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Fury as Camps International refuses Ballard schoolchildren full cancelled trip refund

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ANGRY parent and pupils have hit out at a tour operator that is refusing to refund £25,000 after the cancellation of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Kenya.

Thirteen youngsters at independent Ballard School in New Milton had been due to make the expedition this summer and have so far each paid at least £2,150 of the cost, about half the total.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in the African nation being red-listed by the UK and the school has opted to cancel – yet they say Ringwood-based tour operator Camps International has told them it will not refund all of their money.

Brits travelling back from red-list countries must quarantine in a government-approved hotel for 10 days. Non-UK citizens will be refused entry.

Maisie Daniels' fundraising efforts were in vain (46876659)
Maisie Daniels' fundraising efforts were in vain (46876659)

Parent Elaine Daniels said she was "devastated" for her 15-year-old daughter Maisie, who won an academic scholarship to attend Ballard and raised most of the money herself over 18 months through a series of fundraising events.

The trip was initially booked in mid-2019, with Elaine paying a £400 deposit before Maisie paid £1,720 in two tranches later that year. A third payment of £2,160 had been due on 1st May this year.

Elaine claimed Camps International has said it will keep around £2,200 per child to cover its costs, although parents who paid by direct debit can get refunds on payments over 50% of the total.

While state schools can claim £2,160 per child in government insurance kept back by Camps International, independent schools and further education colleges are not covered.

Elaine added that the operator has said it will not return any more money, even if Kenya remains on the UK red list.

Pupils at Ballard School are set to lose out (46873843)
Pupils at Ballard School are set to lose out (46873843)

She explained Camps International said she could defer the trip – but she saw no point since her daughter would no longer be at Ballard by the time it took place. She has branded the operator's communication "appalling".

Elaine said when she went online to research the flights for the trip "they did not exist", and Camps International had not done any Covid-19 risk assessments or detailed arrangements for vaccinations or quarantine.

Ballard School confirmed in a statement that it cancelled the trip due to the "extraordinary" pandemic situation.

It added: "The school is pressing Camps International to accept the reality of the situation, to agree that the trip cannot go ahead and consequently refund the deposits the parents and pupils have paid."

Camps International told the A&T it was "sympathetic to the fact that real concerns exist", and claimed it had been in "regular communications" with Ballard School.

It added: "The school, having reviewed the options that have been made available to them since February to either cancel or defer to 2022, have already made the early decision to cancel the expedition on behalf of their participants.

"In line with our terms, cancellation at this time is subject to a cancellation fee which we are entitled to retain in respect of non-recoverable costs.

"The school are aware of this as they are party to the expedition terms as these are educational trips and, as such, key decisions like this are normally made by the school.

"We share in the school's, parents' and their students' sadness and disappointment that they are not continuing with their planned expedition to Kenya."

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