Poverty, deprivation, food banks, … and £1750 school trips …
Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School in Bellsmyre where pupils are being offered a £2,000 a head school trip to New York and Washington.
EXCLUSIVE by Bill Heaney
West Dunbartonshire Council were last night lambasted for their “brass neck and insensitivity” for coming up with an education trip costing £1750 minimum for pupils from an area where many children are living in poverty and using food banks.
One mother of a teenager who attends Our Lady and St Patrick’s High School in Bellsmyre, Dumbarton, said the pupils would “struggle to pay themselves into the cinema never mind this”.
The Democrat has decided not to print the protesting parents’ names lest they or their children are victimised by the Council for speaking out.
But Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: ““This is an extraordinary amount to ask families to spend on sending their young person on a school trip.
“Whilst I recognise that the opportunity of visiting New York and Washington is likely to be costly, this is a disappointing approach from West Dunbartonshire Council.
“The overwhelming majority of families will be excluded as they are unable to meet the substantial cost. I would hope that the Council will listen to concerns expressed by parents and think again.”
One mother said her son had brought home the letter from school told his mother to have nothing to do with the trip to New York and Washington.
The letterhead carried the names of Chief Education Officer Laura Mason and Christopher Smith, pictured right, the head teacher of OLSP.
She said: “This is outrageous. When he gave me the letter, he said it’s a rip off. A great opportunity, but only for the lucky ones.”
Another mother said the cost was roughly what it would cost for a week’s holiday for her whole family.
And another – there were 66 protests lodged within a few hours – hit out: “That’s shocking! Talk about making folks feel like shit.
“What’s wrong with exploring the country we live in? A camping trip wouldn’t cost a tenth of this and they’d have a brilliant time.”
Another said she was almost incontinent with rage when she saw the cost – That money would take my family of four to Spain for a week on holiday.”
And another said: “Seriously, who can afford this? Working parents can’t afford this never mind unemployed parents. I am speechless with this.”
The criticism simply poured on to social media – “it’s outrageous. I could afford it if I saved and told [my son] to save – use birthday money and so on – but no chance. It’s the principle; it’s school and the fact that so many children would be excluded because of the cost.”
A grandmother asked: “Who chooses these trips? The teachers with their new 10% pay rise? Don’t they realise no one else got that?
“Whoever makes these decisions doesn’t live in my world that’s for sure.”
Another mother from Balloch said: “It’s a way of making the parents feel shit because they can’t afford it even if they do work full time or are single parents.
“Or if they have more than one child at the school it’s actually a disgrace they would send this out with what is a two-week notice to get the £130 deposit.”
And, like the most despicable loan sharks, tell the parents that neither their deposit nor any instalments they make will be returned to them if they fall behind with payments or pull out entirely.
A woman said the Council had tried this trip with Dumbarton Academy a couple of years ago and that it was abandoned because there was not enough interest – “No wonder, it’s a ridiculous cost”.
She added that these were “disgraceful types of trips to offer in such a deprived area like Dumbarton. You would have thought they would have learned their lesson with the failed attempt at Dumbarton Academy.”
One mother revealed that the school was having difficulty getting pupils to sign up for the trip – “They can’t get enough pupils to go … first was offered to S2/3 then 4 and 5, but only had 13 going and need 30 and [they are] now offering to S1.
She added: “It was originally £1400. My friend had paid deposit, went on parent pay and [the cost] has been increased to £1750 with no word [to the parents that the cost was going up].
“It will be a great trip but for that price the two of you could go and do your own thing.”
“I hope this doesn’t go ahead it’s an absolute disgrace! How horrible for the families who can’t afford this.
“Some people can’t even afford to eat never mind this! It’s not a bloody boarding school!”
And another woman said: “Exactly. My pal is a teacher at a private school and went to New York last year – that’s expected. Not a school in the Myre ffs.”
A pupil’s father said: “I priced for me and my son to go for a week and the cost was almost half this. It is a crazy amount.”
A mother added: “We’re no’ broke but absolutely couldn’t afford to send our wean on this, never mind both of them.
“How do people actually manage this stuff? And the poor wee weans whose parents can barely afford their uniforms and dinner money is a whole other story.
“It’s a disgrace. Why should the children be divided into those who have and those who don’t?”
Another said: “I was fuming when I got that letter! Hard enough for me with only one wage coming in saving for a summer holiday never mind that. My daughter was really disappointed when I told her she couldn’t go.”
Parents are speculating that the final cost of the trip will be much greater since the pupils are going only on half board and will require to pay for lunches and bring spending money.
Some have asked if they will have to pick up the tab for the teachers accompanying the pupils on the trip.
As usual West Dunbartonshire Council refused to answer any of the questions legitimately put to its communications department and SNP administration who have an ongoing ban and boycott of The Democrat.
Some of the sights the OLSP pupils might see in New York and Washington.