Dorset

Pupils' ski trips scrapped over travel firm doubt

Ski trips for dozens of pupils have had to be scrapped over fears bookings were not made by the tour operator.

The Purbeck School in Wareham, Dorset, said it had been forced to pull out of Friday's Switzerland trip. Ferndown Upper School, Dorset, is also affected.

Chris Reynard, Skiing Europe director, blamed "schools being so much in arrears" for the booking problems but both schools said they had paid fully.

Mr Reynard has previously been banned from acting as a company director.

One school said it had fears that travel and accommodation bookings had not been made by Devon-based Skiing Europe.

Dorset County Council is offering legal advice.

'Let down'

Parents of the 42 pupils at The Purbeck School had paid £800 each for Friday's trip to Switzerland.

Richard Holman, the head teacher, said the total loss was in excess of £30,000.

"Clearly we are angry, disappointed and feel very let down," he said.

The school has used Skiing Europe in the past and Mr Holman said it had had a good relationship with the company, which "did have a good reputation".

He said concerns had been raised in February about a Devon school cancelling its trip with Skiiing Europe.

"We couldn't get hold of them [Skiing Europe] so we contacted the coach firm and hotel involved, directly.

"Neither of them were prepared to confirm arrangements had been made," he said.

"Finally, last week I met with the director [of Skiing Europe] and asked him if indeed it was correct that no bookings had been made, and he agreed that it was."

Mr Holman said he had expected to hear from Skiing Europe on Monday to see if any alternative arrangements had been made, but he had not been contacted.

Mr Holman met parents on Monday to explain he "did not feel confident" about the trip because the booking had not been confirmed.

Roberta Daler, the grandmother of one of the pupils at The Purbeck School, said: "I am very angry, it's such a shame for all the children involved.

'Second appeal'

"Many of them have paid for special skiing kit on top of the cost of the trip."

Both The Purbeck School and Ferndown Upper School denied being in arrears with Skiing Europe.

On the issue of previously being banned from acting as a company director, Mr Reynard said in a statement: "On the director's issue, this was largely thrown out on appeal.

"An expert witness had said that there was no case to answer.

"I subsequently won a second appeal, and am currently pursuing the judge concerned through the European Court."

A Dorset County Council spokesperson said: "The county council is currently providing legal advice to schools regarding concerns over their skiing trip arrangements.

"The schools are in contact with parents to keep them fully informed of the situation."

Other school ski trips booked through Skiing Europe were cancelled in February, including Reading School in Berkshire and Tavistock College in Devon.

About 100 children at Reading School were affected. They too were destined for Switzerland and the total loss was an estimated £90,000.

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