WHY HAVE SCHOOL TRIPS DEVELOPED A BAD REPUTATION?
School trips are never out of the news for very long. Often the slightest mishap attracts disproportionate media attention and it is little wonder teachers have become increasingly wary of undertaking the organisation and responsibility of such activities. Paradoxically, almost everyone associated with education, the government, parents, the general public and most sections of the media maintain a strong belief in the value of educational visits and want them to continue. Teachers remain willing for the most part but do want more and more reassurance, help and guidance. The latest School Trip Safety Management Conference, hosted jointly by SHA and World Challenge Expeditions, attracted a wide audience of educationalists, and a range of speakers sought to give a positive but balanced view as to the best way forward.
The Right Perspective
School trips tend to not have a very high public rating, but let's try and put things into perspective. Whilst noone would argue that even one accident or death on a school trip is one too many, the following statistics speak for themselves:
There are approximately 13 million young people under the age of 18 in the UK and every year there are 1400 sudden or accidental deaths.
Looking more closely at adventure holidays that have an element of perceived risk, records tell us that since 1985 51 children have died on school trips (an average of three per year or less). Of these 18 were road traffic accidents, one was a murder and 23 were drownings. 19 involved adventure holidays, an average of one per year.
Whilst we can see immediately that young people are 200 times more likely to be killed on the roads than on a school trip, it is nevertheless true that few of the 700 fatal road accidents reach the national press whereas every fatality on a school trip is sure to do so.
Why this discrepancy and why have school trips attracted so much bad press? There would seem to be 4 main reasons:
In short, however distasteful this may seem, the fact remains that serious accidents and deaths on school trips make the headlines because such accidents are few and exceptional.
Not that this is much comfort to the conscientious teacher who is striving to organise as risk-free a school visit as possible. Many people bemoan the current' cotton wool' environment in which children are being brought up nowadays though the mere fact that the safety of children on school trips is given such a high profile has to be a positive development.
Important planning considerations
A number of key issues were reinforced by the team of speakers at the conference:
I am aware that the school has a detailed policy on the safe running of educational visits, which I can obtain from the school on request. I am also aware that the school's educational visits are always well organised with a particular attention paid to health and safety. I understand there can be no absolute guarantee of safety, but appreciate that the school leaders of the visit retain the same legal responsibility for pupils as they have in school and will do everything that is reasonably practicable to ensure the safety of everyone on the visit.'
The Conference also included workshops on issues of concern such as the involvement of students themselves in safety management and child protection headaches in respect of regard to home-to-home exchanges. However by far the greatest number of delegates were attracted to risk management, a topic which continues to generate considerable anxiety and a high degree of misconception. The following key points were stressed:
To be as thorough as possible the risk assessment process needs to be considered in eight stages:
Grounds for optimism?
The general tone of the conference was upbeat and all the speakers and workshop presenters were united in their desire to see school trips of all kinds return to their former glory and flourish. Public opinion may never be won over totally especially since there is every likelihood accidents will continue to occur from time to time. It was felt that the only logical way forward was to:
Furthermore there may be as glimmer of light at the end of the dark tunnel. Following a very positive Select Committee report earlier this year the Prime Minister and the new Education Secretary made speeches promising to cut the paperwork associated with school trips and also help teachers from being sued for accidents.
They announced that later this year new guidelines on trips would be published together with a manifesto for education outside the classroom. Amongst the proposals are a recommendation that schools use generic risk assessment forms wherever possible and LEAs being told to take out one insurance policy for their schools, which cover all liabilities relating to trips. These are at least moves in the right direction.
Contact Sandy Twinning Association:
Chairman, Max Hill
21 The Green,
Telephone: 01767 681469
This article first published in About my Area SG19