Context cannot displace tragedy

19th March 2004 at 00:00
Having recently experienced the death of a pupil on a school trip, I take issue with Professional Association of Teachers' Jean Gemmell's insistence in her letter that we must "place risks in context" (TES, March 5).

Having lived through the aftermath and consequences of such a tragedy, many of my members find it only too easy to place the risks in context.

Thirty-five fatalities in 10 years, is shocking, and is 35 too many. We are talking about 35 utterly devastated mothers, 35 broken fathers, 35 sets of abandoned siblings, 35 lives cut short and 35 schools across the country full of teachers who will never again be able to place the risks in context.

Statistics on road accidents and poisoning are hardly relevant to teachers; neither will they provide any comfort to parents who have lost children on a school trip.

As regards risk assessments and safety procedures; they only exist because people have reacted strongly enough after previous accidents to demand safer guidelines.

"Safely conducted and properly supervised school trips are an important part of education" says Jean Gemmell. I agree, and perhaps Eamonn O'Kane's advice to his members will help to bring about the improvements needed to achieve this.

Jenny Cooper

National Union of Teachers rep and committee member

22 Forest Gate

Kingsbury, London NW9

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