Current Government guidance is clear that both domestic and international school trips will need to be cancelled or re-arranged for the immediate future. However, with many school trips booked a year or more in advance, attention is now turning to the 2020/21 academic year. In this briefing, we consider whether those trips are still viable and the potential cost consequences if they cannot go ahead as planned.

The Department for Education is currently advising against:

  • any overseas trips for children under 18; and
  • any domestic trips (residential and non-residential) for children under 18, organised by educational settings.

Similarly, the Foreign Commonwealth Office is advising British nationals (both students over 18 and staff) against all non-essential international travel for an indefinite period.

Whilst much is unknown about the timescales for reinstating overnight domestic and international excursions, travel restrictions will likely remain in place for some time. Schools are now faced with the unenviable task of deciding whether to commit to future trips that are part-paid or to cut their losses and cancel now.

Evaluate what is within your control

It is important that schools consider whether the trip remains viable, even if all current restrictions are lifted. It is likely that many students and their families will question whether it is safe to travel and if they can still afford the cost. If a significant number of pupils drop-out, could that jeopardise the trip ‘experience’ or increase the costs for the remaining attendees?

Schools will need to consider how they can maintain the safety of both pupils and staff on the trip; who could also be returning to vulnerable and shielded relatives at the end of the trip. This is likely to be dictated by resource – personal protection equipment remains in short supply and there may not be sufficient staff to cover the smaller class sizes back on school premises.

Consider the rights and obligations in your contract terms

Each school trip will be subject to its own terms and conditions. Additional protections may be available through ATOL and ABTA if the school trip has been arranged through a travel agent. Contracts should include staggered payments, to reflect that it is harder to recover costs when cancellation occurs close to the date of travel. Any cancellation or non-refundable payments should be considered carefully to determine if they are generally enforceable.

Confirm the contractual duties you owe to students

Unless students have contracted with the travel agent direct, schools will need to consider whether they can fulfil their contractual promises to students. Is there a risk by arranging travel and accommodation, the trip is a package holiday: subject to the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations? What rights do the students have to cancel and receive a refund for any advance payments?

Next steps

There is no one-size-fits-all approach when answering the above and the options available are likely to differ for each trip.  For help understanding whether you can rearrange or cancel a school trip, or for assistance with future educational holidays, please contact Emma Watt or Alex Lawrence.