Funding boost for school trips

Education secretary Alan Johnson unveils £2.7m for school trips
Education secretary Alan Johnson unveils £2.7m for school trips

The education secretary has unveiled £2.7 million in new funding to get more pupils taking part in school trips.

Alan Johnson said the package would provide new training for teachers taking out of classroom lessons and create a council to give advice on which activities provided the best experience for children.

There will also be new guidance for employers on how to treat staff fairly in the event of an accident, and a consultation has been launched on a "no-nonsense" guide for teachers on their rights in case of legal action.

Some seven million children take part in school trips each year but in many schools fears of accidents and legal action have limited the range of what can be done.

Teaching union Naswut has previously advised its members against taking school trips because of the risks of litigation, but it has welcomed today's package as a move towards better protection for staff.

Mr Johnson said: "Learning outside the classroom should be at the heart of every school's curriculum and ethos. Children can gain valuable learning experiences from going on cultural visits overseas to teachers simply using their school grounds imaginatively."

He added: "Today's announcement is key to ensuring we help schools build on the excellent work many are already doing in this area with the reassurance of clear cut guidance to reassure them that the law is there to protect them, not inhibit them."

The £2.7 million package comes alongside the creation of a new 'learning outside the classroom manifesto', a coalition of education providers and local authorities including the Eden Project, the Outward Bound Trust and the Natural History Museum.

The money will fund a new independent council to represent organisations providing outside the classroom teaching and advise on future policy, and a new support package for schools including guidance on planning, funding and assessing school trips.

In addition, schools will be encouraged to report their outdoor activities as part of their Ofsted self-evaluation from next year. The education watchdog will also have a clear role in ensuring local councils monitor the safe management of these trips.

"Work is under way on developing fair investigations guidance to provide much-needed protection for staff who accompany visits and who found themselves being abandoned by the employer or unfairly treated when an incident occurred or a false allegation was made against them," said Nasuwt general secretary Chris Keates.

"No activity is risk free but when all of this work finally is completed staff who choose to participate in education outside the classroom will be better protected."

However, while the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) general secretary John Dunford warned that an increase in government red tape, in particular risk assessment, was a major cause of the decline in school trips.

"The government and the new board must address the problem of court judgments that have given a new meaning to the word 'accident', placing on teachers often unreasonable expectations of foresight," he said.

"As a profession, we accept our responsibility for the safety of the young people in our care, but we should not be asked to do more than is realistically possible."


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