Sunday 23 September 2018

From China to Vegas - how Ireland's students are paying almost €4,000 for luxury school tours

Expensive school trips to places like China and Tanzania are being offered to students at some of Ireland's fee-paying schools

Locations for school trips include Kilimanjaro and China
Locations for school trips include Kilimanjaro and China

Sean Nolan

School tours to far-flung destinations like China and Tanzania are being offered to students at some of Ireland's fee-paying schools, with one trip costing almost €4,000 per student.

With specialist tour companies offering everything from rugby tours to trips to Las Vegas, schools are organising extended trips to destinations around the world.

One private school, Glenstal Abbey in Limerick, where the seven-day boarding fees are €19,300 per year, are offering their students the chance to take a 14-day trip to climb Kilimanjaro this summer, organised by a company called Earth's Edge.

The trip, which includes six days of training by the tour company before departure, will see the students spend two days travelling to the beginning of the Machame Trail, followed by seven days of trekking to the summit of Africa's highest point in Tanzania.

The excursion, which includes flights, guides, cooks, porters, meals, accommodation and transport costs €3,899 per student.

A Glenstal Abbey spokesman confirmed to Independent.ie that 15 students and seven parents are taking the trip this summer.

Dublin's St Columba's College are also offering a long-distance trip to their students in 2018, with a 12-day tour of China proposed to take place later this year.

Their itinerary, posted on the school's website, includes three nights in Hong Kong, two nights in Shanghai, one night in Zhangjiajie, two nights in Xian (home of the Terracotta Warriors) before finishing with three nights in Beijing.

The school, which has day fees starting at €8,000 a year, has been contacted by Independent.ie to confirm how many students were set to take the trip and the exact costs involved.

However, a page on the school's website regarding the trip says those wishing to attend must pay a deposit of €1,500 with "the remainder of the costs payable before departure".

St Columbs.jpg
Information about the trip posted on the St Columba's website

Ski trips are also popular with many fee-paying schools.

Mount Anville, a fee-paying all girls school in south Dublin, is offering students a ski trip this year.

According to a page on their school website the costs are €980 per student.

Anville.jpg
Information about the trip posted on the Mount Anville website

At the time of writing the school had not responded to queries about the numbers of students taking the trip.

Loreto High School Beaufort, in Rathfarnham in Dublin, is another all-girl fee paying school that has details of a ski trip for students on their school website.

Their seven-night trip to San Valentino in Italy costs €1,100 per head.

An identical trip is already being planned for 2019, with students given a full year to pay the costs in a series of installments, according to the school's website.

Jesus and Mary College, Our Lady's Grove, in Goatstown in Dublin, are set to take their fourth-year students on a six-day ski trip to the Italian Alps in March this year, according to their school website.

Again, the payment schedule began one year before departure, with the total cost of this trip being €899 per student.

A school tours travel specialist noted that while the number of schools opting to organise trips for their students had not significantly increased in recent years, the number of students on each trip has increased.

Managing Director of The School Tour company, Grainne Quinn, noted that cost is an important consideration for most schools.

"I think the most important aspect of these trips is to make them affordable so they can include all the children who wish to go," she said.

"In recent years the costs have actually gone down. A number of years ago a short trip to Italy would cost perhaps €800, where as now, depending on the numbers involved and the time of the trip, it would be in the region of €400."

She said she was "appalled" by high-cost trips that excluded some students and said she would rather have 40 students going on a trip at €400 a head than have 20 go at a much higher cost.

The School Tour Company do offer a trip to China but she told Independent.ie that the only school trip they have booked for that destination is due to travel in 2019 and they booked it in 2016, taking three years to pay for it.

Ms Quinn also emphasised the value of these trips to students.

"They see their teachers in a new light, as human beings, and it makes a huge change to how they view them when they return to class. They learn responsibility, they make new friends and many learn how to work to pay for their spending money on trips like these.

"Teachers deserve huge credit too for going on these trips, often on their own holidays and with no extra pay," she added.

Another company, Topflight For Schools, is working with Mount Anville to organise their planned ski trip and has a vast array of different trips of offer for schools.

These include ski trips to nine different countries, including the USA and Canada and they offer sport-based trips to see the likes of Real Madrid or Roma, as well as rugby tours to locations such as Argentina, Portugal and Andorra.

Other options available on their site include a three or five-night geography tour of Iceland and seven-day visit to Toronto and Montreal.

Three tours to the USA are also on offer by Topflight, one of which is a seven-day trip to San Francisco and Las Vegas which includes a "stroll around taking in the wonderful sights and atmosphere of The Strip".

Replying to a query from Independent.ie, Managing Director of Topflight Marco Piccoli confirmed that in the last number of years they have not had any schools take the San Francisco and Las Vegas trip.

Mr Piccoli added: "While some of our schools do opt for long distance destinations, some of our more popular tours are to the UK and incorporate a two-day trip to Old Trafford or the Eithiad Stadium, including transportation, half board hotel accommodation and match tickets to see Man City or Man Utd., while also visiting the Roman city of Chester or taking in a theme park. These trips cost from €149 per person.

"We have 6 day learn to ski programmes, which are great options for Transition Year students as it is a year where learning new skills is high on the Agenda. Ski trips can solidify friendships while challenging oneself in a controlled environment and of course gaining fitness and health benefits while also having fun. Once again the benefit of being able to travel outside of holiday time is reflected in the cost."

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