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€2,000 school trip to New York cancelled after protests from parents

The New York skyline (Wikipedia Creative Commons)
05:56 12/10/2021

Parents of children attending a school in Namur were aghast when they received news that a trip to New York was being organised for the pupils. The advertised price of the trip was €2,000 per child, a sum deemed so excessive by the parents that the planned trip was cancelled after protests.

One parent of a child at the Royal Athenaeum of Namur said he was “revolted” by the cost of the trip, which would have lasted five nights and six days, and could not understand why the school wanted to fly the pupils to the United States. “It's totally thoughtless and unsuitable,” he said. ”Why travel so far? On the one hand what about families with several children or those with lower incomes? And then there is the environmental impact of such a trip.”

"I've never been to New York. I do not understand the purpose," he said. Revealing that the school had informed parents that the school trip would take place during the school period and would therefore mean pupils would be obliged to attend, he added: “According to the letter, we don't have much choice but to accept."

The school responded with clarification. The trip, it says, was planned for 2023 and the letter was addressed only to parents of students in the fifth year of secondary school. "In order to finance such a trip, we ask you to pay €80 per month for 18 months, starting from this month of September 2021," the school wrote in its letter to the parents.

According to a study conducted by the League of Families association, barely 10% of schools ask for an amount between €500 and €1,000 for a school trip. The percentage drops to 1% when it comes to trips over €1,000. "Here, we are clearly in the very small minority of schools that ask for something that is really above what a parent can provide for a trip," said the association’s general manager Christophe Cocu. "We don't agree with the request at all."

The League of Families wants the French-speaking community to cap the cost of travel for school trips. "We are asking that there be a ceiling  put in place,” said Cocu. “How high would that ceiling be? We don't know that yet. That would have to be negotiated. Our goal is not that there are fewer trips but that they are more accessible and especially that it is not the parent who is the only financier. Many parents do not go on holiday, so they are able to pay school fees. Here we are clearly outside the framework of a family's budget."

Faced with the grumbling of some parents, the Royal Athenaeum of Namur ended up retracting. "A dozen parents got together and challenged this decision, deeming the trip too expensive,” a spokesperson for Wallonia-Brussels Education confirmed. “The school’s management felt it wiser to reverse its decision and not organise a trip to New York. It did not expect these reactions, although it realised that it might be very expensive for some families."

A closer and less expensive school trip will now be organised for the students.

Written by Nick Amies