The dangers of risk assessment

It is a salutary statistic that no child in Scotland has been killed or seriously injured on a school trip in the past 20 years (the death of the Largs Academy pupil last year followed a coach crash in France). In contrast, 25 children are killed on our roads each year. The obvious conclusion seems to be that taking pupils on an excursion is not half as risky as crossing the road. But, while the Scottish Executive may be accused of over-egging the pudding with the latest set of guidelines for school trips (page three), ministers would also be roundly condemned if they had sat back and failed to update them.

The question perhaps is not whether they are over-egging the pudding but whether they are teaching granny to suck eggs. Certainly a document stretching to 247 paragraphs - and that's before readers get to a variety of model forms and three annexes - leaves nothing to chance. And in these litigious and risky times, perhaps that is unavoidable.

But, as ever, teachers will need to have training and support in making the appropriate risk assessments - which, as our regular columnist Brian Toner pointed out last month, "only formalises the judgments we once made informally".

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