This page contains answers to the most Frequently Asked Teacher Questions.
Click on the below points to find out more:
If you have any further questions regarding your school trip not answered on this page, please contact our education department at 01206 332511 or 01206 332512 or email@example.com
When to Visit
Colchester Zoo is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day. Pre-booked schools are welcome to visit on any day. Bookings must be made a minimum of 5 days in advance, and must be made online on our booking form (click and it will open in a new window).
If you are visiting on a self-guided, teacher lead visit you can visit on any day that you would like. We do not limit the number of schools on any given day.
If you are interested in booking formal education sessions (click for details), spaces are limited. We recommend booking as far in advance as possible to ensure availability. You can also contact the education department (01206 332511 or 01206 331292 or firstname.lastname@example.org) before making your booking to check availability on your preferred dates. Please note that if you are interested in sessions on weekends, they are possible but must be booked well in advance.
We offer school teachers two free familiarisation tickets to visit the zoo to plan your day and complete risk assessments. These tickets are only available to teachers (they cannot be used by friends or family members).
In order to qualify for these tickets, you must already have a booked school trip to Colchester Zoo.
If you have already booked your trip and received confirmation of it, please download and complete the following form:
Please note, this form must be sent in at least 10 days prior to your suggested visit date.
Educational sessions are provided to schools free* of charge. These sessions are limited in availability and must be pre-booked. During peak times (including summer term) we recommend making bookings well in advance to ensure availability. This is especially true if you have a very large group who requires multiple sessions.
To check availability on a specific date prior to making your booking, please contact our education department directly at 01206 332511 or 01206 332512 or email email@example.com
Please check your confirmation email carefully for the time of your educational session. Due to availability, we may have changed the times and/or number of sessions from what you initially requested on your booking form.
If you are running late for your session, please contact the Education Department (01206 332511 or 01206 332512) as soon as possible. Depending on availability, we may be able to rearrange the session to still run at some point during your visit. Please be aware, depending on other bookings, and how late you are, it may not be possible to rearrange late sessions and they may need to be cancelled.
If you have pre-booked a session, unless you have been informed otherwise, for all education sessions please meet outside the Kalahari Theatre.
For details of all the sessions available, please see our sessions pages.
*Colchester Zoo reserves the right to charge a £20 fee for all educational sessions which are booked but not attended either due to last minute cancellation (less than 1 week notice), or not attending on the day without a valid reason. If you attend the session they are free of charge. The charge only applies to non-attended and/or late cancellations.
Risk & Behaviour Management
Colchester Zoo provides a risk assessment guidance sheets with general outlines of potential risks and controls identified (click here for our risk assessment page and full details).
It is strongly recommended that all organisers make a preliminary visit to Colchester Zoo to carry out their own risk assessment before bringing a class of children. Two free familiarisation tickets to complete this visit can be requested after you have made a school booking (see Pre-trip Familiarisation Tickets for details of how to obtain these tickets).
Public Liability Insurance
Information regarding Colchester’s Zoo Public Liability Insurance including a downloadable letter describing the coverage can be found on our Risk Assessment page (click to open).
Please note, these supervision ratios are guidelines only. While we require students to be supervised, we do not require these exact ratios. Please base your supervisory ratios on the behaviour of your specific students.
Children who qualify for carers / assistants places are provided free adult carers / assistants at a 1:1 ratio and therefore these pupils will not count towards your free adult ratio. Children using Zoo Passes (gold cards) may enter free of charge, but do not count towards your free adult ratio.
The ratio of free adults to children is:
- Nursery – One free adult per 6 paying pupils
- Primary (years R-6) – One free adult per 6 paying pupils
- Secondary (years 7-11) – One free adult per 8 paying pupils
- Post 16 – One free adult per 10 paying students
Nursery children must be supervised at all times.
Primary children must be supervised at all times.
Secondary students in year groups 7, 8, and 9 must be in supervised groups at all times.
Students in years 10 and older require supporting teachers to accompany them into the zoo, but are allowed to traverse the zoo in small independent groups without direct supervision. All unsupervised students must be in uniform or wearing a school identifier in the event we need to contact you regarding their behaviour.
All nursery, primary, and secondary students (including KS4) must be supervised while on the train or in the Gift Shop.
All supervisor must be adults (over the age of 18) and not be a student of the supervisee’s school/college.
Are you a SEND registered special school who visits Colchester Zoo frequently? If so, we offer prepaid school tickets. Click here to find out more. Contact the education department directly via phone at 01206 332511 or 01206332512 or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions or to book these tickets.
Before you visit Colchester Zoo, please make your pupils aware of the following points:
- School children are not allowed on the Road Trains unsupervised
- School children must be supervised while in the Gift Shop
- School children are not permitted in the Jungle Tumble soft play area
- Primary children are only allowed to use any of the zoo’s play areas between 12-2pm
- Secondary and older children are not permitted on any play areas
- Litter can get into enclosures and harm the animals. Please put all litter into the bins provided
- In order to see the animals and watch them behaving naturally, visitors must be quiet. Banging on the windows, shouting or imitating animal sounds will frighten and scare the animals away
- Our animals are provided with balanced diets to keep them healthy. Please do not feed them as this will cause harm (unless at dedicated feeding times)
- Be aware that there are other visitors in the zoo at the same time as you, please be respectful and use appropriate language
If your students are completing customer service/visitor service/visitor opinion or staff surveys while you are at Colchester Zoo, please ensure they are familiar with and comply with our Student Survey Guidelines (click to open).
If you are planning meeting points for either individual groups of students, or groups of adult helpers with children, out of respect for our other visitors, please do not block pathways nor congest food outlets.
We recommend using outdoor meeting points, including: the outdoor decking by Penguini’s Restaurant (next to the Snack Shack cafe); the wide area of the path in front of lions; the picnic benches between otters and the elephant house; the garden outside of Koi Niwa (next to the Koi statue); the picnic benches along the back of the elephant paddock (at the opposite end from the elephant house); the deck across from the Komodo dragons. Please see the school map section for specific locations on a printable map.
Free adult carers / assistants places at a 1:1 for all school students with physical or emotional disabilities, are the subjects of SEND statements or EHCPs, or can provide other evidence of specific needs. You may be asked for proof at entrance. A letter on school letterhead is acceptable proof. Please see our school admission prices for more details.
We have a number of resources designed to help you plan your visit and enjoying your day including maps, a social story, and sensory trails. Please see our SEND page for more information.
If any pupils have specialised medical requirements (e.g. a private location to insert a feeding tube, etc.) please contact the education department at 01206 332511 or email@example.com and we will do our best to meet your needs.
We have qualified first aiders on site. If you require first aid assistance please report to the Guest Services Office or ask the nearest member of staff from any department who will be happy to help.
We cannot guarantee that our animal food at Familiar Friends has not come into contact with nut products. We therefore advise that students with nut allergies do not use this feed. If one of your pupils has severe allergies, we advise that you inform the zoo in advance in order to notify the first aiders.
Please ensure that you are carrying all of the necessary medication for your pupils. The administration of such medication is the responsibility of the group organisers and cannot be carried out by our First Aiders.
Arrival & Payment
On arriving at the zoo, coaches should park in the designated coach car park. During June and July, zoo staff will usually greet coaches in the car park. Pupils and adults should remain on the coach, and our staff will direct your lead teacher where to check in.
During the rest of the year and on quieter days we will not have staff in the car park. In this circumstance, the lead teacher should proceed to the main Admissions/Entrance Building to check in. Please leave pupils and adults on the coach until after you have checked in.
When going to check in, your lead teacher must:
- Know how many pupils and adults you have
- Bring any proof for pupils who qualify for free adult carers / assistance (a letter on school letterhead is acceptable proof)
- Bring all Zoo Passes (gold cards) collected from pupils and adult helpers with them
After your lead teacher has checked in, they can go back to the coach and collect their group. At check in the lead teacher will be informed where their group should enter the zoo.
On arriving at the zoo, coaches should park in the designated coach car park. During June and July, zoo staff will usually greet coaches in the car park and direct them where to park. If no staff are present, and during the rest of the year, please follow the signage and park in the designated parking bay.
Coach parking is free. Coach drivers for school trips receive free entry to the zoo. To claim this, coach drivers should report to the main entrance building with their ID and job sheet.
We offer highly discounted prices for school visits to Colchester Zoo. Full details of these prices can be found on the school admissions page.
To qualify for our school rate, the visit must be booked by a school teacher on a school visit, visiting from an official registered school or nursery. Officials schools are defined as registered educational establishments maintained by the Department for Education. Official nurseries are defined as registered with Ofsted in the category of ‘Childcare and Early Education’ and one of the sub-categories of: Nursery School, School with Nursery, Pre-school, or Day Nursery.
Bookings must be made online a minimum of five days in advanced. (click here for the school booking form).
School rates are only available to teachers leading pre-booked trips (not available to students doing self-guided trips).
Other educational groups (including: Guiding, Scouting, after-school science clubs, groups for children with additional support) do not qualify for school rates. These may qualify for our Educational Youth Group Prices.
Other groups do not qualify for school rates, but may qualify for our discounted Group Prices.
Home educated children do not qualify for school rates (however, we do offer free educational sessions, see the home education page for more details).
If you are from an overseas school, please contact our Education Department directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss if you qualify for the school rates.
Using Zoo Passes
Any children on school trips are allowed to use their Gold Cards (Zoo Passes), however, any children using Gold Cards will not count towards your free adult ratio (which only includes paying pupils).
Your lead teacher should collect all the Gold Cards together and bring the cards (not the pupils) with them when they go to check in upon arrival at the zoo. Gold Cards must be brought with you on the day of your visit. We are unable to retrospectively apply Zoo Passes to your booking.
Deposits are not required for schools when they make their booking.
Schools can pay via: invoice after the visit or pay on the day. There is an admin fee of £10 (incl VAT) for schools requesting to be invoiced. Payment on the day can be via cash, card or cheque.
Cheques for payment are only permitted for local authority groups and should be made payable to Colchester Zoo Ltd. If your numbers change after your cheque has been written (e.g. a child is sick on the day and doesn’t attend), a refund for the difference can be provided in cash at the till at the time of payment. However, this must be made obvious at the time of payment as the refund cannot be issued at a later point in time
We will confirm your final numbers with the lead teacher when they check in on the day of your visit. After you have checked in, we are unable to change your numbers. This also means we are unable to retrospectively apply Zoo Passes to your booking. Please ensure that when your lead teacher goes to check in they know exactly how many pupils and adults they have with them, and bring all Zoo Passes with them to be scanned.
If you require a purchase order number on your invoice, please ensure you enter this on the booking form when making your booking.
Please note that the entire group needs to enter together to qualify for the discounted school rates. Parents, adult leaders, or other individuals arriving late and entering separately from the group will be charged full price admission at entrance.
There is no charge for schools to change the date of their visit or to cancel their school booking. If you are unable to visit, or need to rearrange your visit, please contact the education department as soon as possible at 01206 332511 or email@example.com
If you have any booked education sessions which you need to cancel (while still visiting the zoo), please ensure you let the education department know as soon as posible. Spaces for educational sessions are limited, and if you are unable to attend, the time slots can be reassigned to other schools. Colchester Zoo reserves the right to charge a £20 fee for all educational sessions which are booked but not attended either due to last minute cancellation (less than 1 week notice), or not attending on the day without a valid reason. If you attend the session they are free of charge. The charge only applies to non-attended or last-minute cancellations.
Manual wheelchair hire is available. These can be booked on a first come, first served basis in return for a refundable deposit of £20.00 and a small hire charge of £5.00 to contribute towards the upkeep and maintenance of the chairs. The deposit and hire charge must be paid in cash on the day (it cannot be added to school invoices or cheques). Please contact the Education Department directly at 01206 332511 or 01206 331292 or firstname.lastname@example.org to check availability and to reserve one for the day of your visit.
All learning spaces for educational sessions are wheelchair accessible. Please contact the Education Department directly at 01206 332511 or 01206 331292 or email@example.com if you wish to discuss specific needs or sessions.
The zoo site is quite hilly. For this reason, we recommend wheelchair users following our designated ‘easier route’ to avoid the steepest sections. Please see our Accessibility Information Page (click to open in a new tab) for full details including a downloadable easier route map.
During Your Visit
We have a school map which highlights lunch locations, and other important information for schools. Please be aware that due to special events or other unforeseen circumstances some of these picnic areas may not be available on the day of your visit.
We also have a downloadable general map of the zoo. This map is also available in hard-copy form at the zoo. Please request additional copies at entrance when you arrive if you require them.
If anyone in your group has accessibility needs, click here to see our accessibility page, which has further details including a downloadable access map which shows suggested easier routes to avoid our steep hills.
Colchester Zoo is a very large site – over 60 acres and over 150 species! To aid you in route planning, to make the most of your limited time at the zoo, we have developed some suggested routes for schools to use focusing on Rainforest, Endangered, and African Animals.
We also provide free downloadable worksheets, and information on these topics as well as many others (ranging from Maths and Art trails to Plants and Evolution!). Click here for our learning resources pages with more details.
Colchester Zoo has a free Zoo App with an interactive map, Zoo Keeper Talk times, and other insights to help you navigate and plan your day. The app is available for free in the Google Play Store, or the Apple App Store. See our webpage or either of the app stores for more details.
Please note, we recommend you download the app to your device prior to your visit. While we do offer free guest wifi for visitors (see the sign at entrance for the password), due to the hilly terrain around the zoo, there are locations where wifi is unavailable.
We have a number of undercover picnic areas around the zoo. These cannot be pre-booked and are available on a first come, first served basis. Please download and see our Schools Map showing all of these locations. During wet, cold weather we recommend schools eat inside the Giraffe Building. Please note that schools eating packed lunches are not allowed to eat inside our food outlets or café.
Schools can store packed lunches at the Kalahari Theatre (see our Schools Map for this location). Please follow the signage at the Theatre if you wish to use this space. Other schools may also be using this storage, so please be respectful and keep your classes’/school’s lunches together. Teaching may be happening in the next door classroom, so we request noise is kept to a minimum as your enter to deposit or collect your packed lunches.
Please note this is an unstaffed area and any items left in this location are left at your own risk, if you would like more secure storage for anything please see details about our paid for Zoo Lockers.
If your older students plan to eat at our food outlets, please be aware that on quieter days some of them may not be open. The main café, Penguinis, is always open. On busy days there are often queues at our food outlets. To avoid the queues eat outside of the peak times of 11:30-1:30.
Schools have the option of preordering Orange Calippo ice lollies for £2.00 (20p off on-the-day prices). Simply select this when completing your school booking form, or contact the education department (01206 332511 or 01206 331292 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to add them to your order. Please note, Colchester Zoo requires two weeks notice that you wish to purchase these. If you have ordered Calippos, please collect these from the ‘Penguini’s Restaurant’ food outlet during your visit. Please note that all Calippos must be collected at the same time.
There are three areas around the zoo where schools can refill water bottles:
Teachers can refill their student’s water bottles at The Penguini’s Restaurant (the main restaurant) at the top of the zoo. Please take all collected water bottles (not the children) into Penguini’s and ask a member of staff for assistance. Please note tap water will be used.
There is a water fountain at the hand wash station by the Guinea pig village located in the Familiar Friends farm area at the bottom of the zoo.
There is a water fountain on the long side of the building at the Remi Brown Play Area, this is just beyond the elephant paddock near the bottom of the zoo.
Zoo Keeper Talks
Schools are welcome to attend any of our many Zoo Keeper talks which take place throughout the day at the animal enclosures. These talks may be based on a feeding time, training session, enrichment activity or simply the chance to hear from our Zoo Keepers. Most of these talks are between 5 -15 minutes long. See the Encounter Timetable section of the website for the most up-to-date schedule, or download the free Zoo App for a schedule and directions to the nearest ones.
Ride the Train
Schools can ride our free train, the Lost Madagascar Express, to see the walk-through lemur enclosure. Please note that all students, regardless of year level, must be supervised while on the train. The train station is located near the bottom of the zoo by the Tiger Enclosure. The train usually opens from 10:30am and closes an 1 hour before the zoo closes, depending on weather. Check the notice board outside the train station or ask at Guest Services on the day of your visit for a more specific timetable.
If your groups wants to ride the train, please allow at least 20 minutes for the experience, and more time if there is a longer queue. If it is raining the lemurs are often out of sight, but you are still welcome to ride the train there and back again.
Schools have the option of preordering Goody Bags in advance at just £2.75 per child (or bag). Just add your requirements to the booking form and these can be arranged for you.
If you have not selected these when you made your booking, please contact our Education Department at 01206 332511, 01206 332512 or 01206 331292 or email@example.com to add these to your booking. Due to stock ordering, Colchester Zoo requires two weeks notice if you wish to purchase these.
If you have ordered Goody Bags please collect them at the Outpost Shop, on the day of your visit, as you are leaving the zoo.
All students must be accompanied while in the Outpost Gift shop. This shop is located at the exit to the zoo.
If you are planning time in the shop you can do this at any time during your visit and we recommend scheduling this during the middle of your visit so you are not rushing to the coach while waiting in end of day queues. Please be aware that while we require children to be supervised by adults while in the shop, but you do not need to enter together as an entire class (e.g. one adult leader and 6 pupils could visit the shop by themselves without the rest of their class).
After you have gone to the shop, it is easy for schools to re-enter the zoo (you don’t need wristbands, etc.). Simply go around the corner back to the main entrance and let the member of staff at the entrance gates know which school you are visiting with. The staff member will then let you back into the zoo.
Schools are also able to preorder Goody Bags in advance at just £2.75 per child (or bag), see above for details.
Exiting the Zoo
You will exit through the Outpost Gift Shop. All students must be accompanied in this shop. This exit leads you back to the main building where you entered the zoo.
The coach park and car parks are often busy at the end of the day. If you are gathering your group together, please do this before you exit the zoo (although please ensure you are not blocking the entrance to the shop), or in immediately after exiting the shop (by the large animal sculptures and the small toilet block). Please note, this toilet block is small, so not recommended for large groups. Please do not gather groups in the middle of the coach park as there will be other vehicles attempting to drive away at the same time.