Summary of information about school excursions and different LA positions

The following information has been provided by some SAPOE Reps in the hope that it may be useful to other SAPOE Reps dealing with similar issues. Please check with the SAPOE Rep who has provided the information before sharing it more widely in case there are any sensitivities about any of the points listed below.

Falkirk (Jane Jackson)

4th September 2020
Falkirk Council have released some guidance for schools on off-site visits: Falkirk Council Off-site Visits Update – August 2020

City of Edinburgh (Andrew Bradshaw)

7th May 2020
Example of insurance vs refund vs credit notes:  All links in with the CMA announcement. Further clarification is expected.

2nd April 2020 and updated on 5th May 2020
The City of Edinburgh Coronavirus Excursions Toolbox Vers 2 16_03_2020 Option 1

Attached the latest tool distributed to our schools. There has been additional and more recent correspondence to Excursions Coordinators regarding insurance and processing of forms etc (attached an example).

We are currently finalising version 3 of our Excursions COVID-19 Toolbox. This provides a ‘roadmap’ for Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021, with position statements, actions and resources to support decisions about excursions. A proposed phased-model for the recovery and renewal phase of excursions is included. Dates always subject to change.

What position is your insurance company currently taking with regards to cancellations?
Favourable via the phone. Awaiting decisions on first batch of claims. Interestingly the insurer stated on the phone in the early days that they would apply the UK Government overseas school trip advice to UK-based ones. I asked for this in writing BUT they would not provide this.

The CMA released a statement on the 30 March, which may result in significant change regarding liaising with insurance and providers.

For most consumer contracts the CMA would expect a consumer to be offered a full refund where:

· a business has cancelled a contract without providing any of the promised goods or services;

· no service is provided by a business, for example because this is prevented by Government public health measures;

· a consumer cancels, or is prevented from receiving any services, because Government public health measures mean they are not allowed to use the services.

Credits and re-booking
Consumers can normally be offered credits, vouchers, re-booking or re-scheduling as an alternative to a refund, but they should not be misled or pressured into doing so, and a refund should still be an option that is just as clearly and easily available. Any restrictions that apply to credits, vouchers, re-booking or re-scheduling, such as the period in which credits must be used or services re-booked, must also be fair and made clear to consumers.
We are incorporating this into our updated advice (Version 3 Excursion Toolbox) – flowchart for dealing with providers and insurers. We have had one response from our insurer and first indications are that the insurer is asking for the school/setting to pursue a refund from the provider. The CMA has not issued guidance on how far forward the criteria above can be applied e.g. if you cancel September. We are currently seeking legal advice on this.

We did find it useful to provide some stock text and key facts to support schools with claims forms. This included advice from Health Protection Scotland not to undertake UK-based school trips (early version of the document).

What position are external providers you use taking with regards to cancellations?
CMA statement above has potential significant implications.

Early days; non-LA centres were saying they are open and leaving it to schools to cancel (can understand this). Then: generally to postpone and move. If not possible, claim on insurance but no refunds. A few disappointing examples and significant issues:

Outward Bound providing advice to schools to claim on LA insurance. ‘Forgot’ to mention their built-in insurance. May have been down to one member of staff. All sorted and claims went via OB. As we have our LA insurance too, insurers will need to resolve potential % split etc.

Big issue: NST use FOGG insurance. Some of our schools did not check the policy (lesson learnt). FOGG insurance will not pay out for the coronavirus – their cancellation part of the insurance will not cover FCO advice nor a pandemic. NST took a firm stance at first but seem to be ‘wobbling’ a little. Significant concerns expressed from schools across UK. We are picking this up as a LA. Can’t really challenge the insurer, but more to do with NST and the School Travel Forum. Interestingly PGL also use FOGG – similar issues for their centres in the UK and overseas. PGL may have issues as this insurance is built-in to the price and you could never separate it (I think this is still the case). Serious issue around selling insurance not fit for purpose. NST marketed their insurance as ‘comprehensive’.

Has your local authority agreed to underwrite any losses that the insurance company refuses to cover?
Very early on CEC released a COVD-19 tracker for all services to record lost income. This is being tracked and used to produce an impact assessment. No firm decision on underwriting unsuccessful claims (nor lost income). This will be re-assessed once we get the first few decisions back from our insurer. Claims are being coordinated centrally so we can see the decisions come back.

We pushed for CEC to approve payments back to parents before schools closed (irrespective of outcome of insurance). An emergency/approved budget line was created and communicated back to schools. This was approved and greatly appreciated by staff and parents. Schools were getting increasingly more concerns from parents.

Are providers still asking for payment for trips scheduled to take place after this initial 12 week lock-down?
We took a policy decision early on for our Benmore and Lagganlia centres to pause payments along a specific timeline. Update communications sent out to CEC and non-CEC schools last week / early this week.

Other providers: based on the information provided – yes.

19th March 2020
UK-Based Excursions (Cat 3 and Cat 4)

For excursions which were departing between NOW and 30 June where EX forms had been submitted, we are contacting groups with the following information:

1) If the excursion is not being postponed i.e. cancelled, you do not need to do anything else (the form will not be processed).

2) If the excursion is postponed and you are not aware of the new date, please resubmit the form and supporting evidence once you have this information confirmed (make relevant changes to the form).

3) If the excursion is postponed and you have a new date (post August 31), please resubmit the form and supporting evidence with the new dates. We will then process and assess the excursion.

This approach is allowing us to manage our work and process the excursions we definitely know are happening (post August 31).

For excursions that were originally planned between 30 June and 31 August, please email As we do not yet know about all of these excursions, we are just collecting key information so we can provide an update as soon as possible (this request was detailed in the most recent guidance).

Midlothian (Bill Stephen)

6th May 2020
What position is your insurance company currently taking with regards to cancellations?

Not a position as such but they are logging and processing our claims for irrecoverable costs via our school travel policy and underwriter initially indicated that claims as a result of COVID were valid, as long as we have approached providers in first instance.( ABI advice is the same now)

What position are external providers you use taking with regards to cancellations?
It’s very mixed – some are following their original booking terms and conditions, some not refunding at all (e.g. PGL) and some giving full refunds

Has your local authority agreed to underwrite any losses that the insurance company refuses to cover?
Yes* – but we don’t anticipate that they will not cover, but we are also providing refunds to school funds now so parents don’t have to await lengthy insurance claims or slow refunds from providers.

Are providers still asking for payment for trips scheduled to take place after this initial 12 week lock-down?
Yes, again only some most are more reasonable

* Happy to discuss this approach over phone and how we made it happen as slightly more to it.

Falkirk (Jane Jackson)

1st May 2020
School trip refund information. This is my current understanding of what the main providers are offering:
  • NST:  Currently issuing schools with statements which outline what is being refunded (varies according to departure date)  and what schools need to claim back via insurance
  • IBT:  Refunding all but deposits.  Have offered the option of transferring deposits as a credit note on to any future booking made by that school if deposits are not claimed/obtained via Council insurance
  • PGL:  No refunds being offered but any payments made can be transferred on to a future booking.  If schools find that numbers are less for the future booking any overpayment will be returned to schools once numbers confirmed.
  • Scottish Centres: :  No refunds being offered but any payments made can be transferred on to a future booking.
  • Inverclyde/Cumbrae:  Full refunds offered
  • Lockerbie Manor: Transfer of payments to future bookings offered. Full refunds available but only if you can provide evidence that you don’t have insurance
  • Lendrick Muir: 30% of payment retained by centre – can be transferred to a future booking or claimed through insurance if no future booking made.

Response to Scottish Government email dated 20th April
Don’t think this will change things significantly.  The reality is that despite what the FCO says travel companies don’t have the capacity to provide refunds for this volume of cancelled trips.  Most tour companies are providing some level of refund and asking claims to be made through LA insurance for the rest, to spread the financial load. Initially the FCO advice was causing issues in negotiations with companies/insurance and I guess the revised statement provides clarity but I don’t think it will change the impact.

14th April
All trips until the end of June cancelled.Where schools had an existing booking with the same provider for next year they transferred all payments to the future booking – LA looking at how to support schools with refunding this year’s parents

For Overseas Visits we initially told schools to keep up payments for trips that were due to take place in May/June (despite us knowing they would not go ahead) in the hope that the providers would need to cancel and pay out.  It became apparent fairly soon that providers would not be able to do this so we instructed schools to cancel, no further payments would be made,

Schools have been asked to try to negotiate refunds for all but deposits and claims to Council insurance, for anything not refunded, are being made when departure date within 30 days

Our two most frequently used providers IBT and NST seem to be complying with refunding all but deposits

Insurance claims still in early stages so no update as to their success

At the moment our LA has not agreed to underwrite any losses and is not supporting schools with issuing refunds to parents despite several attempts to get them to do this.

Aberdeenshire (Niall Ritchie)

21st April 2020
What position is your insurance company currently taking with regards to cancellations?
My colleague dealing with insurance checked with our broker and this is the official line. We had conflicting information at the outset as we were advised that as trips were being cancelled due to Government advice/regulation(?) cover may have been excluded from the policy. This then changed and the advice was that each school should submit their own claims via the online link to AIG who were our school journey insurance provider up until 1st April. Claims will be for them as the incumbent insurer at time of booking. The insurers are looking at each and every case on its own merits and the policy is responding as it should. We will request a claims experience report further down the line to find out how many claims have been successful.

What position are external providers you use taking with regards to cancellations?
Many await clarification from ABTA but generally local authorities are being asked to intimate claims to their own insurer. There seems to be a perception that special cover may be in place for “this type of unforeseen event”. This is incorrect. There have been difficulties making contact with insurers due to closure as a result of lockdown. Discussion is ongoing re the service being provided. Most providers are not offering refunds though we are aware of one returning deposits and others offering vouchers for some future date.

A number of trips have been re-booked and money transferred usually to well into the new school year. There are risks with this approach.

Has your local authority agreed to underwrite any losses that the insurance company refuses to cover?
There is no position on this at the moment.

Are providers still asking for payment for trips scheduled to take place after this initial 12 week lock-down?
There has been some talk of this but it is unclear at present due to the ongoing closures.

East Dunbartonshire (Alan Smith)

Response to Scottish Government email dated 20th April
Trips on hold until the start of next term. Wording in the Scottish Government statement is unhelpful as ABTA and tour operators are using it to try and hold on to funds and are holding the schools to ransom with payments for up coming trips and forcing the authority’s hand to either pay or cancel.

12th March 2020
A decision has been taken to cancel all non essential educational activities : this includes school residential trips, both abroad and in this country, all concerts and parents’ meetings from Monday 16 March.

Scottish Government

20th April 2020
COVID-19: updated travel guidance for the education sector.

We are aware that some of you have experienced challenges in securing refunds for planned educational trips overseas which have had to be cancelled due to Covid 19.  The UK Government has now updated its advice, both in respect of FCO travel advice and with regard to educational trips.

Please see the following link to travel guidance for the education sector which was published on 25th March 2020:

This guidance advises against all overseas education trips for an indefinite period of time.  It also advises against domestic visits which, while not supported by FCO travel advice, should not now take place as they would not be compatible with current social distancing requirements.

I would ask that you disseminate this as a priority to all educational settings so that they are aware of this latest advice.

Scottish Borders (Gordon Smith)

17th March 2020
– All residentials cancelled (UK and Foreign) until end of August 2020
– All day visits away from school cancelled
– Day based school activity continues (Forest Schools, Bikeability, PE etc.)
– Adult training and CPD courses cancelled

Fife (Ali Dreyer)

16th March 2020
From Fife overseas trips are cancelled as per government advice.
This weeks UK trips have gone ahead but I expect this will be reviewed again for next week.

East Lothian (Liz Brookes)

16th March 2020
East Lothian Letter to parents 16 March 2020