Children playing shop while learning languages

A school exchange or a trip overseas is a fun experience, providing students and teachers with exposure to new cultures, languages and international awareness. It’s a valuable and often unique opportunity for young people to broaden their horizons beyond the classroom and to develop new skills, ideas and friendships.

Of course, the visit needs to be well planned, managed and conducted to help to keep everyone safe. We have created an International Visits toolkit which pulls together information to help you plan and run your exchange safely. The link is included in the downloads section at the bottom of this page.

The Department for Education’s Turing Scheme and Welsh Government’s Taith scheme provide funding for schools to take pupils abroad where the visit involves substantial contact with a partner school. If you need help identifying a possible partner school, the British Council can support you. Visit our Partner with a school webpage to find out how.

Child protection guidelines

The safeguarding and protection of children is central to any school trip. Before you start planning a trip overseas or within the UK, consider and evaluate your child protection policies. There is more information about this in our International Visits Toolkit (there is a link in the Downloads section at the bottom of the page).

Duty of care

The school organising the International School Exchange is fully responsible for duty of care for the students, staff and others involved. The school in receipt of a grant is responsible for:

  • ensuring a safe working environment 
  • providing information, advice, training and support 
  • ensuring appropriate policies and procedures are in place 
  • ensuring that employees and others involved in our activities understand their own responsibilities
  • carrying out risk assessments where appropriate to identify hazards and risks and putting in place control measures for these
  • ensuring adequate insurance policies are in place or where this is the responsibility of others ensure that this is clear
  • measures that are both reactive – providing a response in case of incidents and emergencies – and proactive – identifying and managing risks.

Travel insurance

It is the school’s responsibility to make sure adequate insurance is arranged for the visit. 

Check what is covered in the insurance. Think about:

  • financial protection
  • travel issues, such as cancellation, loss of luggage and early return
  • third party liability
  • medical assistance
  • accident and serious illness
  • repatriation
  • death
  • legal assistance fees
  • special insurance for particular circumstances such as outdoor activities
  • protection from Covid-19 cancellation.

Check if the school’s insurance already covers teachers and staff for accident and liability while abroad. 

Your school could consider the government’s Risk Protection Arrangement for schools, if eligible. This is an alternative to commercial insurance designed for  public sector schools and which may save you time and money.

Independent advice on insurance cover and options can be sought from the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) or Association of British Insurers (ABI). Any school holding ATOL or ABTA refund credit notes may use these credit notes to rebook educational or international visits.

Travelling to other parts of Europe

Following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, you should note the new travel considerations for individuals and groups travelling to Europe. We have put together guidance to help you with this.

Planning guides

Simplify the planning of your next school visit by reading our School Exchange starter pack, containing sample templates and forms to help you organise your visit.

Please note that these guides were created prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and guidance may have changed


The challenges that COVID brings still exist at different levels in different parts of the world. The information here will help you find out the latest situations.

Your school is responsible for ensuring the health and safety of the students involved in the trip, including any requirements related to COVID-19. Remember to check both the UK rules and the rules of other countries.

If you are welcoming overseas visitors to your school, this advice on the UK government website may be useful.

Air travel regulations for all countries can be found on the IATA website

For European countries, you can see an overview of rules and restrictions on the Your Europe website

For advice on travel insurance and COVID, check out  the Association of British Insurers website.

Additional guidance

Read from the Association of School and College Leaders on how to plan international exchange visits with a homestay element. There's a link at the bottom of the page.

Take a look at the national guidance provided by the Department for Education - Keeping Children Safe in Education (updated 2022)

Other advice that can help you:

  • If it’s your first time in the role of Visit Leader, Outdoor Education Adviser’s Panel's website is a great place to start. They have blogs that cover a wide range of topics to help and advise you.
  • You should remember that looked-after children will require a letter of authority to let them travel abroad
  • Any accompanying adult not employed by the school must have a DBS criminal background check completed
  • A risk log/register should be kept updated throughout the preparations for the visit, identifying potential risks and recommended mitigations. Remember to take into account any public health advice, such as hygiene and ventilation requirements, and include that ask part of the risk assessment.