The price of secondary school fieldwork trips
The chances are you’ve seen the stories in your local press: ‘Mum hits out over school trip fee’, with a picture of an irate-looking woman clutching a letter.
It’s a fact that secondary school trips for fieldwork have become more expensive, and there are many reasons why. Decades of inflation is one major factor, plus don’t forget fuel price rises and ever-escalating insurance premiums.
Most parents accept these changes and happily pay for an annual school fieldwork trip, not wishing their children to miss out on what they enjoyed. After all, when they were at secondary school a trip to the zoo or a visit to the beach was a reasonable expectation.
But some modern expectations just aren’t reasonable in the eyes of many…
Speaking as a parent, it’s easy to see how the more expensive sciences fieldwork trips could be a real stretch for some families. I definitely have sympathy with those left asking ‘whatever next?’ A fieldwork trip to the Grand Canyon or Great Barrier Reef might be an excellent learning opportunity, but somebody has to pick up the bill.
At its core the traditional secondary school fieldwork trip is about creating an outdoor learning opportunity to complement classroom work. There are numerous well-documented benefits of this approach.
However, in a recent National Foundation for Educational Research survey 64% of teachers who responded said that lack of funding was a barrier to taking pupils outside of school.
What is more, a House of Commons Children, Schools and Families Committee noted that the likelihood of today’s children visiting a green space at all had halved in a generation.
But what is the impact on learning of this sharp decline in outdoor learning opportunities at secondary level?
Well, the Government has repeatedly identified the trend of fewer students opting to study the sciences. And the sciences are a prime example of a subject area where fieldwork can substantially bolster the overall learning picture.
It has even been suggested that the expense of school trips could discourage students from electing to study science-related subjects because of the financial drain on their parents, plus the stigma of being unable to attend for financial reasons.
The trend is particularly worrying for UK PLC because sciences, technology engineering and maths are areas where Britain has traditionally excelled.
Here at Solardome we are working hard to give the advantages of fieldwork trips back to learners by building facilities within school grounds. Creating micro-climates to study plant biology and atmospheric phenomena is one shining example of how we are helping schools create new opportunities in the sciences.
Of course, we’ll never replace the big well organised secondary school fieldwork trip. But we are here to help ensure better outdoor learning opportunities are readily available to learners.