Return of International School Travel
Here are four key things to consider when planning an international school visit.
Overseas school trips have been given the green light.
Here are four key things to consider when planning an international school visit.
Tackling international travel during the pandemic
School trips are hugely rewarding and are well known to improve academic attainment, confidence and behaviour. Now that the Department for Education (DfE) have given the green light on international school travel, you can make plans to take your pupils overseas again. This is brilliant news, but where do you begin?
We’ve created a handy guide that includes the key things you need to consider before you book your school trip and travel. Pharos Response has considerable knowledge and experience of the education sector and provides tailored services specifically to suit the needs of schools.
So what do you need to consider when organising an overseas school trip?
1. Check the latest government guidance
The current advice from the DfE (November 2021) is that international school trips can resume again from this term (Autumn 2021) and their full guidance can be found here.
When planning an educational visit abroad, it’s important to check the latest DfE guidance and FCDO advice to make sure you comply with the ‘in country’ regulations and won’t incur any difficulties at the border/s and during your visit.
Additional administration will vary from country to country and can include completing Passenger Locator Forms, getting tested prior to or after travel and ensuring you have proof of vaccinations (where required). The rules and paperwork required can change on a regular basis, so it’s a good idea to check the information weekly, and more frequently leading up to the day of departure.
Some countries still require masks to be worn in specified places by law (adults and children above a certain age) so understanding the rules you need to follow once you are at your destination (and any transit countries) is also necessary to ensure you are fully compliant with local laws.
The FCDO website lists up to date guidance by country and is the best source of travel advice and information. You can also follow the FCDO on Twitter for live updates. https://twitter.com/FCDOtravelGovUK
If you’re organising a trip through a school travel company, they should be able to support and guide you through this process.
Like some of the team at Pharos, other members of the Outdoor Education Advisors’ Panel (OEAP) can also provide advice, and the National Guidance framework should be an immediate ‘go to’ resource for schools planning such visits, usually via your experienced educational visits advisor. If you don’t have an educational visits advisor (who is able to provide specialist advice to your EVC), the Pharos team can assist with this.
2. Choose a reputable travel company that you can trust
Selecting the right school travel provider is an important part of organising a safe and quality school trip and to get the right level of support and guidance, especially when you need it most.
So how do you choose a reliable company?
Book a trip with a fully accredited company
Before booking a school trip, check that the company you are travelling with has all the necessary accreditations to deliver a safe school visit, that they are adequately insured and you are financially protected.
A quick and easy way to verify that a company conforms to the necessary UK safety and quality standards is to select a travel organiser that is a member of an external body such as The School Travel Forum and/or to make sure they have either an LOtC Quality Badge or conform to BS8848:2014, the British Standard for visits, fieldwork, expeditions and adventurous activities outside the UK.
The LOtC Quality Badge and BS8848 means that the operator has passed a robust assessment process and that they meet schools’ learning and risk management needs, no matter what activities they offer.
This enables you to book your trip in confidence, knowing that your provider meets rigorous standards of good safety practice.
Financial protection: To make sure you are financially protected when travelling abroad, make sure that your provider is sufficiently bonded. This means that if the operator has to cancel or significantly alter your trip due to Foreign Office (FCDO) advice, they are legally obligated to either provide a suitable alternative for your group or provide a full refund.
Check the company’s COVID-19 policy and if the trip includes COVID-19 travel insurance
Whilst many operators have worked hard to support their customers during unprecedented times, some schools have reported feeling let down by their operator during the pandemic. Whilst bonding ensures financial protection if your trip is cancelled or a company goes into administration, it’s useful to find out more about how a company will support you if your trip is affected by COVID-19.
A good way to do this is to create a list of questions and either check the company’s website for answers or contact them directly. Many of the best operators recognise that schools need additional support and provide comprehensive FAQs and COVID-19 assurances on their websites. Either way, we would always encourage you to speak to your trusted school travel operators who will be doing their best to accommodate your needs, rather than simply taking the easy option and avoiding trips and visits because it is all too difficult.
Here are a few questions you may wish to ask in advance of making your booking:
Question 1. What happens if someone gets ‘pinged’ by NHS Track and Trace before departure?
Question 2: What if someone tests positive for COVID-19 whilst on the trip?
Question 3: What if COVID restrictions change whilst on the trip?
Question 4: What are our rights to a refund if COVID-19 impacts our school trip?
Question 5: How long will it take to get a refund in the event that COVID-19 impacts the trip?
Question 6: Does the trip include COVID-19 travel insurance and what does this cover? What is not covered by the insurance?
Check reviews, seek recommendations and specialist advice if necessary. We would advise contacting your educational visits advisor about any overseas trip in the current climate.
For additional assurance you can check external review sites such as Facebook reviews or Google reviews. If you prefer to speak to someone, ask the company if they have a local school on their books that you could speak to or ask your own network if anyone has used them.
Finally, schools should seek legal advice, either via the school insurance provider or elsewhere as the legal aspects of cancellations can be complex and could leave schools financially exposed. Our advice would be to only commit financially when the school is satisfied with the level of potential financial exposure and how this may be shared with parents, who should also be made aware of any risks and the controls your visit provider has put in place.
3. Get the right type of insurance for your trip
As per the latest DfE guidance, you should speak to either your visit provider, insurance company, or the Risk Protection Arrangement (RPA) (if that is how the school is insured) to assess the protection available.
A lot of school travel operators are now offering travel insurance that includes cover for COVID-19 which has made it easier to travel during the pandemic. Likewise, many schools have updated their insurance policies to include COVID-19 cover.
When planning a school visit, make sure you check that the policy in place covers you and those travelling for all aspects of your trip (for example adventurous activities). Remember to declare things like pre-existing medical conditions in advance and any other exclusions that are linked to your policy to make sure you’re complying with the policy guidelines and don’t incur any unforeseen issues during your visit.
It is additionally important to know what cover is in place for medical emergencies and repatriation to understand how you may be supported in the event of a serious incident or emergency which requires significant medical treatment and/or necessitates a return to the UK.
4. Have a School Trips Coronavirus Management Plan in place
Picture this. You’re in France with your pupils and a few of them test positive for COVID-19 and are told they have to self-isolate until beyond your planned return date. What do you do?
Prevent, Prepare, Respond!
Having a plan helps to prevent issues, ensures you are prepared for when they do happen and enables you to respond appropriately.
Your Educational Visits Coordinator (EVC) will play an important role in advising colleagues on assessing risk and helping to plan safe educational visits. Because COVID-19 is a relatively new risk to manage on school trips,(despite it being a ‘known event’ for insurance purposes) EVCs are likely to benefit from the support of their educational visits advisors (members of the Outdoor Education Advisors’ Panel or OEAP) to develop a school trips management plan, which will need to be adapted in accordance with current ‘in country’ rules.
Pharos can provide this educational visits advice via team members who are OEAP members. Head teachers and EVCs benefit from being able to confidently approve trips and visits based on specialist advice without straying outside their area of expertise and exposing the school to litigation. This is clearly essential for schools and MAT Boards who will want to know that their school is compliant with the latest regulations and good practice whilst ensuring pupils gain from the huge benefits from learning outside the classroom.
“When planned and implemented well, outdoor education, offsite visits and adventurous activities contribute significantly to raising standards and developing knowledge and skills in ways that add value to everyday experiences in the classroom.”
We hope you feel prepared to plan your next overseas school trip.
To summarise, here are the four key things to consider before organising an overseas trip:
- Check Government guidelines
- Choose a reputable school travel operator
- Ensure you have appropriate travel insurance
- Create a COVID-19 management plan for your school trip (getting external support where required)
If you’ve found this article helpful, feel free to share this page with colleagues or if have any questions about this advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch us.
Get help from an Educational Visit expert
If you’re feeling daunted by the prospect of organising a school trip, particularly during these challenging times, you can seek external support from the Pharos Educational Visits Advisory Service. We will review and provide guidance on higher risk activities, such as overseas, adventure or residential visits and advise on measures to improve safety. This also extends to COVID guidelines to ensure the health and safety of schools on educational visits.
Simply call +44(0)1183 800 140 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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