Education & Family

Teachers hit back over school trips red tape

Teachers have hit back at claims they use red tape as an excuse not to take children on school trips.

Lord Young's report on health and safety has said excessive form-filling and health and safety assessments mean children miss out.

He called for the process to be simplified with parents signing a single consent form.

But teaching unions said such procedures were key in ensuring pupils remained safe.

In his report, Lord Young said: "There have been a number of cases where schools have prevented pupils from taking part in educational visits citing health and safety as reason for non-participation.

"As a consequence, children are potentially missing out on vital education because schools just do not have the time and resources to carry out the process and, if they do, they are too concerned about threat of legal action should an accident happen."

These include youngsters being prevented from going on trips because of medical conditions or disabilities.

But there have also been a handful of high profile cases where children have died on trips abroad or on outward bound adventure programmes.

Corners cut?

General secretary of the National Union of Teachers Christine Blower said it would be Lord Young's proposals, not current health and safety rules, that discouraged school trips.

"It is just not true to say risk assessments prevent trips taking place.

"To say that teachers shouldn't consider risks before taking children and young people out on trips just seems absurd.

"We don't want to see teachers filling in reams of forms for the sake of it, but I'm sure most teachers would agree that you have to consider in advance what might go wrong and take precautions."

She said the point of risk assessments was to make sure the systems and arrangements were safe, not to limit compensation claims.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said her members were keen for more pupils to experience school trips.

"We are worried that simplifying the work before schools engage in activities could lead to corners being cut and health and safety compromised," she added.

Lord Young's report also highlighted concerns about children's play areas being made too safe because of misinterpretations of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

He said this had lead to the creation of "uninspiring play spaces that do not enable children to experience risk".

He added: "Such play is vital for a child's development and should not be scarified to the course of overzealous and disproportionate risk assessments."

Adrian Voce, director of Play England, said: "We know that more than half of children are not allowed to climb a tree without adult supervision.

He added: "There has been too much of a cotton wool culture. We are hoping that this review will help people accept that children need and want challenges and adventure."

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