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  • Sarah Johnson

The Educational Value of school trips

I’ve been reading some of the discussion on X (formally known as Twitter) about school trips. One of the things I talk about is the idea of operationalising terms. Operationalising refers to defining what something is in the context of research (Babbie, 2016). For example, I will have a different interpretation of the term “inappropriate behaviour” or “good behaviour” and even “alternative provision.” Being able to define something means at least you are hopefully talking about the same thing before we get to more specifics (American Psychological Association, 2020).

When I was a fairly new teacher, the term I used was 'educational visits'. The reason for this was to reinforce that the external outings had a value beyond that of fun. They were a way of enhancing the curriculum and developing knowledge and understanding. Whilst we didn’t refer to it in the words of Bourdieu, it was about acknowledging that some children are disadvantaged because they may not have the same experience as others (Bourdieu, 1986).

The dialogue on educational visits seems emanate from four lenses. Lenses in this sense are the idea that we might be looking at the same issue but have a different overlay to understanding it. Lenses overlap just like coloured overlays do. The lenses, as I see them, are these:

1. One of risk - that there is a risk to the child, to those around (including professional risk), and reputational risk (Department for Education, 2018).

2. That of natural consequence - if children don’t behave how we expect and determine is appropriate within the school, they don’t deserve the extras (Skinner, 1971).

3. That visits are part of the school curriculum and thus children should be enabled and empowered to attend (Kelly, 2009).

4. That behaviour is a consequence of children not being able to communicate their emotional world in conducive ways (Cooper & Jacobs, 2011).

In the next few days, I’m going to reflect on these lenses and share what others do and what I’ve done to support children attending educational visits. I hope to do this in a way that is practical and supportive of the school community.

1. American Psychological Association. (2020). Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (7th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

2. Babbie, E. (2016). The Practice of Social Research (14th ed.). Cengage Learning.

3. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241-258). Greenwood.

4. Department for Education. (2018). Health and Safety: Advice on Legal Duties and Powers. Retrieved from

5. Skinner, B. F. (1971). Beyond Freedom and Dignity. Knopf.

6. Kelly, A. V. (2009). The Curriculum: Theory and Practice (6th ed.). Sage Publications Ltd.

7. Cooper, P., & Jacobs, B. (2011). From Inclusion to Engagement: Helping Students Engage with Schooling through Policy and Practice. Wiley-Blackwell.

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