A generation of virtual Hillarys?

12th November 2004 at 00:00
The Outdoor Education Advisers' Panel is concerned about the series of warnings on school trips issued by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. The union has been telling teachers considering running trips that "even if they follow every single guideline on offer they can still be sued".

In fact, education outside the classroom is a safe activity. Statistics prove it. Sadly, the media have focused on the very small number of tragic incidents. In a couple of these incidents, the decisions by the teacher in charge defied common sense and left them open to full legal redress. In some of the others, specific training in leading groups outside the classroom might have prevented the tragedy happening.

Nevertheless, it should be acknowledged that teachers are some of the best risk managers on the planet. Each day millions of schoolchildren move en masse from playground to classrooms, use scissors, knives, chisels and saws, acids, machinery - all in perfect safety - because they are carefully trained and gain experience under the skilled supervision of their teachers.

These same skills, adapted through further training and apprenticeship, have produced the thousands of teachers who safely plan and lead millions of children on visits every year.

If the current negative attitude of the NASUWT towards out-of-classroom learning is allowed to prevail, then we might as well get the cotton wool out now; start designing virtual adventure activities, virtual school sports, virtual geography field trips, and our children can grow up to virtually conquer Everest.

I would ask the NASUWT to publish its statistics on the number of teachers who have been successfully sued as a result of an accident on an educational visit.

I would also urge the union to join us in giving its full support to the large number of teachers who undertake this valuable work. Many of them are NASUWT members.

Ian Park Chairman Outdoor Education Advisers' Panel Education Department County Hall Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

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