Children need adventure trips, says Ofsted

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Children are being denied school adventure trips because teachers fear they could be sued if there was an accident, the education watchdog Ofsted warned yesterday.

Children are being denied school adventure trips because teachers fear they could be sued if there was an accident, the education watchdog Ofsted warned yesterday.

Activities such as caving, rock-climbing, archery and canoeing were praised by inspectors as a vital way of teaching young people about teamwork and leadership as well as developing physical skills. But they said outdoor education had become "a minority area" in most secondaries.

David Bell, the chief inspector of schools in England, said: "The benefits of outdoor education are far too important to forfeit, and by far outweigh the risks of an accident. If teachers follow recognised safety procedures and guidance they have nothing to fear from the law."

Ofsted said a study by a government task force found accident claims had fallen in 2003-04 by nearly 60,000. The watchdog said the quality of education offered by schools and outdoor activities centres was often good.

It cited a trip in which 15-year-olds were taken caving to learn about stalactites and stalagmites. Inspectors praised the "memorable journey", where students helped each other through narrow tunnels and deep running water and under a waterfall.

But a teaching union said Ofsted had failed to recognise the frightening reality of teachers often threatened with legal action despite having followed the rules. Chris Keates, the acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters, Union of Women Teachers, said: "As casework has demonstrated time and time again, following the procedures and guidance is no protection against litigation. Fortunately, the Government is now taking our concerns seriously, having recognised that the demise of the concept of the genuine accident and the rise of the blame culture has left teachers and schools vulnerable."

Jean Gemmell, general secretary of the Professional Association of Teachers, said: "Education is not just about what happens in the classroom. We need young people to develop independence and learn to deal with challenges safely. A visit to the park for a five-year-old is as much an adventure as abseiling for a 10-year-old."

Comments