Students’ trip home to Quidenham hit by French strike action

Sean Summington, Deputy Head of New Eccles Hall School with some of the pupils that are now back at

Sean Summington, Deputy Head of New Eccles Hall School with some of the pupils that are now back at school after being delayed by French air traffic controllers strike action. Photograph Simon Parker - Credit: Archant

A group of students and staff endured a marathon trip home to Norfolk when they were faced with strikes by airport workers on the continent.

Some 16 pupils and three teachers from New Eccles Hall School in Quidenham had been due to return from a week-long trip to France directly from Carcassonne to Stansted airport.

Instead, they were had to fly to Charleroi, in Belgium, and then to Manchester, where they stayed overnight in a hotel before travelling back to Norfolk on Thursday – 24 hours later than planned.

School director Sean Simington said the pupils had been patient, and that the staff had handled the situation well.

'They were down there for activities linked to their studies,' he said. 'In these situations you've got to deal with the problem as best you can – you can't write a travel plan which covers all eventualities.

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'It's more about how the staff deal with it and if they do it in a direct and organised way and sit down and explain the situation then you take the children with you – they're often more patient than adults.'

The group of pupils, aged 13 and 14, had visited the schools centre, Les Roches, in the village of St Bonnet de Montauroux near Le Puy-en-Velay in the Auvergne region. They had been studying the history and geography of the area, which included visiting a nearby farm and museum, and were due to return to the school on Wednesday.

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The delay was caused by French air-traffic controllers who took part in a strike to protest against plans to reform Europe's civil-aviation sector.

Mr Simington praised the handling of the situation by Ryanair, however, and added: 'I think we were prepared for a battle because you hear so much but all the staff did as much as they possibly could.

'You hear all these complaints but there's not often a chance for a positive story.'

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