Devon

Cancelled Skiing Europe school trip investigated

Skiing - generic
Image caption Reading School in Berkshire also cancelled its trip at the last moment because of safety fears

The circumstances surrounding the last-minute cancellation of a school's skiing trip is being investigated.

Tavistock College said it was forced to pull out because it feared there would be no accommodation for the 129 pupils and staff.

Devon tour operator Skiing Europe has admitted planned accommodation was lost, but said alternative arrangements had been made.

Devon County Council, which approved Skiing Europe, is investigating.

Parents of the 112 pupils at Tavistock College had paid £800 each for the half-term trip, but just 15 minutes before the coaches were due to leave on Friday, the school pulled out.

No-one from the school was available to comment, but parents told BBC News head teacher Helen Salmon could not get assurances from the tour operator that the accommodation was guaranteed.

She said the school had a duty to protect and safeguard the children in its care and she intended to take legal advice from the county council, who approved Skiing Europe.

At least two other school ski trips booked through Skiing Europe have also been cancelled this week, including Reading School in Berkshire.

Its principal John Weeds said he had to disappoint 100 of his pupils the night before they were due to start the skiing holiday.

'Right decision'

"I think with any excursion, visits abroad, the first duty of the head is to ensure that the boys, any of the students and staff going are safe first and foremost and I just couldn't make that guarantee," Mr Weeks said.

"I'm hugely apologetic for it coming so late in the day but do believe it was the right decision."

But the tour operator, which is based in Colyton, said the cancellations were not necessary.

In a statement to the BBC, Chris Reynard, from the firm, said: "We are extremely upset at the disappointment for the children.

"We did not cancel the trips. We lost accommodation in a very large hotel only one day before departure.

"However, all this accommodation had been very suitably replaced."

'Shock and anger'

Devon County Council said Skiing Europe was approved because it met the necessary criteria, but the council said it had begun its own joint investigation with Trading Standards.

The Tavistock College students, meanwhile, have had to come to terms with their disappointment and, in some cases, make alternative half-term plans.

Liam Woodridge, 15, said his initial shock had turned to anger that a trip booked and paid for last year should come to such an abrupt end.

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Davis said both her parents had booked a holiday while she was due to be away with the school.

"It was perfect because I was going to go off skiing in Switzerland while my parents were in France... but now my brother's had to take time off work.

"It's horrible - we've been looking forward to this for about a year."

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