There's always one

10th August 2001 at 01:00
School trips in the offing? Not for me, says a teacher who has had enough of taking the blame when things go wrong

Just before the end of the summer term, I took 10 Year 7 pupils from our school to France for four days, with 10 pupils from four other schools. The trip was part of the Gifted and Talented programme for my city, and was financed entirely from that budget. It was a successful experiment that benefited the children and improved links between the schools. But one of my girls constantly lost things, including a mobile phone, which all the pupils had been told not to bring, except at their own risk.

Imagine my feelings when I returned to school and the head told me there had been a complaint from the girl's mother. She had rung the school claiming to have no information about the trip and wanting to know the exact time of our return. When the office could not tell her immediately - the information had been sent home with the children and given to parents at the parents' evening (which she did not attend - another parent took it for her), she phoned the local authority to put in an official complaint.

Fortunately, the secretary who took the call from the LEA managed to smooth over the perceived "problem".

This parent has built up a reputation as a manipulator and seems always to be looking for trouble and denying responsibility for the behaviour of herself and her children. The LEA doesn't know this and the local newspaper often listens to unsubstantiated accusations as they make good copy.

I know the head is involved in several cases in which parents are suing the school, and one relating to her previous school, for alleged neglect. The upshot of this is that I will not take part in any more school trips - although 49 out of the 50 children were models of good behaviour, except for a few indiscretions.

As anyone who has supervised a school trip abroad knows, the complications of arranging them are byzantine. When we arrived after a 15-hour journey, the place was not expecting us. The accommodation was inadequate - three showers and three toilets for 55 people, including the staff. We missed the train we were booked on. Am I to be held responsible for all these mishaps?

Recently, I sent three Year 10 pupils to a college for the day and went to pick them up in my own car at 3.45pm. I was waiting on double-yellow lines, so I could not leave my car, but they did not see me. I had to park and I was 10 minutes late. In the meantime, they phoned the school and said no one had come to fetch them.

This started a chain of panic calls all over the city to find me, culminating in someone asking me quite seriously the next day if I had forgotten the pupils and gone to play golf.

On the one hand, all it needs is a calm head and a bit of common sense; on the other, all it needs is a parent who is looking to blame someone. When I teach An Inspector Calls I tell the pupils that J B Priestley's message is that we are responsible for the consequences of our own actions. I am no longer prepared to take responsibility for someone else's actions.

The great pity is that we all enjoyed the trip and it is the future pupils who will not reap the benefits of a similar experience.

The writer wishes to remain anonymous

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