School trips: let the parents decide

7th September 2001 at 01:00
Steve West, business manager of the Affinity Group (TES Letters August 3), states that local education authorities should provide guidance and support to teachers who are taking children on educational visits, and adds that "until that happens" teachers and pupils will remain at risk.

I am taking up my first headship this month, and contacted the City of York Council to take advice on this matter. I was sent a comprehensive set of resources, including risk-assessment guidance, model parental proformas regarding children's last tetanus injection etc, check-lists, an insurance schedule and crisis-management advice among many other excellent booklets.

Some of these were specific to York, but the vast majority were from the Department for Education and Skills, and the booklet Health amp; Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits was a key document which is clearly available nationally.

Another article in the same edition of The TES on our "litigious society", although not related specifically to trips, gave statistics from the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers showing that prosecutions against teachers had quadrupled in the past 10 years. Teachers have historically borne the huge burden of care and responsibility in loco parentis for the benefit of pupils, and it is a great pity that the current media climate and union advice may change our culture, and limit children's opportunities and entitlement to breadth and balance.

Clearly, there are daily risks for children associated with crossing the road, playing in the park etc. and a recent Channel 4 programme on trip disasters pointed out that no trip is risk-free.

It is for individual parents to judge whether the benefits outweigh the risks; their right to be in a position to give informed consent and the duty of headteachers and governors to take up LEADFES guidelines and act upon them.

Mrs Tracey Ralph 130 Edwards Road Erdington Birmingham

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