With the education funding crisis showing little signs of improving, schools are increasingly having to tackle spending challenges they previously didn’t have to consider and start reviewing what they pay for. One of these will almost inevitably be the extent to which their school trips for pupils are subsidised – if at all.
Schools are only too aware of the immense benefits trips can provide for pupils, particularly those with SEND. To make these experiences possible, schools will usually have no choice but to ask parents for voluntary contributions to help cover the costs – though the voluntary nature of such revenue obviously won’t guarantee that enough money will be received overall, potentially forcing the trip to be cancelled.
A good way of calculating how much to ask parents for is to first decide how many – if indeed any – free trips each class might have, with a cap on the total cost. Once that free trip has been used, the school might then decide to use Pupil Premium money to subsidise the costs for Pupil Premium children, and divide the total expense of the trip by the number of children attending.
Most schools will hold fundraising days, or have a PTA that helps organise regular fundraising events. Using funds from those to subsidise trips is a good way of ensuring that enrichment experiences can still go ahead without having to depend on voluntary contributions. At the start of the year, identify how much you want to raise for trips over the following three terms and then look at what can be done to reach that figure.
Even if some funds have been raised and some pupil places have been successfully subsidised, too often the contributions you receive just won’t be enough. When that happens, the headteacher may cancel the trip – at which point the SBM must ensure there’s a record of who’s paid what, so that refunds can be organised.
Remember that some cancellation policies incur a ‘late cancellation’ fee, which might equate to what the school would have paid for subsidising the trip in the first place. One hard and fast rule for all schools to bear in mind is that no child should be excluded from attending a trip just because their family didn’t make a contribution.
Another thing to consider is whether it might be possible to arrange an in-house visit. You could look into booking a mobile farm, for example, which all classes would be able to visit. The cost could then spread across all classes in the school rather than one, allowing the individual contributions to be lowered.
There are also lots of travelling theatre companies out there – the cost of having one class travel to a theatre performance will be roughly the same as having a travelling theatre visit the school and stage a show that all classes can see.
Finally, your visits coordinator must consider the location of venues. If a destination is sufficiently far away to warrant coach hire, they might want to seek out a similar alternative that that can be reached via public transport, which schools can sometimes access for free, as with TfL’s School Party Travel scheme.
No school likes asking parents to pay for trips, but the reality is that we can’t carry on doing what we’ve always done without making some sacrifices.
Caroline Collins is head of school business strategy and resources at Miles Coverdale Primary School.