Overseas students ‘need more help to get home for Christmas’

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With the UK currently in lockdown and flights getting cancelled ‘nearly weekly’, Jack Rondel – son of the late Deputy Richard Rondel who attends Shiplake College near Henly-on-Thames – is unsure how he will be able to travel back to Jersey.

In the States last week, Deputy Jeremy Maçon said that the cross-government ‘travel cell’ set up to help students return home would ‘provide recommendations to ministers across government on options for maintaining essential connectivity if commercial travel options diminish or cease altogether, as was the case earlier this year’.

The Deputy added that a survey – which closed yesterday – of all Jersey students studying overseas and their travel plans had received around 600 responses.

Despite this, Mr Rondel – who is a finalist in this year’s Pride of Jersey Young Ambassador of the Year award – believes that the government should be contacting students directly and that the current level of communication is ‘not good enough’.

‘The lack of updates makes it harder for students to plan their way home,’ said the 18-year-old, who added that while he reads the news and stays up to date many students do not.

‘Over here you have to arrange everything in advance – it’s completely different to Jersey – you have to book everything ahead of time, you have to think about the taxi to the airport, the train, the flights,’ he said.

‘The situation seems to change everyday, so they need to reach out to us directly.

‘I don’t think the government understands how difficult it is to arrange everything – we can’t be booking things last minute.’

In a bid to reassure students they would still be able to return to Jersey, Deputy Maçon said that the Blue Islands airline would continue to operate ‘lifeline’ services even if commercial travel shut down.

However, Mr Rondel says he does not think this is enough to help students studying in the UK as ‘Southampton isn’t very accessible for many’.

‘The arrangement with Blue Islands doesn’t help students.

‘It’s not a good deal for them whatsoever and does more to benefit Blue Islands,’ he said.

He added: ‘Whether it is students at boarding school or at university, we are studying for good qualifications to then bring back into the Island and help the economy.

‘So far there has been a lack of support and communication to help us get home at Christmas. We feel somewhat let down. Especially after everything that’s happened this year I think it’s important that students can be with their families at this time.’

In a statement, Deputy Macon said that releasing more information without first having all the details would cause further confusion for students.

He added: ‘I appreciate the uncertainty in this situation but we also have to remember that a lot of these students are adults, and if they haven’t registered for student finance then we won’t have a contact email for them. I did also encourage students to register and take part in the survey.’

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