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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK
Are you happy to send kids on school trips?
School children negotiating a gorge
A teacher and 39 teenage girls have been rescued from a mountain in Scotland during a school trip.

The rescue leader said the group were ill-prepared for the hike with many of the girls wearing skirts, trainers and using bin liners as make-shift waterproofs.

How schools conduct trips have been questioned in the past.

Following the murder of Caroline Dickinson, her school in Cornwall was shown to have adopted 'best practice'.

Do you send your children on school trips? Are clearer guidelines needed? Do you think children would miss out if they could not go on school trips?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

You need to treat these hills with proper respect
Peter, Nottingham
James Brown- the rescue leader was an unpaid volunteer who risked his own life going up a mountain in extremely poor visibility to rescue these girls. How much more "appropriate" could the context be? These girls very nearly died because of the total lack of planning on the teachers part. Only an absolute idiot would go up the cairngorms without a map, compass or warm clothing. Perhaps the "bad publicity" will teach people that you need to treat these hills with proper respect. This teacher deserves everything coming to her... including the bill for the rescue.
Peter, Nottingham

I have been on Meall a' Bhuachaille in thick mist and had to use a map and compass to navigate my way off. This activity should never have been approved and anyone from the teacher on upwards who approved it should be fired. Lives are lost every year on Scottish mountains - and many of these are because of a lack of equipment and experience.
David White, London, UK

School trips are far too dangerous for children to go on. They need to be encased in bubble wrap and kept at home, where they will be safe.
Martin, UK

If I was one of the parents I'd be demanding her resignation
Nik, Henley, UK
School trips are a very good thing as long as you follow the guidelines. Guidelines do exist and are quite clear but the teacher just chose to ignore them. Luckily there was a happy outcome but it could have been a completely different story. For that reason she should be sacked immediately for putting the girls lives at risk. If I was one of the parents I'd be demanding her resignation.
Nik, Henley, UK

There are now very tight guidelines concerning school trips for state schools and if they are adhered to then they will be as safe as possible but there can be no guarantees. My school would require a trip to the Cairngorms to be led by a qualified mountain leader and no qualified leader would consider taking such a large group. As a parent I have and will continue to send my children on trips and I organise trips every year some of which are to mountainous areas
Nigel Colenutt, Littlehampton West Sussex

As a former teacher who used to help take children (11-16)on short breaks camping I know how much they enjoyed being away from home, doing something completely different. We has children cooking on stoves and lighting them (for some the first time they had ever struck a match) However our head teacher wanted to stop children camping out as he was worried about danger to them - they would only be allowed to go out for the day. This is wrapping children up in cotton wool when they need to experience things in a controlled environment in order to learn. However, we never went without very well qualified teachers, there was a full kit list and the School provided waterproofs etc for children who didn't have them.
Claire Lloyd, Southampton, UK

A child that is protected in cotton wool all its life will never thrive later on
Richard, Hertfordshire, UK
My 14 year old daughter is going on a trip to France with her school in July. I appreciate that there are risks, but children need to be allowed to experience life in order for them to grow up and manage for themselves one day, without their parents looking over them. A child that is protected in cotton wool all its life will never thrive later on.
Richard, Hertfordshire, UK

Many teachers are parents themselves, they are not super humans. Accidents will happen and are in the most unavoidable, that's why there called accidents. School trips are part of growing up teaching children how to bond with others.
Kelly, Wales

Never mind school trips: I have lost count of the number of times I have see families setting off on such trips with no waterproofs, inadequate footwear and clothing and at times even no map or compass. The upland areas and mountains of the UK should be enjoyed by everyone: however they should also be treated with a great deal of respect.
Simon, UK

Given that so many kids are still leaving school barely literate or numerate, isn't it about time that distractive school trips were abolished? If parents want their children to go walking in Scotland or skiing abroad, let them organise it themselves and leave teacher to do their job - teach.
Mark Blackman, London, England

School trips are a great tradition
Sven, Colne, UK
My wife is a teacher and she organises a very popular and successful outward bound style trip each year - through a fully qualified, trained and insured organisation. It's always a great trip and very beneficial for kids who otherwise may never experience such activities. School trips are a great tradition, and it would be a shame if a generation missed out on them because of a few mistakes. Trips should be properly organised, but at the end of the day parents do not supervise their children every second of a day, and neither can trip organisers. Sadly, accidents will happen.
Sven, Colne, UK

After all the incidents of this type involving schoolchildren during the last few years, it beggars belief that a schoolteacher could be so naive as to even consider leading a party of pupils dressed as they were up a mountain, and in probably the most inhospitable range in the UK. What on earth was going through the teacher's head ? Of course there's a blame culture - the pupils are in the teacher's care, and he or she has a duty to ensure that they are not put at risk.
Malcolm Pitts, Sheffield, UK

Our school has to give risk assessments, 30 days in advance to the LEA to go on any trip. Our ratio is 1-10 and no child goes out unless properly equipped and checked by an ex army mountain leader. It is schools like this that make our job even more difficult and make parents (justifiably) reluctant to send their children on what should / could be a fantastic experience.
A Hart, Liverpool

The blame does not lie with properly organised, safe trips
Rob, London
As a teacher myself who is not formally qualified but who has assisted on many mountain walking trips, this is disturbing news. It is difficult enough to take kids away on a trip of any kind anyway - and we only do take them away with a qualified mountain leader in charge (of which there are a number among our staff), and with a staff-student ratio of at least 1:6 - and it concerns me that reports of amateurish, life-threatening blunders like this may lead to schools being unable to take students away. I have seen several years' worth of students gain valuable experience on outdoor trips, and many of our ex-pupils remember their mountain trips as their best times at school. The schools like this one who disregard the recognised safety procedures should be brought to bear, but the blame does not lie with properly organised, safe trips.
Rob, London

Perhaps the question ought to read "Are teachers still happy to take responsibility for other people's children knowing that they are likely to be publicly vilified and lose both livelihood and reputation if anything goes wrong even if they have taken every possible precaution?" While we live in a society which operates on a "claim for everything you can' principle the answer is going to be 'no' more and more often.
Derek, Bolton U.K.

I work in a well known national museum and talk to teachers constantly. We have had an instance of teachers returning to school and leaving a special needs child behind because 'they assumed he was on the minibus' (they had only brought 7 children). When asked how many children they have with them, the vast majority of teachers have to count them before they answer. Surely this information should be to hand. School secretaries have no idea if a group is out on a trip or not. What happened to central diaries and communication? I don't have children but if I did, I would think twice before letting them out of school.
Caroline, London. UK

This lack of judgement will result in many children being prevented from beneficial experiences outside of the classroom
Heather, Stockport, UK
I went walking in the Highlands last summer, and can't believe the stupidity of the teachers who took the girls into the area without proper equipment, as the weather can turn at any moment. This lack of judgement will result in many children being prevented from beneficial experiences outside of the classroom, with fearful parents keeping them 'safe' at home instead. My husband takes kids on outward bound trips and leads Duke of Edinburgh expeditions, and has to fight against this over-protectiveness all the time, despite the fact he's more than qualified for the role and works as a walk leader for a British holiday company.
Heather, Stockport, UK

This whole scapegoat blame culture is extremely damaging - teachers don't get paid extra for doing this sort of thing, giving up lots of their own time. So the upshot will simply be no more school trips. Is that progress?
Ian Bartlett, Chesham, UK

Large groups of children out and about are just asking for trouble. All school trips are pointless. If the trip is of any value it would be better done with the family for better supervision and attention. School trips going skiing? Farcical and pointless! Put a stop to the lot.
James SG, London England

School trips, should not be abolished, but girls wearing skirts, trainers & accompanying bin liners, for makeshift waterproofs, seems to be something out of a farce theatre comedy, if the consequences, were not so serious. Yes without a doubt. Clearer guidelines should be followed. As should correct clothing attire & experienced supervision.
F. Williamson, Teesside England

Teachers are reluctant to involve themselves in such activities in view of the blame culture
James Brown, Liverpool, UK
Unless the comments were made in an appropriate context the "rescue leader" should have confined himself/herself to the work of rescue. I have accompanied many school trips in the UK and abroad. There are now very full (and necessary) government guidelines governing school trips. I do know that many teachers are reluctant to involve themselves in such activities in view of the "blame culture" and that school students will lose much worthwhile experience if such reluctance becomes the norm.
James Brown, Liverpool, UK

No, I will never send my child on school trips. I do not believe that schools can properly supervise a group of students out of a classroom environment. It isn't safe in today's world. As a parent, I will take responsibility for educating my child outside the classroom, thank you.
Nell, Leeds, UK

For every story like this there are 10,000 highly successful trips
Andrew, Leighton Buzzard, UK
Accidents happen - but for every story like this there are 10,000 highly successful trips that you don't report for some reason! It would be a very sad day if publicity like this ended in us cotton-wooling our young from any potential 'hazard'. It would be worse than prison.
Andrew, Leighton Buzzard, UK

When my son was younger i did, but i feel when students go and climb mountains or fell walking, etc they should go with staff or instructors who are well qualified and have some years of experience. And they should contact the police on advice on local security when abroad.
Clive, Dartford, Kent

Professional experts must be in charge
Keith, Sunderland, UK
School trips are an important part of growing up, however, what seems to be missing is any sense of responsibility by the schools and their staff. If they wish to take part in adventure activities such as those mentioned, then the staff must be qualified to undertake these activities, or a professional should accompany them. Just because you are a member of staff does not make you competent to take children or anybody else into a hazardous environment. The hazard is the attraction and why you and the kids take part, and should be encouraged but professional experts must be in charge.
Keith, Sunderland, UK

Teachers should only teach subjects that they are qualified to teach. If they have no outward bound qualifications or experience, they have no business leading schoolchildren, for whom they are responsible, on foolhardy ventures. All trips should be organised through activity centres and associations. There are enough of them out there.
Mark H, UK

Every year thousands of school children enjoy safe educational trips which are organised and supervised by dedicated teachers. Every year a couple of trips go wrong, usually due to a lack of basic common sense on the part of a teacher, or teachers. That is a couple too many. Certainly guidelines need to be in place, but senior teachers must take responsibility for selecting which teachers are chosen to supervise these trips.
Sheila, UK

Unfortunately it's only these cases that make the new
Kaz, Hull, UK
I find it difficult to believe that the school didn't provide a list of suitable clothing and equipment needed. Having said that, you can't make people take heed of such notices. I hope this doesn't stop the tradition of school trips though. Very rarely does anything go wrong, unfortunately it's only these cases that make the news.
Kaz, Hull, UK




SEE ALSO:
School sorry for mountain blunder
01 Jul 04  |  Scotland
Parents happy with school trips
15 Jun 04  |  Cornwall


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