UK is relaxing entry rules for French students on school trips

Plans have been announced to ease travel restrictions for French pupils coming to the UK on school trips.


New plans to simplify travel for French school parties to the UK were unveiled on Thursday after the number of trips plummeted following Brexit.

School trips to the UK have been a popular choice for schools in France for decades. Pre-Brexit, around 10,000 trips a year were organised by French schools hopeful of giving their students a chance to see tourist attractions and practise their English.

Travel companies estimate that the school trips contributed around £100 million per year (around €116 million) to the UK economy.

French school trips into the UK have plummeted

Following the end of the Brexit transition period, when new rules for travel came into effect, the numbers of school trips to the UK from France plummeted.

EU citizens now need a passport, rather than an ID card, to enter into the UK. Any pupils travelling from France who are not EU citizens would require a visa to travel.

Since around half of French people don’t have a passport on – because they don’t need one to travel within the EU – it became an increasingly challenging feat to take groups of children to the UK.

Schools were forced to face leaving pupils behind or require families to pay up to £100 (around €116) to undergo the visa process at the British Embassy in Paris.

UK and French leaders discuss opening travel

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron met in March to discuss opening up travel to the UK for French students. They issued a statement saying that,cooperation and policy exchanges on school education, facilitation of school trips and exchanges, including in the field of vocational education, opportunities for language learning will be expanded.”

The UK has committed to easing travel for school trips from France and has made assurances that “appropriate mechanisms” were in place for “visa free travel for children travelling on organised school trips from the United Kingdom and to facilitate the passage of those groups through the border.”

On Thursday, plans went before the UK Parliament to allow school groups to travel with ID cards. Non-EU students will also only also be exempt from visa requirements, only needing a passport to travel.

“I am happy to know that no more children will be sidelined because of their nationality,” Edward Hisbergues, the director of PG Trips, a travel company with clients who suffered under the post-Brexit regime, told the Financial Times.

“I am happy to know that France and the United Kingdom are getting closer again.”

The new rules are due to come into effect on 28 December 2023 and will apply to people 18 and under who are studying at a school or educational institution in France registered with the French Ministry of Education.

Schools must show they are entering the UK as a party of five or more students.

Relaxed rules extended to other EU member states

If successfully trialled between the UK and France, the revised rules could be extended to other EU member states.

Surveys have shown school trips to the UK from the EU have fallen by up to two-thirds in the year after Brexit’s border controls were introduced.

Emma English, executive director of the British Educational Travel Association, said a relaxing of the rules would be “greatly, greatly welcomed from all sides of the industry.”

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