Norfolk 10-year-old stranded in Portsmouth after school trip paperwork blunder

Estephanie Bond, from Litcham, with her mum Joan before her school trip to France. She was stranded at Portsmouth overnight after a paperwork mishap. Photo: submitted Estephanie Bond, from Litcham, with her mum Joan before her school trip to France. She was stranded at Portsmouth overnight after a paperwork mishap. Photo: submitted

Saturday, March 22, 2014
11:36 AM

A 10-year-old was left marooned at a port hundreds of miles from home after an administrative error delayed her school trip to France.

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A 10-year-old was left marooned at a port hundreds of miles from home after an administrative error delayed her school trip to France.

Teachers raced against time to secure a visa for young Estephanie Bond who was due to travel across the Channel on Thursday with her classmates from Litcham School.

When she arrived at Portsmouth ferry port, it was discovered the paperwork for the youngster, who was born in the Philippines, was not complete.

The pupil, who lives in Litcham, near Dereham, was forced to remain in the UK, together with a teacher, while the rest of her class continued on the trip.

Stranded Estephanie told her parents Darren and Joan Bond she slept overnight at the port - meanwhile, school staff made a last-minute dash down to Portsmouth, via the Embassy, yesterday to secure a visa for the 10-year-old.

She finally boarded a ferry at 2.45pm yesterday.

Her mum Mrs Bond, 30, who has been in the UK for five years, said: “This trip came through in July and I explained to the school that Steph holds a passport from the Philippines and would need a visa as we always need to get a visa.

“The school assured me that as it’s a school trip, they will sort it out. I then received a phone call on Thursday, saying our daughter couldn’t go to France and if we could pick her up.

“I couldn’t talk, I was in tears. She was five or six hours away from where we live. The last time we spoke to her on Thursday was at about 11pm and I was told that her and the teacher were going somewhere they can stay.

“I expected a phone call to say they were at a hotel and that the teacher was in one room, and Steph was in another. I didn’t hear from Steph again until 9am in the morning when she said she slept on a sofa at the port.

“We want a really good explanation for this mess-up. I’m relieved and glad that she has been able to go on the trip but with all the worries this has caused, it’s not really acceptable and we will be putting in a big complaint.”

The school trip is for five days, one of which includes a visit to Disneyland Paris.

Mrs Bond, who was visited by the school’s deputy headteacher yesterday after Estephanie had boarded the ferry, said she was going to put in a complaint to Norfolk County Council and Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board.

John Mellor, deputy headteacher at Litcham School, said: “A visa problem delayed Estephanie’s departure and this was down to an administrative error on the part of the school, and we’re very sorry about this. This meant that she and a member of staff stayed in Portsmouth while I and colleagues did everything we could to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

“We remained in close contact with Estephanie’s parents throughout this situation and apologised for the error. I understand this will have been a frustrating time for them and their daughter and I hope Estephanie will still be able to enjoy her time in France.”

Mr Mellor said attempts were made to find a hotel for Estephanie and the teacher but, largely because of the late hour, this was not possible and the ferry terminal found a secure area for them to sleep.

He added: “I must thank staff at the school, the British Council and Brittany Ferries who really pulled out all the stops to sort out this situation and helped get Estephanie on the next available ferry.”

Do you have a story from the Dereham area? Email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk.

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