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Vouchers to subsidise trips

Like motherhood and apple pie, a good school visit sustains and nourishes. Pupils can explore a new environment or open new doors in their own backyard.

"Every child should have the opportunity to visit the widest possible range of historic sites," says the government document "The Historic Environment: a force for our future".

But with schools dependent on parental contributions to support such activities, the cost can be prohibitive. In poorer areas, children with the least opportunity to travel with their families also get the fewest school trips.

The National Trust has put forward two proposals, outlined in its own document "Making History Matter", which aims to turn principle into practicality.

Under the first proposal, every child would be issued with a heritage voucher worth pound;5, entitling them to one visit. These would be issued through schools and used towards the cost of educational visits. With an extra pound;4 per child towards transport costs, the trust estimates that the scheme would cost pound;50 million a year and would be relatively easy to administer.

Alternatively, historic sites could develop relationships with a cluster of local schools along the lines of the National Trust Schools Partnership Programme (see below). Schools could make visits to build up a deeper curriculum involvement with the site, producing a body of work that could be displayed in the wider community. Costs, including transport, are estimated at pound;65 per child over three years, but it is likely that these initiatives could also attract sponsorship from local business.

Many potential sites would also need start-up investment in order to develop learning programmes and to bring their facilities up to scratch.

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