We should not be trip scapegoats

10th October 2003 at 01:00
I read the reports of the court case following the death of a young boy on a school trip with interest (TES, September 26) as the timing coincided with the completion of an investigation into a fatal accident at the special school in which I teach. In this case, a pupil absconded from a school trip and was run over by a train.

I feel that several issues are worth mentioning which were not covered in your articles last week:

* Yes, new guidance on school trips was issued following the Lancashire accident. But guidance for special school trips remains less prescriptive despite the fact that these are the most vulnerable and at-risk pupils of all. It seems to me that this is a symptom of society's lack of interest in the lives of children with severe learning difficulties; a suspicion confirmed by your lack of coverage of the accident.

* The National Association of Head Teachers' advice to "act as any reasonable parent would" strikes me as rather trite. What teacher would not? But, this is not enough. While you know your own children, others can be less predictable in an out-of-school context and therefore to rule out the possibility of a tragedy, more than that is needed.

* The emphasis of the articles was on teachers, teachers' responsibilities and their common sense. We all know how society likes to scapegoat those at the bottom (as happened to the social workers in the Victoria Climbie case). Can we not, then, go beyond further slating of teachers and look into the systems and procedures that allow tragedies to occur? What of the LEA whose responsibility was to monitor Paul Ellis's trip? And what of the headteacher whose responsibility was to monitor the competence of Mr Ellis to undertake such a trip in the role of group leader?

In an age where teachers are held responsible for almost every ill which exists, a TES which could look beyond this attitude would be welcome, particularly to those of us who have endured the aftermath of these tragedies Name and address supplied

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