Is a snifter by the fire after a hard day's field trip a thing of the past, Bill Hicks asks

3rd February 2006 at 00:00
Picture it. Half-term. Dusk in a low-cost Alpine ski resort. Animated groups of schoolchildren are piling into the bars, followed at a distance by their exhausted seniors. Most of the adults are looking forward to defrosting with a glass or two of gluehwein, lager or whatever. Except, of course, that lugubrious group of teachers on a trip from a British school.

All they have to look forward to is a Diet Coke.

This vision arises from last week's Opinion forum thread, "Staff alcohol policy", in which Joe R told the world about a Cromwellian-sounding edict apparently passed by his school's governing body: "No staff, including any adults accompanying school trips, should consume any alcohol whatsoever, at any time." The ruling "caused outrage" among the staff, especially those who regularly give up their holidays to accompany pupils on residential trips. Many feel insulted: "We are all professional and this shows a lack of trust in the staff." Despite appeals, however, the ruling stands. The result, the poster thought, would be the end of school trips and even social events such as school discos.

The Guvnor (who may well be a governor) was perturbed but not surprised:

"Your school's policy does seem unduly harsh. It is an indication of where the 'blame culture' is taking us."

Barnsleyrunner thought it was a "typical mealy-mouthed, back covering, lack of seeing the wider picture, cowardly decision".

Packerguy, however, thought it "an eminently sensible idea", claiming it was "virtually impossible" to "draw the line on when and how much alcohol consumption by the adults is acceptable".

Midnitehour was not convinced: "If you have good 'duty' cover and responsible adults then your school is taking a mighty sledgehammer to crack a very small nut!" Fine, volleyed packerguy, "until the first time something goes horribly wrong..."

Miss vixter put in a word for the educational value of moderate alcohol consumption: "Too many teenagers binge drink and have no idea how to be sensible with alcohol - teachers should be able to model sensible drinking when with students on such occasions as school trips."

Packerguy reassured someone who wondered whether the ban would extend to the consumption of booze-seasoned foods, such as steak-and-ale pie, stating with apparent authority that "the cooking process burns off the alcohol".

Many teachers supported the ban. Candy_Flo55 offered this justification:

"When you are on a school trip you are on duty all the time, not just chosen specific minutes. And for goodness sake, can't you go without alcohol for a week?"

Middlemarch drove legal nails into the pro-booze coffin: "Parent sues you for allowing the consumption of alcohol by their child. And sues you for being negligent in supervising the child because you, too, had been drinking." So is the slow pint in front of the blazing log fire at the end of a long day's field trip bound to become a thing of the past?

Maybe not. Despite the righteous bristling of the health and safety lobby, no one reported a similar rule in their school. As the debate continues, I'll take a slug of red wine and leave the last word to chili pepper: "The people who support the banabstinence are obviously the ones who should be manning the school trips... so where are they?"

Follow these threads at

* Primary: Is it just me or are whiteboards a complete pain?

* Pay and employment: Forced into exam invigilation - can this happen?

* Student teachers: Gay trainees

* The Classics: Interactive Latin games

* Music: Salsa crisis - ideas please!

Bill Hicks is editor of the TES website

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