Fees for field trips

(49 Posts)
PastSellByDate Tue 07-May-13 13:46:16

Hello all:

A few of us are noticing that the fees set out in letters to parents at our school across several different years don't quite match published school visit fees on the websites of the venues our school is visiting.

Now we range from extreme skepticism (for which read me) to those who feel there must be a logical explanation (maybe charging a bit more to then buy all the children a treat or something).

However, all of us remain deeply confused as to whether schools can make a profit off of field trips or not? The overcharging isn't huge from 30p to up to £1 per child - but our concern is this will of course add up over 3 excursions per school year and 7 years of pupils.

Does anyone know if a school is in the wrong to charge an individual child more than the actual value of their participation in a school trip?

Is it the case that we fee paying parents are subsidising those who don't and it's just that nobody has explained that outright to us?

We'd be grateful if you are a governor or teacher in a school and can explain this situation at our school.

scaevola Tue 07-May-13 13:49:40

If you're being charged only a tiny bit over the headline price, then your school has secured a simply marvellous deal on transport costs and should be congratulated on keeping the price down.

poshme Tue 07-May-13 13:51:32

School trips can need extra insurance. It costs money.

Seeline Tue 07-May-13 13:51:48

Schools are not allowed to run trips at a profit.
Have you taken into account travel costs?
Perhaps there is a bit extra charged for a workshop/tour etc?
Do schools have to pay insurance for each trip?

mrs2cats Tue 07-May-13 13:53:25

I'm not a governor or a teacher in a school but I do know that when my children's school sends out letter with fees they always make clear that it's not just the cost of entry to a venue but that the charge also covers the coach and also the cost of extra adults to ensure a proper adult:child ration i.e. travel and entry cost for the adults. In one letter they even stated that the extra cost was to cover the cost of supply staff that would be needed to cover the absence of staff who were going on the trip! In that particular case it was clear that it was a voluntary donation of £x for the trip plus another voluntary donation of £x to cover supply staff.

Maybe your school needs to be clearer about what any extra charges are for?

soapboxqueen Tue 07-May-13 14:43:15

Schools cannot make a profit from a trip and they cannot charge extra to cover children who do not pay. If a child does not pay they cannot be refused a place on the trip either (unless it is a residential trip). The short fall must be made up from school funds or the whole trip cancelled.

It is not just the cost of entry that needs to be covered as others have suggested. Transport and sufficient adult supervision also needs to be paid for. Sometimes venues charge extra for schools as they put on workshops or other activities not available to the general public.

If you are unsure about costs, ask. I usually give a breakdown so parents know where the money is going. Remember that the money requested is a voluntary contributions not a fee.

PastSellByDate Tue 07-May-13 14:47:11

Dear all:

Sorry should have spelled out that they have itemized transport fees and insurance for every trip - some trips have no transport because they are on foot.

The overcharge is between the entrance fee the school is reporting and the published entrance fee for school visits/ performances at various venues.

As far as we understand - no additional purchase of treat or sweets has been made on field trips that have gone ahead with the overcharged entrance/ performance fees (children were quizzed afterwards).

HTH

soapboxqueen Tue 07-May-13 14:50:23

Then I think you need to ask. As I said they can't make a profit but should quickly be able to tell you why there is a difference.

Chopchopbusybusy Tue 07-May-13 14:56:30

As far as I am aware schools are not allowed to charge more than the cost even if it is to subsidise the cost for those unable to afford It.
An overcharge of 30p per trip, assuming 3 per year for 7 years is £6.30 and worst case scenario according to your figures is £21 over 7 years.
I know some people do struggle to pay for school trips but are the above figures really a huge concern for you?

PastSellByDate Tue 07-May-13 15:45:28

Hi Chochobusybusy:

This is one school year

Entire school trip to play - overcharged pupils by £1.10 each (210 pupils attending) = £231

KS1 trip to museum - overcharged 60 pupils £0.55 = £18.15

KS2 trip to recreational venue - overcharged 30 pupils by 35p each = £10.50

KS2 trip to museum - overcharged 30 pupils by £0.85 each = £25.50

KS1 in school visit (performance) - overcharged pupils by 55p each - 60 pupils = £33

Total on just this (where we have ticket stubs/ etc.. to substantiate overcharge) = £307.65

Individually of course this is small change - but it adds up and in fact we suspect the figure per year is roughly double this amount.

Chopchopbusybusy Tue 07-May-13 15:54:34

Well ask the school then. The cost per child over 7 years is between £6 and £21. I really couldn't get wound up about that. You 'quizzed' the children? Really? You wonder if you as the 'fee paying' parents are subsidising the parents with less ready cash. Would that be such a bad thing?
If you really are that bothered then you need to ask but I doubt the teachers are quaffing Bollinger on the proceeds, more likely it goes in the slush fund for the benefit of the pupils.
I know my reply is quite harsh but I think you are over thinking the whole thing.

paneer Tue 07-May-13 15:59:30

Could it be a little extra to cover the costs of the children from families who really cannot afford the trips?

And the teachers, TAs and parent helpers - to cover their entry and travel?

I would suspect there's an additional cost to pay for children whose families cannot afford for them to go unless the school pick up the tab.

pooka Tue 07-May-13 16:08:01

I think you sound a tad unhinged to be questioning an overcharge of 55 pence per child!

Honestly - how much did your finding out the information, the time spent (if you were doing billable hours set up) in discussing and considering the charges, cost you?

Ay excess most likely covers expenses for teachers or parent helpers, in terms of admission or of travel costs. Or maybe the extra £10 means that the school can fund families who cannot afford the voluntary contribution for that particular trip? or the cost of letters re:the trip. Or whatever.

The sums you've quoted aren't suggesting widespread fraud to me.

pooka Tue 07-May-13 16:09:31

What it actually makes me think is really - do you hate the school so much that you trust them with nothing and put nothing beyond them?

wws Tue 07-May-13 16:13:54

Transport costs can be a lot and published fees for schools etc often depend on certain numbers of pupils. If less the
Cost per pupil may be higher. Like the others I seriously doubt school are overcharging so they can make a profit.

Wellthen Tue 07-May-13 21:45:49

Its a voluntary contribution. Contribute the price of the venue and no more if you're that bothered.

Possibly yes they are rounding up a little to cover kids who don't pay. Is 30p-£1 more a trip really worth having the whole trip cancelled? The school are not allowed to make a profit but they must cover the costs of the trip through contributions. If not all contribute then the amount asked for goes up.

Sorry but you sound hugely ungrateful and selfish.

Planning a trip this week for 50 children. In order to maintain our ratios we are taking 7 adults with us. Quotes for the bus range from £265 to £480! The trip will take about 45 minutes each way, travelling out of peak time (avoiding times when buses are used for school transport).

I teach in a rural county, so no chance of walking or public transport. We also need to pay for the cost of sending staff out on a visit in order to do risk assessments, parking for bus etc.

However, the children will get a lot out of the experience so we hope parents understand we have to cover our costs.

mumnosbest Tue 07-May-13 22:41:50

Maybe it covers the cost of adults/volunteers

Restorer Tue 07-May-13 22:52:28

Schools are not allowed to make a profit out of trips and they're not allowed to charge paying children extra to cover the costs of those who can't/won't pay.

They are allowed (as you'd expect) to charge enough to cover the whole cost of the trip. Some free adult places are usually included, but in most cases, to keep children safe and to make sure the trip runs smoothly, extra adults will go, and the cost of their entrance will be added to the fees paid by parents.

If you really believe the school is making a significant profit, you should ask for clarification.

And after typing this, I've realised you're talking about pennies. The play will definitely have extra adult ticket to pay for, everything else is just rounding to make the payment process easier. Parents would think we were mad if we charged £18.15 for a trip and imagine the nightmare of finding change for everyone. If it really bothers you, just pay what you think you owe, or deduct it from the amount you normally spend at the school fete.

Any (small) profit will go into the school fund for the benefit of all children.

Who is "we"?

PatriciaHolm Wed 08-May-13 10:29:18

The kind of amounts there look very much like the additional cost of a few more adult entrance fees to venues. Maybe 1 adult in 10 will be free, but most schools would take more than that, so I suspect that is what is happening - its the cost of those extra adults spread over the number of people who are going. They really aren't all sitting in the staffroom laughing about how they are making you all pay for their tea and biscuits, you know...

DeWe Wed 08-May-13 11:10:04

I can't believe anyone would really go and work that sort of thing out. hmm
£300, or even £600 would be such a small part of the school's budget anyway.

Rather than ask the children to bring their own money, sometimes our school buys them all the same badge or something.
But it's probably extra adults.

NynaevesSister Wed 08-May-13 20:02:35

Blinking heck! Do you have wider issues With management at the school? Do you think it is skimming for the staff Xmas party? Or do you think it is just rounding to make the payment easier? If latter then it will all go on the kids anyway!

The school can only ask for a voluntary contribution btw. If the trip is part of the curriculum they are obliged to take all children regardless of whether they have paid. However of too many parents don't pay then they may have to cut back on trips and it is the kids who miss out.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 08-May-13 20:10:34

Gosh.

The canny teachers have worked out a way of skimming the spare 1/2p from each child per trip and are siphoning it off into offshore accounts, hence the row of Aston Martins in the car park. Or perhaps that is the plot of a film.

PastSellByDate Thu 09-May-13 10:40:53

Guys - I don't think teachers are siphoning it off - I think it just disappears into the school's general fund. Again it's not 1-2p - it genuinely is 30p - £1.10 a child per excursion.

Ultimately it probably is spent on students.

What I object to is the document at the start of each year regarding field trips assures parents at our school that they are only charged precisely what it costs for their child to attend and that paying parents do not subsidize costs for teachers, volunteers or those who do not pay. This is the school policy & appears on the website.

Every trip is just slightly more than expected. Prices for trips are never totally explained and when we have the temerity to ask - we get responses like above - 'you must be unhinged Mrs. PSBD! (thanks for that POOKA - but you raise a fair point - I'm not a big fan of the school). The usual reply is something along the lines of 'I'm terribly offended that you would even suggest such a thing Mrs. PSBD! (or fill in blank)' And the same has happened to my friends with similar suspicions. We're left with grin and bear it really - and no explanation.

The final straw this year for me was that we have been charged around £6 a child for a field trip that was meant to have happened last term and although we have all asked - what's going on? - is this going to be rescheduled? Will we be refunded? We have yet to have an answer from the school.

Last night we've tallied 45 fully documented discrepancies - whereby we have our child's admission ticket, the letter from the school with breakdown of transport/ insurance fees (so we can work out what remained for entrance fee). One of us even rang a theatre last year to double check if there was a credit card charge per ticket (which was the explanation from the school) only to learn that in fact the theatre does not charge schools this fee for school trips (discrepancy in this case was 70p per child - entire school attending - 200 or so kids = £140).

We have all individually asked repeatedly about these little things. I fully admit they are little things. But they add up - should I be giving the school approximately an extra £3.50 - £5 a year (this year is more like £10 - thus my starting to grumble). Over 200+ children that works out to over £700 - £1000 extra a year for the school at least.

Our PTA barely manages to raise £2-3K a year over about 6-8 events (discos, fairs, performances, coffee mornings, etc...).

Maybe this is small change from a teacher's perspective/ your perspective - but we genuinely are curious to know where this money is going at the school. It's not visible. It's not explained.

I would be fine if we could see the surplus was recorded & spent on all children. But we parents fund prizes for things like 'house' days/ sports days. Children are only issued with one homework book a year and if that's full - we parents have to buy another or staple paper into the back of the old one. We have to supply all pens, crayons & pencils.

Maybe it's going on photocopying? But the school now e-mails most letters/ newsletters to us. Of course there is work in class still.

I do volunteer on trips, as have many others, and we are asked to pay our fee to go along as well.

I would just like to know that this money (which is our money) is accounted for and what it is being spent on?

I personally would like to understand that ultimately it is spent for the children's benefit but more importantly that it is accounted for.

The wider issue is this is a faith school - and several of us are querying their behaviour in that context.

Is this really the biggest worry in your life?

confused

PastSellByDate Thu 09-May-13 10:57:28

No Freddie

It's genuinely not my biggest worry...

..but it is odd and does bother me a bit (financially & morally).

I do find the responses interesting. A lot of people seem to be o.k. with someone taking £5-£7 (this year £10 & counting) out of your wallet each year? no explanation? and no evidence that it is ultimately being spent on your child - which was why you paid it in the first place.

Maybe it is just that I'm an ancient thing...but I'm not o.k. with that.

Sorry.

I'm ancient too grin but why don't you just ask the school?

Breatheslowly - wasn't it Superman 2 that was done in? He took the extra half a cent off everyone?

badguider Thu 09-May-13 11:03:50

I run a guide unit and I ususally round up entrance fees to the nearest £1 if small or £5 if a large amount so that I don't have to give change at meetings (I cannot be going to the bank for a float!). I also have to have two adults per 12 girls and cannot ask the adults to pay their own way so we have to cover that.
AND... often the price depends on the size of the group or the price is per instructor and each instructor has a maximum - so 12 girls to one instructor, 13-24 girls need two; same goes for museums etc. If we have more than 12 but less than 24 then we pay more per head.... it's all pretty complicated and many places need booked before final numbers are in.
So yes, I round up, and the accounts balance at the end of the year... we are not making a profit year on year.

PastSellByDate Thu 09-May-13 11:15:23

Hi badguider:

You clearly are dealing with cash and very small numbers. In that context and because the community you serve will trust that any surplus will be spent on the girl guides at some point - I've no doubt there is no issue.

In my context - we have to pay by cheque only so there is no change issue - and we're paying exact amounts (sometimes £7.19). Clearly not rounding to nearest 5p/ 10p/ £1. Volunteers going along pay their way.

But maybe FreddieMAGS above is correct. We should be o.k. with someone regularly taking small amounts of money from us - at our banks, our schools, etc...

and by the way FreddieMAGS - we have asked the school and we're not getting an explanation - we're getting abuse basically - thus our growing disquiet? anger? confusion I guess.

Surely if everything was above board - they'd be able to explain.

I still am left amazed that the response here is that it's wrong to question missing money...are you all o.k. with that? very interesting.

PastSellByDate Thu 09-May-13 11:20:17

Sorry chopchopbusybusy

by 'quiz the children'

We've asked them if they got a treat on their excursion (an ice cream/ sweet/ etc...) - which is why we thought there was this extra charge - but they said no.

I don't think in KS1 they really notice how many adults/ who came along - although sometimes a Mum of a friend comes along and my DDs will comment on that.

So push the school for an answer.

"In your handout of x date you stated blah blah. I have noticed that this is not the case.

Please explain the following discrepancies

a

b

c

d

I will be forwarding this letter to the Chair of Governors and the LEA

Yours

PastSellByDate"

PastSellByDate Thu 09-May-13 12:09:32

Yes -

I think all we can do is either put up with it or complain.

Our problem is that we know complaining results in repercussions for our children. Many of us (because of bad experiences previously) are deeply frightened to attack the school head on.

When we find ourselves in dispute with the school our children are suddenly drop down groups, fined for not returning books in the library when they have, teachers get harsher with their behaviour, etc...

I will talk to everyone - but I suspect as always we'll just have to find some form of middle road - maybe insisting on fully itemized expenses on all letters requesting fees for field trips?

What has been useful is to learn that schools should only charge what it costs for a child to go and that these events can't make a profit.

lot's to think about and talk about...

If anyone out there has experienced similar and found a smooth way through with the Head/ governors please let me know.

You must have other massive issues with the school other than this. This is not, in my opinion, a good battle to pick.

Groovee Thu 09-May-13 12:24:56

Could you do a freedom of Information request about the break down of costs for trips?

PastSellByDate Thu 09-May-13 13:34:27

Agree FreddieMAGS - this is just something that a few of us are niggling about at present. Mainly just wanted to resolve whether schools can make a profit off of field trips or not.

Answer seems to be no - so as you suggest we all have to consider is this worth going to battle over.

It may well not be worth it - most of us are KS2 upper parents and nearly free of the place, thank God.

BlueberryHill Thu 09-May-13 14:01:46

I find the idea that a group of parents have got together and are forensically working their way through the school trips to check the figures a little disturbing. As is the idea that as a faith school this would make it more disturbing, as though it is OK for non faith schools to not have a moral ethos.

Yes, I wouldn't bother about an extra 50p on the school trip, but I have no issues with the school (and wouldn't think to phone a theatre about credit card charges).

However, as there seem to be other issues, dropping children down sets, fines for library books already returned (are you sure? It sounds like too much hard work for the school, I don't believe in conspiracies) then maybe you should bypass the school and go complain straight to the LEA / Ofsted. (No idea if this is possible, maybe someone else would know).

BlueberryHill Thu 09-May-13 14:03:44

I mean complain about the other issues, not the school trip fees.

PastSellByDate Thu 09-May-13 14:35:43

Hi Blueberry:

I can assure you this has been long and organic in its formation.

A group of us agreed to seek advice (thus my posting here on Mumsnet) others elsewhere....

We got together to report on what we'd learned and compare notes. We have all separately saved/ scanned in things that struck us as odd because when this was raised with OFSTED inspectors we were told we had to have evidence (original letter from school, ticket stubs, etc....). Ofsted inspection was 2 years ago - several of us raised this with them in our interviews - but didn't realise it until much later (gradually came out in conversations).

As an example the letter requesting two sets of money for my DD to go on two field trips (one TERM 1/ one TERM 2) was sent out in September and we were requested to pay both in full by mid-October. The first field trip went ahead but the second has never happened. After I raised my concerns about this non-existent 2nd trip, I was told by the Head she would look into it (still awaiting reply - e-mailing her weekly with reminder set on my work e-mail) and the original letter has disappeared off the website.

I can assure you Blueberry - when you are worried sick about the environment your children are in and the people who are in charge of your children day in and day out - you often find yourself discussing it. (and to stop the usual response - can't just pick up and move, not in that position financially or work-wise).

Comment was not that it's o.k. if happens at non-faith schools - comment was that given it is a faith school and 10 commandments are scrawled all over the place - we're pretty shocked.

BlueberryHill Thu 09-May-13 16:04:36

Hi

It is actually pretty shocking that the Head still hasn't responded about the second trip and it is now 8 months later. I assume that there are other concerns as well? Could you take it to OFSTED as it is, you've tried to obtain the evidence, including the responses / non responses from school?

Sorry if I was flippant over the faith / non faith aspect, the issues seem to be far more serious than in your original OP. I hope that you can get some resolution, would contacting your local MP help?

Bramshott Thu 09-May-13 16:11:30

I'd just move schools TBH - the trust has clearly completely broken down.

1969Sarah Thu 09-May-13 16:58:13

I have never checked trip charges for our school but discovered many other areas of deliberate deception (misleading if you were being generous). The school get incredibly defensive to anyone who queries anything. Honesty is something I value highly especially from someone in charge of my child's care and education. We leave this "outstanding" school in July for exactly these reasons. We are not alone is going although many turn a blind eye. The Head and their side kick detest those who have seen through it.

Wellthen Thu 09-May-13 20:05:01

I hate to repeat myself but YOU DONT HAVE TO PAY. Pay as much as you think the trip is worth and no more. And then stop bloody banging on about it.

PastSellByDate Fri 10-May-13 12:01:59

Hi Wellthen:

posting or indeed reading this feed is optional - so don't quite understand why you're angry with those of us discussing this or my raising it.

Principle #1 - I like my children going on field trips - I think it is a good thing.

principle #2 - I accept that the school budget can only go so far, so I understand that I may be asked to contribute.

principle #3 - happy to pay for my kid, happy to pay a bit more to help (if transparent and fully explained to me).

I'm sorry that you don't like this feed (the topic, discussion, tone, etc...) - but it is genuinely confusing to have this kind of thing happening and sincerely I was just seeking confirmation on whether schools can make a profit or not out of field trip fees.

BackforGood Fri 10-May-13 12:40:09

I'm stunned that you think this is important enough to focus this much time and energy on. There have been some excellent posts by ChopChop, Pooka, BlueberryHIll and others.
If you have so much time on your hands I'm sure there are many worthwhile causes that would welcome your tenacity and eye for detail, but really, an extra 50p on the price of a school trip ???

steppemum Fri 10-May-13 13:06:15

no, I don't think it is ok for the school to do this. But it sounds as if there are bigger problems at this school, and you are collectively grasping at straws to find something to prove that the school has a problem

Wellthen Sat 11-May-13 11:32:12

Who's angry? confused I was emphasising my point as you didnt seem to understand the first time. Now you are correcting yourself and saying you don't mind paying extra? Which is it?

Many many people have explained that they are not allowed to make a profit and, at less than a pound per child, almost certainly aren't. Despite this you continue to argue your point and see it as an issue worth having meetings over and analysing to death.

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