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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 February, 2005, 03:07 GMT
School trip supervisors reassured
Students reading a map on an orienteering course
MPs have called for more support for school field trips
Teachers supervising school trips have been reassured they will not be liable to prosecution over accidents - as long as they have followed guidelines.

Education Secretary Ruth Kelly wants teachers to continue school trips - and not to fear legal action.

"Staff who take reasonable care and follow employer guidelines are ... protected by the law," says guidance issued by the education department.

Teachers described the comments as "extremely helpful".

Full safety guidelines will be sent to schools this summer. And a Manifesto for Education Outside the Classroom, promoting "high quality outdoor learning", will be launched in the autumn.

Ms Kelly says that she does not want teachers' worries about vulnerability to prosecution to deter schools from giving pupils the benefits of field trips and outdoor education.

'Confidence'

The NASUWT teachers' union had warned its members to be careful about the threat of legal action if pupils were to be injured during an out-of-school visit.

But the union warmly welcomed the comments of Ms Kelly, saying they were "extremely helpful" and represented a "significant step in the right direction".

Ms Kelly had reassured teachers that if they followed correct safety guidelines they should not face the threat of prosecution.

"We want to make sure that all teachers have the confidence to continue offering these experiences and that everyone involved in a school trip, including parents, are aware of their rights and responsibilities," Ms Kelly said.

Guidelines for out-of-school trips are to be published in the summer - and they will emphasise that: "Staff who take reasonable care, and follow employer guidelines are, in the event of any unfortunate accident, protected by the law."

"By carrying out straightforward, compulsory safety checks teachers can protect both pupils and staff on a school visit and minimise the risk of litigation," says the education department.

Head teachers' leader, David Hart, welcomed the support for school visits.

"We must get away from the totally unfounded belief that a solicitor's letter is always waiting around the corner whenever a school visit takes place," said Mr Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers.

The Shadow Education Secretary, Tim Collins, urged an end to this "absurd spat", saying that "a simple signed note from parents acknowledging their acceptance of any risk would suffice to ensure that our children continue to both enjoy and learn from school trips".

'Extremely patchy'

Last week a report from the Commons education select committee said school trip provision was "extremely patchy" and ministers should allocate 30m more to providing them. And it called for changes so staff no longer "feel vulnerable" to legal actions.

It said teachers were "deterred by the false perception that a high degree of risk attaches to outdoor education as well as by cumbersome bureaucracy and issues of funding, time and resources".

In England in 2003, there were between seven million and 10 million pupil visits but only one death, the report noted.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Why children may miss out on school trips



SEE ALSO:
Schools 'shying away from trips'
28 Sep 04 |  Education
Safety training for school trips
27 Sep 04 |  Education
Moves to protect school trip staff
14 Apr 04 |  Education


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