Guilt trip: seven in ten parents feel pressured into paying for school jaunts

19 October 2015

  • Parents spend more than £220 per year on trips for each child, rising to £338 in London
  • Pressure fuelled by fear of lagging behind class and being perceived as a struggling parent

Parents are feeling pressured into sending their children on school trips even if they cannot really afford them, new research from Nationwide Building Society shows.

Seven in ten polled (71%) admitted they felt compelled to send youngsters on trips, despite the average cost being £222 a year for every child. For a typical family with two children, this means the annual cost would be nearly £450.

Nationwide is reminding parents to take into account any necessary spending at the start of the year and try to save where possible. Often these trips come out of the blue, so parents may not have budgeted, meaning they may have to forgo other expenditure to ensure their child can attend.

According to the national survey, which polled 2,000 parents of school-aged children, the average parent spends £222 a year on sending a child on trips, of which £95 is for compulsory excursions. However, the total spend rises to £338 for parents living in London (£118 of which is for compulsory trips). Parents of those aged 12-16 incur the highest costs, averaging around £279 per year.

Cost vs pressure of school trips:

The cost of funding school trips is placing increasing pressure on the bank of mum and dad. The survey shows that seven in ten parents (71%) feel under pressure to send their children on excursions – even if they do not have the money to spare.

The main reasons for children going away despite financial pressures were:

  • Nearly three quarters of parents (72%) didn’t want their child to feel left out by not going.
  • Six in ten (60%) wanted their child to have the best education and experiences in life.
  • More than a quarter (27%) didn’t want to be seen as a bad parent by not sending them.
  • Around a quarter (24%) maintained they did not want to be perceived as struggling financially.

Top destinations:

When it comes to extra-curricular trips, just under a quarter of children (23%) have enjoyed residential breaks outside the UK, while more than four in ten (45%) have gone away in the UK for one or more nights. France is by far the most popular foreign destination, accounting for half (50%) of children’s trips abroad. However, the poll also shows countries outside of Europe are popular, with one in 20 children having gone to the USA (5%) and around one in 50 travelling to Central America (2%).

The top five destinations for school trips are:

Destination %
France 50%
Germany 21%
Spain 20%
Italy 17%
Europe (other) 17%

The top five reasons why children attend voluntary school trips were (in order): Languages, winter sports, geography, history and touring with a school sports club.

Regional variation:

Parents living in London incur the highest costs for sending their children on trips, spending £338 a year on average. However, West Midlands parents feel under the most pressure, according to the research, with nearly eight in ten (79%) saying they feel pressure to pay for trips even if they cannot afford them. Of those parents in the East Midlands that feel pressure to fund trips for their children, eight in ten (82%) worry about their child being left out.

The five highest and lowest spending regions are:

Top five spending regions
Region Spend
London £338
South West £235
North East £233
East Anglia £228
North West £209

Bottom five spending regions
Region Spend
East Midlands £164
Scotland £173
South East £188
Yorkshire & Humber £176
West Midlands £176

Phil Smith, Nationwide’s Head of Current Accounts, said: “As parents we always want the best for our children, but it appears many of us could be putting ourselves under significant financial pressure in the process.

“Often school excursions are day trips linked to the curriculum, but increasingly parents are being asked to fund overseas trips, which can cost hundreds of pounds at a time. Children often will come home excited about going away with their friends, instantly laying the foundations for a potential guilt trip for mum and dad if they are forced to miss out on the opportunity on grounds of affordability.

“Parents can reduce the financial stress of these trips by putting aside money on a regular basis. That way, by the time the letter arrives home from school, you will hopefully have built up a nest egg that could cover the cost – whether it’s Brazil or Bognor.

“Our customers have access to the Impulse Saver feature on their Mobile Banking app. The feature allows customers to easily transfer money from their current account to their savings account, without the need to log in. By making small changes, such as forgoing a daily coffee, parents could quickly put the money they save into a savings account that can be accessed when needed.”

Notes to Editors

1 One Poll research: total sample size was 2,000 parents of school age children. The survey ran from 15/09/15 to 22/09/15. *Parents were asked to focus on their oldest school-age child when taking this survey.

Further details on Impulse Saver

About Nationwide

Nationwide is the world's largest building society as well as one of the largest savings providers and a top-three provider of mortgages in the UK. It is also a major provider of current accounts, credit cards, ISAs and personal loans. Nationwide has around 15 million customers.

Customers can manage their finances in a branch, via the mobile app, on the telephone, internet and post. The Society has around 18,000 employees. Nationwide's head office is in Swindon with administration centres based in Northampton, Bournemouth and Dunfermline. The Society also has a number of call centres across the UK.

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