Where will we go this year, Miss ... the North Pole?

12th October 2007 at 01:00

Cost and red tape have caused more than a third of teachers to abandon or cancel school trips, according to a TES poll.

The survey of 300 teachers and heads in England and Wales found that the biggest reason for cancelling trips was cost, cited by 41 per cent. Form filling was the second most common reason, with 36 per cent saying it put them off.

But teachers appeared positive about school trips, even if they can mean hours spent on a bus crammed with pupils. More than a quarter said they always enjoyed them, while half said they mostly enjoyed them.

Michael Gove, shadow education spokesman, told the Conservative party conference last week that tackling bureaucracy around school trips was one of his priorities.

A report from Parliament's education and skills committee in 2005 found that multiple risk assessments meant the number of forms some schools had to fill in for simple activities was unreasonable.

The Government responded last year by publishing a manifesto on learning outside the classroom, and pledged pound;2.7m towards encouraging schools to take pupils on trips.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "It's very important for schools to do proper risk assessment, but I think it could be made less bureaucratic.

"I always enjoyed the trips I led. You broaden your own horizons as well as the children's and you get to know them much better."

Seven per cent of the teachers surveyed said they had been put off organising a trip by reports of incidents in which pupils died. Paul Ellis, a geography teacher, was jailed for a year in 2003 for manslaughter after a 10-year-old pupil was killed on an outing to the Lake District.

Even though school trips should not be compulsory for teachers, only a third felt they were genuinely optional at their schools.

Andy Clarke, head of Polesworth International Language College in Tamworth, Staffordshire, is in India this week. Four staff from the school have taken 18 students aged 15 to 18 to Jaipur on a two-week trip to study the textile and gemstone trade.

"We have links with schools in China, Ghana, Nepal and Europe," said Mr Clarke. "We're an ordinary comprehensive school with a very representative intake. Students have saved up a long time for this trip. They do fundraising activities and we have a fund to help others. I don't think there can be anything more valuable than real-life experiences of another culture."

The most common barrier that stopped pupils taking part in trips was cost. More than half of teachers in the survey knew a pupil who had missed out on a trip because they could not afford to go.

Other reasons for missing trips, given by a few respondents, included problems associated with special needs, religious grounds or anxiety at being away from home.

Schools in our survey had a variety of ways of helping students to afford trips. Some put money aside from their budget to provide funds for children from poorer families.

Donations from companies, councils and charities also helped; examples included a lottery grant of pound;2,000 for a visit to the D-Day beaches in Normandy, a church paying for three children to go to the Lake District and a charity paying for transport, entrance fees and gifts to allow seven children to enjoy a visit to the London Aquarium.


JUST pound;200

A two-week trip to China cost just pound;200 each for 20 pupils at Prescot School in Knowsley, Merseyside, thanks to pound;8,000 in donations.

Sue Farrimond, assistant head of the specialist language college, said: "Some pupils are still paying that money at pound;5 a week, others paid it in one go. We wanted to make it as cheap as possible. We raised some money from the council, some from the governors, some from the bank and some from a young people's project in Huyton."

The school teaches Mandarin as well as Spanish, French and German. A course in Polish is being developed.

Mrs Farrimond said: "We wanted to give children an idea of different cultures. We have endeavoured to do school trips and make links with schools all over the world."

Being close to John Lennon airport, the school sometimes also arranges day trips to European cities.

"Teachers in our school see it as a privilege to go on trips," said Mrs Farrimond. "They can be stressful. I remember taking a weekend trip to London and feeling stressed, but you want them to have those experiences. Pupils learn life skills as well as curriculum subjects."

Photograph: Colin McPherson


From China to Kent, some pupils in The TES survey had chances to travel around the world while others took trips around Britain. We asked each school to tell us about their most adventurous trip in the past three years. Possibly the coldest was to the North Pole. Seven went to China. Other places visited were Japan, India, Australia, Qatar, Kenya, South Africa, the USA and Peru.

But the most common destination, cited by 33 schools, was France this included Disneyland Paris, the capital city itself and Lourdes.

The Isle of Wight was another popular place with 12 schools naming it. Nine schools named London and another nine cited Dorset. Wales and the Lake District were unsurprisingly popular. Children spent time at zoos, museums, theme parks and activity centres.


Which, if any, have caused you to stop planning or abandon a particular school trip?

Cost 42%

Health and safety bureaucracy 36%

Worries about being responsible for health and safety 26%

Reports of accident or death 7%

Nothing puts me off school trips 21%

Do you enjoy school trips?

Mostly 49%

Always 27%

Sometimes 21%

Never 3%

Have you known a pupil avoid a school trip because they:

Could not afford it 54%

Were worried about being bullied 2%

Had special needs that could not be catered for 6%

Had transport difficulties 4%

I've never known a pupil avoid a school trip 18%

Other 13%

How much choice do you have about going on school trips?

Completely voluntary 34%

Voluntary but mildly expected 30%

Expected and you need a good excuse not to go 27%

Compulsory 4%

Other 4%

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