Unions criticise plan to cut school trip red tape

Pupil and teacher Ministers say there is too much bureaucracy involved in organising school trips

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Teaching unions have criticised plans to make school trips easier to organise amid government fears about the over-zealous application of safety laws.

The Department for Education is publishing new guidance to help schools ditch "unnecessary paperwork", and has cut 150 pages of guidelines to eight.

But the National Union of Teachers (NUT) said it feared reducing best practice could lead to more accidents.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said it was a "more common sense" approach.

Amanda Brown, of the NUT, said: "What we wouldn't want to do is to see a reduction of guidance which could lead to a lot more accidents.


"What we want is advice which is very clear and straightforward but long enough to cover enough of the detail so that people do feel secure."

The NASUWT teachers' union said cutting back guidance could reduce parents' confidence and make teachers more nervous about school trips because it provided a safeguard.

Start Quote

The dilution of guidance for schools is likely to reduce rather than increase the number of educational visits”

End Quote Chris Keates NASUWT teachers' union

"The decision to scrap over 140 pages of guidance is potentially reckless and could increase litigation against schools and teachers," said general secretary Chris Keates.

"There is no evidence demonstrating the need for the previous guidance to be abandoned, and no educational reason for doing so.

"Schools and teachers organise educational visits when it is clear that there is an opportunity to enhance and enrich pupils' learning and when they assure themselves that children will be safe.

'Crazy situation'

"The dilution of guidance for schools is likely to reduce rather than increase the number of educational visits."

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said it hoped the new guidelines would dispel legal "myths".

Chairman Judith Hackitt told the BBC it was "time to out those who hide behind red tape and procedures and often blame us and health and safety as the reason why they can't do these things".

She said guidelines had ended up being overly bureaucratic because of a fear of civil litigation, cost-cutting and because it was an easy way to avoid work that was regarded as more difficult.

Teachers were intelligent people and should be trusted to use their common sense, she added.

Ministers said school trips could broaden children's horizons but fear of prosecution was too often used as an excuse not to organise them.

In the past five years only two cases had been brought against schools for breaches of health and safety law on a visit, they said.

Employment minister Chris Grayling said: "We've got a crazy situation at the moment where, very often, headteachers and teachers think that actually the rules are such that it's not a good idea to plan school trips.

"There's too much bureaucracy, too many health and safety rules and a risk of prosecution if something goes wrong," he told the BBC.

"There is no reason - and never was - why children should be prevented from going on school trips by over-enthusiastic misinterpretation of rules," he said.

A Labour Party spokesman said health and safety rules needed to be applied sensibly.

The new guidelines clarify that written parental consent is not needed for each activity and encourage schools to use a new one-off consent form signed once when a child starts at a school.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    I'm a teacher and I've noticed that for every teacher who works 50 hours + a week and run many of extra curricular activities there are plenty in the state sector who have been churning out the same lessons for 20 years, do virtually no planning and complain about every extra bit of work they have to do and seem to hate teaching! Sadly they and the unions give the rest of us a bad name.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    I am proud to work at a school where teachers care about the children. We run trips - 160 children aged 7 - 11 have attended residentials in the last 3 weeks and we run lots of day trips. We need parents to fill in forms as many parents change phone numbers without informing school and children have medication requirements, allergies etc. that school may not know about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Disappointed with the unions stance on this. As a teacher I read the article and thought that it is a great idea to simplify things so that children can start actually experiencing the real world with teachers confident of having filled in the correct forms etc... Are the unions just against anything the government decides upon right now???

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    The problem is not regulations but fear of litigation. I used to help run a sailing club and we tried to do things properly but there was always the fear that there would be an accident and we could be sued. It took all the fun out of it so I stopped. The need to show that you have done all the right things to be able to answer litigation is not going to be stopped by cutting 150 pages to 8.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    The NASUWT and NUT are objecting for one reason only! They will have fewer excuses for refusing school trips!

    There are few rules in organising trips, which are NOT commonsense and do not need to be spelled out. I should know, I have organised and supervised far too many in my lifetime.

    There is a simple question, "Would I let my own children loose on such a trip, or venture?"


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