Members of the School Travel Forum offer advice on how to manage the costs of planning UK-based school trips and get the most value for money
One tried and tested way to minimise costs for your pupils and school is to approach other subject leaders to collaborate on a cross-curricular trip, whether they sit in your department or not.
A trusted school trip organiser will be able to provide you with an educational trip that ticks the boxes for learning outcomes.
Some schools may limit the number of trips run annually, which means this option not only supports students but teachers through a collaborative approach.
MAXIMISE COACH SPACE
When travelling within the UK, schools will typically opt for the coach option. Some coaches may vary in size so if the coach has space for 47 it may be worth opening the trip to more students.
Not only will it widen the opportunities for other students to experience learning beyond the walls of the classroom, but the cost of the trip per student can be spread across the group to lighten any pull on the purse strings.
Remember an increase in students may mean a need to bring extra staff so find out the maximum number of seats on the coach.
Nichola Dixon, operations manager, WST Travel, offers more tips on how to get the most from a UK-based school trip: “Every school trip is different so your tour operator should always work with you individually to get the best value for your money. However, when planning a UK trip you could look out for ways to save such as looking out for free visits. There are plenty of excellent free museums and galleries across the UK.
“Most places in the UK can be explored in a day meaning you can save on accommodation costs.
“Smaller group sizes can sometimes benefit from cheaper transport costs by using the train.
“You should also look out for special offers such as early booking discounts, free places and multi tour discounts.”
Darren Davies, educational tours manager at Travel Places, explains the benefits of staying in the UK for a school trip.
He says: “It is definitely a good time to consider a UK destination for your next educational trip. UK destinations are growing in popularity, with the increasing number of accommodation providers such as Travel Lodge and Premier Inn providing safe, School Travel Forum audited and affordable accommodation within easy reach of most major city destinations.
“The gentrification of many former industrial locations has revitalised what UK cities can now offer schools – a good example of which is Hull, which is the European City of Culture for 2017.
Another good example is Belfast, which is a much underrated destination for humanities departments, with numerous opportunities to cover both current history and geography curriculum – WW2, industrialisation, the Troubles, human rights, and conflict resolution.
With the Giants Causeway, North Coast Road and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, you have a world class location to experience tectonics and coastal erosions, and the impact of tourism.
“UK tours also benefit from more accurately quoted tours, as they avoid both flight costs and volatile currency exchange rates which are at times difficult to predict during the early planning stages.
Dietary requirements and disabled access are often better provided for in the UK than in overseas destinations, and of course there are no language barriers.
“One of my personal favourite trips is to the Florence Nightingale Museum in London, a superb visit for history students studying ‘medicine in war’ topics.”
Offering further ideas to maximise the value of school trips within the UK, Tim Jenkins, educational travel specialist at Travelbound, says: “Whether it is your first or tenth school trip, the cost of the experience on your students and their families will undoubtedly factor in your planning.
However, it is important not to compromise on the quality of your trip. Through your trusted school trip organiser, you should seek assurances over the health and safety aspects of the tour.
Though you may be travelling within the UK, Travelbound is accredited with the LOtC Quality Badge, is a member of the STF and is fully bonded by ABTA and ATOL.
This ABTA and ATOL protection means Travelbound follows the strict Codes of Practice to offer support, financial protection and expertise while travelling. Once you’re happy with the standards and protocols that exist to support your school, you may look to the ideas in this article to manage costs.”
PEACE OF MIND
Aside from cost, the greatest value added, is peace of mind knowing your students will be safe. Whilst price is important, it is more important that your students are protected when they travel.
You can have peace of mind when travelling with a School Travel Forum tour operator knowing that
they follow strict health & safety guidelines when operating every tour.
Schools are financially protected if something does go wrong, due to unforeseen circumstances, thanks to travel associations such as ABTA and ATOL.
You also have a 24-hour emergency helpline should you require any assistance. What’s more, schools can rest assured that the coach and hotel companies have been safety audited.
THE MARK OF TRUST
The LOtC Quality Badge is an invaluable tool for school trip organisers, whatever the subject area or country they plan on visiting. This kitemark takes care of standards of learning and safety in a single, easily recognisable and trusted accreditation scheme.
However, 22 per cent of school trip organisers choose to overlook the benefits that travelling with a badged provider brings and still opt for a ‘DIY’ approach to arranging school trips.
Sadly, if cost cutting is the motivation, this can often be a false economy, as non STF members do not offer the same levels of financial protection, for instance against a firm going bust.
An important part of the work of the STF and the Council for Learning Outside the Classroom is to make it easier for schools to take pupils on trips, removing paperwork and taking steps to reduce teachers’ fears of legal action.
It’s important to ensure that the chosen tour operator acknowledges the importance of maintaining health and safety standards and goes above and beyond their duty of care, after all, this is the number one priority.
GET THE SUPPORT YOU NEED
School party leaders can select STF members displaying the ‘STF Approved’ logo. Alternatively, they can access the STF website at www.schooltravelforum.com.
The website will enable schools to verify a tour operator’s membership of the STF and the site contains full information on the STF Code of Practice, as well as offering a wide variety of useful information and links for party leaders.
As the national awarding body of the LOtC Quality Badge, The School Travel Forum ensures that each holder has passed a stringent assessment process designed to ensure that they are meeting schools’ learning and risk management needs.
This takes an immense amount of pressure off teachers, reduces paperwork demands and helps teachers to identify opportunities for learning to help make the visit a positive and rewarding experience for teachers and pupils alike.