Financing school trips is increasingly difficult for schools in the current funding environment. Understanding the law on charging for school trips can help to ensure school trips both continue to run and benefit disadvantaged children.

To finance school trips, schools may decide to charge or seek voluntary contributions.

Charging can mean disadvantaged children miss out on the trip if their parents cannot afford the charge. Schools may only charge for ‘optional extras’ and must have a charging and remissions policy detailing what they intend to charge for. For school trips, optional extras include:

  • education provided outside of school time that is not part of the national curriculum, the syllabus for a prescribed examination, or religious education;
  • transport; and
  • board and lodging.

Children whose parents are in receipt of certain benefits (the same benefits which would make them eligible for free school meals) are exempt from being charged for board and lodging, the cost of which must be met by the school. Schools cannot seek to recover this cost of board and lodging by charging other parents more than the actual cost of the board and lodging for their child/ren, and the individual charge to each parent must not exceed the actual cost of the board and lodging divided equally by the number of children participating.

It is worth noting that if the charge for the school trip is still prohibitive for some families, and the school has the finances, the remission policy may reduce the charge for the school trip to other parents.

Instead of charging for a school trip a school may ask for voluntary contributions. While children of parents who do not make a voluntary contribution cannot be prevented from going on the trip, if there are insufficient contributions the trip may have to be cancelled. When asking for a contribution towards a school trip a school must make it clear to parents that there is no obligation to make any contribution, that children of parents who do not contribute will not treated any differently, but that, if necessary, that the trip might have to be cancelled if insufficient contributions are received.

Advice from the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom guidance provides a useful reminder of ways to keep costs of school trips down:

  • Don’t overlook opportunities for learning outside the classroom on the school site including school wildlife areas, school ponds, adventure play areas, orienteering on the school site.
  • Consider how best to use the resources within walking distance, such as local parks or woodland, the local church or village.
  • Consider activities led by your own staff or volunteers, rather than instructors at a field study or activity centre.

Consider camping as an inexpensive residential opportunity, particularly when this is local, or even on your or a neighbouring school site. Youth organisations such as the Scouts, Guides or the local youth service may be able to help with advice and equipment.