library of good practice

Our staff are dedicated to ensuring that students' needs are met, fostering an environment where all individuals can fully engage and benefit from their field experiences. This library showcases some of the exemplary measures taken, serving as a testament to our commitment in creating a supportive atmosphere for all. We hope it makes students feel supported, fostering an environment where they feel comfortable to communicate their needs and recognise the genuine efforts our staff make to support them. We also aim to inspire other staff members and serve as an example of best practices in this area.

This document is a dynamic resource, continually evolving to encompass more helpful practices. We encourage you to contact Lydia Bach, our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer ( with any suggestions or additions you may have.

Accessing toilets in field work: inclusion in practice

Some students worry about field classes in terms of how and when they need to access the toilet. This matters for students who live with Crohn's Disease, have IBS or are menstruating, or any student really. Two of our students in the past had Crone's disease and one wore a stoma.

Two students with Crones came to ask Mallorca field class staff to help them manage their need to ‘toilet map’ on field class and access toilets to manage and empty a stoma. Another student just wanted to make us aware of their condition and ask about access to toilets in their fieldwork project.

As a result, profiled the area and access, reassuring the student. For one student with a stoma, we agreed the member of staff would introduce two toilet stops in a nearby village, agreed that a drive to the village could happen if needed, or that the staff member would ensure privacy amongst the sand dunes in that part of the beach project. We also asked each student if they wanted to be put in touch with each other to support each other in light of their shared condition – they agreed and this helped both students feel supported.

A note from Martin: A good start to using toilet tents during field season 2023. There was an issue with this one collapsing, so it's considered broken!

The way we managed this issue was helpful, but not an ideal solution. Since this example, more guidance has come out about managing student needs to access toilet facilities with more dignity. In 2023 have been trying out our GES toilet tent for the first time – in order to provide privacy for students who need to access this. Staff members also carry emergency menstruation packs (wipes, tampons, towels and hand gel) in case anyone is surprised by a period. 

Including and helping transgender students on field classes

As teaching staff, we realised things might be tricky in numerous ways for our transgender students who go on field classes. Like many institutions, the accommodation we book for field classes are often categorised in gender binary ways - male and female. We recognised that not all students identify as the gender they were assigned at birth. We also recognise that it might be difficult to communicate that to other students and staff. 

A few years ago, GES started to think about how it might help trans students and staff feel more comfortable in their working environment.

On the Mallorca field class we have a gendered room sign-up mechanism (students sign up for a room based on male and female designated) and we discussed the best way to accommodate trans and non-binary students. Instead of having a 'Trans and NB' sign-up sheet we simply put up notices to say we were trans-inclusive and invite students to discuss their needs for accommodation on field classes. 

Around the same time, the Athena Swan team in GES invited Trans Alliance Scotland to the School to give some staff training to help raise understanding and awareness around trans identify issues. We took the opportunity to check in with them about our approach to inclusive field class practice with regards to accommodation issues and they agreed our 'low key' but inclusive approach seemed appropriate. 

Trans students who have attended field classes with us in the past have indicated they did not want to 'sign up' to a trans room list where others might see their name: for these students, that was uncomfortable. Instead they suggested that we just invite conversations, which is now our standard practice. One trans student did not want to sign up to their identified gender room because of their practice of binding. We agreed instead that this student could have their own room, but also look after our equipment in this space, so we managed to accommodate their needs in the context of a helpful function, and this also helped the student feel that they were contributing something useful to the field class. Other students were not told of the arrangement or were told that this was the equipment room.  

Not all trans students would wish for their status or accommodation to be hidden in this way, and so each year we make sure we have conversations with our trans students to see what approach best suits their needs. We found that discussing our approaches with students helped us shape them and gave them confidence and made them trust our staff. Each field class accommodates different students with different needs and we try to meet those needs to accommodate the differences between us, particularly with regards to gender identification.


Language barriers: no barrier to field work

A reflection by Greg Burgess

While working as a Student Support Officer, I was contacted by a student who was worried about his ability to communicate and understand fellow students and staff during the field course. He felt that he would not be able to attend, learn from or enjoy the field class or achieve the intended learning outcomes.

He was very anxious, and it was my task to support his preparation and to make sure he would feel confident enough to go into the field.

I suggested sharing his concerns with the field course coordinator, which we did in a meeting together. As a team, we discussed supporting him in the field – asking staff to check in regularly to make sure he felt able to follow, but also allowing him to use a digital translator. These open and honest conversations and our approach to try and find resolutions together gave the student enough confidence to attend the field class.

After the field course, the student explained to me that they were tired but had been able to communicate with others when they had feared that they would have been stuck on their own. They only used the digital translator on some occasions at the beginning of the field trip. By the end of the course were no longer using it. The course had been a mountain they did not want to scale initially.

By having conversations, and seeking solutions together, he made the decision to attend the field course. By being immersed in a challenging but supportive environment, he ultimately regained his confidence and improved his language skills.


Students on field trip

Managing mental health and anxieties about field classes

Some students live with mental health issues, be those temporary or more enduring. For students who manage significant mental health conditions, the idea of attending a field class can be daunting. Some of our students have raised this issue previously with regards to panic disorders, anxiety and panic attacks, OCD, eating disorders and other conditions. Here, we focus on the student who told us about his panic attacks connected with flying and eating in the hotel restaurant. 

Initially, our main task was to get more insight into the student’s mental health challenge, listen with empathy and agree on a plan for managing fears and anxieties with regard to the field class. Our main aim was to make sure he could attend the field course. 

We made sure to respond to emails promptly, reassuring the student and suggesting that joint planning could facilitate attendance in the field class, despite what seemed impossible to the student at the time.

In the discussion meeting, the field class convenor gently discussed the problem and ‘mapped across’ the field class timetable/tasks to see where trigger points/problems might occur and invited a discussion around a joint management plan. The student shared intricate feelings and fears. This allowed us to jointly agree on a series of preparatory and preventative measures and on-island measures (including stepping out of a situation, staff support, peer support, breaks and being able to phone home).

This worked well for this student, and he had a successful and enjoyable trip and none of the ‘worst case scenarios’ took place. Staff felt they had worked hard to be inclusive to facilitate a full degree experience for a student facing significant mental health issues at that time.

Religious practice on fieldwork

Our GES Mallorca field class sometimes run across or into the Easter religious festival (although we try to avoid this). For some Christian students, this poses a problem, as they would normally be involved in worship or observance on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

One year a student asked if they might not undertake research activity on Good Friday, as was the norm for her religious background. Other students wanted to attend Church on Easter day, delaying analysis.

We agreed in both cases that we could be flexible around religious observance and practice. We signposted all the students about the religious holiday and invited them to talk to us if they had beliefs and needs that needed to be met. We supported the student group to organise tasks so that the student not working on Good Friday still made a central contribution to group work and that no group member felt short-changed. We found a list of churches that students could attend, including one with mass in English.

We don’t have much flexibility on timing the field class, but we try hard to avoid major religious festivals. If students tell us they need to workshop, observe or pray – we accommodate these spiritual needs and support the student in managing group work around this.

Special diets on field class

For field classes, ask all students in a registration form whether they have medical needs or dietary requirements, so we are operating in a safe working environment. Many students tell us about vegan, vegetarian and Halal food needs, and some have specific allergies. Most students know how to manage their own allergies, but sometimes we arrange refresher training with EpiPens if the allergy is severe and the student alerts us.

One student disclosed a severe gluten allergy that would exacerbate another medical condition. The allergy was so severe, that we discussed relocating the student to a 'gluten-free hotel' in another part of Palma. However, the student decided to stay in the main hotel, take her own food and choose carefully from the buffet menu.

We contacted the hotel and asked for detailed information about the gluten-free menu choices and scanned gluten-free hotels in Palma. We held meetings with the student to understand the condition and her preferences fully. Just two days in, the allergy flared up from traces of gluten from unknown sources on the menu. The student experienced issues because of this but could manage the effects. After much discussion, the student decided to fly home early. We supported her choices and made sure she had an alternative project that would enable her research training.

It is never good when a student has to leave a field class for health reasons, but if many holistic conversations and supportive conversations have been had, then sometimes this is the best way forward for some individuals. In this case, students and staff went in knowing the risks, knowing how to manage the risks and they all accepted the outcome. Thinking further about how to include and involve students with severe allergies would be beneficial to the school.