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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Concerns over school trip guidance
adventure activity
Specialist firms have to be licensed - but not schools
Teachers' representatives have expressed concern about new official guidance on educational visits that is finally being sent to schools in England.

The three-part advice for education authorities, schools and activity group leaders follows a number of fatal accidents on school trips within the UK and abroad.

Among other things it suggests every school should nominate a staff member to co-ordinate visits.

This has not gone down well with one of the main teachers' unions, which is likely to continue telling its 200,000 members to think very carefully before having anything to do with school trips.

Recent fatalities
June 1999:
Gemma Carter, 13, drowned in sea at Le Touquet, France
Sep 1999:
Elizabeth Bee, 9, drowned on boat trip in Portsmouth harbour

Jan 2000:
Rachel Williams, 15, hit tree, skiing in the United States
Oct 2000:
Rochelle Cauvet, 14, and Hannah Black, 13, drowned riverwalking in Yorkshire Dales

July 2001:
Bunmi Shagaya, 11, drowned in lake in northern France
Yunus Moolla, 17, drowned in quarry lake in Worcestershire
Aug 2001:
Amy Ransom, 17, fell from mountain in Vietnam

May 2002:
Max Palmer, 10, drowned accompanying school trip in Cumbria

And head teachers say the extra bureaucracy could turn teachers off the idea of organising trips.

The Department for Education's guidance puts the initial onus on education authorities.

It says that at the initial planning stage of any trip it is an authority's job to establish the main hazards.

Each authority should appoint an outdoor education adviser to oversee and monitor trips.

In addition, each school should appoint a member of staff to be their educational visits co-ordinator or EVC.

Delegation

"This does not mean that the school should create and fund a new post," the guidelines say.

"Rather, the formal recognition of the EVC function will help the school fulfil its health and safety obligations for visits.

"It also helps the head teacher to delegate the tasks involved in overseeing the school's educational visits.

"The EVC should be competent in those tasks and have the authority to carry them out."

The co-ordinator should seek advice from the LEA's adviser "or an appropriately qualified technical adviser" as necessary.

Specialists

Many schools are now using the adventure facilities offered by commercial firms, charitable organisations or local authorities - which are subject to inspection and licensing.


Parents and pupils need to know that every measure will be taken to protect their children from danger

Education minister Stephen Twigg
"Nevertheless, a significant number of schools continue to organise and lead their own core adventure activities," the guidance says.

"Under current legislation these are not subject to national inspection and licensing. This is because schools are not required to hold a licence when making provision to their own pupils."

Some safety experts have argued that this is an inconsistency which ought to be ended.

The Local Government Association said it would be seeking clarification from ministers.

Spokesman Neil Fletcher said the guidelines seemed to make chief eduction officers responsible if things went wrong, when it was schools which made the decision to organise trips.

Priority

The Minister for Young People and Learning, Stephen Twigg, said school trips were an important aspect of every pupil's education, but safety had to remain the priority.

"Parents and pupils need to know that every measure will be taken to protect their children from danger.

"LEAs and teachers need to feel confident that they have the training and clear framework to carry out their jobs safely and successfully.

"We are absolutely determined to meet these twin demands."

Union concern

The deputy general secretary of the NASUWT, Chris Keates, said much of the guidance was "welcome and helpful".

"However, the proposal for each school to designate a co-ordinator responsible for risk assessments of educational visits is ill conceived.

"NASUWT already strongly advises members to think very carefully before organising or becoming involved in school trips.

"We will undoubtedly extend that advice to the co-ordinator's role and caution them against accepting such an onerous responsibility."

'Burdensome'

The leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, David Hart, said training and awareness-raising for all school party leaders was absolutely crucial - and the new guidance was "a considerable improvement on the current model".


Adequate and relevant training ... is essential for supervisors

Liberal Democrat Phil Willis
"However, the guidance is in danger of creating excessive bureaucracy and red tape when it requires all schools to make a member of staff responsible for all trips it undertakes.

"It would be unfortunate, to put it mildly, if additional requirements placed on schools were to lead to teachers 'voting with their feet' and abandoning school trips in the future."

The Liberal Democrats' spokesman, Phil Willis, said the number of problems caused by teacher negligence was "miniscule" compared with the vast numbers of well-organised and successful school trips.

"But, adequate and relevant training for the activities undertaken by children, particularly on adventure trips, is essential for supervisors," he added.

"The government is keen to criticise when things go wrong, but they must now put in place the support mechanisms to ensure that teachers receive the support they deserve."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Bilton
"This guidance follows a summer where things have gone tragically wrong"
Education Minister, Stephen Twigg
"The idea of this guidance is to provide reassurance and support"
NASUWT's Jerry Bartlett
"The guidance... doesn't make provision for supporting teachers when things do go wrong"
See also:

27 May 02 | Education
08 Mar 02 | Education
26 Jul 01 | Education
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