School and trust staff have pulled out all the stops to ensure Thornaby children don’t miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime skiing trip because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Twenty-nine year five children and five staff from St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Primary School were due to set off this weekend for a week in the Italian resort of Claviere, situated near the border with France.

Even though Claviere is not in the area of northern Italy the government is currently advising UK travellers to avoid, the school decided against going ahead.

However, after an impressive effort led by headteacher Mark Ryan and supported by central services staff at Nicholas Postgate Catholic Academy Trust (NPCAT), alternative arrangements have now been put in place.

The group will fly out from Newcastle Airport on Sunday morning but instead of Claviere, they will spend the week in the resort of Les Des Alpes, 75 kilometres away in France.

Mr Ryan is delighted with the new arrangements, which mean he won’t have to tell the children the trip they’ve been looking forward to for months is off.

“It’s the chance of a lifetime for these children,” he said. “We provide this opportunity and subsidise the cost because we believe our children deserve the same opportunities any other children are given.

“Thanks to a lot of hard work from my staff and the help of NCPAT trust chief executive officer Hugh Hegarty and his team, the children are going to get more skiing in a better resort for the same money – and that’s great news for everyone.”

Mr Ryan, who has been organising residential trips for 25 years, says it was important not to panic and make a decision to cancel as an emotional reaction.

“Instead we’ve followed public health advice and advice from the government, assessed the risk and made proportionate, rational decisions,” he said.

“We’ve had to work unbelievably hard after months of planning, but the trust has given us amazing support and the travel agents have also been fantastic.”

This is the third year the school has taken children skiing and Mr Ryan says it’s great for pupils’ overall development.

“Our children are very proud to come from the North-East but this trip is about opening their eyes to some of the wonderful opportunities out there in the world,” he said.

“Children who’ve been before have loved it and come back more confident and starting to see themselves as able to travel and do exciting things.”

The trip is part of a rolling programme of offered to pupils in different year groups that includes annual visits to Carlton in North Yorkshire and a week’s residential in Holland.

Parents were invited to a meeting this afternoon (Thursday) to inform them of the new arrangements for the skiing trip.