Beware of kneejerk reaction to trip tragedy

I was doubly saddened reading the TES last week: deeply upset by the story of Joseph Lister who died on a school caving trip and professionally saddened by the headline "Death reignites trip safety fears" (TES, November 18) .

In fact the text revealed that all parties - teachers, unions, director of education and the Department for Education and Skills - are united in believing that residential experiences for school pupils are both safe and valuable.

This tragedy happened in the same month that the Government launched its manifesto for learning out of the classroom. If your readers were asked to recall their own schooldays many would include a school trip amongst the highlights. Learning in these situations is both relevant and intense and has the potential to motivate and inspire beyond the scope of classroom activities.

I have held these truths to be self-evident throughout 35 years as a youth worker, teacher and headteacher. Next year I will be involved in the launch of Learning on Location which will offer curriculum-based residential courses for Year 8 pupils. This is just one of many opportunities which will form part of the Government's new strategy for extending learning.

We must work to make sure that such activities are safe and inclusive so that they play their part in the development of young people.

It would add insult to tragedy if Joseph's death resulted in yet another knee-jerk reaction against adventure and active learning. Let's hope that his legacy will be as positive as was his own attitude to life.

Michael Carding

(Former headteacher

Bishop Heber high school Cheshire)

Springfield House Commonwood, Holt, Wrexham

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