During COVID, the Commerce Commission received a slew of complaints from parents about money lost due to cancelled school tours.
To prevent this from happening again and to re-instate confidence in the sector, the School Travel Collective Inc (STC) was formed and protects funds through the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) with fully bonded membership, rigorous and accredited health and safety auditing, and by adopting MOE’s best practice guidelines.
These guidelines are provided for schools “to organise international travel for students, including requirements for insurance cover,” explains MOE Hautū (Leader) of Operations and Integration, Sean Teddy. He told School News: “Agreements about overseas school trips are made between the school Board and the third party, such as travel and insurance providers.
“Boards must be financially responsible, but as crown entities they are not obliged to use specific travel providers or follow our guidance when they’re planning international travel. Deciding when trips will be booked and managing consequences of those decisions if travel is not able to be completed rests with the school Board.
“Schools must be upfront with the families of students attending school-organised trips about what is covered in the cost of the trip and should get agreement from families and the Board if they wish to use a non-bonded travel agent.
He added that “schools may choose to subsidise the cost of trips through fundraising activities or by applying for grants from non-government organisations”.
Confidence restored, schools around the country have begun planning incredible overseas educational tours one more. We spoke with two founding members of STC to find out where they are going, and what opportunities are opening up internationally for our learners.
“There is a saying that “if you do not learn from the past, you are destined to repeat it,” says Stephen Gillingham from Defining Moments: “Many schools and, more specifically, parents were majorly financially impacted because some travel companies did not adhere to best practices in terms of keeping client funds separate from operating funds.
“This is a fundamental requirement to being a full member of the Travel Agents Association of New Zealand (TAANZ) and why we founded the School Travel Collective (STC). There needs to be more advocacy around the MOE guidelines to ensure schools and their communities are best protected by following them. Making sure that the travel provider is both a member of TAANZ and STC will ensure they are dealing with organisations that have financial and health and safety best practice at the core of their operations.”
He says he has noticed that one “major outcome from most overseas student group tours is a heightened awareness of cultural differences and a greater understanding of the importance of tolerance”.
“Many students have had their thinking transformed in light of being exposed to interactions in other cultures and many parents comment about the positive change they have witnessed in their son or daughter on return.”
Telling us about some of the different styles of educational tours schools are planning for 2023, he says: “We specialise in academic group tours, mainly consisting of Social Sciences, Classics, Languages, Business and Media Studies. Vietnam is a destination that has wide appeal as it delivers on so many fronts, particularly in the understanding of another culture along with new foods and traditions.”
Incredibly, he reflects that his tour company has had more than 100 groups travel to Vietnam: “Almost without exception, each student as had their life enriched beyond measure as a result of the experience.”
Especially the fact that if schools choose not to use a TAANZ financially bonded tour operator, then all parents need to be informed and must agree not to use a TAANZ financially bonded company before booking
“Itinerary options popular with schools range from STEM to sports: STEM Tours include hands on workshops, visiting CERN and NASA (space tours are among our most popular!) visiting JPL, SpaceX & NASA. Virtual reality, Robotics and artificial intelligence can be explored as students learn about its societal impacts.
“Business, Commerce, Digital Technology, and Inspiring Leadership Tours are especially popular with students starting to think about career pathways. We don’t just take photos outside buildings; we go inside and learn valuable lessons from business leaders or sit in on famous university lectures.
“Sports Tours are consistently popular as we arrange competitive games and elite coaching for any sport. Tour Time has an exclusive partnership with The Sports Academy formerly known as Kobe Bryant’s Mamba Sports Academy.”
“Classics & History Tours travelling through France, Belgium, Italy & Greece are always popular as visiting these sites brings the students text books to life.”
“Meanwhile, Music and Performing Arts Tours can be organised around competitions, festivals, venues, and performances. Two of our school choirs, prior to COVID, sang mass in the St Peters Basilica, Vatican City and many of our music groups have performed in the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall and the Musikverein in Vienna. The favourite destination for performing arts and dance is LA and New York, where students can have masterclasses with Broadway artists and go to shows in the evening.”
“To ensure your funds and students are safe and have the most memorable tour for 2023 and beyond, schools should only use STC member companies who are all TAANZ financially bonded and licensed school travel experts.”