The first step on the road to recovery of school trips was fulfilled when from 12 April schools were given the go-ahead to restart day trips. Confidence is high that domestic residential trips will go-ahead from 17 May, although the Department for Education (DfE) advice has not yet been updated and this is unlikely to be confirmed until next week.
The current guidance can be rather confusing. The schools coronavirus operational guidance document notes that schools can start planning domestic residential trips to happen after 17 May 2021 yet schools are advised NOT to enter into any new financial or contractual commitments at this stage. How you can do one without the other is unknown?
From my discussions with schools there is a great deal of pent-up demand for school trips to resume, particularly in respect of trips abroad and many have asked for my opinion on when these trips may be able to take place. Unfortunately with the best will in the world, this is not a question we can answer as, whilst in the UK we seem to have the virus under control, and have a world leading vaccination programme, it is not the same for the rest of the world.
What I can tell you though is that there have been talks over the last few months that have been ongoing between the representatives of the outdoor pursuits industry, the School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group (STSSG) and the government. I understand that these talks are close to completion and we hope that announcements will be made quite soon. The STSSG Roadmap to Restart is being used in discussions with government and a copy of this can be found here. We understand that most of it has now been agreed by the DfE.
One of the main issues for schools that want to book trips abroad is the concern that if they book a trip and it cannot subsequently proceed due to a resurgence of the pandemic, there is no insurance cover for losses with travel insurers now imposing pandemic exclusions. Whilst there is potential for recovery of monies under the terms of The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018, these would not apply if the trip could still go ahead, but schools are advised by the DfE against travel.
The government recognise this issue and have stated:
“We are working with Her Majesty’s Treasury to explore the possibility of addressing that gap and putting in place a coronavirus (COVID-19) restricted indemnity that will:
- give schools cover against coronavirus (COVID-19) travel cancellations in the future
- allow schools to book new visits with confidence
More details will be provided as soon as they are available”.
It is hoped that the further information will be published this month.
There is speculation currently in the media that the announcement of those countries that will be on the green list for travel will come on Friday 07 May, after the local elections on 06 May. Then over the following weeks will come the announcements more relevant to school trips. If I were a betting man though, I would pitch for 01 September 2021 as being the earliest that the DfE will allow school trips abroad.
Please join us on 27 May for our latest education webinar, where we will be joined by Mark Giffard-Lindsay of Global Action who will provide an insight into the discussions between the School Travel Sector Stakeholder Group and government on when travel restrictions will be relaxed and schools may start their travel programmes.