This week, the Secret Teacher talks school trips and says education is ‘more than just learning in a classroom’.

Our staff room received some good news this week – all classes have been booked on a school trip for near the end of the school year.

Both locations are firm favourites of the staff who have taken children there over the years: family farm parks. As long as we get the weather, we will have a lovely day of meeting and feeding farm animals, tractor rides, play parks, trampolines.

Honestly, I can’t wait. These days are celebrations of being near the end of the school year and serve as something to look forward to as energy starts to drop and the days stagnate towards the end of the summer term.

Our reaction to the news of trips does depend on the location of the trip. Say the words: “Camera Obscura” to staff who have been in my school a few years and you will see their eyes widen and their bodies stiffen as their minds flashback to a whole-school trip to Edinburgh and the mayhem of walking an entire school down the royal mile.

The Herald:
Although I’m sure these school trip days will be a huge highlight of the school year for staff and children, it doesn’t mean they will be easy. Even the best school trips can be enormously stressful for staff involved. If you happen to be out and about and you see a school trip happening, have a look at the teacher and other staff.

Beneath their usually calm façade there will be a hyper-vigilance that comes from repeatedly speed-counting the number of children around them while trying to proactively manage different children’s emotions. 

School trips can be stressful for children as well. The days are completely different to the usual routine for children and the sensory overload of a trip can be overwhelming for some. As schools are aware of this, this usually means there is a bit of work done beforehand to prepare children for the trips so that these can be mitigated as much as possible.

More and more schools I know have stopped doing an end-of-year school trip. Like everything in society, the cost of school trips has dramatically increased. The cost of hiring buses has made the idea of a trip harder.

The free bus travel card has helped this. More of our recent trips rely on using public buses to travel than we used to. Without that, we would have had to deny a number of educational trips held this year.

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One thing we are always aware of is how we can reduce the so-called ‘cost of the school day’. This is a positive initiative set up to try and monitor and minimise additional costs incurred to parents by schools. Needlessly expensive uniform items, buying books and stationery can all put parents/carers under extra pressure.

While in my school the vast majority are free school meals, when it comes to a school trip, almost all these children bring in their own packed lunch rather than the one that can be ordered via the council for that day. This incurs additional stress and finance for parents/carers.

We are reluctant to ask parents to contribute to trips and if we do, it’s been a maximum of £3 which acts more as a guarantee of their attendance as some of the trips are costing upwards of £25 per child to the school.

Begging local businesses for donations towards the trip and spending hours completing an array of funding applications is how my Head Teacher manages to make it work for our budget. School funds provided by the council don’t stretch far, especially now with the publicised budget cuts which will have a clear impact on staffing levels and will also affect how able schools are to provide trips like these.

The Herald:
Some may question the point of the trips. Shouldn’t they be in the classroom learning to read, write and count as that’s the point of school? Simply, no.

These are more than just trips. They are experiences which provide positive memories shared as a class. Maybe in more affluent areas, the trips we take them on are places their parents may take them on their weekends. Sadly, that’s not the case with the context I work in.

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These trips allow them to experience the same things as affluent children outside of school. A lot of the moments when I felt we were really making a difference came on trips. Whether this was teaching a P7 class the etiquette of eating in a restaurant or holding the hand of a P1 refugee child as they travelled on an escalator for the first time when going to the cinema.

Education is more than just learning in a classroom. Sadly, it seems school trips will become unattainable due to school budget pressures, allowing for an experience gap as well as an attainment gap.