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Teachers 'wreck outings'

Museums group claims visiting staff nip out for coffee and leave them with pupils

TEACHERS ARE being blamed for blighting school outings to museums and galleries by having too many coffee breaks and failing to prepare properly.

Complaints by the Welsh-based Group for Education in Museums also include a lack of supervision, schools not sending enough staff, and failing to inform venues of pupils' special needs.

The claims of unacceptable behaviour by teachers were made at a seminar held by the group in Cardiff last week.

Teachers at the seminar were told of an incident in which museum staff helped an unsupervised autistic pupil who suffered a panic attack in a room full of battle armour. They were unaware that he had the condition.

But Anna Roberts, head of Cardiff primary Ysgol Pwll Coch, hit back, suggesting museums needed to be more explicit about health and safety. She said she could not condone what she heard about the behaviour of teachers, but claimed many took pupils on outings to boost children's learning experiences.

"We could just leave children with their books and computers," she said.

"However, going out on a planned visit is one of the best experiences for them."

The National Union of Teachers Cymru actively encourages teachers to organise trips to places of interest, such as museums, because many children would otherwise not get the opportunity.

But Rhys Williams, the union's communications, campaigns and political officer, said the onus for looking after pupils and carrying out risk assessments should not be left just to teachers.

He said: "Schools and museums should be working together in the best interests of the children, without taking shots at each other."

Elizabeth Stevens, education officer at Cardiff castle, said one of her biggest problems was that school secretaries often made bookings but did not turn up.

"We have schools arriving without a clue about what they will see," she said. "We now ask for the name of a teacher who will be on the trip, and that is put on our booking form."

Ms Stevens also said it was important to have enough teaching staff to cover toilet breaks.

"There is a lack of supervision by some schools," she said. "Some teachers come for a day out and expect to hand the children over to us. Some go off for coffee and leave them unsupervised."

Paul Chappell, for Cardiff council, said schools should carry out their own risk assessments. He said museums could provide guidance if requested.

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