Litcham School pupil, 10, forced to sleep in port after visa error

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A mother was distraught when she found out her 10-year-old daughter had to sleep in a port after an “administrative error” by Litcham School left her without a visa for her school trip.

Joan Bond, 30, of Litcham, was shocked to find out her daughter, Estephanie, who was born in the Philippines, had slept on a sofa in Portsmouth International Port after it was discovered she was missing a vital piece of paperwork for her school trip to France.

Mrs Bond said: “Last year, before I signed the paper to say Estephanie could go on the trip, I explained to the headteacher that she would need a visa because every time we go away she needs one. I was told the school would take care of it.

“On Thursday night I had a call saying she couldn’t go to France and asking if we could pick her up! I burst into tears and my husband was so angry.”

She added: “We were told that Estaphanie and her teacher would be put into a hotel so we waited up all night for a call to say they were safe, but we never heard anything.”

The next morning, Mrs Bond rushed straight into the school to find out where her daughter was and if she was safe, but was refused the teacher’s personal number.

She said: “I was worried sick, so they got her to call me and she told me she had slept on a sofa in the port, not in a hotel.”

Mrs Bond will be filing a formal complaint after speaking to Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board.

Teachers raced against time and managed to secure a visa from the Embassy, allowing Estephanie to board the ferry on Friday afternoon

She said: “They handled things so badly despite having a year to sort this out. We’ve been trying to understand that the school made a mistake, but they handled the situation so badly and they lied to us. That is unacceptable.

“If we had known our daughter was sleeping in the port we would have gone to get her. Now because of their mistake, it has ruined my daughter’s experience on the school trip.”

John Mellor, deputy headteacher, said: “I’m pleased to say that Estephanie has been able to join her classmates on the trip to France and caught the ferry on Friday afternoon. A visa problem delayed her departure and this was down to an administrative error on the part of the school, and we’re very sorry about this. This meant that she and a member of staff stayed in Portsmouth while I and colleagues did everything we could to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

“We have remained in close contact with Estephanie’s parents throughout this situation and apologised for the error. I understand this will have been a frustrating time for them and their daughter and I hope Estephanie will still have been able to enjoy her time in France.

“I must thank staff at the school, the British Council and Brittany Ferries who really pulled out all the stops to sort out this situation and helped get Estephanie on the next available ferry.”

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