School’s (no longer) Out, but what about School Trips?
The strange semi-reality of Alice Cooper’s dream finally looks to have come to an end as schools have welcomed pupils back into non-virtual classrooms after several months of COVID-19 enforced lockdowns. Of course, the question on everyone’s minds now is when and how will they be able to leave them again.
Joking aside, school trips, whether day visits or longer residential visits, are important educational tools which give pupils and pupils invaluable experiential learning opportunities. It’s therefore good news that The Department for Education (DfE) has recently updated its guidance.
Whilst domestic educational day trips have now been given the green light (from 12 April 2021), the future of residential trips remains uncertain. Currently* domestic residential educational visits will, at the earliest, be able to take place from 17 May 2021 but we are still no clearer on when international visits may resume.
So, aside from the usual risk assessments that all schools undertake for educational visits, what else should they be doing in order to prepare for the wider reopening of this aspect of education?
- Due to the possibility of the Government’s roadmap being delayed and/or guidance changing, we would advise against committing to any trips without ensuring adequate contractual protections are in place relating to COVID-19. This includes terms covering what happens if restrictions or government guidance changes, if staff or pupils test positive or if they must isolate.
- Schools should maintain contingency plans in case of changes to government guidance or, for example, staff becoming unavailable because of a requirement to self-isolate.
- Be careful if relying on insurance – many insurers have altered the wording of their policies to exclude cover for cancellation, curtailment or delay due to COVID-19 or its effects. The Government is aware of this and is currently looking at putting in place a COVID-19 indemnity to give schools cover against COVID-19 related travel cancellations in the future. The DfE has promised further details on this in due course.
- In addition to the usual risk assessments, schools will need to consider what additional measures need to be carried out and must follow wider advice on visiting indoor and outdoor venues in light of COVID-19. They should ensure that policies are updated to reflect government guidance at the time of the trip and ensure that parents and pupils are aware of what the policy says.
- Consideration should be given to how pupils will travel to and from the trip destination, ensuring that the school’s carefully planned ‘bubbles’ remain in place and that social distancing is maintained as much as possible.
- For schools that are planning a visit to a different country within the UK (England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland), the current government guidance for that country should also be considered. Once international travel is allowed the same principle should be followed in relation to that country/ies.
*As with all COVID-19 lockdown restriction-easing plans, these dates may be subject to change and are dependent on the Government’s roadmap.
Get in touch
If you have any questions about any of the above or would like more detailed advice or assistance, our education specialists are on hand to help. For more information, please contact Laura Thompson.
This article was prepared by Stefan Dingelstad.
All information in this update is accurate at the time of writing. It is meant for general information only and is not legal advice.