Dozens of children have been left in tears after their school ski trip to Italy was cancelled today - hours before they were due to depart.

Youngsters from Chulmleigh College were called into the school hall to be told their dream holiday was off.

The holiday was organised 14 months ago.

An email to parents from the school said travel operator Halsbury Travel had told them yesterday there had been a problem with the booking of the buses for the ski trip.

Furious mum Anna Folland said: “They called the children into an assembly to tell them. Then the poor school receptionist had to phone all the parents. Some of (the parents) had planned their own trips while their children were away.”

Anna’s daughter Alysha is in Year 11, and is “very, very upset.”

Children had received ski lessons, and had saved for ski equipment for the week-long trip, which cost more than £850 per pupil.

“This holiday was not cheap. And it’s an expensive time of year – the school prom, the economy, “ Anna said.

For many of the children it was their first holiday since the Covid lockdown.

Halsbury Travel’s website states: “A school trip abroad will be one of the most valuable educational opportunities your students will ever experience.

“With over 30 years’ experience in arranging school trips to destinations across Europe and worldwide, when you book your school trip with Halsbury, you can rest assured that you are in the safe hands of experts.”

The holiday was to Sestriere in Italy’s western Alps, near the French border.

The town is part of the Vialattea ski area, with dozens of slopes hosting major competitions.

The youngsters were due to depart at 1pm tomorrow (Saturday).

The school email to parents was signed by Executive Headteacher Michael Johnson and Trip Leader Peter Covington.

It said: “This afternoon, Halsbury Travel have informed us that they have had to cancel the ski trip.

"We have informed pupils about this sad news during lunchtime today. As well as being disappointed, we recognise that the arrangements around this trip will mean that many parents and carers will have plans that they have made around this, disrupted. We are very sorry this has happened.

“Halsbury Travel have promised a full refund and additional compensation. We will let you know more when this has been fully confirmed.”

The school academy trust said in a Tweet that "pupils accepted the news in a meeting showing enormous maturity."

It said: "Teachers attempted to call every family. Letters, emails and texts were sent. The travel agent called before the end of the day."

The Halsbury Travel Facebook page has several comments from parents about cancelled school trips today.

One angry parent wrote: “Shame on you cancelling the ski holiday at 1.25 today when the coach should be leaving at 1.45. You should be ashamed.”

Halsbury Travel has been approached for comment but has not responded.