Overseas school trips and exchanges
This guidance provides resources, advice and best practice for schools taking overseas trips.
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- Education outside the classroom guidance
- Things to think about for your initial planning
- Before you leave
- During the trip
- Required ratios
- Temporary accommodation
- Risk assessment and emergencies
- More information
'Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC) Guidelines: Bringing the Curriculum Alive' is a document that supports the teaching and learning of the national curriculum.
It has been developed to align with:
- The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
- The Vulnerable Children Act 2014
- The Health and Safety at Work (Adventure Activities) Regulations 2016
The toolkit and and safety management plan contain a selection of sample forms and templates that reflect the current good practices and procedures for EOTC safety. These tools will to assist you in managing your trip and will help you meet your legal requirements and good practice responsibilities.
This information outlines good practice for the safety of students and successful learning outcomes while on an overseas school trip. It has been compiled as guidance only and should not be considered a substitute for legal or professional assessment of risks and requirements.
For advice on hosting visitors from overseas, see our guidance about international student visitors.
Know your school's policies and procedures
Ensure you are following any existing procedures laid down by the school. Your school will have a staff member responsible for ensuring that school activities are compliant with these policies.
If you are taking international students overseas, make sure you are also following the requirements of the Code of Practice.
Understand your legal obligations
Make sure you know what your obligations are when students are in your care. These will be outlined in the policies set by your school board.
You will find helpful information about this on student wellbeing page and on pages 41-50 and 52 of the education outside the classroom (EOTC) guidelines.
Familiarise yourself with your school’s emergency plan
Your school will have an emergency management plan in place for emergencies, traumatic incidents, evacuations and lockdowns.
These may be useful for planning emergency procedures while overseas.
For more about emergency plans, see the advice below on risk assessments and emergency plans.
Identify any potential health and safety risks
As part of your risk assessment, you need to be aware of health and safety risks and take appropriate action.
- Make sure you have someone who is first aid certified.
- Collect emergency contacts and health information for all students, staff and other adults on the trip.
For more information about how to undertake a risk assessment, see the information below and refer to the EOTC guidelines.
Learn about the destination and your accommodation
- If you have not already visited the destination, ask about inspection visits.
- If you know of another school that has been to the location before, consider contacting them to ask about their experience.
- Check the SafeTravel website for up-to-date information about the destination. We recommend registering all students, staff, and other adults with SafeTravel before travelling.
Staff and supervision
Make sure there is an appropriate balance in terms of gender, experience and skills – for example, you should have someone in the group who holds a current first aid certificate.
See chapter 4 of the EOTC guidelines and Module 5 of the ako LMS for more information.
- See guidance below about appropriate adult-to-student ratios.
- If parents or non-school staff will be supervising students, make sure you are familiar with them and make sure they are comfortable and appropriately prepared to have students in their care.
Get travel insurance
All students, staff and other adults should have appropriate insurance, including travel insurance (see below for more detail).
When choosing an insurance provider, ensure you make informed choices and that you clearly explain these to families.
Choose a bonded travel company
We recommend that you chose a bonded travel agent to protect against financial losses if refunds are needed.
Travel agents that are bonded through either the Travel Agents Association New Zealand (TAANZ) or the International Air Transport Association (IATA) will provide financial protection if the travel agent collapses and cannot provide refunds.
When you choose a travel agent who is not a member of TAANZ or IATA, there is a higher risk of losing most of any deposits for travel if the agent has financial difficulty.
You should disclose the risk of non-bonded travel agents to families and the boards, and get agreements from them if you use a non-bonded agent.
Passports and visa requirements
Make sure that all students, staff and other adults on the trip:
- have passports that are valid for at least 6 months from departure
- have the appropriate visas to leave and re-enter New Zealand (if not citizens).
Check the visa and entry requirements for the destination country and ensure that all people on the trip have appropriate visas if needed.
Some people on the trip may have passports from another country, so they may require different visas than those with a New Zealand passport.
For more information see the SafeTravel website. You can check entry requirements with your travel agent or using the tool on the Air New Zealand website.
Communicate what the cost of the trip will include
You must clearly communicate with students and family which activities or amenities are included in the cost and which are additional. For example, ski trip prices often only cover the cost of two-hour morning lessons; afternoon lessons are extra.
If food, transport, or accommodation are not included in the cost of the trip, you must ensure that all students, staff, and other adults on the trip are able to cover the costs of these things themselves.
Make sure the trip is suitable for all students
Take account of age, gender, accessibility and diverse needs.
- whether all students will be able to fully participate in the activities planned
- the cultural or religious backgrounds of the people on the trip or any past experiences that may be significant and make sure that all activities are appropriately respectful.
See the guides on the Inclusive Education website recognising and planning for the needs of diverse learners.
Consider a payment schedule
Families may find it difficult to cover the full costs of a trip in one payment. You can set up a payment schedule to provide options for families to pay in instalments. Any payment schedule should be outlined with the school and the family as part of the agreement to attend the trip or exchange.
If staff, students, or other adults on the trip will be given money to spend while away, make sure they keep receipts or a record of their expenses.
What to communicate
Make sure you are regularly communicating with parents.
You will need to clearly outline:
- details of the staff and adults who will be accompanying the trip
- what the payment schedule is and how much it is, including a clear indication if deposits are non-returnable (for example, for travel, accommodation, activities)
- details of what is and what is not covered by the cost
- decisions about insurance and what is included/excluded
- whether the travel agent is bonded, and the risks of a non-bonded agent
- advice on appropriate clothing and pocket money
- the itinerary, including departure and arrival details
- accommodation details
- any possible dangers and risks you have identified – including cancellations
- the school’s emergency plan
- discipline and appropriate sanctions
- details of travel arrangements, including any en route accommodation
- the date of the family information evening (if any)
- how you will provide receipts or cost breakdowns for payments made by families.
What information and documents to collect
You will need the following information and documentation from families and students:
- an emergency contact name and number both at home and away
- a consent form which details any special medical and diet information and gives permission to take appropriate emergency measures
- passport and visa details
- any medical and travel insurance requirements.
Involve staff and supervisors
Teamwork and leadership are vital ingredients for a successful trip.
- Have regular team meetings and ensure all staff are consulted about arrangements.
- If possible, include families in some of these conversations, particularly for longer or overseas trips.
Regularly update your risk assessment
Make sure you regularly update your risk assessment to meet individual students' needs.
Meet with relevant staff and family members if you are concerned about a student. For example, an additional member of staff might be needed to assist with students with disabilities or other learning needs.
Find out more about supporting students with diverse needs on the learning support page.
- Regularly do a headcount of students, particularly when getting on and off transport. Always get another member of staff to check.
- Ensure reasonable supervision at all times. Allocate groups of students to individual staff members; this helps rapid communication of information.
- Ensure students understand and apply travel safety requirements, for example, using seat belts on coaches.
- Always keep students informed of reasons for delays or sudden changes of plan. This will help keep students calm if there are unexpected changes and they can update their guardians if necessary.
- Make sure students are aware of Customs and biosecurity requirements and the penalties that underpin them before departure and for the return trip to New Zealand.
- On arrival at the accommodation, update your risk assessment. Consider a fire practice if you can do so without disturbing other guests, and check entries and exits to rooms.
- Take care when allocating students to rooms. There needs to be a balance between students’ preferences and the need to ensure good order and safety.
- Let students know who they can talk to privately if they have concerns or are feeling unsafe. Consider informing students and families about room allocations before the trip if possible.
- Take similar care in allocating staff members and other adults.
- Advise students to take care of their belongings and offer to lock valuables in staff rooms or in the hotel safe.
- Make sure rooms are checked for pre-existing damage and report it to the accommodation manager.
- Arrange a meeting with students to reinforce the code of conduct, identify out-of-bounds areas, map out the programme for the week and agree on bedtimes.
- Let the tour reps or hotel managers know of any concerns you may have, particularly if you think they compromise student safety.
- Do not change the planned programme or accept enforced changes without good reason. If possible, communicate any changes to parents.
- Consider the insurance implications of your liability as a party leader. For example, many insurance companies do not cover human error. This may be covered by school insurance for professional liability.
- If you are unsure of how to deal with a problem on the trip, consult your team or contact your school for advice. A school should ideally provide an emergency contact so that you can make contact in the event of an emergency.
- In the last stages of the journey home, ensure that students can contact home to provide an expected time of arrival.
- On arrival, staff must stay with students until they are collected.
- Contact family members if they are late to pick up a student.
Insurance should cover the following aspects at a minimum.
- Medical expenses incurred for the treatment of illness and/or injury that requires surgery and/or hospitalisation – unlimited sum insured.
- Medical evacuation related to serious illness and injuries – unlimited sum insured, include emergency dental treatment.
- Costs for family members’ travel in the event that the student suffers a serious illness or injury.
Repatriation, search and rescue
- Repatriation and expatriation in the event a student has to return home following an injury or illness.
- Return of mortal remains/funeral expenses - including travel costs for family members, repatriation of remains and funeral costs, search-and-rescue operation costs incurred to locate the insured.
Travel into and out of New Zealand
- Missed flights or delays for travel into and out of New Zealand.
- Medical expenses incurred for the treatment of an illness and injury incurred during the travel.
- Negligence causing bodily injury (including death) of another person or loss of or damage to property.
Party leader liability
Depending on the circumstances, party leader liability may not be covered by travel insurance but may be by Risk Management Scheme or private insurance programme for schools.
We recommend you check the insurance policy with your insurance providers. Situations may include but not limited to costs from missed flights and transport or misjudgements by a party leader.
Depending on the nature, cost, and length of the trip, you might consider insurance to cover unforeseen circumstances such as natural disasters, event cancellation or global pandemic.
Unforeseen circumstances insurance is not essential but you may want to consider it for trips with high costs, reliance on external bodies, tight timeframes or higher risks.
A ratio compares the number of skilled and experienced supervisors to the number of students or participants involved in an event.
Ratios will vary according to the age and needs of students, the nature of the activity, the location, the competence of the students and the staff involved.
See chapter 4 of the EOTC guidelines:
Ratios for overseas trips, remote environments or hazardous activities should match the increased level of risk involved.
If in doubt, be conservative and/or seek professional advice when deciding on an appropriate supervision plan, including ratios.
A list of professional national bodies can be found here:
When a student or group is not able to stay at accommodation arranged by their school/trip organiser for any reason, they may need to stay somewhere else temporarily.
Reasons to need temporary accommodation include (but not limited to):
- booked flights/transport have been delayed/cancelled
- student(s) had urgent medical treatments
- trips have been disturbed by national disasters/civil unrest.
Trip organisers must take a robust approach to determine that temporary accommodation and accompanying supervision is suitable.
This includes but is not limited to:
- assessing the suitability
- ensuring that students have appropriate supervision
- ensuring the group students have an appropriate ratio of supervisors
- monitoring and managing any risks to the safety of students.
Risk management will help to reduce the likelihood and severity of serious and adverse health and safety outcomes when hosting or taking a school trip.
Schools and trip leaders need to ensure that risks are known, assessed and managed.
You can use this risk management checklist to help you get started. Your school board should also have a set of health and safety guidelines for you to follow.
For more information about how to conduct a risk assessment please use the following two links:
Responding after an emergency
If you have an extreme event while on a school trip it can affect students, staff, families and communities.
You can find resources about responses to extreme events on the Ministry website below.
This guidance has been compiled for your information only. It should not be treated as an exhaustive statement on the subject, nor should it be considered as a substitute for legal or professional service.
The information is provided on the basis that you are responsible for making your own assessment of the topics discussed. The Ministry expressly disclaims all liability (including but not limited to liability for negligence) for errors or omissions of any kind whatsoever or for any loss (including direct and indirect losses), damages or other consequences which may arise from your reliance on the material contained in the guidance notes.
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