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An Essential Guide: Planning a school trip safely in uncertain times

As Managing Director at Global Action, I’m frequently asked by Deputy Heads and teachers, how their schools can be ready to travel when the Government eases travel restrictions on school trips.

During lockdown, we saw a number of schools in England and Scotland booking overseas trips departing in 2021 and 2022. This meant a steep learning curve, especially for me(!), on how to run a virtual trip launch. Given these extraordinary times, it shows parents and students are still hugely committed to educational trips with a purpose.

Our team have over 30 years’ experience in organising trips safely and we are putting all that expertise into helping school SMTs, Heads of Department and teachers plan their future trips once international travel is an exciting possibility.

We all want to be able to plan with confidence. Here are our 6 top tips on what to ask your travel company about when planning your next trip:

1. Contingency plans around UK Government Guidance

  • Have restrictions been lifted by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Department of Education?
  • Has social distancing guidance in the UK also been lifted to enable safe group travel?

Check with your tour company at least five months prior to departure on what their contingency plan is. If these Government restrictions are still in place, your travel company could reschedule the trip to go, for example, in 2022, which would still allow your pupils the opportunity to participate in the adventure.

2. Does your trip include COVID-19 insurance cover?

Check that your travel company has group travel insurance policy, that fully covers both:

  • Pre-departure cancellation cover if a participant is formally diagnosed with COVID-19 in the UK prior to travel, and is advised not to travel or is ordered to quarantine by their treating doctor.
  • Medical cover during the trip for any participant who contracts COVID-19 and requires medical emergency treatment, or is ordered to medically quarantine.

For all Global Action school groups this is included in the price. Check your company is doing the same.

3. Destination Country Guidance

Check that your travel company has confirmed with you that the destination country you are travelling to has lifted restrictions, including:

  • Removal of lockdown and social distancing guidance that enables safe group travel
  • Lifting of travel restrictions in all destination locations you are visiting
  • The country’s Department of Immigration is giving usual Visa advice for UK passport holders (and other nationalities if your pupils have different passports).

4. Team Preparation

Is the team preparation adequate for your trip? You should be asking:

  • Are pupils and staff able to attend team meetings and attend clinics for vaccinations?
  • Are managers from the travel company able to visit the school to lead preparation workshops? If not, can these be done virtually?

5. Destination Safety Assessment

Has the travel company sent you an updated risk assessment and safety documentation for your trip? This must include a detailed COVID-19 section.

Your travel company should be following best practice as advised by UK Government, the WHO, and extensive consultation with in-country partners and external medical advisers.

6. Money matters

Get clarity from your travel company on:

  • When are payments due?
  • What are the cancellation charges in their Terms and Conditions?
  • Can they help with flexible payment plans? Because this is also a challenging time for family finances, at Global Action, we have been helping some parents with a flexible payment schedule. To help students fundraise while social distancing, we put together 10+ ideas for raising funds during social distancing. with ideas from some of our partners, like easyfundraising.com

Government restrictions on UK residential and overseas trips will lift in time. When these do, schools and travel companies need to be very well prepared, so educational trips can be delivered safely for the benefit of all pupils – developing critical thinking skills around Global Citizenship, as well as the topics they study with you.

You can read more here about how we reduce teachers’ workloads when organising a school trip.

Please do email me anytime at mark@global-action.co.uk if I can advise further – we are here to help!

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