure that you plan your trip sufficiently into the timing of the topic in order that the visit reinforces the work already covered and allows the children to experience first hand what they have talked and researched at school.

Go and visit: You have to go and visit your intended trip location. In the majority of cases the visit will be to a place that is managed and open to the public. This will allow you to ring ahead and inform the location that you are teachers and are organising a trip for x children of x years old and you would like to visit. Usually they will allow you to visit free of charge and they should have teachers packs to give you suitable for the age range.


On your visit: This is vital – it is your one chance to gather all the information you need to plan the visit. If you can go with either your T.A or perhaps another class teacher if 2 classes are going then that is a help.

The very basics you will need to know:

  • Where you will be when the bus drops you off
  • Where the toilets are
  • The location to have lunch and or leave coats and bags
  • Is there a reception area or contact person if you need one
  • Does any part of your trip involve a talk or demonstration by a member of the locations staff – how long this may be and where is it held and at what time?
  • Your risk assessment paperwork completed for school
  • Disabled access and facilities should you need it.

In my opinion it is NOT enough just to visit a place and “wander about” looking at stuff – this is not educational and the children will soon get bored and naturally problems will ensue!

A good plan is for every child to have a clipboard and questionnaire about the visit complete with things to look at as the trip progresses and questions to be answered or drawings made. This may sound old fashioned but it gives a good sense of purpose to the visit, allows artefacts, information to be highlighted and also focusses the children throughout the visit.

child with clipboard

It is on your finding out visit that this questionnaire must be formulated.

You are now armed with all the information about your trip – dates have been set, funds found and the letters sent home.

Logistics of your trip:

Again all these must be sorted out before you go.

  • How many children you have and so how many adults will you need (check with HT/DH for ratio’s which vary with the children’s age)
  • All children going on the trip should have returned permission forms – the office will keep you right on this!
  • Divide the children into groups with an adult responsible for each group – irrespective whether or not the trip will be organised as a class or in groups the children should know who they have as an adult or adults looking after them.
  • It is better if the children have been run through the topic questionnaire before the day – this can be done in class.
  • Packed lunches – pre-order with the kitchen. Some children may bring their own sandwiches – either they carry their own or school packed lunches are in a large box.
  • The usual assortment of sick buckets, bags and first aid equipment
  • Some schools have walkie – talkies for staff others rely on mobile phones – make sure which method is to be used and that contact numbers are distributed before you go.
  • School / staff cameras are charged and ready.
  • Many schools use coloured overvests to identify children easily – if this is something you are doing make sure you have enough.

Reminders for children and parents

  • Suitable clothing (you may be insisting on school uniform)
  • Appropriate footwear for the location – if additional wellingtons are taken make sure they all have names in and possibly pegged together (pairs not all of them !)
  • I would advise no cameras, no music devices and no mobile phones – there is a risk of them getting lost or broken and will not be needed
  • No Sweets or fizzy drinks
  • Decide on whether the children can bring money for the shop if there is one – personally unless the shop is great and has children friendly prices (not more than £1) I would say no money. (Organising shop visits in small groups and supervising is a bit of a chore!)

On the day:

Get to school early and check through that you have everything sorted – a checklist if often handy for this.  The children will be excited when they arrive so expect this and beyond the initial registration do not be too worried about noise levels unless it becomes excessive. You should now have a folder with all your information in it….

  • Class list
  • Possible permission forms
  • Phone numbers
  • Location details and contacts
  • Map of location
  • Questionnaire and any notes you need
  • Group splits and with which teacher / helper

When the bus arrives: From this point in you will be drawing on the class management and behaviour management strategies that you have implemented with your children. Line the children up with all their bags and coats. Send the helpers firstly to the bus to load the equipment – then walk the children in pairs to the bus doors before letting them get on the bus.

school bus

During the journey you must keep an eye out for any children who feel unwell and have bags and bucket at the ready. Sweets and fizzy drinks will make this worse and this is why we have said that they should not be brought. It is better for staff / helpers to sit amongst the children rather than all at the front as its nice to interact with the children but also this enables any behavioural or health issues to be quickly spotted and deal with.

Having arrived at your destination: However you have arranged your trip you must first disembark the children and meet altogether for a quick chat about what you have to do workwise and what you expect behaviour wise. One thing to try to avoid if you can is the children carrying everything around with them on the visit. If there is a school room or area then coats or bags can be left while the children are on the visit and can be collected at lunchtime. Most larger locations have these facilities but you will have asked on your teacher visit.

Having dropped off schoolbags, lunches and coats the trip will now commence. Make sure you have prearranged meeting times for lunch or break and if the children are younger maybe even a play area time!

On a final note – be vigilant at all times – remember that you and your class are in public and what happens reflects on the school. Remind children to be polite and courteous but do keep quite a firm hand on discipline. Should any child or children start to cause problems for staff or helpers then have the child sent to join your group and he or she can spend the rest of the visit under your watchful eye!

I think that about covers everything for organising your trip – it is a lot of work but its great fun although tiring on the day. However a well organised trip can bring your topic to life and to see touch and experience what was previously in the classroom is an amazing experience.

On a personal note – I once took a class of inner city children aged 9 to a farm. They had never seen the farm animals in real life before. Part of the day involved feeding the sheep with pellets in your hand…what an experience!

children feeding sheep2 children with sheep

Enjoy your days out








Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *