Leading article: Accidents will happen
Thursday 30 September 2004
The fact that children are missing out on adventurous school trips because of teachers' fears of being sued if students are injured is a sad indictment of our society. A report by the education watchdog Ofsted this week warned that too many schools were failing to take pupils on trips despite the obvious social and physical benefits to young people. Activities such as caving, rock climbing and canoeing are ideal ways to teach children teamwork and leadership as well as getting them to test their physical skills in new and challenging situations. But fear of litigation is making teachers extremely reluctant to take children on such excursions. The result is a "marked narrowing" of the curriculum and the creation of a generation that is forced to spend school days doing "safe" activities in the classroom.
David Bell, the chief inspector of schools in England, says that teachers have nothing to fear so long as they obey government safety guidelines. In his defence he cites figures from a government taskforce showing that compensation claims have fallen over the past school year. But the second biggest teaching union disagrees. The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers is advising all its members never to take children on trips, claiming that it deals with many cases every year where teachers face terrifying legal claims because of accidents. The reason may be that a number of high-profile cases have struck fear into the hearts of school staff.
There is no question that safety guidelines are vital and must always be followed. But, however carefully a trip is organised, accidents can always happen. Perhaps in a world in which people are much more aware of their rights we should not be surprised that more and more staff are reluctant to take the risk.
But if we as a nation we want our children to have the kind of "memorable journeys" described in Bell's report, then we need to readdress the balance between safety and adventure. The number of compensation claims may have dropped over the past year, but fear among teachers of being sued has not. More must be down to allay teachers' fears. But parents must trust teachers, and all must accept that sometimes accidents do happen. Sometimes nobody is to blame.
More Britons believe that multiculturalism makes the country worse - not better, says poll
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture
Osborne to cap family benefits at £23,000 – announced ahead of his post-election Budget
- 1 BBC told new political editor must be 'impartial' with Nick Robinson reportedly stepping down
- 2 Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
- 3 Humans of New York image of crying gay teen receives best response yet from Ellen DeGeneres
- 4 The map showing the most dangerous tourist destinations in Europe, according to the Foreign Office
- 5 Swedish minister gives strongest case yet on why EU should stop turning away asylum seekers
£22000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To contribute to the day-to-da...
£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It is also essential that you p...
£27000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Edinburgh city centre scho...
£30000 - £31000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An independent boys' school sit...