PE teacher, former ski rep and all-round school ski trip guru Kaeti Breward shares her top tips on keeping your school ski trips free of stress.
Kaeti Breward is a PE teacher who has organised many school ski trips over the course of her career, and she also spent some time organising and repping some of our ski trips. Here, she gives us her top tips on how to make your ski trip stress-free!
Keep a file
Have a file…the file is life! Your itinerary should be in here, copies of any important forms (leave the original with your headteacher / EVC), any tickets or vouchers and a rooming list, as well as a summary of the kids’ skiing ability. Lots of this will be sorted by Halsbury but I like to have it myself too.
I also like to have an online copy of everything important accessible on my phone. I have paper copies too in the “file is life” file but realistically you don’t want to be lugging that around so, if everything is on a cloud that’s easily accessible from your phone it makes life easier.
Make copies of passports and EHICs/GHICs
Collect passports and EHICs/GHICs from the students before going and make at least one copy of each one. Personally, I like to keep hold of all the passports for the duration and put them in the hotel safe when we arrive, but please make sure you don’t forget to take them out before you leave the hotel (trust me, this actually happened on a trip I was repping)!
Take plastic wallets
Zip-up plastic wallets are your friend. For ease of counting and so that everything doesn’t fall on the party leader, divide your students into “teacher groups” before travelling.
Split the passports into teacher groups, have one zip-up wallet for each group labelled and put a copy of each passport in the wallet along with the passports for that group.
If flying, you can then queue up for check-in etc. in teacher groups or, if going on a coach, let them off the coach in teacher groups to go through passport control.
Don’t assign yourself a teacher group
Do not assign a teacher group to yourself as party leader. Your job is to ask each teacher if their group is all there. Also, if a teacher does need to do something else at a time where kids need to be counted, you can step in. The kids will become accustomed to the yell of “teacher groups” very quickly and they should be used before heading to the slopes, at the end of the day etc.
Give each teacher a laminated card with their group on to put in their pocket, phone case etc. I take a picture of this and have it as my background on my phone for the week.
Give staff specific roles
The trips that have not gone so well in my opinion both as a party leader/teacher and rep are the ones where the party leader tries to do everything themselves (I’m guilty of this myself!).
Some roles that can be distributed are - banker (if you’re taking money off kids, I’ll come back to this later), first aid, entertainment/sports and social media/communications.
For religious schools, you may want to assign someone to be in charge of maintaining the religious ethos of the school whilst away.
Prepare for the coach journey
If you’re travelling by coach, the journey there can sometimes seem daunting, but most of the time it’s fine! Encourage the kids to bring tablets etc. to keep themselves occupied. The days of watching a DVD on the coach may be behind us but your coach may have one, so it’s worth checking, as age appropriate films can be a great way to get kids to fall asleep.
On the way out to resort, I usually have a vague seating plan and keep the kids in year groups on the coach. There are a few reasons for this but mainly it’s for the kids that are not with a friendship group, so that they can start making friends within their year group.
Also, in some European countries you have to have an adult by emergency exits, so if you have some form of seating plan it reduces the need to move kids about when you set off.
Usually, I put the older ones at the back on the way home. In the past, I have used this as a prize for the best kept rooms all week. We have gone to town on this in the part and done a room check with marks out of 10 each day for the tidiest rooms. This has escalated into a tradition with the rooms competing and offering staff ‘experiences’ when they come and assess the rooms. We have had afternoon tea, movies and many more creative ideas!
Again, I would recommend that you don’t do all this yourself and delegate this to another couple of members of staff to monitor.
Make sure you have your rep’s details
Make sure you have your reps contact details and make contact with them before going. All the best trips I’ve done as a teacher and rep have been when communication has been excellent.
Keep parents in the loop
Parents like to be kept informed. Some schools now have apps to do this, other schools set up a ski trip Twitter account.
Make it clear to kids that if anything happens on the trip, they should not contact parents. This will be done by staff. It’s a nightmare if accidents happen and the party leader gets told by a concerned parent ringing to see what has happened.
With younger kids, you may want to consider taking phones off them at night. Mobiles are a blessing and a curse…I’m not even sure if there is a right or wrong answer to it!
Hold a parents meeting (Halsbury will send a representative if you ask them). As well as giving information about the trip, spell out your expectations and rules.
If you have any children with medical needs, sit down with their parents and go through what is needed. Make it clear that the emergency contact number is exactly that! I always tell parents that “no news is good news” on ski trips as their kids will be busy and may not have the time to be in contact!
This is where a trip Twitter account comes in handy, as you can assign a member of staff to be responsible for uploading updates (an important update is always about food…take pictures of meal times and kids eating so that parents are reassured that kids aren’t starving).
Make sure that any kids that do not have consent for their pictures to be shared are known to the member of staff sharing updates and make sure you have read your school’s social media policy. Many schools now only want initials on social media.
Any teacher will know that labelling is up there with “the file”, as labelling is also life!
I have seen it all as far as trying to make sure that ski equipment is organised and doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. I had a disastrous experience once which I won’t go into detail about but since then it’s been my mission as a rep/teacher or party leader to make sure that it doesn’t happen again!
Some ideas for this:
• Ski ties that have the names of your kids on that they keep all week, these can be bought relatively cheaply on eBay.
• Cards for the kids that they keep in their jackets with the numbers of their individual kit on (boots, skis, helmet) and they check each morning that they have the correct ones.
• A spreadsheet of these numbers that you give to the teachers (I would divide them into teacher groups).
• Labelling using a label maker (this is #goals but realistically I would never have the time to make them!).
• Labelling using waterproof tape and a marker, yes by the end of the week it may fall off but by this time the kids are used to working out whose equipment is whose. The first two days are the worst!
On the note of labelling, make sure in your parents’ meeting that you tell parents they need to label the kids’ ski kit. There is likely to be several pairs of Decathlon gloves or Aldi base layers and if it’s labelled it can be returned to its rightful owner - in 15 years of school ski trips I’ve never once had one with no lost property!
Whether your ski kit is staying in the hotel, is staying by the slopes or staying on the coach, make sure you have a system in place pace to allow the skis to be retrieved in an organised manner. Use your teacher groups or ski groups if easier.
Make laminated cards
Make a laminated card for each student with the hotel details, ski school and your contact number. I also usually put on some key words and phrases from the language of the place we are going and encourage the kids to use them.
These cards should go in their pocket with their ski pass and not leave that pocket for the week. That pocket should not even be opened!
As you might have realised by now, a laminator is your friend (but you are teachers, so you know this already!). I also make a laminated checklist for kids (and teachers) to have with what they need to remember daily, including:
• Sunscreen and lip balm
• Gloves/inner gloves
• A snack
• Mobile phone
• Ski pass and emergency contact card (although this should already be in their jacket)
For the first couple of days I would make this into a game before leaving for the slopes and get them to show me these items. By the end of the week they usually get the idea!
Another laminated card idea…if you have anyone with food allergies / medical needs etc., make them a laminated card with the details of the condition on in the language of the place you are going.
Your hotel will be made aware of anything you tell them by the Halsbury office team but if you are out and about on the mountain/in resort it is a handy thing to have just in case.
Identify GCSE PE students
Make sure you know if anyone needs skiing evidence for their GCSE PE. I wrote a guide for this a couple of years back for Halsbury.
Assign a member of staff the responsibility of making sure that the evidence is gathered and give them the guide and make sure they take a copy of the specification with them. Give a copy to the ski instructor.
This is a tricky subject, as schools have different rules. I have always taken a school credit card and at least £1000 in cash, but I know that some PL’s will read that and think “yeah right!”.
I have repped groups that haven’t had either of these things. In this case, a credit card is needed as some hospitals won’t treat people without a credit card.
Keep a log of everything spent so that you can hand it in to school when you are back with receipts.
I have also, if there is money left at the end of the week, given some back to the kids or bought them a souvenir, so that you aren’t going back to school with money as bursars hate that too!
I mentioned earlier about having a banker. Some schools will say not to take money off kids for safekeeping as it takes the responsibility away from the child. Some schools prefer it.
Personally, if you are taking money off kids, I like to have a member of staff assigned the role of banker and, again, use trusty plastic zip wallets.
Parents should provide the money in labelled envelopes and I would have 3 zip-up plastic wallets - one for surnames A-G, one for H-N and one for O-Z. Note down on the envelope each time money is taken out.
I usually do certificates at the end of the week with the ski presentation (and we also announce the winners of ‘best kept room’ who get to sit on the back seat of the coach on the way home as their prize).
I like to include certificates for things not linked to skiing toom and try to make sure that everyone gets at least one. Things like ‘wipe out of the week’, ‘king/queen of the slopes’, ‘bowling champion’ etc.
I also take a few blank ones to add anything that I feel warrants celebration. Again, don’t do all this yourself, delegate certificates to the staff member with the nicest handwriting and get the kids involved nominating.
Take time to reflect
This is another #goals idea which I personally do not have the skills or as party leader the time to do - however, if you do have someone on your team with the skills, it’s a lovely idea.
Assign said person the responsibility of taking their laptop and, if you can, a school projector. Each day, this person uses movie maker or similar to create a ski trip movie to be shown on the last night after the ski presentation.
If you don’t want to take a projector, your hotel may have one and you just need a HDMI lead. When I have done this, it’s been great, and I love it but it’s only possible if someone has the patience and expertise to do it! Alternatively, a slideshow of all the pictures from the week is just as effective!
On your way home, take some time to do a reflection. What worked really well? What do you think you need to improve on for the next year’s trip? Save these notes somewhere that you can come back to before the next trip.
Some schools like to gather pupil voice on the trip - I do this informally but I do like to have quotes etc. to sell my next trip. Also, it’s good to have this to get your next trip approved by the governors.
I was rep on a trip where the PL asked the staff to fill out an online survey which, if that suits your school and trip, is a good idea.