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Cash and badges to boost safety

The Government has pledged pound;2.7 million to encourage schools to take pupils on trips and ensure staff are trained to supervise them. Its own research, however, shows that the number of school trips has increased over the past five years.

But while pupils seem to enjoy more out-of classroom activities than ever, the report suggests these are generally at "safe" destinations.

It states: "The activities that were most commonly reported were school-site activities or off-site day visits, primarily to man-made environments, while residential or day visits to natural environments were less frequently mentioned."

Alan Johnson, the Education Secretary, this week launched a manifesto for learning outside the classroom, signed by 90 organisations, including local authorities, museums and activity centres.

The manifesto proposes an independent council, which would advise on out-of-school learning. A support package would offer schools guidance on planning, funding and evaluating trips. And badges would certify the quality of external education providers. The manifesto also pledges training modules to give new teachers the confidence to run trips.

Mr Johnson said: "Every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom as an essential part of learning and development."

According to government figures, more than 8 million children take part in out-of-school activities.

The National Foundation for Educational Research found that four-fifths of trainee teachers gained trip experience on school placements.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "A few high-profile cases have increased the perception that these activities are risky. But individual teachers have always recognised the huge benefit to pupils, and have never stopped doing them."

One high profile case involved Paul Ellis, a Lancashire geography teacher jailed for manslaughter in 2003 after a pupil drowned on a Lake District trip. Teachers' union NASUWT subsequently urged members not to run potentially dangerous trips.

Chris Keates, general secretary, said: "NASUWT has been vilified for the position it has taken. I am pleased that the Government took our representations seriously."

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