Trips? I wouldn't start from here...

1st April 2005 at 01:00

A House of Commons committee of MPs recently tried to reassure teachers that the risks of taking children on school trips "are overstated". Try telling that to a teacher who ends up in the dock.

In fact the risks are now greater not because children are more accident-prone or teachers more careless, but because the number of those prepared to point out mistakes continues to grow.

Our school no longer takes children on trips that involve stays over night because of the bureaucratic nightmare of educational visits co-ordinators, first aid, risk assessments and all the other red tape.

We have decided that the benefits to children are outweighed by the risks to children, staff and school if things go wrong - with all the resulting condemnation from parents, governors, media and police, not to mention the scars on your own conscience.

Even if you are proven innocent of negligence, an accident on a trip is an experience from which an individual or school may never recover. Schools can have their reputation blighted for years.

Are residential trips really necessary? Day trips can achieve as much, if not more, benefit, and the costs of overnight residence can pay for more of these. Risks are reduced on day trips as staff and children are fresher.

Some staff may see residential visits as an adventure, but for others they are a penance to be endured by them and their families. Teachers face the unenviable prospect of being on duty 24 hours a day, while the school has to foot the bill for them and cope with the disruption of regular staff being absent.

Moreover, while residential visits may once have been the only holiday away from home that many children had, cheap travel means the vast majority of families can now easily afford trips of their own.

We can never remove risks to children and staff entirely, but we do have a duty to reduce risk where we can, and not put them in harm's way.

We have to be realistic, and recognise that it is just no longer worth chancing the health and welfare of children and staff in pursuit of goals that can be achieved in other ways. Schools will find different and potentially better ways of achieving the benefits that they want, staff will be better protected, and children will not miss out.

Steve Kite is head of Edmund de Moundeford VC primary school in Feltwell, Norfolk. Are you a school leader with a grudge? Write us a 400-word Sounding Off and get paid as you grumble. Send it to

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