Get back on track with a school trip

Justine Lee from the School Travel Forum discusses the benefits of residential school trips following the challenges of the pandemic, and highlights important Brexit-related travel changes

George the Poet is a vocal advocate of ‘educational escapism’. TV presenter, Kate Humble says that school trips helped learning make sense, and adventurer Paul Rose believes his first Geography school trip was the making of him.

Looking back on our school days, it is the school trips that we remember – the experience of being somewhere new with our friends, away without our parents. It may have been the first time you had your own passport, the first time you had ventured abroad.

Educational tours, trips and visits provide students with some of the most valuable and memorable learning experiences. But it is about more than ‘just’ learning. When planned well, school trips give students unrivalled opportunities to become more independent, to grow in confidence and self-belief, relationships strengthen. This all leads to better engagement when back in the classroom.

Two years of isolations, disrupted learning and lockdowns have had a major impact on young people’s mental wellbeing as well as their educational progress. ‘Stay local’ or ‘Stay at home’ guidance has reduced travel, stunted horizons and meant students have had few opportunities to try new things or embrace challenges.

How a school trip can help pupils

Time together on a school residential is an ideal way to help students to learn to work and be together again.

The change of environment helps to provide inspiration. New sights, sounds, activities, food can all help to boost creativity.   

Travel increases awareness and understanding of other countries, languages and cultures.

The 24-hour nature of residentials helps students to learn how to co-exist. It can breakdown barriers and help relationships develop that may not have naturally grown in the traditional school environment.

Being in a new environment gives students the chance to display, or grow, their leadership skills. It is often those that don’t have the chance to shine at school, whose skills and competencies come to the fore once in a new situation.

What’s more, a school residential also moves pupils out of their comfort zones which helps them to grow in confidence and become more independent.

Taking a school group overseas – what do I need to know?

The outbreak of the Covid-pandemic also coincided with the UK’s departure from the European Union. The clamp down on travel and lack of overseas educational visits over the past two years has meant we haven’t had to give much thought to the new rules and changes. As school travel starts to pick up the time is right to look at what you need to consider when planning an overseas school trip.

Since the end of 2020, when the UK left the EU, there are several things that you and your group need to check or be aware of prior to travelling to Europe.
Firstly, passports must be valid for 6 months or longer from the date of your departure.

Regarding visas – EU (Schengen) and UK citizens do not require short-stay visas for leisure travel of up to 90 days in a 180 day period. Travel to Ireland is excluded from the 90/180 day rule and visits to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are not counted towards this total.
Regarding travel insurance, residents of the UK can still obtain healthcare in EU member nations under the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This is the UK’s replacement for the EHIC. Like the EHIC it covers the holder for treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs, at a reduced cost or for free, when travelling in the EU.
Since January 2021, UK mobile phone operators have been allowed to reintroduce roaming charges. This means that you are unable to use your minutes or data if you use your phone in the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Iceland or Liechtenstein. Check with your service provider before travelling and consider turning off roaming on your mobile phone when you are abroad. These changes do not apply to travel to the Republic of Ireland.
Regarding Covid – while all restrictions on travelling into the UK have been removed, each country has its own rules and requirements. You can find out the latest information relating to countries within the EU at 

What is ETIAS and what do I need to do?

At the end of this year, the EU will roll out the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). This is a U.S. style electronic authorisation system for visitors from countries that are not part of the EU, including the UK.
The aim of the ETIAS is to strengthen the borders of the Schengen Area by pre-checking the data of travellers before they enter the EU-zone.
While British citizens do not need a visa to enter or travel within the Schengen Area, from the end of 2022, UK citizens will need to apply for ETIAS before they travel. It is a simple online application form, will cost seven euros and will be valid for three years.

Where can I get help or advice on planning a school trip abroad?

The Department for Education recommends that schools choose a travel/tour provider that holds the LOtC Quality Badge for off-site educational visits or trips. This accreditation, which is held by all members of the School Travel Forum, is the only award that covers risk management, including infection control, and the quality of education provided.

For the latest information and guidelines for organising educational visits or overseas trips, you can contact your local Outdoor Education Adviser. The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel produces the National Guidance relating to overnight educational visits within the UK and your local Outdoor Education Adviser is on hand to provide practical information and advice. You can find details of your local OEA at

The School Travel Forum is the independent industry body for companies providing overseas educational visits. Members hold the LOtC Quality Badge, are ABTA members and are regularly audited for health and safety, and risk management. Their expert staff teams have many decades of experience of supporting school trips and tours, and are available to help you to decide on the best trip and destination for your group. You can find a STF member at the website below.