Farm Day Out

Visits to the countryside

Organising a school visit to the countryside is no small undertaking, but it has a number of benefits:

  • Giving children the opportunity to learn at first hand – to see, smell, hear and touch the beautiful landscape and wildlife that makes up the countryside
  • To bring reality, context and understanding to work carried out in the classroom – a visit not only makes a memorable experience but it reinforces learning in a powerful way
  • Visits provide challenges which are simply not available anywhere else – a chance to feed an animal, meet a forester or try a country craft, for example
  • There is a growing body of evidence that child contact with nature provides significant physical, mental, behavioural and emotional advantages

A school visit to a rural location will really bring alive a project on the countryside and turn it into something special for children at Key Stage 2 and Level 2. A visit to a farm is the most popular choice for this age group, but visits can also be made to other exciting locations:

  • Country estates
  • Forests and woodlands
  • Villages
  • Bird of prey centres
  • Nature reserves
  • National parks

In each case, the visit will need considerable planning, and contact will need to be made with an experienced guide based at the location who will lead the group through the experience.

Health and safety is the major priority on any school trip and risk assessment documents are provided below to help teachers to ensure that everyone involved in a visit to the countryside will be safe.

Farm and Estate visits

There are farms and estates throughout the UK that specialise in visits by schools. Children can experience arable, livestock and mixed farms, visit estates and try out a range of activities, learning at first hand how our food is produced, and how estates are managed for the conservation of wildlife and country sports such as stalking, shooting, fishing and hunting. In England and Wales there are two primary sources of information for organising a visit to a farm by schools.

  • FACEwww.face-online.org.uk
    Click Resources, then Farm Visits. On this page you will find information about farm visits by schools, including health and safety advice. There are also downloadable documents to help teachers make the most of visits. This page has a link to a list of regional FACE representatives and their phone numbers. Teachers can call the local representative to discuss the type of visit they’d like and arrange a visit to a suitable farm.
  • Teachernet Growing Schools www.teachernet.gov.uk/growingschools
    Enter your post code and a distance on the home page. On the map, find a farm you would like to visit. Click on the farm name and you will be directed to an information page with booking instruction.
  • The Scottish Countryside Alliance Educational Trustwww.scaet.org.uk
    The Scottish Countryside Alliance Educational Trust offers visits to estates throughout Scotland and works with primary and secondary schools to develop tailor-made programmes that suit specific learning outcomes and experiences. The Education Manager can be contacted at [email protected].

Planning a farm or Estate visit

Once a suitable farm or Estate has been chosen, the following steps should be taken to ensure that the visit will be a safe, healthy and enjoyable experience for all:

  • Speak to the farmer or manager to discuss the visit and make any special arrangements that may be necessary
  • Carry out a risk assessment
  • Read carefully Health and Safety Executive information sheet ‘Avoiding Ill Health at Open Farms – Advice to Teachers (PDF). In Scotland, Environmental Health publishes guidelines on taking children into the countryside.
  • Decide on the ratio of adults to pupils for the visit. A recommended figure is at least 1:8 for KS2 and Level 2 children
  • Discuss all aspects of the visit with the other adults accompanying the children, clarifying roles and underlining the need for children to wash their hands carefully after contact with animals
  • Outline clear visit rules to the children, ensuring that adult helpers are also aware of them (see the list of rules below)
  • Ensure that both pupils and adults wear appropriate clothing and footwear (wellies if possible), bearing in mind that farms and estates are often muddy
  • Cuts and grazes should be covered with waterproof dressings to avoid infection

During the visit

Ensure that the children understand and abide by the following rules:

  • Stay in your allocated groups and listen closely to all instructions
  • Do not run or climb onto walls, gates, pens, etc.
  • Approach and handle animals quietly and gently
  • Do not kiss the animals
  • Do not chase or frighten the animals
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after any contact with animals and again before leaving the farm
  • Do not suck fingers or put objects such as pencils in mouths
  • Do not pick up tools or touch machinery unless given permission by farm staff
  • Footwear must be cleaned or changed before leaving

Farm or Estate visit risk assessment

Teachers planning a farm or countryside visit should carry out a risk assessment. If possible, pupils and all adults should be involved in this process to ensure that everyone is aware of both hazards and risks. A hazard is defined as something with the potential to cause harm (such as a slippery floor) and a risk is the likelihood of a hazard causing harm

Risk assessment involves identifying hazards in a location and then evaluating the extent of the risks they present, taking into account safety precautions in place such as warning signs, barriers, etc.

Download the Health and safety check list.

Visits to other countryside locations

The UK countryside is full of wonderful locations for children to experience, and a visit to one of these will greatly enrich any countryside project. In addition to farms, the following locations will be suitable for enriching work based on the 10 rural roles featured in this resource:

A riverkeeper may also be able to arrange a visit to a local river, although the individual involved must be experienced in leading school parties and a risk assessment must be carried out.

Arranging countryside visits

School visits to various rural locations can be arranged through the official Teachernet Growing Schools website. On the site, click your part of the map or In Your Region then select a location from the list.

On the menu you will see ‘Places to visit’. Select the type of location in which you are interested to see a list of venues that are suitable for school visits. Details and contact numbers are provided in addition to a description and list of facilities.

Health and safety on visits

Teachers should follow their school policies for all outside visits and ensure that all necessary procedures are followed, such as referring to LEA guidelines and ensuring that at least one adult has first aid training. Health and Safety issues should be discussed with the person in charge of the location for the visit so that potential risks can be assessed.

There are several official publications containing guidance for teachers on arranging school visits and these can all be found on Teachernet