“I wanted to, but I gave up. It’s dead,” middle school teacher Murielle Bourré told local paper La Voix du Nord.
Schools in northern France used to do regular day-trips to the UK, since it’s just a short ferry-trip away, as well as longer visits, but many teachers say they have stopped this since Brexit.
School trip organisers in northern France have noticed a large drop-off in the number of school trips to the UK. “Before Covid, we used to organise about 40 trips a year. This year, it will be about 10,” said Edward Hisbergues, a school trip organiser from Maubeuge in the Nord département.
According to Hisbergues, Ireland is now the more straightforward option because it is an EU Member State, although trips there are more expensive.
Since October 1st, 2021, any European citizen wanting to visit the UK has needed to hold a passport when previously a national ID card was sufficient.
Since the ID card can be used for travel anywhere within the EU, many French people don’t have passports, meaning that parents need to apply for a passport for their children in order for them to go on a school trip.
For French children aged up to 14, a passport costs €17. For children aged between 15 and 17, it costs €42. An adult passport costs €86. It is often enough for hard-pressed parents to think again, especially for day trips to cities in the south-east of England, such as London, Canterbury, or Brighton.
Meanwhile, children at French schools who hold non-EU passports require a tourist visa, at a further cost of £100 – it also requires a trip to the British Embassy in Paris.
One possible solution – a collective passport, allowing groups of French children to travel to the UK on one document – has reportedly been discussed in government, but plans have not yet seen the light of day.
Pre-Brexit, around 10,000 school trips a year came from France, representing a direct annual input into the UK economy of £100m, according to travel companies.
Detailed post-Brexit figures are not yet available – since travel was heavily restricted by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021 – but anecdotal evidence from trip organisers suggests that the number has fallen.