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"Trip of a lifetime" half way through A-levels - good plan or not?

(110 Posts)
AChickenCalledKorma Sat 11-Nov-17 13:19:01

DD1 has the opportunity to sign up for a Camps International trip to Tanzania. It will be for four weeks during the summer holiday after year 12 - ie midway through her A Levels.

She's planning to do Physics and Maths, plus either another science or a humanity - as yet undecided. She will almost certainly also do an EPQ.

We have a few concerns about the trip, one of which is the impact it may have on her studies. There is a massive fundraising commitment which would start now, in year 11 and continue until May of year 12. And then she would be away for two thirds of the long summer holidays. And I have no idea what the expectation is likely to be that she also uses that summer to study and/or complete her EPQ.

She is potentially interested in applying to Cambridge, so A level grades will really matter if she goes ahead with that.

But on the other hand the trip does sound fantastic and it's very likely that at least some of her closest friends will be going.

Just wondered if anyone has any words of wisdom. We intend to talk to the sixth form staff about expectations and whether they think it's a good idea. But as the school is promoting the trip (and it looks great in their marketing material) they may not be entirely unbiased!

ClashCityRocker Sat 11-Nov-17 13:26:58

What are her other commitments like? Does she have a job part time or lots of activities?

BertrandRussell Sat 11-Nov-17 13:28:39

Is it charity tourism?

AChickenCalledKorma Sat 11-Nov-17 13:38:55

No job as yet, but she's highly committed to extra curricular activities. She may be willing to give some up, but probably not as much as she should. She is a pathological volunteer!

And yes Bertrand Russell yes it is very much charity tourism, and that is one of our other major concerns.

poisonedbypen Sat 11-Nov-17 13:41:16

Does anyone do school work in the school summer holidays?

ClashCityRocker Sat 11-Nov-17 13:43:25

We certainly did school work between a level years. I suspect it will be particularly more important if the a levels are linear ones.

I would say it's doable if she is willing to cut down her extra curricular activities and work smart with studying.

MyVisionsComeFromSoup Sat 11-Nov-17 13:46:25

FWIW, DD2 applied to Cambridge, and submitted the mostly completed EPQ she'd done over the Y12 summer holidays, as one of her pieces of work (that may be course/college specific), and no way would she have managed that if she'd been away for most of the holidays.

Look into what's needed for your DDs course/college, as she may need to start her EPQ in Y12/work on it over the holidays.

7Seas Sat 11-Nov-17 13:47:18

Absolutely go!!

MaisyPops Sat 11-Nov-17 13:51:03

It sounds a bit like World Challenge charity tourism to me. If she wants to travel then great, but I'm a little suspicious of trips for people who have no practical skills going somewhere in poverty with the idea that just by being white and having money means they've got loads to offer. It's like the rebuild trips from churches sending teenagers to build a house for a week. Why not give the money to train builders to build multiple houses?

I'm sure it would be a good trip, but I wouldn't say it's going to be the sort of stand out wow element of an application. I'd view it much the same as gap yah students going to orphanages.

In terms of workload, it has the potential to take over. She would be better off (in my opinion) being an excellent committed volunteer to some local projects, maybe fundraising for an international charity close to her heart and then focusing on her studies.

BertrandRussell Sat 11-Nov-17 13:51:35

I would say no simply because I strongly disapprove of this sort of trip. But not because of school work!

AChickenCalledKorma Sat 11-Nov-17 14:06:59

She did have an unexpectedly high amount of work over the year 10/11 summer holiday, which is one reason I'm asking the question. I must admit I hadn't made the link with new courses being linear, but that does make sense.

In terms of the type of project, yes we are getting the hard sell about how marvelous it is for university applications Yadda Yadda yadda, but we are well aware that Cambridge et al will be far more interested in A*s and evidence of passion in the subject, rather than an ability to build classrooms in Africa.

MyVisions thank you for that - I will definitely ask pertinent questions about the EPQ timetable. Luckily we have a sixth form open evening before she needs to make any decisions about the trip.

BasiliskStare Sat 11-Nov-17 14:35:23

Personally I would say no - if she wants to do something genuinely altruistic there are other ways. I would worry about the fundraising time commitments not just the actual time on the trip , but to be fair I don't like these things so filter my answer through that. I would have thought the CV value is poor to none - whether it would be a good personal development thing is a different matter. But then with DS I've never been a big fan of DoE either - certainly not from a CV POV but I do have a friend whose nephew found DoE really good from a personal stance.

MaisyPops Sat 11-Nov-17 15:02:39

See I like DofE but don't like voluntourism trips unless the people going actually have something to offer e.g. qualified teachers or medics going to do their job overseas for free.

Without being brutal, nobody is seriously going to think some reasonably well off kids from the UK can do a better job of building classrooms than local people.l who get trained yo build. By all means she can say it's a nice holiday but I'm noy entirely convinced that it adds anything to a CV thqt can't be demonstated volunteering close to home.

Fruitbat1980 Sat 11-Nov-17 15:09:25

I did something similar (although it was 18 years ago!) it was the making of me. One of the best times of my life. Going off to uni a year later was a walk in the park by comparison! As long as she's organised and sits time between fundraising and studying she'll be grand. I got 3 A's. If that helps smile

AChickenCalledKorma Sat 11-Nov-17 15:11:48

As I said, I do have concerns about the ethics of the trip. And we will make a decision about that. It's a tricky one to express to her, given that her best friend has already signed up and I don't really want to be in the position of saying that she's morally wrong for having done so!

Anyway ........ I'm particularly looking for any experiences of anyone that's been through sixth form studies and has a handle on how important the summer holiday is in terms of keeping the academic focus going. She's our eldest, so A levels and EPQ are still a bit of an unknown quanitity to us. So far, she's handled a heavy extra-curricular programme and maintained a very high level of academic achievement, although sometimes with a degree of stress attached. But I keep hearing what a leap it is from GCSE to A level and the amount of time she'll be able to devote to fundraising etc is an unknown quantity.

BikeRunSki Sat 11-Nov-17 15:22:29

Friends whose daughter did something similar found that the time required for fundraising had a far bigger (negative) impact on study time that the trip itself.

Fffion Sat 11-Nov-17 15:23:35

It's in the summer holidays, so should not be a problem.

Many schools run World Challenge etc every 2 - 3 years, so it is going to be in the middle of A-levels for many students.

BasiliskStare Sat 11-Nov-17 15:28:12

DS ended up doing well at A level - without being too MN about it , he is a bright boy - that said, he found particularly in one of his subjects the step up to A level took some getting. He did it and he did do a fair amount of extra curricular / pure enjoyment things. Others may have taken it more in their stride. I suppose I would be wary ( other considerations aside) of making a huge time commitment to one particular thing. But , you know your DD better and others will disagree with me - of course. I would try to gauge how much time the fundraising will take during term time. Over the holidays immediately prior to A level DS did do an amount of work on an exam submission which was not an EPQ but similar. IIRC being left with 2 weeks out of 6 of the Yr 12 summer holiday- given they need to relax as well , might have been cutting it fine. So the amount of work he did could be done in that time , but because he did not have a huge chunk of time booked out he was able to schedule his time so he had days where he did a bit of work and then relaxing - so not all school work being squished into a shorter elapsed time IYSWIM. Hope that helps - and all DCs are different . I have probably told you as much as can be useful from me ( based on a random sample of one boy! )

MaisyPops Sat 11-Nov-17 15:31:31

I teach 6th form. I genuinely don't think they gain anything from that sort of trip that can't be gained from:
1. Travel without voluntourism
2. Volunteering and fundraising locally

A level is a step up from GCSE. I find students find the first part of y12 ok because free periods are a novelty. They usually don't work as hard as they should and then they realise that they should have worked more.

Students who are very organsied do lots of extra curricular manage well.

My experience of these trips is that instead of being fixed time (like a hobby or volunteering) they become quite time consuming and stressful in the months running up to the trip if fundraising hasn't been as fruitful as they like. Lots of fundraising events can be a lot arrange on top of college work.

I've no doubt students enjoy the trips but I think any student wanting to get into a top uni is taking a risk doing them over college and whether it is worth taking depends on the staff running the trip.

When big trips have been done well (similar scale but more expeditions than holidays masquerading as charity):
- there's been clear payment expectations
- clear outline of how fundraising reduces the payments
- how family size discrepancy and wealth discrepancy is acxounted for within the group e.g. small low income families often can't get £100 for a sponsored bike ride
- staff have a clear preparation programme
- preparation sessions are outlined from the start of the project until the trip goes
- ALL costs are clesr up front, including medical, kit, vaccinations etc (I know one provider of these trips who charge over £4,000 & then students have to pay extra for experiences such as safaris)
- the expectations on studenys and parents is explicitly outlined
- they account for what happens should a child's or family's circumstances change
Etc.

And crucially, all information is clearly given before the students sign up.

Without that, i would be unhappy signing my child up to any of these types of large trips (excluding my issue with poverty tourism)

MaisyPops Sat 11-Nov-17 15:35:55

Fffion They do. And world challenge charges more than £4000 generally for the trips and then expect the students to pay extras on top of it.
Nobody on this planet could convince me that World Challenge give a damn about developing communities. It is an organisation building a business out of creating a gap yah experience to teenagers and making thousands doing so.
I looked into running a World Challenge trip and they can't even guarantee the WC leader of your group has ever been in thr trip country for a reasonable length of time. They are just travel guides selling experiences and ripping kids off in my opinion.

I know if at least half a dozen genuine trips through charities and churches thay cost half the cost of world challenge and do more good for their communities than WC.

disahsterdahling Sat 11-Nov-17 15:43:27

A language course would be a more useful use of time even if she's not doing an A level language.

I don't think many A level students do schoolwork over the summer holidays, I certainly didn't, and you don't need an EPQ. In my view it's better to concentrate on getting 3 solid A levels and some life experience - either by getting a job or doing the aforementioned language course - or both.

AChickenCalledKorma Sat 11-Nov-17 15:57:02

Funnily enough, the cost is just over £4,000 and the cost of "extras" is somewhat unclear. I reckon it will be £5,000+ by the time all is accounted for. And there is a degree of pressure to sign up within a week of the first parents' information evening, which I'm not too happy about. They did a good job of getting students excited before parents had much information to go on.

To be honest, if we thought it was a great thing to do, we could afford to underwrite it to take the pressure off the fundraising. But that wouldn't help with any group fundraising efforts, when she's quite likely to end up doing a lot of the work. And we're not convinced it's a great thing to do ...

Language course is a very interesting thought. She's not going to do an A level language, but loves Germany and would like to keep up her German. But I suspect she would not regard that as being so exciting as seeing elephants and watching the sun rise over Kilimanjaro (sigh!)

annandale Sat 11-Nov-17 16:05:18

If she wants to apply to Cambridge (and get in) she needs IMO to have a laser-like focus on her subject. If she wants to do this trip i guess she could find a way to link it to her subject, eg if economics/management she could start a business for her fundraising and write an EPQ critiquing the business model of World Challenge. It sounds like a quick way to get shit grades though.

I don't think a 4-week trip of some academic relevance is a bad idea, but not this trip with all the fundraising.

BeyondThePage Sat 11-Nov-17 16:05:34

Quite apart from ethical concerns, costs and getting the kids wanting it before mooting the idea to parents... we didn't like the fact that DD would have to sign up in her GCSE year to something before she had even chosen her 6th form -

and would be unable to take part if she did not go to her school's 6th form - thankfully she had no intention of staying at that school, so we managed to avoid the "NO" heartbreak... some kids based their 6th form school choice around wanting to go... shock

MaisyPops Sat 11-Nov-17 16:07:55

And there is a degree of pressure to sign up within a week of the first parents' information evening, which I'm not too happy about. They did a good job of getting students excited before parents had much information to go on.
That is fairly typical for World Challenge type big organisations catering to this market.
I didn't mean to sound so irritated but I find the way these people conduct things to be hugely manipulative, especially when people have to often pay a non-refundable deposit to secure their place within a short turn around.
I feel they rely on the excitement of teenagers and some spin about CVs to steamroll parents into agreeing and then after thry have your deposit they reveal the extras and because of the sunk costs fallacy and the understandable desire not to let your chilsren down, they have parenta over a barrel.

At that poiny they HAVE to do lots more fundraising to cover all the 'extras' and that adds pressure because otherwise parents have to worry about where the extra money comes from.

They have a very good business model but I think it shows no care for developing countries and relies on making money by exploiting people in developing countries and emotionally manipulating families in thr UK.

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