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Making the most out of school trips

Emmeline Carr finds ways school trips can be more than just a break with your mates, and finds ways to afford them if money is tight at home.

'Experience, travel… these are education in themselves'  Euripides

In 2008, the Government injected £4.5M into their Out and About scheme; set up to encourage teachers to get students out of the classroom and into the world. Ed Balls, Minister for Children, Schools and Families at the time, hoped that 'by making it easier for teachers to take their students outside the classroom [we] will help a generation of pupils develop their independence and raise their attainment.' Travel can open up your eyes and mind to new experiences, shaping ideas of the world and bringing history to life - so why shouldn't the new generation have the opportunity to do so?

What are the benefits of school trips?

  • Learning

The primary reason for school trips is their educational element. Firsthand experience of a subject reinforces ideas in a student's brain and provokes further discussions that perhaps would not have even been thought about before. It gives young people huge satisfaction when they can put the theory they have learnt into practice, see the mechanisms in real life and let themselves become a part of it - not to mention locking it into their long term memory. Field trips offer the opportunity for different methods of teaching and learning, as David Rogers, a geography teacher, explains. '[We] ban clipboards in the trip. Travel encourages students to learn in a very different way than they do in the classroom. For example, on the most recent trip to Iceland the students were doing live blogging and recording soundtracks of the natural world. It's a world away from filling in boxes on worksheets, and hopefully will give them skills they can take on into real life. Travel broadens the mind and inspiring trips will give a hunger for learning, increasing students' engagement in the classroom after their return.

  • Social

Everyone remembers the social aspect of the school trips they've been on - going on holiday with all your friends; why wouldn't you? Friendships are allowed to blossom outside of the classroom environment, and a sense of collegiality amongst the class is brought out by everybody having a good time all together. Thinking of another aspect, however, school trips teach all students how to engage with new people and in new situations. They will also learn the value of personal safety in different areas to the ones they are used to.

  • Civic engagement

Local day trips allow students to feel more connected to their community, perhaps after seeing the workings of the local government or similar. This also promotes the value of lifelong civic engagement, encouraging them to take part and be an active member of the community in their later lives.

  • Personal development

School trips have a profound effect on the development of young peoples' character - whether they are six or 16, they will always learn something new about the place they visit, and about themselves. Often, students have the opportunity to visit places they might not have the chance to experience otherwise, opening up an infinite number of opportunities for interests, hobbies or even future careers that may not have been thought about in the classroom. Pupils develop a greater appreciation for their immediate world as well as further afield as they discover new cultures, history and skills. Going somewhere different, even if it's only five minutes up the road, provokes an innate curiosity amongst young people that allows them to thrive throughout the rest of their school and personal lives.

How can I afford them?

One of the main drawbacks of school trips can be cost - there seems to be no limit in how expensive school trips can be. According to one recent survey, parents pay an average of £286 for a primary school trip. The average cost of a secondary school trip, according to the same survey, is £1,411 - ranging from £350 per pupil for a trip to the Mediterranean, to £3,000 for a four week trip to Peru. Managing this cost can be difficult and grants or funding can be hard to find, but here are a few suggestions:

  • Speak to your school

Many schools set aside some money for those students who cannot go on school trips for financial reasons. Don’t be afraid to write a letter to your school detailing your financial situation and reasons why the trip would benefit you.  They may be able to help.

  • Citizens Advice Bureau

The Citizens Advice Bureau charity could point you in the direction of local charities or other sources of funding in your area that could help.

  • Voluntary help

A parent could come along on the trip for free and take the place of a member of staff that would otherwise have to be paid.

  • Charities or educational grants

Groups such as Horizon, Gingerbread and Family Lives may be able to help or advise how to obtain funding.

If you or your family are worried about the cost of school trips, ask for a list of proposed trips and their estimated cost early on in the school year: This will give you time to budget and arrange your finances around a payment plan long term, rather than with the relatively short notice you would normally receive. 

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