A pre-action protocol letter has been sent to the Department for Education (DfE) on behalf of School Travel Forum (STF), the leading association for companies providing overseas educational visits, and the Expedition Provider’s Association. The two organisations are challenging the failure of DfE to give the greenlight to schools to plan and book international educational visits for 2022 and beyond, citing the advice as ‘irrational’ and are seeking a Judicial Review to overturn this guidance.
Gill Harvey, chief executive of STF, said:
It takes schools 12 months and upwards to plan a successful and safe educational visit overseas. This gives families time to save and teachers time to build the trip into their yearly plans, and to prepare students"
“We aren’t talking about schools planning to travel in the next six months, schools want to start planning for next year, but the conflicting advice given by DfE and FCDO is preventing schools from going ahead.
“It is unprecedented for the DfE to give travel advice or advice that contradicts other government departments. Our members have been unable to operate or even take advance bookings since March 2020. There is a real risk with the current restrictions from the DfE that once we emerge from this pandemic there will be far fewer specialist accredited travel companies available to schools. Our members are the only companies that hold the DfE-backed LOtC Quality Badge, which ensures stringent health and safety measures specific to educational visits are in place. The loss of these companies could put pupils at risk if schools are forced to use non-accredited companies.”
Jon Clarke, school visits champion and shadow headteacher at a school based in an area of high deprivation, said “Residential trips change lives. They make learning real and are essential to helping students understand the world around them. To make sure our trips are affordable for everyone, we apply to trusts and grants for funds and our students frequently fundraise to cover costs. Being unable to plan ahead means we won’t have time to start our fundraising activities for next year.
This will be the third cohort of young people missing out on these experiences. Young people who, without the opportunities that our school provide, will not get the chance to venture beyond their home area."
“Before their first trip in Year 7, many of our students have never been to the beach or paddled in the sea. Ordinarily, during their time with the school, they would have the opportunity to practice language skills in France, Spain or Germany, visit battlefields and experience trips further afield. These visits are a catalyst for students to get the confidence to go out and explore the world beyond their local area. They are an opportunity to discover new places and have an amazing collective experience with their peers.”
Each year, more than 560,000 students undertake an educational visit overseas. Members of the School Travel Forum have been contacting their MPs to highlight the plight facing schools and students.
Gill Harvey said: “Educational visits have a transformative impact on young people. They broaden horizons, build understanding, bring a subject to life and have been proven to improve academic attainment, confidence and behaviour. If these opportunities become the preserve of the well-off it will further widen the education and social mobility gap.
“Schools need to be able to make their own decisions about future travel plans. Being able to plan ahead will mean they can secure the best price for their group, so all students have access to the same benefits and opportunities.”