The School Travel Forum (STF) has launched the #SaveOurSchoolTrips campaign urging teachers and others to add their support in helping the school travel sector.

Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre

Source: Ardroy OEC

Providers such as the Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre have spoken about the importance of school trips, particularly residentials. 

It warns that school trips and residentials could be at risk for children in the future if the Government doesn’t step in and help. The forum, which represents leading school tour operators across the country, has highlighted the impact that school visits have on pupils’ learning and lives. 

Gill Harvey, chief executive of the School Travel Forum, said:  “We know overnight and overseas visits aren’t a priority for schools at this moment but there is a real risk that when teachers and pupils are ready to travel again the opportunities won’t be there.”

Gill said that there’s a risk that some companies who offer such valuable experiences may not be able to survive if school visits can’t resume soon, adding:  “Alongside the direct impact on the dedicated skilled staff that organise and deliver these inspiring programmes, the loss of providers will push educational visit opportunities beyond the reach of many thousands of young people whose only chance to experience another country is with their school.

“The #SaveOurSchoolTrips campaign aims to raise awareness of this very real threat with MPs and influencers to get recognition and support for the value of these educational visits. You can help by writing to your MP outlining how valuable these experiences are for your students or explaining how the current crisis is affecting your business. Follow @STF_Forum on Twitter and share our tweets.”

In other posts on Twitter, the STF shares various research including one study which found that 71% of students felt that teachers better understood their learning habits after a school trip while 23% of parents saw better school attendance. 

Tour operators and providers have added their voices to the #SaveOurSchoolTrips campaigning warning that without urgent Government support, opportunities offered to thousands of students each year could be at risk. 

It comes as a petition calling on the Department for Education to change its guidance to allow overnight educational visits nears almost 10,000 signatures, the point at which the government has to respond.

The Government previously announced that domestic school trips could resume again from the autumn term as long as they didn’t involve an overnight stay. This prompted residential providers including outdoor centres, to write to the Government asking it to update its advice to allow safe overnight visits to take place this year. 

Alex Williamson, CEO of residential camp provider Kingswood, which has ten activity centres across the UK, said: “If the Government is serious about rebuilding young Britain, which is a mammoth task, then they need the entire outdoor and school travel sector firing on all cylinders because there’s no question that we offer stuff that children cannot get elsewhere, either at school or home.”

David Thorpe, head of centre at the Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre, added:  “Young people’s resilience and their connection with nature needs rebuilding post-lockdown - we stand ready to assist with this process as soon as it is safe to do so, which won’t be a moment too soon for us!”

The ‘rule of six’

Guidance has been issued to confirm that the ‘rule of six’ restriction does not prevent socially distanced school trips from taking place. The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) told School Travel Organiser: “The guidance that CPT is giving to members is that school group bubbles that do not socially distance in school also do not need to socially distance on a vehicle, and that includes any teachers and assistants who are also within that bubble.

Students orienteering

“Any other adults not considered from within the school group bubble will need to be socially distanced on the vehicle. Separate bubbles from within the same school, or from another school will need to socially distance in line with the operator’s risk assessment which should mean a distance of 1m between groups.

“Face coverings will be mandatory where the students are over the age of 11, and should be recommended for all age groups.

“CPT advises that in all cases the front row of seats is left unoccupied so that the driver can have a two metre distance from passengers.”