Funding for school trips

As restrictions lift, school trips are back on the agenda. So how can you make such enrichment opportunities a reality again for your pupils? Jane Hughes and Sarah Everson look at the options

There's something about the shared experience of a school trip that stays with us forever. Unique and apart from the everyday classroom experience, trips provide the possibility to communicate and bond with peers in different and freer ways, to make new friends and explore new places. Whether pupils get to try new things or experience life-changing moments, school trips are educationally enriching in the broadest and most encompassing sense.

A combination of Covid and stretched finances has put these opportunities on the back burner for two years, during which time educational inequality has increased and children's mental health – in particular that of pupils from low-income homes or with special educational needs – has worsened. School trips are a valuable way to help redress these issues, yet while restrictions have eased, the cost of transport, entry fees and accommodation can be a barrier for some schools and pupils.

Some schools have allocated pupil premium resources to help with trips. But why not get your pupils and community involved in fundraising for your trip programme, as detailed overleaf. We also look at grant funding and opportunities to do things for free.

Fundraising for trips

Begin crowdfunding

It's straightforward to create a campaign on a crowdfunding platform, which can then be linked to your social media. Adding a QR code makes it even easier for people to donate from wherever you use the code – whether it's posters, leaflets or school apps. If you have an ongoing 'School Fund' crowdfunding campaign, simply create a linked page dedicated to funding trips.

You can also use the platform to get your pupils involved in group and individual fundraising activities and events (see the How to guides and Fundraising success articles). Secondary school pupils, in particular, can hold fundraising events for a trip throughout the year, from selling cakes at parents' evenings and school events to holding fundraising dinners and quiz nights. 

Work with your PTA

Some PTAs put aside funds to support school trips and educational enrichment, so why not work more closely with yours on a specific trip fund with a fundraising target for the year. Visit the website of our sister publication PTA+ for inspiration, pta.co.uk

Create links with local businesses 

Try to cultivate ongoing mutually beneficial relationships with locally based companies so that you can easily approach them with specific requests, such as help with funding a trip. There may be organisations (branches of national companies for instance) that do not have products to donate for raffle prizes, but could potentially support your school by sponsoring an annual trip. Look out also for opportunities for match-funding and sponsorship that could help businesses with their Corporate Social Responsibility goals.

Publicly thanking corporate donors and sponsors, as well as highlighting their support through your school media channels and possibly even through trip branding and merchandising, provides them with important publicity. 

Create a green funding stream

If you're planning an eco trip, then why not set up a practical recycling initiative that will lay the groundwork of resource conservation for your pupils before you go. Collect for terracycle.co.uk, or use a product recycling scheme such as emptiesplease.com (print cartridges) or rag-bag.co.uk (textiles). All are experienced in working with schools. 

Start a school lottery 

Set up a school lottery, with a dedicated funding stream for school trips. Read how one school raised thousands of pounds this way on our 'Fundraising Success' web pages and visit yourschoollottery.co.uk

Grant funding 

As well as our round-up of grant opportunities overleaf, look out for emerging sources of funding from local community organisations and charities to improve educational engagement and support children and young people post-pandemic. These may include Rotary or Lions clubs, local councils, voluntary organisations and philanthropic trusts.

As a case in point, Priory School in Lewes, East Sussex, was able to secure funding from regional grant giver The Fontwell Foundation and the local Police Property Fund which, along with funding from its PTA, covered the £7,000 cost for 20 Year 10 vocational students to take part in a residential farm trip for vulnerable young people.

Affordable adventures

English Heritage has relaunched its education programme for 2022, to encourage more schools to take advantage of the benefits of trips and visits for children’s cross-curricular learning. The programme incorporates both free school trips and paid-for expert-led Discovery Visits. 

One of the UK's largest providers of school trips, English Heritage experienced an almost 99% drop in pupil visitor numbers in 2020/21, compared to normal annual figures of around 340,000. Chief executive Kate Mayor says: 'We can play our part in the process of levelling up and improving the wellbeing of children from every community. I am personally inviting teachers up and down the country to bring their pupils to one of our historic sites and to see for themselves the huge benefits the experience can bring, not just to children's learning, but also their health and happiness. Connecting with a building that has stood for many centuries is deeply rewarding, bringing history and past generations to life.'

The charity offers free self-led school trips to more than 400 historic sites, including Walmer Castle in Kent and Boscobel House in Shropshire. Discovery Visits are available at 27 sites, and cost £100 per school for an immersive hour-long session. Visits must be booked online at least 14 days in advance. English-heritage.org.uk/learn/school-visits

The National Trust offers annual Educational Group membership for schools, from £53 to £128, depending on the size of the school roll. This allows schools to visit as many sites as they like for free. The RNLI has free entry to its museums. Local museums such as the Science and Industry Museum in Manchester and the Canal and River Trust Museums are also free.

Grants for trips and travel

Most grant schemes to support school trips were paused during lockdown but are now beginning to open up again – and they’ve been joined by new funding streams, says Sarah Everson

Educational trips

Today, opportunities for children to attend venues away from the classroom or the home-learning computer screen are more valuable than ever. Funders are keen to support such trips, both because they engage pupils with learning in new environments and because they facilitate the development of social skills that children missed out on during lockdown.

Here’s our pick of what's on offer:

The Alpkit Foundation offers funding of £50 to £500 for projects that increase participation in the outdoors. This can include a contribution towards transportation costs or outdoor experiences for school children. The Foundation can also provide discounted outdoor equipment for trips.

Secondary schools in Greater London and Essex can apply for the Jack Petchey Foundation's Educational Visit Grants if they are registered with the Foundation's achievement awards programme. Funding of up to £10 per pupil is available for tickets, entrance fees and transport costs for trips up to twice a year. Set up by Sir Jack Petchey, the Foundation aims to inspire and motivate young people across London and Essex to reach their full potential.

Also open to schools in Greater London, the Culture Mile School Visits Fund offers up to £600 towards the cost of a trip to venues such as the Museum of London, Tower Bridge, Epping Forest and the Barbican. The Fund aims to support the post-pandemic educational recovery of pupils in London, with visits that can enhance learning across all key stages. Funding is available for schools with a pupil premium level of 35% or above, and there is no limit on how many times you apply. SEND schools do not need to meet the pupil premium requirement to be eligible. Funding can be used to cover the cost of transport, staff cover, admission fees or a venue-based workshop. The grant must be agreed before the visit, but will not be paid out until receipts for expenditure are submitted.

The Ernest Cook Trust has a long track record of providing grants to foster a love and understanding of the countryside through outdoor learning opportunities. The Trust offers a £500 Outdoor Essentials Grant three times a year with online applications via its website. The grant is available to state schools, particularly those with disadvantaged pupils and in areas of high deprivation, which prioritise environmental engagement.

'The pandemic has demonstrated how important being outdoors is to the mental and physical wellbeing of everyone,' says the Trust. 'It has also highlighted inequalities in people's abilities to access the outdoors.' Research commissioned by the Trust identified transport costs as a key barrier for schools to access outdoor learning and the Outdoor Essentials Grant supports its aim that 'all children and young people should have the opportunity to create lasting, meaningful connections with nature'.

Currently, the grant is available for trips to outdoor learning centres, forest schools, countryside parks, woodlands, national parks, farm parks, farms (including city farms), coastal areas and beaches, with nature connectedness and environmental learning as the primary focus. The Trust plans to reopen applications for the Outdoor Essentials Grant in the Summer Term 2022.

For schools in north west London, the John Lyon's Charity Cultural Capital Fund offers up to £5,000 for trips which engage young people with the arts. The Fund was created as restrictions began to ease, and aims to redress the lost time and opportunities to experience arts activities. Funding is available for visits to museums and galleries, or trips to attend dance and drama performances, and can include transportation costs. Schools can apply at any time, but at least ten weeks in advance of the planned trip.

Similarly, schools in Wales that are keen to enable pupils to experience high quality arts performances and events can apply to the Arts Council of Wales Go and See fund. Up to £1,000 is available per school to visit arts events in galleries, theatres, arts centres and other venues within Wales.

Recreational trips

As a result of the pandemic, many children, especially those of primary school age, have not had the opportunity to attend a residential trip and spend a night away from home. The Henry Smith Charity and Happy Days Children's Charity both offer financial assistance for schools wishing to take disadvantaged groups on recreational breaks.

The Henry Smith Charity prioritises applications from the 20% most deprived areas of the UK. Applications must be made at least six weeks in advance of the planned trip, with grants awarded on a first come first served basis.

Happy Days Children's Charity seeks to fund trips for young people with additional needs.

Applications must be made at least 12 months in advance of the proposed visit.

Overseas opportunities

An exchange visit or trip overseas is an incredible way for pupils to learn about another culture, experience travel, become immersed in another language and bond with peers. With the relaxation of restrictions for international travel, many schools are reinstating their overseas plans – and a number of grants are available to help.

The UK-German Connection has three funding streams to support joint activities between schools in the UK and Germany. The Partnership Visit Fund provides financial assistance for teachers or group leaders to carry out planning visits in Germany. The Instant Impact (rolling deadline) and Flexible Funding (three deadlines a year) schemes provide grant funding for trips, joint activities and projects with German partners.

The Turing Scheme now offers opportunities for students to benefit from international study. Funded by the UK government, it gives grants for organisational support, cost of living and travel. The programme opens once a year, in the spring, for applications from schools and further and higher education establishments.

For state school pupils considering studying for a degree in the United States, the Sutton Trust's US Programme offers a fully funded one-week trip, as well as events and application support to candidates. The 2023 programme opens for applications in November and is available to students in Year 12 (S5 in Scotland or Year 13 in Northern Ireland) from low to middle income families.

If your school has a focus on Japanese language or culture, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation can offer a contribution towards the cost of flights, accommodation and subsistence for projects involving travel to Japan. The Foundation's aim is to promote mutual understanding and cooperation between the two countries and it offers grants three times a year.