ADES boss: don't be too risk-averse
Pre-school children should be encouraged to go on overnight school trips, believes the general secretary of education directors' body ADES.
He is one of several key figures arguing that Scots are too concerned about the safety of school excursions.
The risks of ambitious trips came under the spotlight this week, after a Worcestershire secondary teacher died when the bus taking his school party back from a ski trip crashed in France.
Meanwhile, submissions are being prepared to a Scottish government consultation on a new "safety system" for adventure activities, and there is a consistent message emerging that being too risk-averse is counter- productive.
There is undoubtedly more caution about school trips than in the past, said John Stodter, general secretary of education directors' body ADES.
But that was not entirely down to increased bureaucracy; there was also a "new phenomenon" of parents who did not want their children to take part in what they perceived as risky activities, regardless of assurances about safety.
Even so, Mr Stodter was hopeful that innovative Scottish educators might soon emulate Scandinavian countries, where pre-school children go away on trips for two or three days without their parents.
That "paradigm shift", he said, would not only benefit pupils, but also parents who would learn profound lessons about their children's independence.
Ann Ballinger, general secretary of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association, said that deaths and injuries on school trips had made schools more cautious.
Past experience had shown that, even when teachers had done all the preparation required, blame could still be directed their way.
There was too much fear about the dangers involved, she stressed: "There is an element of risk in anything."
The Scottish government consultation, which runs until 30 March, was prompted by the UK government's plan to replace the statutory Adventure Activities Licensing Authority with a voluntary code of practice.
The authority was established to license caving, climbing, trekking and watersports operators after four young people died while kayaking in Dorset, in 1993. But some say the system is too complex and prohibitively expensive.
Barry Fisher, director of the Duke of Edinburgh's Award in Scotland, told TESS that he was satisfied with current arrangements, while the EIS union also argued for the status quo, saying it would have "concerns about reductions in regulatory standards dressed up as efforts to reduce red tape".
Shona Robison, minister for Commonwealth Games and sport, has intimated that Scotland may follow a different route from that of the UK government.
Trips involving Scottish schools have also resulted in tragedy. A Largs Academy pupil died in France in 2002 after the coach her party was travelling in overturned.
In 2010, a Lanark Grammar pupil died near Biggar, when the bus taking her on a school trip crashed during a snowstorm.