Teachers are today being urged to book school travel with specialist companies approved by Abta.

The advice follows pupils from a school in Kent losing tens of thousands of pounds raised for a trip to Mount Kilimanjaro, when the company arranging the expedition collapsed almost a year ago.

The travel association released new research findings revealing that almost three quarters (73%) of UK families expect a company that organises school travel to be an Abta member.

It also pointed out that if schools organise trips themselves by arranging their own bookings for transport, accommodation and other services, they might be liable under the package travel regulations. This means that they would have all of the responsibilities of a travel company – both legal and financial.

There have been cases where school trips were cancelled and parents lost money when the trip was not covered by the regulations.

Under the package travel regulations the travel firm is responsible for sorting out any problems and making sure that if the trip cannot go ahead for any reason either an alternative is offered or a full refund provided.

In addition, if the travel company goes out of business before the trip starts pupils will get their money back and, where the trip included transport, will be brought home at no additional cost if they are already away.

Abta has more than 100 school travel organisers as members who have access to the association’s support and expertise – including 24-hour crisis support. Schools can also benefit from the association’s advice and its independent complaints process should they need it.

Booking an overnight school trip as a package – where a travel company organises the different travel services – provides the greatest overall protection.

Abta brand and business development director Victoria Bacon said: “School trips provide pupils with lifelong memories and often an opportunity to explore a place they’ve never been to before.

“However, it can be a time consuming and sometimes daunting process for teachers to arrange these trips, and the new package travel regulations mean that if a trip is booked in a certain way, the school could be held liable should there be a problem.

“There are lots of Abta school travel specialist companies who can take these responsibilities off the hands of teachers and pull together a trip which provides a great education experience as well as offering the support, protection and expertise that comes with booking with an Abta-approved travel company.

“With this peace of mind teachers can travel with confidence, knowing their students are in good hands and able to enjoy their travel experience to the full.”

All members of professional trade association for school travel School Travel Forum are required to be Abta members.

Forum spokeswoman Gill Harvey said: “While organising a school trip can be seen by some education providers as stressful and time consuming, there are ways to streamline the process and recruit third party help to ensure the trip runs smoothly.

“Research shows that travel helps children to develop their sense of independence, experience new cultures and bond with their classmates.

“Booking with an STF member, which is also an Abta member, will provide teachers and parents alike with the confidence of a safe and successful trip.”