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Holger Kroll

paying for educational trips

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After the introduction of the workload agreement in the UK a lot of schools seem to be struggling with financing outside supply cover for staff who take trips within school hours. Languages trips tend to be hit the hardest because of their length and staffing requirements. The fact that they are probably the most beneficial to students not only because of the huge leap in language competency but also because of the implications for the development of social skills don't seem to come into the equation once money talks.

A number of colleagues have reported that schools are stopping trips and exchange visits completely while others cost the supply cover, either partially or wholey, into the students' contributions towards the trip. As a result a lot of trips will cease to become viable in terms of student numbers who can afford them.

I'd be very much interested in colleagues' experiences with this and particularly how this problem is tackled in other countries.

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Dear Colleagues

Educational trips abroad has been the subject of many email exchanges in the Linguanet Forum:

http://www.mailbase.org.uk/lists/linguanet-forum/

Search the archives at the above address under "trips abroad". It's a burning issue, surrounded by controversial legislation and guidelines regarding teachers' responsibilities, etc.

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So far we have been very lucky here - both of our Exchanges have supply cover funded centrally, we don't have to cover the cost. However, funding has become so much tighter this year that this may change. If it should come to be that we need to cover supply costs, our exchanges will cease to happen as costs have already risen so much for travel, insurance etc. It's something I certainly hadn't considered, but which certainly could become reality.

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Organising school trips used to be so easy. When I started teaching in the 1960s school exchanges were part and parcel of school life. One school in which I worked in the 1970s sent the whole of the 4th year abroad for the summer term - four classes of around 25 children each. Two classes were sent to France, one to Germany and one to Denmark. They were replaced by classes from schools in France, Germany and Denmark.

My first exchange visit as a student was to Göttingen in 1958 just after I had taken O-Level German. I stayed with a doctor's family in a house that was enormous compared to my parents' home - but we accommodated my German exchange partner thanks to my brother obligingly agreeing to sleep on a put-you-up in my bedroom. After three weeks staying with the German family my listening and speaking skills had improved 100% and I went on to get a good A-Level grade and continued studying German at university. I led my first school exchange as a teacher in 1970. I can truly say that the experience of my first exchange trip abroad determined my future career. That trip initiated my continuing love of Germany and the German people and, above all, demonstrated to me the practical usefulness of studying a foreign language.

Why has organising exchanges been made so difficult? Is money the major factor? Is it because of the increasing tendency for parents to seek legal address when things go wrong? Are things more likely to go wrong these days?

Should more money be spent on giving students the same sort of opportunities that I had rather than on ICT? It seems to me that the only experience of being abroad that many young people have these days is visiting holiday resorts of the “Blackpool-on-the-Mediterranean” type.

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An interesting topic for me as my school has been looking for an exchange partner within Britain for the last 3 years - so far without success. One explanation we were given when schools answered our mails was that going on a field trip to Germany was easier to organize. Another reason was that British parents preferred their children staying in youth hostels together with their teachers to going to a German host family and vice versa host a German student. The problem how to finance and/or support exchanges financially was never mentioned as a reason.

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The topic of trips abraod has figured prominently in the Linguanet Forum, on and off for the last two years:

http://www.mailbase.org.uk/lists/linguanet-forum

I havn't checked all the correspondence in the Forum but a common reason for teachers being unwilling to organise a trip abroad is that they may be singled out for blame if anything goes wrong, even if it's not their fault. There is also the money issue: teachers are not paid for extra responsibilities/time while organising such a trip, and the local education authorities are reluctant to pay for a replacement teacher to cover a teacher who takes a class abroad during term time. The phrase that is often used these days to describe school trips abroad is that they are "too risky".

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