The UK Government is to roll back immigration rules for children on school trips from France.
The move will allow pupils to use their national identity cards for entry at the British border instead of requiring a passport.
In a further effort to ease up on post-Brexit border bureaucracy, French schoolchildren’s non-European Union classmates will no longer need visas when travelling with them.
The decision should see an end to the red-tape difficulties that led one French teacher to describe dealing with the UK Home Office as “like something out of a Kafka novel”.
Before Brexit, EU-based children on school trips could travel to the UK on a group visa using the bloc’s “list of travellers” scheme, with some using national ID cards instead of a passport.
Once the British Government left the scheme, all EU children were required to travel with a passport and all non-EU children living in the bloc had to apply for a visa – at a cost of €120 per application.
That situation led to some children being left behind and many Europe-based schools cancelling trips.
The revised rules, which will require legislative change, are expected to be introduced in the coming months and if trialled successfully could be extended to include other EU Member States.
The decision follows discussions earlier this year between UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron at a summit in March, where they pledged to ease the travel of school groups.
At that time, Fadila Mérioua, international section head at Collège les Hauts Grillets in Paris, told the Financial Times that three children booked on a four-day trip to Stratford-upon-Avon but who did not hold EU passports had their visa applications refused.
Two rejections said the children had failed to prove they had “parental consent” for the trip, despite travelling to visa interviews with their parents and signing an online parental consent form with the school.
“I have been a teacher for 26 years, and never seen anything like this. It was really like something out of a Kafka novel,” Mérioua said.
The announcement of the revised rules follows intense lobbying by education travel businesses after surveys showed that the new immigration rules for pupils on school trips to the UK since Brexit had caused a significant decline in the industry.
Emma English, executive director of the British Educational Travel Association (BETA), said the industry, which BETA estimates is worth at least £1.5 billion a year to the UK economy, would be pushing for implementation of the new rules as quickly as possible.
“This would be greatly, greatly welcomed from all sides of the industry,” she said.
“It can’t come soon enough and the sooner it can be rolled out to include other EU countries the better for everyone.”