School children were forced to wait 14 hours on a coach for a ski trip that never left the country – and now their parents face footing the £100,000 bill.

Pupils at Dorothy Stringer secondary school were looking forward to a holiday to Italy when chaos at Dover saw them stranded for at least 14 hours on a coach trip from hell.

After the trip was canned over further delays and health and safety concerns for coach drivers, a failed insurance claim means that parents are set to lose nearly £1,400 for each child.

Matt Wilmshurst, whose daughter was on the troubled trip, said: “I was fuming when I found out and I’m still livid.

“We’ve all feel like we've just been ripped off.”

Kate Maguire-Rawlinson, whose son was also on the coach, added: “I just feel like we’ve been robbed.

The Argus: Dover Port on April 1Dover Port on April 1 (Image: PA)

“My son was very disappointed and he was really looking forward to the trip. With the current cost-of-living crisis it's something parents can do without but you don’t want to disappoint your children.”

Pupils from the Brighton school set off on the morning of April 1 and arrived at the port at around 7pm expecting to be at their ski resort on Sunday evening. However, the 80 children were still in Dover by the morning of April 2 due to delays caused by Brexit border checks.


Due to the possibility of further delays in Calais and breaks for coach drivers the children would have spent over 45 hours on the bus before they even arrived at their destination. An expected five days of skiing would therefore be cut to just over a day before returning home.

After turning back, travel company Visions in Education submitted a claim to insurance company Axa to recoup the costs of the trip.

However, parents were informed on Wednesday that the claim to AXA had been refused, leaving them out of pocket for the £1,357 fees they have already paid.

Across the 80 students, the total amount of money lost is estimated at around £108,560.

Visions in Education general manager Silvia Vintem said: "It was extremely difficult during that weekend. We were very disappointed for the children, many of whom hadn't travelled for quite a while due to Covid.

The Argus: Dorothy Stringer SchoolDorothy Stringer School

"Because of the delays there was no food or water at the port. The best case scenario would be they would have had to stop as soon as they got to France for 12 hours.

"We are very disappointed with the stance that the insurance company has taken. We are still trying to get refunds for parents."

Ms Vintem added that Visions in Education were continuing to speak with Axa and travel regulators Abta and have encouraged the school to seek a claim on their own insurance.

The tour company argue that while delays are not covered by their insurance, the fact that delays affected health and safety regulations for coach drivers should lead to a payout.

An Axa spokeswoman said: “We are sorry to hear about the circumstances that led to students of Dorothy Stringer School not being able to continue on their recent ski trip and we sympathise with their situation.

"The terms and conditions of the travel insurance policy, which was purchased by the tour operator for the trip, cover specific reasons for cancellation and are outlined in the policy documentation.

"The tour operator’s reason for cancelling the trip was due to long delays experienced at the Port of Dover and unfortunately, this is not covered under the policy terms.

"We recommend that customers thoroughly review policy terms and conditions prior to purchasing travel insurance. In the event a customer is unhappy with the outcome of their claim, we encourage them to follow the industry complaints procedure.”

Axa added that trip cancellation was only covered for serious injury or illness following an accident, side effects of vaccinations, court summons, replacement of a group leader or redundancy.

The trip took place at the same time that Dover Port was inundated with Easter holidaymakers, leading to a critical incident being declared.

Dorothy Stringer School was approached for comment.