Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Don't get me started on... the cost of school trips

I get that this seems to be turning into an annual moan about my children's primary school but what can I say? It just seems to get to me more and more as each year passes.
I've moaned about the price of school dinners, the stresses of World Book Day and how we dealt with racist bullying.

This term I will be mostly moaning about the cost of school trips.

I have three children in primary school. Its a state school, not a private school but it seems that just about every other day I have a letter about one trip or another and the cost associated with it.

I'm not a mean parent. I like that fact that my children get to experience lots of different things. Its the way that the school goes about it that really gets me.
Take last week for example.

Sonny came home from school with a letter outlining the payment plan - yes payment plan for his year six trips.

Trip to an art gallery - £6.10
Visit to a Hindu temple - £3.00
Cycle proficiency - £15.00
Trip to a Warning Zone (?) - £9.35
Oct 7th payment for June residential trip £60
Oct 28th payment for June residential trip £60
Nov 25th payment for June residential trip £53.45
27th Jan payment for June residential trip £60
24th Feb payment for June residential trip £60
23rd Mar payment for June residential trip £60

That little lot totals £386.90 + the £100 deposit that I paid last last term for the June 2012 residential trip, giving me a grand total of £486.90.

Then late last week he came home with a letter outlining how 'all year 5 and 6 children have been given the amazing opportunity to take part in the Young Voices Concert at Birmingham's NIA in December'. 
Both Sonny and Biba (who's in year 5) said that they didn't want to do it and so the letter went straight into the recycling.
It's not that simple it seems as I've had the school music teacher hunting me down for permission slips. When she grabbed me in the playground and I explained that they didn't want to do it I was told that it wasn't optional and that I had to return the permission the next day.
The Young Voices Concert is great, but its 50 miles away, in Birmingham, on a school night and they will miss swimming and dancing classes that I've already paid for.
Then for the guilt trip.

"Of course you will want to come along to support your children, tickets can be bought from the school office and are £15 each. Young Voices T-Shirts for the children taking part can also be purchased at £9 each."
So that's £15 each for Yan and I and an additional £15 for Betty (who should be at home in bed) + £18 for two t-shirts and £30 petrol and +? for parking.
The concert ends at 9.15pm but we have to collect the children from school so we'll arrive home at around 10.45pm - if we are lucky and then we will have to face a huge battle to get them out of bed and out of the house in order to catch the school bus the next morning.

Not my idea of fun.

So Sonny's trip total for the year has now topped £500, no doubt Biba and Betty's will do the same. Its a lot of money that many people just haven't budgeted for.

Am I alone in this, or does the same thing happen at your child's school?


  1. Last year my daughter was year 2 and probably spent £40 on trips. Son at nursery was about £30 as I went to help and paid for me too! This year daughter already had £65 for trip next month... Good job my kids have healthy savings as I can't afford the trips!

  2. Can I ask where you live Becky? I'd much prefer £40 thank over £500!

  3. Wish there were more fund rising for trips that costs £500. Not all families are actually able to find that sort of money for a (few days) School trip. The contribution required should less!
    All the £2 here an £10 there irritates me. I can't pick up my children without bringing my check book. Wish all costs for at least one term would be planned and informed by letter in the beginning of each term.

    Now -off to pick up my girls, with my check book!

  4. Surely they can't force you to give permission! If you don't return the permission slip, they can't send them.

    Our school is much less ambitious but then, a proportion of the families live on a very deprived estate and noone is particularly affluent.

    Each class goes on 1 trip a year, the PTFA help to fund these trips and as ever, all contributions are optional but if they don't get enough, they can't run the trip. The furthest they go beyond there is swimming in Y4 and the rest are trips they can do on foot which costs nothing.

    If you are not happy, I'd contact the head teacher. Being "required" to provide permission is not on. We had to give permission for them to go onto a bus that visited the school car park last term and they kept back any children whose parents didn't reply or give permission.

    Alternatively, do you know any of the parent governors that you could talk to? I really don't think anything out of school hours can be compulsory for a start.

  5. wow that is a lot. I cant comment on this yet as my oldest is only started in August, but that seems like an awful lot of money x

  6. Kate,
    You know what i think I will speak to the head. The late night out of school hours thing really peeves me. My 8 year old won't be in bed before 11pm on a school night yet she's expected to be bright eyed and bushy tailed in class the following morning. It's just not on.

    You better get saving lady!

    Scandanavian Mum,
    My children now travel on the FREE school bus that is supplied by the education authority (not the school) for that very reason.

  7. My son has just started in year 1 and has his first trip next week. A trip to a FREE museum and historical centre in my town. The coach for around 60 kids (2 year groups) will be travelling the 4 miles into town.
    We have been told the school is part funding the trip by £3.50 each and we should pay the suggested contribution of £6 per child. Said child should also take a packed lunch with no fruit juices, fizzy drinks, sweets or crisps.

    I cant see how the coach will cost over £400 to go a few miles to take the kids to something which is already free! Let alone that I have already paid for a school meal for that day and the school are saying what should and should not be in the packed lunch. Surely for £9.50 per child they can provide a packed lunch for them?

    The start of things to come - I am waiting for the big trips which I have heard the other parents talking about!

  8. Schools charging for activities is one of the most irksome issues facing parents. There is a delicate balancing act between the school offering curriculum enriching activities and pricing parents out of the market.

    It's worth remembering the "rules" on charging. Schools cannot demand payment for activities which take place DURING THE SCHOOL DAY. They can ask for voluntary contributions, and if there aren't enough of those, they have the right to cancel the trip. They can't force parents to pay, nor can they refuse a child the opportunity just because the parents haven't paid.

    Residentials and out of school hours trips and clubs can be charged for. Of course the charge should cover the costs; they shouldn't be looking to skim a profit.

    Regarding the trip to Birmingham, that sounds like an out of hours (or at least partly) trip. If it's not part of the curriculum (and though music is, you could argue the show isn't) they can't MAKE your children attend. Stick to your guns on this one.

    *takes deep breath*

    Vicky above: coach travel during school time is covered by the rules above. They can't MAKE you pay for it. However coach travel for kids is very expensive (it usually includes a premium for insurance).

    Kate makes a good point re accosting a parent governor, although any PG worth their salt will dead bat it as it's really a management issue. If enough parents make a fuss, though, it may prompt the school to take a look at its charging policy.

    Maybe I should have written my own post for this... ;-)

  9. Him Up North,
    Thanks for your comment. It looks like its not just me that is riled by this. Of course all of the letters are carefully worded to include the term 'suggested contribution'. You are also given the option to contact the school office if you can't afford it but really who does that?

    I do know all of the PG's but people don't really rally together in situations like this do they? They prefer to moan, pay and then burry their heads in the sand.
    I'm not one of those gals.

    Good on BBC Radio Leicester, they have invited me on to talk about this tomorrow.

  10. Ouch. I don't think we ever had that much cost or that many trips in primary school. Today I sent a cheque off for 2 13-year-olds to go to Germany. I need a lie down.

  11. Linda, Can I ask how much the trip was?

  12. I feel your pain as I'm having a very similar issue with Chick's school at the moment!! To be honest if I'm going to spend £200 on her going away for a couple of nights, I'd like to be going with her not paying for the Teachers to go!!! Grrr!!

  13. £350 for a residential trip?! That's chuffing extortianate! Where are they staying, Windsor Castle? Our year 6 trip costs £200 max.

    Also, those costs are voluntary, they can't make you pay them at all (I'm a primary school teacher so know these things y'know!)

  14. I have exactly the same problem. My daughter is doing the young voices thing in the O2, so our tickets are £22 per person, plus her t-shirt fee, then we have to pay for the coach to take the kids up and bring them back (as we're not "allowed" to bring our own kids home) as well as our train fare there and back. We got the letter for this on the friday, they wanted payment on the monday, when the trip isn't until March next year.

    Also in March she has a week trip which is somewhere around £250-£300 as they keep changing it, which they want in instalments and have given us a lovely payment card..... THEN we had to pay for swimming (even though there is a swimming pool in the school) a day trip, fun friday lunches, and a "donation" to the school, which they tell us how much to pay.

    So all in all, I'll be paying out £450-£500 for school trips and activities, which, I don't mind her doing because I want her to enjoy school and be part of it all, but I don't appreciate being told when I have to pay, and only being given a days notice.

    These fee's don't include the after school clubs either!! Or the £250 I have to pay for my son's nursery, so I can work, to PAY THESE BLOODY FEE'S.....


  15. Katie,
    Thanks for your comment.We arent allowed to collect the children from Young Voices either.
    Love the swimming fees - that is classic!

  16. Wow.

    I'm terrified of my two starting school now! I best start saving!

  17. I've just said this at The Mad House, but it's not the school you need to be talking to - it's the other parents. The school will divide and conquer (ie. give you each the same bullshit) but it's not until you go in en masse or call a meeting that they will actually answer questions and do anything.

  18. Wow sorry I must ask what school is this? I never EVER went on any school trips. The one time we did the bus broke down and the driver filled the fuel tank with Sunny Delight to make it start again.

    It's all very well that they offer so many fun days out and such but to expect a parent to be able to pay them all? Ouch.

    Guess I should setup a school trip fund now!


Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. Appreciated as always. xx


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