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Charging for school trip, banning child from trip as punishment and not returning money

Discussion in 'Governors' started by NeilArmand, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. Is it legal for a school to charge for a school trip but then ban the child from going as a punishment for bad behaviour, but refuse to repay the money to the parents? In such a situation is it not illegal to refuse to reimburse the money? (This assumes the school has academy status).
  2. Is it legal for a school to charge for a school trip but then ban the child from going as a punishment for bad behaviour, but refuse to repay the money to the parents? In such a situation is it not illegal to refuse to reimburse the money? (This assumes the school has academy status).
  3. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    That's an good question Neil, I've never come across it before and it's not covered expressly by any regulations or DfE guidance that I've ever seen. Being an Academy further complicates it as I don't know whether Academies are subject to the same legal requirement that applies to LA-maintained schools to have a written policy for charging for school trips.
    I'm assuming this has happened to you and you're not happy and want your money back!
    I'd start by asking the school where in the school policies it says they can do this. There are only two likely policies it would be in - the policy on charging for school trips etc or the policy on behaviour (and the various related lists of rules and sanctions). Ask for a copy of the policies. Even if it is in one of those policies I'd be inclined to challenge their legal power to do that - it amounts to a 'fine' on the parents for their child's behaviour and I'm not at all sure that is within the school's powers. If it isn't listed anywhere in the school's policies then I'd say it's even less likely that they are allowed to do that.
    Also check the paperwork you were sent about the specific school journey. Did that allow for the situation that has arisen?
    If the school refuses, as it's an Academy your line of complaint is to the DfE. However, if I were in your position I might consider tackling it an alternative way, via the Small Claims Court. It depends how much is involved but you can start proceedings online quite cheaply - depends how much you are trying to recover but you may only need to pay £25 to start small claims court proceedings and normally in small claims cases even if you lose you don't have to pay the other side's costs. There are many websites that tell you how to access the small claims court, they'll tell you first need to write formally to the school telling them why you believe they have wrongfully retained your money, how you want the matter resolved, and warning them that if they don't do this within x days you will start proceedings.
    No reason why you can't be pursing a small claims court case and a DfE complaint simultaneously.
  4. Thanks for this. That is the kind of approach I was thinking of. I am assuming, however, that the school's response might be that they only run trips if they can get sufficient children to sign up (and pay), and so if they returned some of the money they would have to cancel the trip, therefore punishing other children too. Any thoughts on that?
    Obviously my other concern is that it could impact on the child, plus her sister who is due to go up to the same school in the new school year. Perhaps there is a danger in alienating the family from the school authorities?
  5. I think the key lies in the wording of any cancellation/refund clause there may be in the booking form or trip consent/receipt.
    Based on common law a contract is formed between parties when three elements are present: offer, acceptance and consideration. Such contracts may be in written form, oral or a combination. If no specific mention is made of behaviour clauses prior to the event and not directly related to the event, then it is hard to see how the school could legally withold a refund.
    As for reprocussions, against the pupil or siblings, any school that acted in such a way (academy or maintained) would be acting in breech of numberous regulations and policies, laying itself open to far more serious consequences than the cost of refunding a single trip payment.
  6. ooops! repercussions, sorry :)
  7. Thanks for this. It seems to me the school has two types of trips. The first is for foreign trips where there is indeed a cancellation clause. Here it says money is only returned in exceptional circumstances (but that I assume is when the child changes its mind).The wording does also say that the school reserves the right to refuse an application from a pupil whose behaviour in school would be detrimental to the smooth running of the trip. But no mention of not returning money.
    The two trips at issue here are ones that have been cancelled during the school's activity weeks, one involving horse riding and the other a trip to a theme park.There appears to be no cancellation clause in the form that was signed, just a request for money.
    This does not involve large sums of money, but it seems wrong to fine a whole family for one child's behaviour. I am told that quite a number of children suffered the same punishment, so it must be an issue for quite a few families.

  8. Thanks for your help. This matter now seems to have been resolved.
  9. Crowbob

    Crowbob Senior commenter

    Do you mind saying how it was resolved?
  10. Right now I don't know. But at least some parents have had their money returned.
  11. trinity0097

    trinity0097 New commenter

    Personally if I were the parent I would be making the child pay back the parents any losses incurred by them in preparing/paying for the trip.
    It may be difficult for the school to recoop the money that they have already paid, e.g. tickets to events, admissions already paid for etc.....

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