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Extracurricular activities – How schools can give parents financial support

close-up photo of three differently-coloured children's piggy banks representing paying for extracurricular activities

Offering parents flexibility when paying for extracurricular activities will ensure no student misses out on vital learning opportunities….

Daniel Harvey
by Daniel Harvey
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Educational visits and extracurricular activities provide young people with powerful, motivating and memorable experiences.

At good schools, all students will get to experience a wide breadth of opportunities. But for that to be possible, school leaders need to be very clear about how students from disadvantaged backgrounds can participate.

Schools can offer experience days, on which all students within a particular year group take part in a visit. Where school trips are an extension of a subject’s curriculum, school leaders must ensure that every student who needs to attend can do so.

Subsidised prices for extracurricular activities

You may need to make precise calculations about how to use your budget to enable disadvantaged students to access these extracurricular activities.

It may be that leaders can offer a range of payment options by ring-fencing budgets. By working directly with parents you can explore the possibility of subsidising prices for disadvantaged families.

It’s essential that you communicate these kinds of payment avenues to both parents and staff. Teachers who are designing and leading the trips will need to understand how participation will be supported and aspirations raised.

Many schools have become highly adept at sourcing and accessing funding streams to support valuable education experiences. These might range from using Parliamentary funding to subsidise visits to the House of Commons, to making links with leading universities and promoting their offer to talented students from a diverse set of backgrounds.

Flexibility and time

In my experience, schools can do more to build flexibility into their payment arrangements. Amid the cost of living crisis, many families are now likely to have disrupted and uneven incomes. This can make it difficult to stick to payment plans.

Good, supportive parental engagement can go a long way towards boosting student participation and ensuring payments are ultimately completed. It can often be the case that some families simply need more time.

You’ll typically need to plan overseas visits months in advance. This means that they easily lend (no pun intended) themselves to payment plans spanning months. As well as easing families’ short term financial burdens, long payment plan periods can also allow for more individualised payment arrangements in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

Occasionally, a student many need to pull out of a trip at short notice. If too many opt to do so at short notice it can threaten a trip’s financial viability.

A good strategy is to retain the option to re-advertise any freed-up places to interested students. This prevents places on the trip from becoming more expensive, or even the trip itself from being cancelled outright.

Risks and burdens

It’s good practice to ensure consistent and clear communication around whether deposits are non-refundable, details of payment dates and the potential consequences of missed payments. Manage parental expectations and ensure your trips don’t run at a loss.

Make sure parents are also aware of what to do if they encounter financial difficulties. Explain how you can support them in completing any hardship payment plans.

The payment plan dates for overseas trips are often closely linked to times when a third-party travel company has to pay a significant bill, such as airline tickets or hotel costs. Being able to work with your school business manager on such matters is hugely important.

The EV co-ordinator and trip leader should assess the financial risk that a trip presents to the school. This way, you can mitigate the risks through effective planing and communication.

The EV co-ordinator should monitor the proposed dates and target audiences for trips so that parents aren’t lumbered with any unnecessary financial burdens. An example of what to avoid could be a history and a geography department both deciding to run high profile education visits to support option choices in Y9.

With appropriate planning and support in place, your vision for raising student aspiration and expectations via a diverse programme of extracurricular activities reflective of your school’s values can still be realised.

Daniel Harvey is a GCSE and A Level science teacher at an inner city academy. He is also lead on behaviour, pastoral and school culture.

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