Across Australia’s vast and dynamic education system, school camps are enriching student learning beyond classroom walls, blending educational rigor with the thrill of adventure, playing a pivotal role in broadening young people’s horizons.
However, the effectiveness of these camps rests on meticulous preparation, strategic planning, and a commitment to safety and inclusivity. Key elements include aligning activities with educational goals, managing student expectations and behaviour, and scrutinising logistical arrangements.
One company that has been helping schools achieve this is World Travel Protection (WTP), which enables schools identify and mitigate risks associated with all aspects of their physical and protective security requirements, as well as meet their duty of care requirements for all forms of travel.
Below, Debra Harvey and Rodger Cook from WTP share 10 helpful pointers for schools to consider when planning a successful school camp.
1. Conduct thorough pre-trip health assessments
Before departure, the school will need to conduct a thorough risk assessment. This will include all planned activities and health assessments for students, accompanying parents and teachers to identify any medical conditions, allergies, and to ensure necessary medications are packed. This step can be time-consuming, often involving back-and-forth communication between the school and the relevant government Department of Education. That’s where a third-party risk mitigation and travel assistance provider can ease the burden for schools, offering everything from a risk mitigation plan to information and intelligence on the school camp destination. For example, some overseas destinations may not allow medications that are legal in Australia, such as select ADHD medications when travelling to Japan.
2. Be aware of cultural sensitivities
Being aware of cultural sensitivities is a fundamental aspect of responsible travel. Familiarise students and teachers, as well as caregivers accompanying children on the school trip, with local customs, dietary considerations, and potential health hazards to promote cultural sensitivity and minimise health risks. Research the country, the local practices, the religion(s) and how to dress and act appropriately. A current example is the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict, which can have global impacts on travellers in various ways. It is a very sensitive and politically charged situation that has cultural and religious implications for certain communities and travellers should exercise cultural sensitivity and respect diverse perspectives. It’s important to be aware of this when planning and undertaking travel.
3. Choose a good travel insurance provider
Purchasing comprehensive travel insurance covering medical emergencies and unexpected events is a must. Principals and the leadership team need to remember their duty of care extends to teachers too. They should feel supported and cared for by their employer while they’re away, creating a safe and reassuring environment for the whole travel experience. Check the product disclosure statement to be aware of any exclusions that may apply, especially if they’re relevant to a school trip. Travel insurance is more than a formality – it’s a commitment to everyone’s well-being on the trip.
4. Ensure access to 24/7 emergency assistance – and keep the phone number handy
Ensure that trip participants have access to emergency assistance no matter the time of the day should anything go wrong. Travel assistance companies such as World Travel Protection can provide round-the-clock medical and security support, no matter where the school camp may be taking place. This can include access to telehealth services for swift medical consultations or direction on the best medical provider in the region. Empower teachers and accompanying staff with basic first-aid training for an immediate response to minor injuries or illnesses. Leading travel risk management companies equip travellers with essential intelligence and skills to anticipate incidents or manage risks, reducing the impact of emergencies. Additionally, prepare comprehensive medical kits tailored to the specific needs of the students, including considerations for allergies and chronic conditions. Consider how to store medication during the trip, such as critical EpiPens that shouldn’t be exposed to extreme temperatures. It’s about having the right tools and knowledge to handle any health situation during the journey.
5. Have clear communication systems and emergency contacts
Ensure staff and students have reliable communication devices for the trip. Download a safety tracking app, like the Travel Assist app World Travel Protection provides for clients, on their phones. World Travel Protection’s 24-hour Command Centres monitor international threats and alert travellers to potential risks based on their itinerary and geo-location feeds, enabling informed decisions on the go. For effective communication during emergencies, implement clear policies dictating when, how often, and with whom communication should occur. Consider potential situations such as multiple teachers falling ill and how students will then be managed. Also, keep hard copies of key documents and travel details on the off chance digital communications go down. It’s about both the tools and the strategies for seamless, safe travel.
6. Be aware of common travel scams, fraudsters and physical crime
Amid the hustle of managing large groups of school children, thieves seize opportunities when guards are down. Stay alert and protect against scams—research, use reputable booking agents, and be cautious. Physical theft, pickpocketing, and robberies surge, especially in crowded tourist spots. Students should limit the electronics, jewellery and any other valuables they travel with to both reduce this threat and save on space. Ensure they stay vigilant, secure valuables, and avoid keeping everything in one place. Some things students can look out for include checking they are being given the correct change when paying overseas vendors in cash; having their attention diverted by criminals working in groups; and leaving their mobile device on a surface such as dining table, which can be commonly swiped.
7. Beware free wi-fi/unsecured networks
Let’s face it, a mobile device can be viewed as a lifeline for many tweens and teenagers! Using free public Wi-Fi, like in airports, hotels or coffee shops, is convenient but risky for digital security. Cybercriminals target these networks for personal information. We advise using a VPN, disabling ‘auto-connect’ on phones, and if possible, using secure mobile data (4G/5G). It’s vital to educate students and staff on these precautions. This enhances their digital safety, a crucial aspect of managing school trips, especially when sensitive information might be at risk. Stay ahead of potential threats and incorporate these practices into your travel plans, such as recommending a VPN provider that staff and students can download before they travel.
8. Plan for any public transport pain
Weather, industrial action or maintenance issues can all cause unexpected delays with public transportation, from trains to buses and flights. For a smooth school trip, it’s crucial for principals and teachers to check the journey plan before departure, staying informed about any changes and being ready for potential delays. Consider how accommodation and food will be managed should any extreme delays occur, such as a cancelled flight leading to an additional overnight for the school trip.
9. Know your natural disasters
Climate change has intensified adverse weather conditions, heightening the frequency and severity of natural disasters. From hurricanes to floods and droughts, these events disrupt travel, potentially endangering both students and teachers. To safeguard everyone during school trips, proactive risk management strategies are crucial. As you plan each excursion, factor in these evolving weather patterns, taking the season and destination into account, ensuring robust risk management that guarantees a secure and successful journey for all.
10. Mental health support is a must
The pandemic and other factors have shifted how people handle travel abroad, leading to increasing incidents of declining mental health. Having a “homesickness lifeline” can be a stress reliever. Students can identify a supportive friend or family member who feels like home, and agree with them that they can reach out at any time during the trip, no explanations needed. A simple phone call can offer a soothing chat to ease homesickness. Alternatively, travel risk management companies such as World Travel Protection offer mental health tele-support to students and staff. For principals and teachers overseeing students on trips, understanding these emotional aspects becomes crucial for ensuring a positive mental health experience.