These are classed as Category C Visits and approval by the CYPS is required at the initial outset of the planning phase.
Visits abroad will usually need to be planned at least one year in advance. The trip may be:
- A reciprocal exchange with children staying in private homes
- A Self-organised trip staying at one centre, e.g. Youth Hostel
- A package tour organised by a Travel Company specialising in such trips, and
- A tour with a specific purpose e.g. Concert Tour, Sport Tour etc., with children staying either with families or together.
Travelling abroad can be hugely rewarding for pupils and adults alike, but it is important that careful preparation takes place. Much of the earlier advice in these guidelines covers activities in the United Kingdom but also applies to visits abroad.
However, there are some additional factors that need to be considered when travelling abroad, not least because the legislation may be different from that of the United Kingdom. Group Leaders must always comply with the school/LEA policy on visits abroad. School visits abroad can be made in a number of ways.
Organising Your Own Visit
A Headteacher or Group Leader may decide to organise a package abroad without the help of an outside body. Package organisers have responsibilities under Directive 90/314/EEC. This is implemented in the United Kingdom by The Package Travel Regulations 1992 (external link).
These regulations apply to packages sold or offered for sale in the United Kingdom. They define a package as a combination of any two of: accommodation, transport or other tourist services not ancillary to transport. Most package arrangements come within scope of the regulations unless they are ‘occasional’ or part of an educational course programme as compared with a leisure activity such as skiing.
At the time of these guidelines production, the legal position of packages arranged as part of an educational course is subject to the effects of future judgements in the European Court of Justice. Headteachers must be aware of these regulations in case they are in scope.
Organising Your Own Transport
Group Leaders must ensure that drivers taking groups abroad are familiar with driving the coach or minibus in the countries being visited and those en route.
EC regulations require the fitment and use of a tachograph and prescribe maximum limits on driving time and minimum requirements for breaks and rest periods. These regulations apply for most drivers of school passenger vehicles when undertaking an international journey.
Different Licence requirements would normally apply for driving abroad. The Foreign Office (external link) can provide advice on the relevant transport legislation.
Factors to Consider When Travelling Abroad.
- The need to be aware that different legislation and regulations may apply for drivers’ hours and record keeping purposes, particularly in non-EU countries.
- EU drivers’ hours and tachograph regulations normally apply to any vehicle with 9 or more passenger seats on journeys through EU countries and some countries outside the EU. In other countries, drivers must observe the domestic rules of the countries being visited. Advice on domestic rules may be obtained from the relevant embassies of the countries concerned. See also Taking a Minibus Abroad (DfT (external Link)).
- Special documentation is required for minibuses taken abroad.
- All group members must be aware of the potential dangers of right-hand drive traffic. The passenger doors on United Kingdom minibuses and coaches may not open on the kerb side in countries where travel is on the right hand side of the road. Extra care will be necessary when the group is entering or leaving the vehicle. Detours may be necessary to ensure safety.
- Carrying capacity and loading requirements.
- The Department for Transport can provide information on legal requirements for travel abroad.
Before using a tour operator Group Leaders must ensure it is reputable. Ascertaining this must form part of the risk assessment.
The Civil Aviation Authority (external link) licences travel organisers and tour operators selling air seats or packages with an air transport element (Air Travel Organisers Licence or ATOL). The licence is a legal requirement and provides security against a licence holder going out of business.
A Travel agent does not need to be an ATOL holder if acting only as an agent of an ATOL holder. But if so the Group Leader must check whether or not the whole package being supplied is covered by the ATOL.
If it is not, the organiser must show evidence of other forms of security to provide for a refund of advance payments and the costs of repatriation in the event of insolvency.
There are seven bonding bodies approved by the Department for Trade and Industry. See the appendix at the back of this publication.
Operators based Abroad
Directive 90/314/EEC (as referred to above) applies to all stated of the European Economic Area (EEA). Group Leaders may wish to use a package organiser based abroad in an EEA state. If so, they must check that it satisfies the requirements of the national legislation implementing the Directive. Details may be available from national tourist offices, embassies or consulates.
Sources of Further Advice for School Travel Abroad
Headteachers or Group Leaders who decide to arrange travel independently may also seek the advice and help of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Advice Unit (external link). The Unit’s purpose is to help intending travellers to avoid trouble abroad. It can provide information on threats to personal safety arising from political unrest, lawlessness, violence etc.
Planning and Preparation
It is good practice where possible to make an initial exploratory visit. If this is not possible, the Group Leader must gather as much information as possible on the area to be visited/facilities from:
- The provider
- The Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Travel Advice Unit travelling and living overseas
- Other schools that have used the facilities/been to the area
- The Local Authority/schools in the area to be visited
- National travel offices in the United Kingdom
- Travel agent/tour operators
- The Suzy Lamplugh Trust (external link), a national charity for personal safety, has produced guidance, including a book called World Wise: Your Passport to Safer Travel, a video of the same title and information on the Internet.
- The Internet, books and magazines.
Staffing ratios for visits abroad are difficult to prescribe, as they will vary according to:
- The nature of the visit/activity
- The duration of the visit and time of year
- The location Age, ability, experience and special needs of pupils
- Qualifications and experience of accompanying staff
- Qualifications and experience of provider staff Availability of resources.
A minimum ratio of 1 adult to 10 pupils is required, and a member of staff should at lead the group. At least one other adult should be a teacher or a level 4 teaching assistant. There must be enough adults in the group to cover an emergency. Mixed gender groups must have at least one male member of staff and one female member of staff.
Preparing Pupils for Visits Abroad
Factors to consider for visits abroad include:
- Language – particularly common phrases
- Culture e.g. body language, rules and regulations of behaviour, dress code, local customs, attitudes to gender etc
- Drugs, alcohol usage
- Food and drink – group members must be warned of the dangers of drinking tap water or using ice in certain countries. In some countries it is safer to drink bottled water, and care needs to be taken with raw vegetables, salads and unpeeled fruit, raw shellfish, underdone meat or fish
- Money – how to carry money and valuables discreetly e.g. money belts, zip armlets. If larger amounts of money will be needed, it is advisable to take travellers cheques
- How to use phones abroad, money required (a BT contact card allows calls to be charged to the home number) and the code for phoning home. Check if mobile phones will operate in the country to be visited.
Briefing Meeting for parents
Prior to all residential visits and, particularly for visits abroad, parents should be encouraged to attend a briefing meeting. Depending on the nature/complexity of the visit, it may be appropriate to hold more than one meeting.
Information provided at parents’ meeting should always be followed up in writing.
Alternative arrangements should be made available for those parents who cannot attend planned meetings or have difficulty in communicating in English.
The following basic information should be provided for parents:
- Dates of the visit
- Objectives of the visit
- Times of departure and return
- Modes of travel
- Names of travel/tour operator
- Size of group
- Level of supervision, including arrangements for remote supervision
- Details of accommodation including security and supervisory arrangements
- Provision for dealing with illness/accidents
- Name of Group Leader and all other accompanying adults
- Activity details and results or risk assessments
- Code of conduct Appropriate kit list
- Details of insurance
- Financial details – cost of visit/payment methods/spending money etc Information requested from parents and details of consent required
- Arrangement for contact with parents during the visit
- Arrangements for pupil’s contact with parents during the visit.
The Group Leader must find out whether vaccination is necessary and ensure that all members of the group have received it in good time. Check whether the country to be visited requires proof of vaccination.
The Department of Health gives advice on vaccination requirements in their publication, Health Advice to Travellers Anywhere in the World, available free from most Post Offices, travel agents and libraries. Also see the Department of Health (external link)
The Group Leader must ensure that the group has comprehensive travel insurance (see Insurance Cover). It is imperative that parties do not leave the United Kingdom without evidence of insurance cover and the emergency medical cover card provided by the insurers, that should be carried throughout the visit.
Some foreign event organisers may offer group insurance, and may require dispensation forms to be signed. Some medical costs abroad can be very expensive, standard policies generally cover medical costs up to £1,000,000 in certain circumstances it may be prudent to increase the cover to £2,000,000. This can be arranged by contacting the Insurance Section.
Full consultation with the Department’s Health and Safety Officers, Insurance Officer, Legal and Property Department is advised if organisers are in any doubt about the application of legislation in any country to be visited.
The Group Leader needs to check relevant legislation, particularly on health, safety and welfare e.g. fire regulations.
One of the adults with the group must be able to speak and read the language of the visited country. If not, it is strongly recommended that the leader or another adult learns enough of the language to hold a basic conversation and knows what to say in an emergency. It is also advisable that pupils have a basic knowledge of the local language before the visit.
The Group Leader must ensure that all members of the group have valid passports and visas (if appropriate) in the early stages of planning the trip. A group passport may suffice in certain circumstances. If travelling on a Collective Passport, check nationality and place of birth of all group members and parents, as some may need individual passports.
Numbers for a collective passport are normally a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 50 but do check as regulations change and differ between countries, e.g. a minimum of 10. The leader and deputy leader of the party must be over 21 and have a valid “British” Passport, and in some cases at least six months left on the passport (It is recommended to have a copy of the collective passport available).
Photocopies of the group’s passports must be taken for emergency use. Otherwise there can be problems if someone other than the designated leader has to accompany an injured pupil back to the United Kingdom.
Visas – may be required in some countries and must be applied for in good time.
If the group includes pupils whose nationality or immigration status or entitlement to a British passport is in doubt, it is advisable to make early contact with the Home Office (external link) concerning the requirements of the immigration rules and the right of re-entry. Currently such pupils cannot be placed on a collective passport.
Pupils who are not nationals of any EU member state may need a visa to travel from the United Kingdom to another Member State.
However, they may receive visa exemption if they are members of a school group.
Pupils other than EU nationals may require a separate passport and may need to use separate passport control channels from the rest of the group.
Care Orders and Wards of Court
If a child is subject to a care order, foster parents will need to ensure that Social Services Department consents to any proposed trip. If a pupil is a ward of court, the Headteacher must seek advice from the court in relation to school journeys and activities abroad well in advance.
Emergency Medical Facilities
United Kingdom residents are entitled to free or reduced cost medical treatment which becomes necessary during temporary visits to European Union (EU) countries. Only treatment provided under the state scheme is covered, and in order to obtain treatment, participants must be in possession of a completed, stamped and signed Form EH1C.
EH1C Forms can be downloaded from the Department of Health (external link) or are available from Post Offices. The forms need to be completed in black ink and taken to the Post Office for approval.
The EH1C forms are free, but must be stamped and signed by the Post Office in order to be able to use it.
Group Leaders organising group visits abroad are recommended to carry the original and a photocopy of each member’s EH1C form.
Group Leaders are advised to take a contingency fund as sometimes treatment must be paid for in advance and money reclaimed later.
The Political Climate
Group Leaders must make an assessment of the political climate of the countries to be visited or passed through. Information as to the suitability of countries for school travel and the current political situation can be obtained by contacting the Foreign Office.
Foreign Laws Laws and customs vary between countries. Group leaders must make all party members aware of laws and customs specific to the country which may impact on the conduct / behaviour of the group. Follow the link to the Foreign Office - Travel Advice by Country (external link) for more information.
Prosecution under foreign law School trips, visits and activities undertaken within the United Kingdom, fall within the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and other associated health and safety regulations. Enforcement of these laws by the United Kingdom Courts are applied in practice to United Kingdom residents and visitors alike and form part of this country’s criminal legislation. Hence, it is often a criminal offence to breach these laws, punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.
Similarly any school activity which entails foreign travel, or participation in an organised event abroad, will also attract the requirements of that country’s own safety legislation.
Whilst there is some overlap and common agreement in place between EEC countries, under common market legislation and within the remit of the Court of Human Rights in the Hague, for many foreign countries our rules and regulations do not apply.
It is therefore essential when planning a foreign trip to make substantial additional enquiries concerning the visited countries health and safety laws and arrangements. For example, some countries may have more strict requirements for supervision ratios of staff for pupils or different rules for driving. It must be remembered that it is not possible to insure against a person’s criminal liabilities in any country.
The Group Leader must ensure that they obtain and take with them:
- Travel tickets, passports and visas. It is also advisable to carry a separate list of the numbers of any travel documents/passports and photocopies of all the group’s documents in a sealed waterproof bag
- A copy of the contract, booking confirmation with the centre/hotel etc if appropriate
- Medical papers e.g. Form EH1C and significant medical histories
- Parental consent forms
- Authorisation to obtain emergency treatment on behalf of the parent
- The phone numbers and addresses, at home and in school, of the Headteacher/Manager, (home and in school) of the school contact and central watch. Procedures in the event of major incident or accident.
- The names of parents and the addresses and telephone numbers at which they can be contacted (home and workplace)
- Copies of a list of group members and their details
- Details of insurance arrangements and the company’s telephone number
- The name, address and telephone number of the group’s accommodation
- Location of local hospital/medical services.
The Group Leader may wish to ask parents for passport size photographs of the pupils. It might be useful to have photographs of the adults in the group as well.
- By the School’s Educational Visits Co-ordinator
- By CYPS
- By the school on completion of the trip for evaluation and then filing.
Full details of the visit must be retained at school while the visit is in progress. Information must include:
- The itinerary and contact telephone number/address of the group
- A list of group members and their details
- Contact names, addresses, telephone numbers of the parents and next of kin
- Copies of parental forms
- A copy of the contract with the centre/hotel etc, if appropriate and
- LEA emergency contact numbers.
It is the Headteacher’s responsibility to ensure this information is available at all times. This is particularly important if the visit takes place when the school is closed. A list of group members their home address and telephone numbers, together with the venue and date of the visit should be sent to Central Watch before the visit.
During the Visit
It is advisable for pupils to carry a note in the relevant foreign language to assist them if they get lost, asking the reader to reunite them with the group at the accommodation/meeting point, or to take them to the police station. They must also carry the Group Leader’s and the duty contacts phone number.
All group members must carry an appropriate amount of foreign currency at all times e.g. money for telephone (or phone card).
It is important to be able to identify group members readily e.g. uniform, brightly coloured backpack, cap, item of clothing or badges. However, no student must display their name clearly on their clothing – this could result in them being isolated from the group by an apparently friendly, personal call.
Each member of staff (particularly the assistant leader) must have a copy:
- Of the collective passport and visas (if applicable) of the full list of the party (including adults and those who may not appear on a collective passport) with their details
- Of a photograph of each group members (particularly useful when trying to track down a ‘lost’ child
- Details of emergency contact numbers for school, Head, CYPS, central watch
- Of the detailed itinerary and the telephone numbers of admin. Contacts in the country to be visited.
- EH1C plus the emergency medical insurance cover card provided by the insurers.
The Group Leader must ensure that all members of the group, know what action to take if there is a problem.
The Group Leader and supervisors must know where the nearest British Embassy or Consulate is located and the telephone number. Depending on the age of the pupils, it may be appropriate to ensure they have this information to hand.
Group Leaders need to be aware that some diseases are more prevalent in some countries than in others and must know what action to take, if a member of the group becomes infected.
Many of the health problems of pupils on longer visits are caused by lack of food, liquid or sleep. The Group Leader must take this into account at the planning stage and take measure to prevent these risks.
If appropriate, parents must be asked to provide suitably factored sun protection creams and sun hats/glasses. Group members must be advised about the dangers of over exertion in the heat and of dehydration, which can cause headache, dizziness and nausea.
In warm climates it is important to keep fluid levels high, take extra salt and wear loose, lightweight clothing, preferably made of cotton or other natural fibres.
Rabies occurs in most parts of the world. If bitten or scratched by a cat, dog, fox or farm beast, general advice is to wash to wound at once with soap and water or detergent and water – at the very least flush the wound with clean water prior to attending the nearest doctor’s surgery or hospital. On return to England, the family doctor should be informed. The incident should be reported to the nearest police station as soon as possible after the incident as occurred.
Emergency Support (School Contact)
It is advisable to have a teacher/contact at home with a valid passport, who could go to the area being visited to provide support to the group in the event of an emergency.
Travel by Air
Taking a school group on an aircraft requires careful planning and preparation. The airline/travel agent will be able to advise on particular requirements. If the group includes any members with disabilities, it is advisable to check that the airline has a wheelchair service and lifting facility etc, if appropriate. The Group Leader must resist any attempt by the airline to split the group between different aircraft.
These are Category C trips and approval by CYPS is required at the initial outset of the planning phase.
The success of an exchange visit largely depends on good relationships and communications with the partner school.
Individual school exchanges differ from other visits abroad in that pupils will spend most of their time with host families and are, therefore, not always under the direct supervision of school staff. Host families abroad will not be subject to United Kingdom Law.
As from 2010 families and individuals in the UK who want to host Children and young people will have to undergo vetting with the government's new Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). To date CYPS is still awaing information regarding this process. For further information and to sign up to updates visit the ISA (external link) website.
Pupils must be aware of the ground rules agreed between the Group Leader and the host family. Many of the considerations which apply to residential and day visits, also apply here.
For further guidance, refer to CYPS Young People’s Exchange Visit Guidance.