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'Money grabbing' travel firm under fire over West Norfolk students' Kenya trip stalemate




West Norfolk school students are being forced to pay thousands within days for an expedition to Kenya that may not take place, it was claimed yesterday.

A parent has called for the trip by pupils from St Clement’s High School to be cancelled and claimed the organisers, Camps International, don’t care about the youngsters affected.

The company says it is “sympathetic” and trips can be deferred or cancelled.

St Clements High School students have been left in limbo by the coronavirus restrictions which have put their Kenya expedition in doubt (46453761)
St Clements High School students have been left in limbo by the coronavirus restrictions which have put their Kenya expedition in doubt (46453761)

But Kerry-Ann Lawrence, whose 14-year-old son Austin is among the group due to take part, says they are being expected to pay £2,000 each by next Saturday, May 1, or risk losing the money they’ve already paid.

She said: “I honestly don’t think they do care any more. I get the feeling it’s all about money grabbing now.”

Around 10 students from the Terrington St Clement school are currently due to take part in the trip, which was arranged prior to the coronavirus crisis.

The group has organised a range of fundraising activities to collect the £4,500 needed for each of them to pay for both the four week trip and the necessary injections to travel to the East African country.

But Kenya is currently on the government’s red list of countries, meaning Britons who travel there will have to isolate in a government-approved facility for 10 days when they return, at a further cost of £1,750 each.

They would also be expected to quarantine on arrival in Kenya.

Although schools could be allowed to take pupils on residential trips within the UK from mid-May, subject to further easing of the Covid-19 restrictions, there is currently no date for when overseas trips may be allowed.

Mrs Lawrence, of Walpole Cross Keys, said Camps International had already refused a request from headteachers whose pupils are affected by the issue to postpone final payments until the start of June, after the next planned review of the restrictions.

She says that, if they don’t pay, they will lose the £2,000 they’ve already paid, and could see the cost of the trip double if they do, because of the quarantine requirements.

She described the situation as “totally unacceptable”, and warns parents right across the country are facing a similar dilemma.

She added: “Camps International are not doing the right thing and cancelling the trip. They do not have the health and safety of the students in their care as a priority.”

St Clement’s headteacher Nigel Willingham said yesterday: “We have been left frustrated by Camps International’s lack of flexibility on this issue.

“We will continue to lobby Camps International, and work with our insurance provider in order to find a solution in the short term for students, parents and the school.”

But Camps International said in a statement: “Although we cannot comment on individual travellers’ status with regards to upcoming school expeditions, we are sympathetic to the fact that real concerns exist for some schools and families.

“This is why we have been working with schools since January to collaborate on options to relieve uncertainty and reduce pressure of finances in advance of any travel advisories, restrictive or unrestrictive, which may or may not come into force.

“Many schools due to travel this summer have now made an early decision to either cancel or defer to 2022.

“The opportunity to cancel or defer the trip, and alleviate any need for further payments and planning, is currently with the school.”

However, an update posted on its website last Tuesday said families should continue to prepare for the trips as scheduled where a school was still “considering its
options.”

The company also runs trips to other current red list countries, including Ecuador, Peru in South America and Tanzania in Africa.



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