Space Camp dreams plummet back to earth as school tour company goes bust

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

A school tour company has gone into liquidation – just two weeks before it was set to take students on a Space Camp tour to the United States.

Around 45 affected families from Melbourne’s Camberwell High School face losing as much as $10,000 each after the shock announcement that Edu School Tours has closed its doors after more than 20 years in business.

The popular Space Camp program, held in Huntsville, Alabama, is run in conjunction with the US Space and Rocket Center and takes children to the US to build and launch a rocket, train to be an astronaut and fly jet craft simulators. The US Space & Rocket Center’s website boasts of hosting a record 626,000 visitors in 2023, with students coming from every state in the US, as well as 64 foreign nations. with 61,000 of these guests identified as students on school trips and 26,000 attending as part of a Space Camp program. The collapse of Edu School Tours does not impact that organisation.

The Space Camp experience promoted by Edu School Tours is one of a range of educational trips the tour company ran to the US, with other activities previously promoted by the business including performing arts-focused trips to the New York theatre district, as well as a STEM-focus trip that can take in cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Washington, San Diego, Orlando and New York that promotes a trip to the Google offices, the Kennedy Space Center and Harvard University.

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At Camberwell High School – a state school in Melbourne’s east – one mother whose child had been planning and saving for the Space Camp trip for more than a year described the announcement as “devastating”.

Another father of a student whose child has also been counting down the days until what they had hoped would be “the trip of a lifetime” told EducationDaily that “the emotional impact has been enormous”.

“He’s been looking forward to this for so long,” he says. “Every parent just wants their kid to be happy. Seeing him miss out on this adventure like this – with something beyond our control and out of the blue – has really gutted him.”

With refunds in question, families are worried

On the company’s still-functional website, Edu School Tours promotes its offerings as “your one-stop shop for secondary school student tours” and bills itself as “Australia’s official Space Camp ambassador and the #1 leading Australian company taking students to Space Camp”.

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But with dozens of Victorian schools likely to be affected, the company’s reputation is now in tatters – leaving many families and students wondering if they will receive a full refund. At Camberwell High School, families only paid their final deposits last week.

Because the Camberwell High students are insured for the trip through the Victorian Government insurer VMIA, parents are hopeful they will be reimbursed for the cost of the trip but have not been given any confirmation.

Opposition education spokeswoman Jess Wilson says it is essential that the insurer processes parents’ claims quickly.

“Unfortunately, we know the VMIA is in the red and not coping with the volume of claims already – the government needs to ensure it is properly resourced to process parents’ claims quickly,” she says.

“Parents work incredibly hard to provide these opportunities for their children.”

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Secondary students left devastated over cancelled trip

One Camberwell High mother said her daughter had been “working and saving really hard for this” by working every Saturday and Sunday for twelve months and says other students have been fundraising for their trip by collecting cans.

“You can imagine the lengths they have gone to,” the mother says.

“They all missed out on camps and excursions during COVID, so this was a big thing for her and all she’s been talking about for a year.”

At Melbourne High, principal Tony Mordini says the school ran a similar tour in 2023, adding that the students “got a lot out of it”.

“It’s a significant program for the school and the only trip at our school that goes to the United States,” he says.

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“This will be devastating for the kids.”

“This chance won’t come again.”

With his son in the senior years of high school, and the looming reality of VCE meaning knuckling down on serious study, another Camberwell High parent describes missing out on the upcoming Space Camp trip as a chance that won’t come again.

“This was going to be a memory the kids would be creating together – something they could look back on when they’re done with secondary school,” he says.

“But my kid is actually serious about STEM – so this was more than a holiday. He was hoping it would be a way of seeing into his future and helping him decide what to study and which direction to head.”

But for him, and many disappointed students like him, that direction is not Space Camp.

Edu School Tours was unavailable for comment.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]