Friday, 20 December 2013

School trips - just another expense?


Your child has returned home from school with a letter about a school trip which you     need to pay for.  You may ask yourself the following questions - Why do schools organise field trips? Why are they so expensive? What value do they have?

School trips are invaluable in engaging children in their learning. They enable children to apply the facts taught in the classroom to the real world. Trips provide opportunities for children to participate in learning activities in a way that they cannot experience in the classroom. 

In addition, children feel a sense of adventure and have a freedom to explore in a safe environment. Through participating in a school trip your child will have a unique experience which leads to development and improvement in knowledge and understanding of a specific curricular area.  Often the learning from the visit continues in the classroom and can form the basis for a several weeks or a term's learning. Trips can also help the teachers to develop skills and knowledge and gain new ideas for activities and lessons.

Though it is important meeting curriculum objectives is only a part of why school trips benefit your child. Perhaps more significant are the life skills that are developed. Field trips are full of opportunities to develop a child's independence and self confidence e.g. taking care of their belongings, deciding what information should be recorded and taking care of each other. They will have opportunities to use their thinking and questioning skills and to develop their observation skills. They will have time to reflect on key questions beyond a simple yes or no e.g. What if...?  as well as being able to explain and justify their thoughts and opinions.

Of course school trips involve a visit to the inevitable gift shop, which adds to the overall expense of the trip. This is recognised by most schools who impose maximum limit on spending money. But the visit to the shop can be a great opportunity for your child to apply their maths learning in a real life situation e.g. adding, subtracting and budgeting. Staff on the trip should encourage your child to spend their money wisely and on items that reflect the theme of the trip, a memento rather than trinkets for each family member, e.g. A Roman coin may be brought from a visit to a Roman villa.

Unseen, and perhaps unknown, is the huge amount of preparation that has to happen before a school trip can take place. Organising a school trip is a great responsibility. Many teachers fear being sued in the event of something going wrong and as a consequence do not organise trips.  The vast majority of school trips will be focused on the children's learning and be relevant to specific curriculum objectives.  In addition, schools and County Councils have formalised procedures to be followed when organising a school trip.  Risk assessments, itineraries, supervision (including ensuring all supporting adults have a current CRB certificate), first aid, medication and dietary needs all need to be considered and provided.  Every child in the class or year group for the proposed trip has the right to attend and schools must ensure that this is possible.  The cost of the trip is also considered; the transport costs in particular can be very expensive.  Schools cannot profit from a school visit and the price that individual children pay should not be used to cover the cost of those children who cannot afford the cost such as those in low income families. Most schools will have a separate budget to assist those children and you should be informed how to access financial support in the information letter.  All trips have to be approved before they can take place. Increasingly schools are informing parents and carers of forthcoming trips and events with an estimation of the cost so that they budget for them. But this does mean that as a parent or carer you need to reply to requests for authorisation, and do so in good time ahead of the trip, otherwise your child may find that they are not able to join their friends.

Schools organise trips after careful thought and preparation. They do so because they believe that school visits make the learning in the classroom real, relevant and alive.  Parents and carers who have supported me on a range of school trips are often surprised by how powerful the learning is and how positively the children respond to the experience. 

School trips are fun, they are educational, but most of all they are inspirational.

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