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International Student Travel, Trips and Events - Guidance from World Travel Protection

Kevin Lloyd

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As part of our recent Webinar Series - Returning to Normal in COVID Times at International Schools – Kevin Lloyd of The School Collaborative held a discussion with Ben Cooper of World Travel Protection to address a variety of concepts on how schools can support student travel, trips and events, including:  Happy Students at London Bridge

  • Duty of Care for schools
  • Insurance and supporting resources
  • Risk assessments
  • Awareness of changing environments during travel
  • Communications
  • Bus travel

Our panel included: 

  • Ben Cooper – International Travel Risk Management Expert – World Travel Protection
  • Kevin Lloyd – Founder – Together School

During the pandemic international schools are all in the same storm, albeit in different boats – as such to help us navigate, sessions such as this hosted by The School Collaborative can help to share and learn.
International trips and events with schools from other locations are a main part of the experience attending an international school. Since the start of the pandemic, these have all come to a halt and most schools are expecting a return of these experiences before the winter of 2021/22.  

Risk Assessment for International Trips
Unlike a local or domestic trip, where many of the risks can be easily identified and planned for, international trips have many more uncertainties.  Many resources exist that schools can draw upon; however, these are fragmented, require a proactive effort, and require interpretation to effectively assess and plan to mitigate risks.
Controlled or uncontrolled environments: When sending students on a school trip, it is important to consider whether the environment that your students and staff will be in is controlled or uncontrolled as this will impact your overall assessment.  In most cases, the situation will be mixed. For example, there will be an uncontrolled route to a destination, then at the destination they may have a controlled environment, such as a host school or a hotel.

Duty of Care
Schools have a “Duty of Care” at all times, including whilst on school trips that must be considered.  In doing so, schools need to avoid negligence when planning trips.  Risk assessment and mitigation are important elements of preparation for these trips.

  • Reasonably foreseeable: Schools need to consider what are the risks specific to the location they’re travelling
  • Reasonably practicable: Schools need to consider what can be reasonably mitigated and what cannot. 

Schools generally have an obligation to consider the “reasonably foreseeable risks”, to mitigate the “reasonably practicable risks” and finally to understand those that remain.  As part of the school’s planning and preparation, they should have tools and processes in place to address issues, especially the unmitigated risks that remain. Resources exist that can provide expertise in planning, preparation and support such as those of World Travel Protection. They can remove a great deal of these concern as well as reduce the time and resources needed from the schools to plan for the trip .
Schools need to have their travel and medical insurances in place, which mitigates most of the financial risk. Your insurance may also provide some support to help manage incidents when they arise at your destination.  Rarely, however, does insurance help you before the trip begins. Preparation is a major challenge when travelling into overseas environment, and now more complex than ever with COVID-19 and other related risks that need to be mitigated and monitored. 
Schools should consider travel risk mitigation solutions that include support for both pre-trip preparation as well as for incidents that occur during the trip and at the destination.  These resources with global access to expertise, information, and technology, can help schools to better assess risks, plan travel, and manage trips in ways that mitigates risks and provides support when incidents occur. It also helps to and give parents peace-of-mind and protect the school’s reputation.  
The impact of COVID-19
COVID-19 has highlighted how fast conditions can change.  Regulations, procedures, etc., can change from one day to the next and this has raised concerns as to how schools will handle these challenges on a trip.  Although COVID-19 has made schools focus more on the need to prepare, the requirement is really the same now as it has always been. After the pandemic, these same efforts must remain in place too.
One significant challenge that COVID-19 has created is that schools are challenged to keep on top of all the information that exists, and this is expected to remain the case for the foreseeable future.  Therefore, having a resource available that provides global access to the current local threat and regulations related to COVID-19 is so important for schools.
For any trip, schools should have in place an effective means to communicate with all parties in the community. Incidents happen, parents worry and communicating effectively is of paramount importance, especially when children are involved.  
Social media is fast and students, if they have access to it, will share information that may be harmful to the situation and cause undue stress for those involved.  Being able to inform school management, students, staff, and families quickly via official school channels is very important.  It builds trust, reassures parents, limits rumours and maintains the trust and reputation of the school.  

Note that schools should not rely upon social media or tools such as WhatsApp – these tools are not official channels and are not owned by the school, so data and information can get out to people who should not have it. 
Considerations for bus transportation:

  • Consider how you vet the bus operator, drivers, etc.
  • Plan your journey as much as possible in advance – such as planning stops, bathroom breaks, food breaks, etc. so you’re not stopping at a random location.
  • How are you keeping track of the students on the bus – when they get off / get back on, etc.?  Always know the status of your students to be sure you have not lost a child.
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