England

Should school trips cost more than a family holiday?

Bridgetown, Barbados Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Some parents were "disgusted" by a Yorkshire school's £1,650 trip to Barbados

A story about a West Yorkshire school offering a £1,650 sports trip to Barbados provoked a lot of reaction from parents, with hundreds of people tweeting and emailing us.

Some were "disgusted" like the parents in Yorkshire, and felt trips like these put pressure on parents to find money they cannot afford.

Others said their children accepted not being able to go on such expensive trips, and they did not feel under pressure.

Many also said they were willing to pay thousands of pounds if their children benefitted.

Steven Underhill, who has a 17-year-old daughter and a 11-year-old son, was among those who responded to the story.

Money is tight for his family because Mr Underhill had to take time off from running his business while being treated for bowel cancer.

His daughter is going on a £2,500 school visit to South Africa in July.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Steven Underhill's daughter is going on a £2,500 school trip to South Africa
Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Steven Underhill (left) said his daughter Toni (right) did not expect to go on the school trip

"We have no way of being able to go on this sort of holiday ourselves, so we thought it would be nice to treat her to something we wouldn't be able to go on as a family," said Mr Underhill.

He said his daughter, Toni, understands the family's financial situation and never expected to go on the trip when she heard about it at school in Paignton, Devon.

"We never felt under pressure," he said.

"She isn't a child who asks for anything and this trip is something we feel she should have to show how proud we are of her."

Mr Underhill's own parents have helped towards the cost of the visit, but he said he would have found a way to finance it without their help if necessary.

The 45-year-old has only been abroad once in his life, to Spain when he was 12.

"We are not against the prices of these holidays, in fact we are grateful that our daughter has the opportunity to go on such a trip that we could never afford to take her on ourselves," said Mr Underhill.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption One parent said students should go to the National Space Centre in Leicester, instead of a trip to Russia

One father asked us not to name him because he did not want his stepson "to get picked on" at school.

His primary school in Belper, Derbyshire, is offering a trip to Moscow for £1,350, to see aspects of the Russian space programme and meet astronauts.

"It's ridiculous really, that amount of money for a seven-year-old to go to Moscow for four nights is outrageous," said the father.

"There's a space centre down the road in Leicester. Why can't they go to that rather than Moscow?"

The father said his stepson had been excited about the prospect of going on the trip, but he accepted he could not go.

"I just sat him down and explained that he could go away for four nights, or I could take the entire family of five away for a week for only £250 more," he said,

"I let him come to the conclusion that it was the right thing not to go, so basically we are going to Egypt."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption One family of five are going to Egypt for a few hundred pounds more than a school trip to Russia

Schools are required to take a certain proportion of teachers or adults on trips, usually one adult for every ten pupils for trips abroad.

This can make costs higher, because the cost of the adults' travel is sometimes spread between the pupils.

The Department for Education said there was no cap on the cost of school trips, but that schools must only cover the price of the excursion. It is up to individual schools to decide what is appropriate and they cannot make a profit.

However, the department says parents in receipt of certain benefits should be exempt from paying the cost of board and lodging.

When a school informs parents about a forthcoming visit, they "should make it clear" that these parents will be exempt.

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Image caption Teacher Jonathan Robinson has taken students on several educational trips, including to the Galapagos Islands

One of the teachers who tweeted the BBC following the story about the Yorkshire school was a former pupil, Jonathan Robinson.

He is now a teacher in Hertfordshire and has been on several school trips.

"We constantly have parents who say to us, every year, 'Why is this trip being offered? It's so expensive. You should only offer cheap trips that everyone can go on'."

In response, he argues the school offers a range of trips at different costs, including 38 trips last year that cost under £100.

A "really big trip" costing £2,000 or £3,000 is offered every two years, and payments are spread over two years.

"They are all optional trips so they are not compulsory parts of the curriculum," he said.

"These trips are so valuable and so beneficial to students, and you can see that from the feedback we get from students."

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Image caption Jonathan Robinson's school learnt about tropical medicine and jungle life with the Huaorani people in the Amazon

He said the trips offer experiences that children would never have on a family holiday, such as when he took students to China.

He used to work in China as a lecturer, so he was able to take the children away from the tourist trail.

Mr Robinson said teachers spend a lot of their own time organising the trips, and they are far from being free holidays because teachers are responsible for children.

"If anything goes wrong, the first person you are going to blame is the teacher," he said.

Like many others, his school encourages students to do fundraising for their trips, which he believes teaches them about the value of money.

Being unable to go on an expensive trip also teaches them "the reality of life", he argued.

"In life you can't always have the most expensive thing," he said.

"There are families and students that want these trips and can afford them, and it would be wrong of us not to offer them, just as it would be wrong not to offer cheaper ones to families that can afford those."

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