School trips are now a first-class ticket to trouble

8th July 2011 at 01:00

I was interested to hear last week that the Government wants teachers to run more school trips, and not be put off by the extensive health and safety regulations.

As a languages teacher of some 18 years, I have successfully led numerous trips abroad. But I believe it has never been more onerous than it is today. The painstaking preparations, consent forms, risk assessments and information evenings are burdensome enough on top of a teaching workload, but they are nothing compared to the pressures of actually being there, supervising those 45 teenagers 247 in a major European city.

Add to this our charges' obsessive urge to relay every little detail of what they are doing to friends and family - for example, that a busy foreigner has just pushed past them in a crowded shopping street.

An hour later, following feverish phone and text exchanges (the group leader still oblivious), a parent rings the emergency number and asks what the hell has been going on. By all accounts a major incident has occurred, and you stand accused of neglect.

You may sense from my tone that this has happened to me. Indeed it has, recently, and involving a pupil whose parents viewed the incident as a bull does a big red tablecloth. Their protests have since subsided, but not without prompting me to question why I bothered in the first place. I don't need to bother. A trip is no jolly. I get no expenses paid. I have two young kids and would rather not spend a week away from them. Why do it?

It was a difficult decision for me to launch the equivalent trip again this year, but I have opted to go ahead. For me, the reward to the pupils far outweighs any of my gripes. However, I have absolute sympathy with colleagues who, on balance, conclude that trips are just not worth the hassle.

Scott Rockingham, Northampton.

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