School trips - what to expect

Children wearing life jackets
Your guide to why school trips are organised and how you can prepare your child to make the most of learning outside the classroom.

Why do schools organise educational trips?

We learn best when we can see, hear, touch and feel - in other words, when we can experience things at first hand.  Multi-sensory learning is an important part of school life, and school trips answer the requirements of all five senses.

It’s because of this that the school arranges trips to help your child learn more about the subjects that they are studying. History, geography and science are the most popular subjects for visits, but educational trips can be used to support all kinds of subjects.

The legalities

The school has a legal obligation to inform the governors if it plans to take children out of school. That’s because it’s the responsibility of the governing body to make sure that the visit is appropriate and that all measures have been taken to ensure the safety of the children.

Schools are required to carry out a risk assessment for each school trip and they will go to great lengths to look after your child properly. But if for any reason you are not happy about safety arrangements, you have the right to withdraw your child from a planned trip.

Information

The first that you will usually know about a school visit is when your child brings a letter from school informing you of the intended trip.
This letter should give you the following information:

  • Date and times of visit
  • Destination
  • Purpose of the visit
  • Cost of the trip
  • Travel arrangements

You will usually be asked to return a slip either giving or withholding your permission for your child to go on the visit, along with any payment for the trip.

The letter may also ask you if you are able to help on the day. You don't need any special checks such as a Disclosure and Barring Service check (DBS; previously Criminal Records Bureau or CRB) to help on a trip as long as you'll be supervised by a regulated person such as a teacher. 

Remember that it’s essential that your child’s school has up to date contact numbers for you and for anyone else who can be contacted in an emergency.

Payment

Few schools can afford to meet the total cost of trips that involve transport and entry fees. You may therefore be asked to make a voluntary contribution towards the cost. However, the school can’t force you to pay and it can’t bar your child from a trip because you have refused to pay. However, the school may have to cancel a planned visit if the total parental contributions don’t cover most of the costs.

Valuables

Schools cannot be held responsible for valuables, such as cameras, computer games and personal stereos. If your child wants to take something like that, make sure it is carefully named and that they know how to work it. However, it is probably best to discourage your child from taking personal belongings with them in case they lose them.

If your child needs to take spending money, find a secure purse for it and try to give it to them in change, rather than a large note.