Going away with the school to a European destination is one of those rights of passage which we all look back on so fondly when we remember our schooldays. Whether it’s skiing in the French Alps or a history trip to the battlefields of Belgium, this sort of trip is both educational and a social experience for all concerned. Parents wave their kids off hoping that they’ll have a great experience, but that more importantly they’ll be safe and well when away from home. Depending on the school, and the location of the school trip, parents may have to take on a little more responsibility. Make sure that the teacher has a valid DBS Check.
Those of us who went abroad on school trips in the 1980s or 1990s will remember the E111 form – a piece of paper which you got from the Post Office and which once competed, allowed the holder to access state healthcare across most European countries. In the past, teachers would dish out the forms, parents would complete them, and the teacher would then retain all of the paperwork. In 2005 the system changed, and the E111 form system was replaced by the EHIC, the European Health Insurance Card. Unlike the E111 which was a paper form, the EHIC has to be applied for online, and rather than one E111 form covering the whole family, each member of the family needs a separate EHIC. As the application has to be done online, there is a short lead time between applying for the card and receiving it in the post, so make sure you don’t leave it until the last minute or your child might be travelling without one. Children under the age of 16 can’t apply for their own EHICs, so you will have to do this for them.
What the EHIC will cover
The EHIC system is all about giving people access to state healthcare on the same basis as a resident. Many people think this means free healthcare as the NHS is free, but that is not the case. Every country has its own system, so check online to see what is covered for the country being visited. Teachers should have done this already, and should have purchased additional travel insurance to cover the extras which EHIC won’t pay for, such as transport home in an emergency, theft, loss of passports and in some countries, ambulance transfers and mountain rescue. Parents may be asked to contribute towards medical costs if their child has to be treated in hospital, but again this will depend on the country being visited. EHIC, unlike many travel insurance policies, will cover pre-existing medical conditions – worth knowing if your child is diabetic or asthmatic.
We all know teenagers think they are invincible, and that nothing could ever happen on a school trip. Teachers will have carried out a comprehensive risk assessment for the trip, and parents can ask to see this. Remind your kids of their responsibilities too, and make the teachers aware of any medical conditions.