Page last updated at 16:20 GMT, Monday, 16 February 2009

School trip venues quality rated

Climbing frame
Ofsted inspectors have said pupils should not miss out on trips

The first officially-approved database of high quality places for school trips within the UK has been published.

England's Schools Secretary Ed Balls announced 65 places and organisations which have been given "quality badges".

This marking is intended to make schools feel more confident about arranging school outings.

Mr Balls said he did not want a "cotton wool culture that discourages all kinds of risk".

The database includes the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, the Yorkshire Museum of Farming, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the National Coal Mining Museum for England and Cadbury World.

There are also farms, field study centres and forests.

It is an initiative by England's Department for Children, Schools and Families though it is open to any venues in the UK to apply.

'Red tape'

In response to fears over safety - and teachers' concerns that they could be sued for children's accidents - there have been warnings that schools might avoid taking pupils out of the classroom.

Farms, outdoor centres and museums are on the safe trip list

The idea of the quality badge is to assure schools about the safety and quality of destinations.

"Quality badges offer teachers a guarantee that not only is a venue providing the sort of educational value that they can build on in class long after the visit, but they also have the appropriate risk management structures in place," said Mr Balls.

"Tens of thousands of children take part in learning outside the classroom every day.

"I am determined that no child should miss out on these vital experiences because of unnecessary red tape or because of a cotton wool culture that discourages all kinds of risk," said the schools secretary.

The setting up of a database of risk-assessed school trip centres was welcomed by Chris Keates, the general secretary of the NASUWT teachers' union - which in the past has advised its members not to take part in trips.

"No activity is ever risk free. However, the integrity of the quality badge means that providers holding the badge must be those that manage risk properly," she said.

Last year, Ofsted inspectors in England warned that trips out of the classroom were an important part of learning, but that schools were treating them like an optional extra.

"The positive impact of learning outside the classroom is widely recognised, but unfortunately it is sometimes seen as an extra or a treat, rather than as an integral part of the curriculum," said chief inspector Christine Gilbert.

The quality badge scheme is part of the government's 4.5m Out and About scheme to give schools clearer information and to help organise school outings.

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