In safe hands

17th February 2006 at 00:00
Phil Revell continues our series on careers

AKAI out of classroom co-ordinator, outdoor education co-ordinator, EVC.

All schools should have appointed an education visits co-ordinator in the wake of advice from the Department for Education and Skills designed to improve school trip safety.

Expect a lot of...

I pursed lips and furrowed brows, as colleagues and friends react to your appointment with sympathy and horror. "But you'll be responsible if something goes wrong," they will say, inaccurately.

Is it safe?

Yes. But thousands of people think otherwise. The myths and legends surrounding school visits are legion, so be aware of the principal fairy stories so that you can rebut them with confidence.

"School trips are dangerous." Rubbish. Nonsense. Balderdash. There have been more than 50 deaths on school trips since 1985, which seems an appalling number until you consider the millions of visits that take place every year. The recent accident in Germany highlights the fact that the biggest danger on any trip is the journey to the venue, not the activity.

In fact, the chance of a death on a trip is slightly less than the chance of being struck by lightning. Children are in more danger at home asleep in their beds.

"Teachers will end up in court if anything goes wrong." Unlikely. We do live in a litigious society, but if an accident does happen the parents will sue the school or local authority, not the teacher. Teachers may be expected to give evidence if a case goes to court, but that is not the same as being held responsible. If the worst came to pass, it would be the leader on the scene who would be called to account.

Are you enthusiastic about...

I out of classroom learning? Who wouldn't be? Education actually means "leading out"; the idea that we can study the world from the confines of the classroom is preposterous. Those teachers who value the wider and deeper learning that comes when children see and experience things for themselves are arguably the best teachers because they can see beyond the subject limiting blinkers. My guess is that such teachers will be committed to education beyond the classroom: question is, are you?

Are you good at...

I organisation? The education visits co-ordinator role isn't to lead all trips from a particular school, though they will probably be an experienced trip leader. Education visits co-ordinators are there to ensure that a teacher planning a trip has gone through the necessary preparation, making a visit to the venue and obtaining the necessary permissions from parents.

This involves some paperwork so EVCs should have some administrative support to do the job. Some schools and local education authorities apparently think otherwise, but they are wrong. The DfES has produced sample documentation which can be downloaded from its website (see end).

Is it a good career move?

It ought to be. Certainly, the EVC role should not go to a junior member of staff, and many education visits co-ordinators see it as precisely the kind of whole-school management role that is good preparation for headship.

Whether heads and appointing panels see it in quite the same way depends on how they value the out of classroom experience. Heads who greet returning staff with a cheery "Enjoy the holiday?" are unlikely to value the work done by their education visits co-ordinator, if they even bother to appoint one.

Will colleagues appreciate my work?

Yes and no. Yes, when you are helping them run a parents' meeting, or sort out a risk assessment. No, when you tell them that the geography field trip is more important than their planned visit to Alton Towers - and you would say that wouldn't you? You may also have to tell people, possibly even the head, that they can't use the school minibus because it is overdue for service, or that the visit to the nature reserve requires more than one member of staff. These are easy conversations to have if your school has clear policies on trips.

Does it pay?

Not specifically. Most education visits co-ordinators are given the role as part of a package of other work. In some schools the job is done by a senior member of the support staff, which is fine as long as they understand the curriculum background to trips and visits.

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