Foreign school trips are facing increasing red tape in the form of hidden costs, visas and unclear government guidance on safeguarding, according to delegates at the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference for Independent Schools (HMC), Schools Week reports. Mike Buchanan told teachers and policy makers that the bureaucracy in the way of foreign school trips is “killing them”.
Buchanan, who is headteacher at Ashford school in Kent, said teachers’ enthusiasm for organising foreign school trips had not waned, but guidance from the Department for Education, updated in September last year, was less clear on the issue of foreign schools trips and placed responsibility on schools to vet host families in England when conducting exchange trips.
“The impact is that schools are less inclined to engage in exchanges and trips,” Buchanan said.
Darren Northcott, national officer for education at teachers’ union NASUWT, said schools’ reluctance to charge pupils for exchange trips had a more chilling effect on them than bureaucracy.
His words were echoed by Rebecca Clark, director of TESLA teaching school alliance at Bohunt school in Hampshire, who added visas could become more costly after the vote to leave the European Union. She said:
“I do think there is a future concern about the expense to schools of visas post-Brexit. There’s an issue of parents who are signing up children now assuming it will cost the same in the next few years, when it might not.”
Pupils at Bohunt school still went on exchange trips to China despite the “significant investment” in the visa process because of the positive effects of a homestay with native speakers, she added.
Kate Heery, head of modern languages at Cheam high school in Surrey, said foreign school trips were also in decline for her pupils. She added many were “demotivated” by the “lack of cognitive challenge” in classrooms and exams. She quipped:
“In history they’re looking at expansionism, in English they’re doing creative writing, and in French they’re talking about their holiday. It’s intellectually insulting to young people, and many of our pupils do not get the chance to go on holiday anyway.”