They had been looking forward to their half-term excursions for weeks.
But dozens of children have been barred from school trips to a safari park, football ground and indoor ski centre because their parents are too well-off.
Families said their children had been left in tears, unable to understand why they were banned from going on trips with their friends.
Last night council officials were accused of penalising working parents as only ‘economically disadvantaged’ pupils can take part in the excursions.
A Government-funded scheme, being trialled across Trafford Council in Greater Manchester, is open only to children who receive free school meals because their parents are on benefits.
Families not on state support are not eligible for the trips to Knowsley Safari Park, football sessions with the Manchester United Foundation and a day at the Chill Factore indoor snow centre, even if the parents are willing to pay. Sarah Rumney, whose five-year-old son attends Partington Primary School, said he had been upset when told he could not go on the outings.
‘I’m really angry,’ she said. ‘I’m being penalised for working and wanting to do better for myself and my children.’
The 29-year-old self-employed cleaner was willing to pay for her son to take part but was told places were restricted.
She said: ‘It’s a nightmare. What sort of incentive does it give to these kids to want to go out and work if all their friends are allowed to go on fantastic trips but they aren’t? I’m quite annoyed about it.’
Margaret Woodhouse, from Trafford Council’s children and young people’s service, confirmed 22 schools in the area had been included in the pilot scheme.
She said: ‘It was a government requirement the money be used to support children from “economically disadvantaged” families within the area. Trafford Council chose to follow the guidance from the Training and Development Agency–responsible for allocating funding on the government’s behalf–and use free school meals as its criteria.
‘This ensures the funding goes to support children from lower-income families.’
But yesterday the Government said the council appeared to have missed the point of the scheme. Officials said the aim was to ensure all children were able to enjoy out-of-school activities–regardless of their parents’ income.
A spokesman at the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: ‘Our guidance is crystal clear that no child should be left out.
‘Activities should be available to all children–with those who can afford it being able to pay and take part.’
Officials pointed to guidance saying the scheme should ‘encourage those who can afford to pay to do so, while using the subsidy to make particular efforts to encourage the participation of those who are unable to pay’.
The spokesman added there was no stipulation the money be ring-fenced for those on free school meals.
‘It is down to schools to use their professional judgments in deciding who is or is not eligible for a subsidy,’ he said.
‘We’re clear that many groups can be covered, including children in care, young carers and those with special educational needs–not necessarily limiting subsidies to pupils on free school meals.’
Last night Trafford Council officials said activities had been restricted to children on free school meals only in the Partington area.
This was because of higher than average levels of children with families on state support. In other areas of Trafford running the scheme, paying parents had been able to send their children on the activities.
A Training and Development Agency spokesman said: ‘The extended services disadvantage subsidy is provided to schools specifically, and quite rightly, to help those children whose parents are less well-off and who have fewer opportunities, and a greater need than others.
‘Our guidance to schools clearly states that any new activities–from breakfast clubs to summer camps–should be open to all pupils and should be financially sustainable, including charging for activities where appropriate.’