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5 Things to Consider when Choosing a School Expedition Provider

Since Ofsted announced its Character Education framework in 2019, schools have become acutely aware of the pressure they’re under to support students not only in their academic development, but in their personal growth and mental well-being also.

School expeditions have long been thought of as vehicles for this growth, enabling young people to learn through challenge, and be empowered to take on life’s many obstacles.

But as demand grows and companies do all they can to vie for schools’ attention, it can be overwhelming to know where to turn. To help block out some of the noise, we’ve put together our top things to consider when choosing a school expedition provider.

1. IS IT AN OFF-THE-SHELF PACKAGE, OR A BESPOKE EXPERIENCE?

With a traditional school trip, the students are passive in the experience. They are told the what, why, where, and when of their trip by their guides and leaders. Everything is pre-organised and pre-booked, the students are there to enjoy the experience, exactly as it’s been sold.

An expedition differs in that the students are the drivers of the experience, with their personal development at its core. While the destination may be pre-selected by the school, the details of the trip are based entirely on the aims, objectives, and interests of the team. The what, why, where and when, are up to the students themselves to decide and manage – while the adults take a more passive role in decision making.

If you’re looking for an authentic expedition experience, make sure that’s what you’re getting! Not all school expeditions are created equally, so make sure your provider is delivering on the personal growth opportunities that you’re looking for.

To help you debunk the jargon, it's good to know that when an itinerary is:

What they’re really saying is that it will run like a traditional school trip. While individuals may be able to experience some of the leadership elements of a true expedition, they’re not integral to the experience, nor is the trip built on the teams’ personal aims and development goals.

How Outlook Compares

Expeditions by name, expeditions by nature. The Outlook Programme delivers an immersive learning experience to develop ‘life-readiness’, instilling the idea that everyone can be a leader. We empower our teams to take responsibility for their own adventure. From being an integral part of the itinerary development, to managing budgets, booking hotels, and taking ownership of the day-to-day running of the expedition.

They can be challenging experiences, hard work, and mistakes may be made – but that’s entirely the point! Nothing worth doing was ever easy, and with our expert expedition leaders and accompanying school staff there to provide safety and support, we let our students take the lead and make their experience their own.

That said, we also know that for some schools, the full Outlook Programme – which includes a UK Leadership Development Phase, and an Overseas Expedition – might not be the right fit; younger age groups are a great example of this. So for those schools wanting a taste of expedition life without the onus being on the students, we offer a more traditional school trip option with our Explore trips where everything is pre-booked and organised. We have some brilliant adventure packages for Explore that are brilliant in their own right, so we don’t need to pretend they’re something they’re not!

2. IS IT VALUE FOR MONEY?

So, you’ve found a company that offers schools an authentic expedition experience, but what else is there? The life skills and personal growth that comes with an expedition, isn’t all achieved within a couple of weeks overseas. They’re fundamental shifts that start to take place long before departure.

As such, many schools look to work with providers that deliver opportunities for growth in the time between sign up and departure. Some companies may claim to provide such opportunities but the delivery of them can often fall short. For example, some teachers may only be provided with slide-decks for classroom-based activities, while others have just one day of face-to-face skills training. Make sure you read the small print and know exactly how your provider will deliver on their promises and just what your money pays for!

How Outlook Compares

It sounds clichéd but the Outlook Programme isn’t just about the destination, it’s the journey that gets you there. That’s why the expedition is the second phase of our programme, the first being our UK Leadership Development Phase.

Unique to Outlook, this part of the journey is designed to develop those key attributes of resilience, leadership, and character – long before our teams step foot on the plane. Our hybrid model includes interactive, online events, face to face sessions, and a practical leadership weekend in one of the UK’s National Parks. Often the highlight for many teams, this is a great opportunity for students to breakout from the school environment and get to know one another as an expedition team.

We’re also incredibly proud to offer all students the opportunity to complete an accredited leadership qualification during this UK-based phase of the programme. Based on Covey's '7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens' the Leader in Me qualification is a comprehensive evidence-based learning model designed to develop 'life-readiness' and increase effectiveness in students.

It’s not just the young people we’re here to support however, our School Leaders are integral to the success of any expedition which is why we’re here for you every step of the way too! With more than 20 years in the industry, we know teachers have a lot to juggle throughout the school year, which is why you’re always assigned a dedicated programme manager to guide you along the journey and take the pressure off! They’ll be your single point of contact to keep things simple for you and will be able to support you by organising training for your own personal development. From Leader in Me and safety training to first aid courses and mental health guidance; we want to ensure our teachers benefit from our programme too.

3. WHAT SAFETY MEASURES ARE IN PLACE?

Safety should and must always be the most important factor when considering a school expedition provider. They can offer the best destinations, the most interesting development sessions, but without an expert approach to safety, the risk is just too great.

As a minimum, your expedition should be:

How Outlook Compares

Safety is our absolute number one priority, and we’re very proud to say we have the best safety record in the industry. This is thanks to a multitude of measures we put in place. Put simply; we operate world-class safety systems and procedures to always maintain the highest possible standards.

In addition, we are accredited by several external bodies and are compliant with the strict criteria to ensure we are delivering high quality, safe expeditions for all our teams:

4. WHAT FINANCIAL PROTECTION IS IN PLACE?

An expedition is not cheap, which is why many students seek to fund their travels through innovative business start-up ideas, physical challenges, and live events. However, regardless of where the money comes from, you want to know it’s protected and how that protection compares to others in the industry.

As expedition providers we are all bound by the same Package Travel Regulations, which means that if your trip is cancelled by Outlook, as the provider, we are legally bound to give you the money back for your travel. No questions asked. It’s important to know this for two reasons:

  1. If a company disputes this fact – turn on your heels and walk away! They are not following the regulations that are in place to protect your students’ money. That being the case, what other red flags could there be to suggest they may not have your best interests at heart?
  2. If a company is trying to use this as a sales tool, it’s another red flag for inauthenticity. It’s not a bonus, it’s the law. So, make sure you’re not swayed by clever marketing!

How Outlook Compares

Bottom line is that if we cancel your travel prior to departure due to FCDO advice, you will receive a full refund.

For our Explore students, this is a total refund of the trip cost. For students undertaking the Outlook Programme this works slightly differently. 100% of your overseas expedition cost would be refunded, but where the UK Leadership Development Phase has already been delivered or part delivered, any reasonable costs associated with this, will not be. Naturally, this is because an Outlook Programme is made up of two phases, both stand-alone from one another and as such can be delivered separately. So even if FCDO restricted the travel element, teams will still have benefited from life skills training, an accredited qualification, and the leadership experiences they’ve received up-to that point.

What’s more, in the unlikely event that Outlook ceases to trade, the cost of your travel is protected under the ATOL scheme.

5. ARE THEY AUTHENTIC?

An expedition is all about creating those authentic challenges for teams and developing genuine life skills that young people will take forward into the rest of their lives. It’s therefore important to know what kind of company you’re entrusting this responsibility to – do they mean what they say? Are they open and honest about their approach? What are they doing to ensure they’re a cause for good?

This question of authenticity covers a plethora of topics; from the types of experiences they deliver overseas, their commitment to the planet, and their delivery for teams. Often however, companies use clever language to give the impression they’re doing more than they are. For example, if what they’re saying sounds too good to be true, it probably is. This is particularly true of ‘green buzz words’ with many companies appearing to be eco-champions overnight. It’s also a red flag if their language is vague and lacking details, as again the gap between commitment and results should be communicated openly and honestly if it’s to be believed.

How Outlook Compares

We recognise the road to sustainability is long and not without its obstacles. We are committed to a greener future and are making important decisions now, that will shape the future of our organisation forever. But we’ll never make grand claims or chase the badge of ‘carbon neutral’ just to use it as a sales tool. It’s not about snapping our fingers and changing overnight, it’s about committing to long-lasting, fundamental changes.

In 2021 we declared a climate emergency and became proud launch partners of the Glasgow Declaration. In making these public commitments, we are supporting the global goal to halve emissions by 2030 and reach Net Zero as soon as possible before 2050.

2021 was also the year we were able to take a step back and review our partnerships and experiences we offer our teams. We’re excited to be re-developing our offering, considering not only our footprint on the planet, but the mark we’re leaving within communities with our service-learning initiatives. Over the coming months we’ll be announcing new partnerships and policies as we continue along this journey, and we’re always open to feedback as to how we can do things even better!

If you’d like to discuss booking your next expedition, then please do get in touch: info@outlookexpeditions.com – we’d love to hear from you!

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Outlook Expeditions