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Things to consider and case studies

School staff should not make assumptions about what support a child or young person needs - they should listen to the child or young person and parents and really get to know their needs.  They should treat every child or young person as an individual.

For many young people with additional needs, this might be their first experience of staying away from home overnight, even at an older age (as they might not have taken part in sleepovers in the same ways as peers without SEND). They therefore might need more reassurance generally. A lot of young people will find it difficult to ask for extra help and admit they didn’t understand something.

Young people said:

“I didn’t feel confident or comfortable asking for more help”

“Staff misunderstood my needs and I wasn’t treated as an individual – they just assumed that I could just do things like other people could”

It is important for pupils, as well as parents, to have an understanding of what will take place throughout the trip. A reconnaissance visit will be helpful. Photos could be taken or a video made of the site to help alleviate a child’s anxiety. This approach is particularly useful for children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) or other sources of anxiety. Pupils who have attended the trip before can discuss on film what can be expected which can then be shown to pupils who will be attending the trip.

Visual cards can also be utilised leading up to the trip. Cards can be made to show: a suitcase (to promote packing to go), a coach (to promote the journey), the building or activity (to prompt awareness of what they will visit), the bedroom (to prepare the pupil it's residential) and so on. These cards should be given to families at least two weeks before the trip so they can help prepare their child for the school trip. The same cards can be displayed in the child's classroom so that school and parents are working together to help reduce anxiety plus support and prepare the child.

Young people said:

“School trips should be thought through thoroughly"

Accommodation for residential visits must be accessible and evacuation possible for participants with SEND. If you are unsure what the overnight needs of a pupil will be, the best people to consult are the young people themselves and their family. Some pupils will need to sleep in a single room or one adjoining an adult’s room. Check if your chosen provider can make this possible.

Young people said:

“Think about the people who need extra support and don’t leave them to struggle like I did”

Accessible transport will need to be booked well in advance. When considering the travelling arrangements consider what the pupil’s experience will be. Can you ensure that when providing separate transport for pupils with SEND that they travel with friends/peers?

Please see Accessible venues for examples of accessible transport providers.

Staffing ratios may need to be increased for visits involving young people who are disabled or have SEN. For a residential visit, this will likely mean assigning more than one member of staff in this capacity – as one person would not, for example, be able to provide support round the clock.

Schools should not expect parents to accompany their own child on a school trip. School trips are an important social experience for pupils; a way of developing emotionally and in terms of independence. Consequently, it would be inappropriate to expect parents to accompany their children with SEND any more than you would do this for a child without SEND. This would be in line with the DfE guidance on supporting pupils with medical needs and the Equalities Act 2010.

Young people said:

“I never attended a school trip because I was never told in advance what would happen – I wasn’t told what staff member would be with me or usually there wasn’t any plans to have staff members with me anyway” 

Staff should have the experience and/or training required to support the particular needs of the young person (or people) with SEND. Support staff who are assigned to support individual young people, should be given clearly defined roles and responsibilities. For children and young people with significant medical needs, schools should have a care plan and all staff on the trip should be aware of these plans. It is advised that staff are trained in moving and handling where appropriate.

Children, young people and their families should be consulted on what appropriate training might be. In the case of medical needs, there will need to be medical training. In the case of autism, is there someone on the trip who is aware of the needs of the child and strategies that work for them, and can they be the point of contact for all other staff and the child or young person?

Young people said:

“It’s embarrassing to say ‘I’m struggling with this’’s quite difficult to do that”

Relevant information includes, individual risk assessments, behaviour plans, care plans, emergency plans (e.g. for allergic reactions), evacuation plans. All these should be reviewed and adjusted in the light of a particular activity or trip and signed by the headteacher, staff team and parent or carer.

Young people said:

“Because I was good at my academic studies, they then thought I was good at doing other stuff that I often had difficulties with – they just assumed that I would be able to do it”

Check that insurance includes cover for pre-existing medical conditions. All of the above costs time and money, which schools should include in their calculations when budgeting for particular activities.

It is important that schools and settings involve parents, the pupil and, if appropriate, specialist support staff, as early as possible in the planning process, particularly when a residential stay is involved. Parents must be informed well in advance, before pupils, to explore and address together any concerns and to consider how any additional needs might be most effectively addressed. If the parent wishes to accompany their child, schools should try to ensure that this does not overly detract from the young person’s experience, particularly if promoting independence is one of the learning outcomes. However, parents and carers should not be expected to attend school trips with their child.

Young people said:

“They didn’t understand my fears, they’d say ‘that’s silly, you’re making a fuss for nothing"

Every reasonable effort should be made to find a venue that is both suitable and accessible and that enables the whole group to participate fully and be actively involved. The venue choice should be made with young people’s SEND in mind.

Young people said:

“I did have my chance to give my views and it felt good, because I got to talk about what I thought was right and what was wrong and then from that day onwards, I got the support I needed”

Young people said:

‚Äč“They generally used to take us to Thorpe Park.  I remember saying to a member of staff ‘my wheelchair’s there, make sure you get it on the bus’. When we got there, I found out they’d left it at school, so they made me walk around Thorpe Park – I wasn’t very happy then”

The following examples are illustrations of the Equality Act 2010:

  • A girl who is ambulant impaired and uses a wheelchair for longer walks wants to attend a trip to a Rugby Final, which is being arranged for her class. The teacher does a risk assessment and makes enquiries of the stadium. He finds out that the wheelchair seating will be away from the rest of the class and says this is where she will have to sit with a teaching assistant. The girl and her parents say she wants to sit with her peers and that she can manage to get to the seats where the rest of her class will sit. This is likely to be disability discrimination as she was able to sit with her peers and suffered detriment by being denied this opportunity.


  • A teacher at a secondary school regularly arranges a skiing trip for the Easter holidays and organises this through the school. A pupil on the autistic spectrum wants to go, being an experienced skier, and brings in a letter signed by his parents offering to send an extra adult to support him and the money for the trip. The teacher says they cannot go as he cannot guarantee his safety. This is likely to be discrimination as it is less favourable treatment. The trip would be covered by the disability equality duty as it is an associated service organised through the school and the teacher should have considered what reasonable adjustments could be made such as taking a teaching assistant on the trip.


  • A year 9 French Trip is arranged to Paris which includes a visit to Notre Dame. Two wheelchair using pupils are among the participants. They are accompanied by two teaching assistants. When the school arrives at Notre Dame there are a large number of steps to get into the cathedral. The other pupils quickly ascend leaving the two wheelchair users with their teaching assistants. Not wanting the pupils to miss out the teaching assistants manually lift the pupils up the steps and in the process they sustain back injuries.  This was not reasonable as it was both unsafe and was likely to lead to injury. The leader of the trip needed to pre-visit and determine if there was an alternative accessible route into the building. If none was available to arrange an accessible alternative either for the whole group or for a smaller group if it was essential that the whole group visit the venue.


  • A boy with Tourettes Syndrome and Autism attends a private preparatory school where his parents pay for meeting his additional needs in addition to his fees. His class are to go on an end of year trip to Disney Land, Paris. The school decides that it is too risky for him to come on the trip and send a letter to his parents asking them to keep him at home for the three days of the trip. This is likely to be disability discrimination. The parents write back offering to send a support worker who works with their son on the trip. The school says it is too late to alter the booking. This is also likely to be disability discrimination for failure to make a reasonable adjustment. The responsible body is the proprietor of the school.