Belgian schools getting creative as class trips become financial burdens

Belgian schools getting creative as class trips become financial burdens
Credit: Belga / Laurie Dieffembacq

With ever-increasing price rises, many schools are thinking of money-saving measures for their upcoming class trips.

Under normal circumstances, paying €150 for a three-day school trip to the coast, or €300 for a class vacation in the mountains – or even €600 for a skiing excursion, would be stretching an average family’s budget.

But with added pressures coming to everyone as bills rise and the cost of living becomes more expensive, school trips will become more difficult to justify.

As a result, school principals are wondering if they should drop them from the schedule or modify them to fit the current financial climate. Some are getting creative in their thinking.

Is skiing luxury or sport?

The small community Rosières primary school has 246 students. At the end of each school year, fifth and sixth graders either go to the mountains or have a skiing vacation together. This trip weighs the heaviest on the family budget since it costs about €600.

"This is a real concern,” says Laurence Devlésaver, the school’s director. “Of course, we asked ourselves the question, whether we should maintain these skiing classes or not.

But after two years of Covid-19, we thought it was essential to offer children a group trip. As a result, we have put in place different actions to try to lighten the cost of the stay a little."

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The municipality of Rixensart, in which the school is situated, will contribute up to €25 per child but it is the teachers are making the biggest contribution: that of personal time.

The teachers are organising different actions such as waffle sales and jumble sales to raise extra money to ease the burden on families. This year, thanks to these efforts, the children will go to Valmeinier, but it may be the last time.

At one with nature

The director is seriously considering abolishing the ski classes in favour of the nature trips the pupils take every other year to the mountains.

This would reduce the bill by half with a stay at €300, while maintaining the camaraderie and the sense of adventure; an important factor for many children who, without the school activities, would simply not have the opportunity to make this kind of trips.

School principals are also calling on specialised travel agents to help them find more affordable options, with Gotour’s Lydéric Blanpain explaining that adaptations to travel itineraries are possible.

"On average, for a week, it is necessary to count on an increase of €50 minimum," he explained. "Instead of ski classes, for example, mountain classes are offered, there are no equipment or course fees to pay," adding that "contrary to popular belief, trips abroad are not always more expensive than trips in Belgium."

For Lydéric Blanpain, school trips still have a bright future ahead of them. These are projects carried out by educational teams and their motivation should make it possible to overcome the difficulties of the moment, especially since parents' associations can also intervene on behalf of one or the other child.

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