Are you crazy? What will you actually gain by refusing to let her go on this trip? Nothing except the chance to wrap her in cotton wool for another couple of days, and the knowledge that she is safe from the sins and lures of Paris. Oh, and a daughter who is so mortified at not being allowed to do what is seen as routine by all her friends that it may take her years to forgive you.
Let her go – and if you are seriously worried about how the trip is likely to be conducted, speak to the teacher in charge to outline your fears and demand to know what measures will be in place to ensure orderly behaviour.
But stay realistic. Young people do sometimes behave badly on school trips, but rarely is any lasting damage done. The worst that is likely to happen (leaving aside the kind of terrible accident that can happen anywhere) is that she might get drunk. She might behave badly in public. She might end up in the wrong bed. But all these things could just as easily happen to a 16-year-old on a night out at home. Ultimately, how she behaves is likely to depend far more on the way you have brought her up than on the laxness or discipline of her art teacher.
So the question, really, is not how much do you trust the teacher in charge of this trip, but how much do you trust yourself, as a parent, to have brought up a daughter who can conduct herself wisely.
Recently two of my students were not allowed to join a school trip to the theatre in London on the grounds that the play was unsuitable. It was Alan Bennett's The History Boys, which has occasional mentions of prostitutes and homosexuality. How dreadful that children's cultural and artistic horizons are being limited by parents who can't see beyond their own prejudices and neuroses.
Both my children, now grown up, were taken by their school to visit the First World War battlefields. On both occasions some pupils got drunk and caused the whole group trouble.
It is very hard for teachers to stop this. They cannot check every rucksack and hostel room, and if the children look old enough to drink they find it easy to buy alcohol. Also, many of today's children seem hell bent on going wild the minute they are away from home. Even so, I would never have stopped my two boys going on what they still say was one of the most intense and moving experiences of their lives.
I wonder why your school is tolerating badly conducted trips. Surely it is up to the head to ensure that a teacher who is not very good at crowd control should be supported by someone else who can keep discipline? You should see the head and explain your fears. Other parents may be feeling the same, but are too frightened to raise the issue and stop their children from going.
Next Week's Quandary
My son's school is introducing a "cashless" canteen system operated by biometric fingerprints. Parents were not consulted and I have concerns about civil liberties, identity security and privacy. I don't want my son to be fingerprinted but I want him to continue to be able to have a hot meal at lunch time.
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