Banned from trips for year

12th March 2004 at 00:00
Pupils miss out on fishing outing after teacher misled parents about life-saving qualifications. Irena Barker reports

A special needs teacher who failed to follow correct procedures when organising a fly-fishing trip for two 11-year-old boys has been banned from taking school outings for a year.

Andrew Barker,43, also misled parents about his life-saving qualifications and provided inaccurate information to his superiors about safety checks he had made, a hearing of the General Teaching Council for England was told.

Mr Barker, who was employed to work with pupils with serious behavioural problems at risk from exclusion, was also ordered to undergo a training course to learn about procedures for educational visits.

The educational outreach worker was employed by Hampshire's Education Other Than School service at the Woodlands Education Centre in Waterlooville, Hampshire.

In February 2002 he started a three-days-a-week secondment working with groups of youngsters at the Park community school in Havant, Hampshire.

Shortly after he began, he suggested to assistant head Tom Brown that he take two of the school's most difficult students on a fly-fishing trip as part of the school's reward scheme.

However, the GTC panel found that Mr Barker prepared letters for parents that did not contain the statutory code of conduct for students or adequate contact details, and did not state the method of transport to be used. No second teacher was named in the letters, although another responsible adult would have been required.

Mr Brown said: "It was exceptionally important to include the code of conduct explaining the standard of behaviour expected from the children on the trip.

"These were extremely vulnerable and volatile students, likely to do their own thing if allowed to do so."

Having seen the standard of the paperwork, Mr Brown decided to cancel the trip.

He said: "You read too often in the papers about trips that go disastrously wrong and I didn't want to put the school, or Andrew Barker, in that position."

An investigation into the incident discovered that in his letter to parents, Mr Barker had claimed he had valid life-saving qualifications, but he did not mention that they had expired.

Sheleen McCormack, presenting officer, said: "He misled the parents in his added assurance of his life-saving abilities because all his qualifications were well out of date.

"In the Hampshire county council regulations and guidelines fly-fishing is classed as a hazardous activity.

"Following the correct procedures is much more than a paper exercise - it is an essential responsibility when indulging in a hazardous off-site activity with vulnerable and volatile children."

Mr Barker, who did not attend the hearing, claimed in an earlier statement that he had intended to submit a permission form to Hampshire county council for the trip once it had been cleared by the school.

He also said he had given the two children a three-hour preparatory session, teaching them about safety and behaviour on the trip and using fishing equipment.

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