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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 November 2006, 10:50 GMT
Schools urged to run more trips
Bunmi Shagaya
Fears over school trips grew after Bunmi Shagaya drowned in France
Teachers are being urged to take their pupils on more school trips, as a new support and safety package is unveiled.

Education Secretary Alan Johnson wants learning outside the classroom to be at the heart of every school's curriculum.

But many teachers are wary of taking pupils on trips because of fears of legal action if something goes wrong.

A consultation on how to treat staff fairly after an accident is being launched, and training on trip planning and risk management is being offered.

The National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers advises its members not to get involved in school trips because of the threat of litigation in the event of an accident.

Its general secretary Chris Keates said the union was glad the government had taken its concerns seriously in producing the new package of measures.

The amount of coverage that one accident results in creates an atmosphere that worries parents
NUT spokesman

She said her union had been vilified for its position but would not apologise for putting the interests of its members first.

"No activity is risk-free, but when all of this work finally is completed staff who choose to participate in education outside the classroom will be better protected as a result of the NASUWT's efforts and the government's positive response," she said.

She also welcomed the recognition that teachers should not be engaged in the administration of such activities because of their already large workload.

This was echoed by the Association of School and College Leaders which said the government must do more to cut bureaucracy and protect institutions from the threat of litigation.

'Trips vital'

Mr Johnson wants schools to use the wealth of museums, art galleries and outdoor education centres on their doorsteps and further afield to inspire and motivate pupils.

"Learning outside the classroom should be at the heart of schools' curriculums and ethos," he said.

"Children can gain valuable learning experiences, from going on cultural visits overseas to teachers simply using their school grounds imaginatively.

"Educational visits and out-of-school teaching can bring learning to life by deepening young people's understanding of the environment, history and culture and improving their personal development."

Education minister Jim Knight said parents had to feel confident about the safety of their children on school trips.

He told the BBC's Today programme that the measures contained in the Learning Outside the Classroom manifesto would include "improved guidance and improved training for teachers in evaluating and managing risk."

He said concerns about litigation were taken "very seriously" by the DfES but it was employers and local authorities who are liable - not teachers.

The new measures contained in the Learning Outside the Classroom manifesto include a package of support for schools planning trips and a new independent council to advise on future policy.

Trainee teachers will be taught about leading, planning and evaluating the risks.

'Minimise risks'

And schools will get help to promote the benefits of educational trips to parents.

Education inspectors are to monitor how well schools undertake risk assessments ahead of trips.

For most teachers, they're nothing short of a stressful nightmare
Gareth Evans, Birmingham

The manifesto has been welcomed by the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres chairman Kevin Jackson, who said: "Quality outdoor educational experiences are about developing lifelong skills and it is vital we emphasise the benefits for all young people."

A spokeswoman for the National Union of Teachers suggested the package had been unveiled to counter some of the bad press around school trips.

"The reality is that thousands of trips happen every year across all our schools," she said.

"The amount of coverage that one accident results in creates an atmosphere that worries parents."

John Bangs, head of education at the NUT, said there is "genuine anxiety" among teachers that they could be personally sued or face prison in some cases.

"I think it is an entitlement for youngsters that they should all have equal entitlement to outside experiences," he said.

"That said, what I don't want to see is a situation where government decides to get very enthusiastic about a manifesto and then tries to enforce school trips on schools which are still nervous about conducting them."

Are school trips too heavily regulated?
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What the new measures will mean for children

School trips 'can change lives'
06 Feb 06 |  Education
School trips in the spotlight
15 Nov 05 |  Education
Pupils 'entitled to school trips'
04 Nov 05 |  Education
School trip supervisors reassured
15 Feb 05 |  Education
Schools 'shying away from trips'
28 Sep 04 |  Education

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