School trips are a valuable way to bring the curriculum to life for students, boost their confidence, and broaden their horizons – but there’s no denying that organising those school trips can be a long and difficult task for teachers. Here are a few things to consider when planning your school trip, and how ParentPay’s Trips module can make it so much simpler.
Planning your trip
The type of trip will impact the level of planning required. Planning for one-day trips in your local area should begin around 9 months in advance, whereas longer residential trips, especially abroad, should be organised 18 months in advance.
Creating a clearly defined itinerary for your school trip is an essential first step. Parents will want to see a plan with plenty of educational value and will want to know which activities are compulsory and optional to ensure their child can safely and happily participate. From a planning perspective, setting out your itinerary will help you to identify whether the trip meets your learning objectives and delivers the right outcomes, so changes can be made in enough time.
Itineraries also form the basis of your risk assessment. The Government stipulates that written consent must be obtained from parents for any trip or activity with a higher-than-normal risk level, i.e. above the usual risks faced by attending school such as slips, trips, and falls. Completing your itinerary enables you to identify these potentially risky activities and obtain consent in plenty of time.
Budget and additional costs
The exact rules around what activities schools can and cannot charge parents for are hazy, but importantly, you are not allowed to make a profit from school trips.
Be knowledgeable about your costs to keep the trip affordable for parents and your school. It’s going to be unpopular with parents if the price increases depending on uptake, so if you want to avoid that potential disappointment, you might want to consider which costs the school could cover regardless to keep the trip going ahead at the original price. Ensure you’ve accounted for everything possible to arrive at the final trip cost, including charges that can be unexpected like local taxes, tour guides, and resources.
When booking your school trip, particularly in the case of international trips, be wary of package providers that include insurance in their prices. It’s usually the lowest level of coverage and won’t protect you against all the outcomes you would like; it’s a better idea to find and take out your own insurance policy.
Government rules about health and safety on school trips state that “schools should appoint an educational visits coordinator and make sure they have the training they need. The headteacher has this duty if there is no coordinator”. This co-ordinator is responsible for ensuring every aspect of the school trip aligns with the relevant laws and guidance.
The Government’s rules also dictate that “schools using an outside organisation to provide an activity must check they have appropriate safety standards and liability insurance”. The easiest way to do this is to check if the provider has the Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge, which is awarded by the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom and accredits organisations that meet nationally-recognised standards. If the provider doesn’t have this badge, the school must fulfill a long list of checks to make sure they are suitable, so for peace of mind and easy administration, stick to providers with the badge.
The SEN and Disability Act 2001 (SENDA) makes it illegal for education providers to treat disabled people less favourably because of their disability.
These adjustments can include alterations to normal practices and procedures, alterations to physical features, and the provision of extra support. The Back Up Trust has useful advice on including students with disabilities in school trips.
How ParentPay makes it easier
ParentPay’s Trips module is a comprehensive solution that simplifies all aspects of school trip planning and management. Moving everything to a digital platform makes it easy to manage consent, payments, student details, and more, making reporting a breeze and freeing up staff time to focus on more important things.
Lucian Boyd Harte, Director of Finance and Operations at Chelsea Academy in London, offered his reflections on using ParentPay to manage school trips:
Lucian shared his tips to reduce initial resistance from parents: “Making the system obligatory for non-meal payments. Inform parents they must pay online or via PayPoint if there is a trip or item available they wish to pay for.” He adds: “If you have cash loaders for payments, reduce their opening hours, making topping up online the quicker and easier option. Students will then encourage their parents to use the system.”
Using ParentPay Trips
Creating your trip in ParentPay couldn’t be easier. You can configure your trip as one-day or multi-day residential, set a numbers cap or allow unlimited sign-ups, and select which students the trip is available to. Adding images and links in the trip description helps you to give parents more information and generate interest among students.
You also have total flexibility when it comes to collecting payments. You can set up free trips in ParentPay and use the intuitive system to capture consent and manage attendees, or let parents know the cost of the trip but make payment voluntary to be inclusive to everyone in your school community. Setting up paying in instalments is simple, too: you can choose how many instalments to take and their individual due dates, and you can even allow ad-hoc payments to let parents reduce their outstanding balance between instalments, enabling those who may struggle to make lump sums to pay for their child’s trip in a way that suits them. You can also issue refunds and cancel trips within ParentPay for easy management.
Trips also simplifies communications with parents. You can customise the consent form to reflect what information you need for this trip so that the process doesn’t take too long and parents and staff don’t have to wade through unnecessary information to find what they need. You can also add custom questions to your consent form for that trip only, for example, if you need to know whether or not the children can swim. Through Trips, you can create letters and send them in the post or via email to parents through MIS integration, to make sure parents get the information they need without relying on paper letters stuffed in school bags!