School trips 'can change children's lives'

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The Independent Online

Education Secretary Alan Johnson spoke today of the "essential" role of learning outside the classroom as he unveiled a series of measures to encourage schools to take more of their pupils out on trips.

Mr Johnson said experiencing the world beyond the classroom could "literally change lives" of children.

"Every young person should experience the world beyond the classroom. It is an essential part of learning and personal development. We are driven by that belief - these experiences can literally change lives," he told a gathering at the Natural History Museum in London.

Mr Johnson was announcing a £2.7 million funding package and a new body to promote learning outside the classroom.

The measures being introduced will include training on how to run trips, as well as help on how to deal with risk management.

The Government is also joining forces with around 100 organisations such as local authorities, museums and activity centres to launch a "manifesto" of commitments to encourage teachers to get pupils out and about.

Organisations which have signed up range from attractions such as the Eden Project in Cornwall to the National Trust and the Youth Hostel Association.

In his speech today, Mr Johnson spoke of the "happy hours" he spent in the Natural History Museum as a child.

He quipped at the beginning of his address: "It is great to be surrounded by fossils and dinosaurs... but sometimes you have to leave Parliament and come to other places."

Later in his speech, he said that learning outside the classroom was "most important" for young people whose circumstances meant that they experienced little outside their own "unfulfilling" environment.

He said: "This is not just about academic attainment, the Every Child Matters agenda is about developing the whole child, fostering new experiences and learning new skills."

He added: "Many schools make sure their pupils get out and about. Our research published today showed activity is stable and increasing, headteachers say it is an integral part of pupils' development."

The launch of the manifesto comes after a series of tragedies over the last decade which have put the issue of safety on school trips into the spotlight.

Although more than eight million pupils take part in trips and other outside learning activities every year, many teachers feel reluctant to take children out because of health and safety fears.

Three years ago geography teacher Paul Ellis, of Cleveleys, near Blackpool, Lancashire, was jailed for 12 months for manslaughter after 10-year-old Max Palmer drowned during a school trip to the Lake District.