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Ski trip to Italy for Aylesford School pupils cancelled 24 hours before departure after travel operator failed to find alternative to P&O Ferries

A school ski trip has been cancelled for the third time just 24 hours before the class were due to depart.

Pupils from Aylesford School on Teapot Lane, Aylesford, were due to travel with P&O Ferries tomorrow morning.

Aylesford School on Teapot Lane. Picture: Google Street View
Aylesford School on Teapot Lane. Picture: Google Street View

The week-long trip to Italy, mainly for Year 11 students at the school, was first organised more than two years ago, but was moved on two occasions due to the Covid pandemic.

The group were meant to travel with P&O Ferries but after the firm sacked 800 members of staff last month, there have been no services running from Dover. The travel operator has been unable to find alternative transport.

This morning - with just 24 hours until departure - parents received confirmation that the trip had been cancelled.

One parent, Trevor Kenney, said his 16-year-old son has been left devastated by the news.

The father-of-two said: "Originally, this started off as a Year 9 ski trip. It didn’t happen in Years 9 and 10 because of Covid.

"It was finally set to go ahead and you can just imagine the disappointment, really.

"There’s two elements to this. Obviously, the P&O situation but the tour operator has been totally incompetent.

"If it had been my operation, we would have re-organised weeks ago."

Students had been taking lessons at Chatham Ski Centre as they prepared for the trip.

Mr Kenney, who works in IT, doesn't blame the school for the situation.

The 51-year-old said: "They have done everything they could. I asked at the start of the week and they said, as far as they were aware, everything was fine.

"For it to be cancelled 24 hours before is disappointing, but the school has done nothing wrong."

While staff and some sixth form students were also making up the coach-load heading to Italy, with Mr Kenney estimating around 30 people were due to be going in total, the majority of the pupils were Year 11 students - some who may be moving on at the end of the school year.

"The trip has been (completely) cancelled whereas, before, it’s been cancelled but plans have been put together to put it back on," Mr Kenney said. "But this time, it will be completely cancelled.

"The Year 11 group might never be together again as a group. It would have been great for them to have the trip before their GCSEs.

"It’s disappointing for a number of reasons, really."

But Mr Kenney hoped a positive could come from the situation, saying: "If possible, we would like to turn this from a bad news story to a good story. I don’t know how we do that.

"But it would be good if we could do that."

Head teacher Tanya Kelvey said the school was "frustrated and upset" at the collapse of the holiday.

Aylesford School Head Tanya Kelvie
Aylesford School Head Tanya Kelvie

"The travel company did absolutely everything they could to get us on the trip – they tried Irish Ferries, DFDS and even flights but there was nothing with any room," she said.

"Two of the affected years are taking exams, they have all been in on catch-up courses this week, looking forward to going – only for the rug to be pulled at the last minute."

Ms Kelvey, who has been running the school since 2017, said that the news was a blow to the staff's efforts to bring a sense of normality back to the classroom.

"Our young people in the UK have perhaps suffered more than anyone else, and after two cancellations due to to the pandemic we were so excited to bring them on the trip as part of a return to normal," she explained.

"We're trying to give them a good experience in school and trying to get them back on an even keel... this does nothing for that.

"I want the companies to show the same integrity and good character that my pupils have shown, to be honest."

P&O has been approached for further information.

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