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Top Tips for Your First School Ski Trip

05/03/2020 11:32:42

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Gary Taylor is the Ski Trip Leader for Coombe Boys’ and Girls’ Schools, and has over 10 years’ experience arranging school ski trips – 6 of those with Halsbury. Here he tells us his top tips for first time Ski Trip Leaders:

1. Choose your team wisely

Get staff involved that will be proactive not reactive.

What you really want is staff that will do things without being asked to do them. Being a trip leader should not have to involve directing personnel at all times - this would be hugely stressful.

If you have new staff on the trip, train them up for future years, so that they understand your systems and can be proactive in the future. The aim is to have staff that could carry on should you decide not to.

2. Cherish your risk assessments

Risk assessments are NOT just a paper exercise.

Take great care in writing them, plan for every eventuality, then plan again, nothing is too small.

Make sure your staff read them. Send to staff in advance and get evidence that they have been read. Read it aloud to them if needed.

If something happens on the trip, you need to have absolute peace of mind that staff are very clear in what procedure they need to follow.

3. Pupil numbers matter

Be realistic and build your pupil number around the team of staff you have.

I favour 60 pupils and 8 staff. That gives me a double decker coach with double seats for staff (look after your staff!).

With just one coach, I stay in control. If you have two coaches, do you have another staff member that can lead?

4. Communicate with parents via Twitter

I strongly recommend having a trip Twitter account - it revolutionised the way we communicate with parents before, during and after the trips we run and is the most effective way of keeping parents fully informed.

On our latest trip I spoke on the phone to just one parent all week. The most liked tweets of the day are always things like “Pupils are all off the mountain safe and sound”, or “Pupils are all in bed safe and sound after another great day”.

Little details like this make parents happy and make your life easier. Parents always hugely appreciate the feed and this year we had 100% parental engagement! For a taste, see our Twitter @coombefedski.

5. Choose your resort wisely

This is probably the most important planning decision you will make.

I have spoken above about what works for me, but you need to think about what works for you. If you don't know, write a list of what you want and use it as a checklist against resorts offered to you.

6. Buy helmet covers!

Why not every school does this baffles me!

Gone are the days of being on a chairlift and wondering which groups of kids were ours. Helmet covers are the most useful thing we have ever bought for our trip and I would never go without them. From a pupil safety perspective, I believe they are vital. The ski schools love them too!

7. Print emergency contact cards for pupils and parents

These should include your Twitter account handle, emergency contact numbers and hotel address. Make it a size that parents can easily put on their fridge!

8. Use waterproof plasters!

If you haven’t been a member of staff on a school ski trip you could never understand the stress caused by pupils putting on the wrong boots or picking up the wrong skis at the start of a ski session!

When you have 60 children this could easily take an hour to rectify, eating into valuable skiing time. Yes, ski rental shops give you a printout of the pupil’s hire equipment, but the reality of getting every pupil to check they have the right boots/skis is frankly a nightmare.

In future, buy a load of waterproof plasters and stick them on skis and boots. With a permanent marker, then write their name on. Stress no more!

9. Have evening meetings

Always a great part of the day, an evening meeting is the perfect opportunity to get everyone together, celebrate the successes of the day and give out important notices/reminders.

The ski meeting is an important opportunity to remind pupils of your high expectations and to challenge anything that doesn't meet them.

Pupils love awards such as skier of the day, or, if they can take it, muppet of the day! We get groups to nominate for each award and recount the stories when we announce the winners. Kids love it and it bonds the group stronger every evening.

10. Count often!

On the bus, off the bus, into dinner, out of dinner, on the slopes, off the slopes, into the disco, out of the disco, in their rooms, out of their rooms - you get the idea!

11. Appreciate people

Coach drivers, office staff, tour operators, trip participants, pupils, parents, caretakers opening out of hours, headteachers, emergency contacts, family members - all have a role to play and, as trip leader, remember to appreciate that none of it would happen without them.

Make sure they know how much you appreciate their support. For example, coach drivers love a croissant whilst they fill up the coach!

12. Consider trust-wide/joint trips

Six years ago, we made the decision to combine our girls’ school and boys’ school trips. The impact of this has been huge.

Pupil relationships over the week develop at an astonishing rate. The progress pupils make in their skiing is matched by their social development and this has been such a positive aspect to our trip.

In addition, staff that normally do not work together have become good friends and effective trust-wide colleagues as a result. If you are a small school, or part of a trust, it may be worth exploring combining trips.

13. Celebrate your success

Ski trips offer enormous benefits for all involved. I have seen previously quiet, shy pupils grow in confidence, make new friends and discover more about themselves in one week away than perhaps in a whole year at school.

The opportunities for staff to bond with pupils and with their colleagues are huge. Celebrate this and the success of the trip when you get back.

Make sure colleagues, parents and pupils know how successful it was and use this momentum for next year’s trip. Twitter again works well for this, as parental feedback is clear and obvious.

14. Reflect and improve

Every year something new comes along to challenge you. How you deal with that should inform your planning for next year's trip. We can all improve!

I for one have amended my risk assessments for next year to include ‘Force 10 storm with high seas on the ferry crossing’ and ‘coach tyre blowout halfway up a mountain’. Luckily we had Halsbury on hand to resolve the situation quickly!

Want more?

For more tips on planning your first school ski trip, please see our ‘Top Tips for Organising Your First School Ski Trip’ resource.

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