School trips cancelled over fears of the dreaded child accident claim
Growing numbers of schools are cancelling educational visits and days out. Teachers are increasingly concerned that a child accident claim may be made in the event of something going wrong.
Although over the last ten years there have only been 364 cases of UK schools facing legal action as a result of a child injury on a school trip, and of these only 156 were ordered to pay out some form of compensation, it appears that the fear of being sued has greatly outstripped the reality of legal action actually occurring.
The Countryside Alliance, which reported the above findings, found that 49% of teachers said “fear of litigation in the unlikely event of an accident” was the main reason they did not organise school trips, whilst a substantial 76% said the main deterrent of arranging excursions for them were concerns about child injuries and the appropriate combative safety measures.
In a separate poll of six to fifteen year olds, the Countryside Alliance also found that although 85% of respondents would like to go on more school trips, only 46% of them had actually been taken to the countryside by their school in the past year.
The chief executive of the organisation, Simon Hart said, “Statistically, the chances of accidents happening are low and we are working to explode the myths that the countryside is any more dangerous than anywhere else. The benefits of practical countryside education far outweigh the concerns”.
Appearing to agree with this sentiment, then Secretary for Schools Ed Balls said “Trips and getting out of the classroom should be part and parcel of school life and always give the most vivid childhood memories”. However, the Labour government condemned the amount of money spent on school trips and have introduced new regulations which stipulate that teachers should rarely have to cover an absentee colleague’s lessons (who might, for example, be away on an excursion).
Somewhat confusingly, they have also recently launched a campaign designed to boost the number of educational trips a school organises. Costing £4.5 million and christened Out and About, this scheme aims to give clear guidance on how to mount an outing and also provides schools with a list of pre-approved sites, such as museums, activity centres and stately homes, where it would be appropriate to take a class trip.
With awards available for schools with the most imaginative field trips, and funding given for residential outings, it is hoped that these initiatives will improve educational standards as well as remove some of the time-consuming and tiresome procedures of risk assessment and health and safety concerns.
The campaign is supported by teaching unions, including NASUWT (National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers) which had previously warned against organising school trips for fear of a child accident claim being made.
General Secretary of NASUWT Chris Keates said “The perception of the classroom as the only space for learning needs to be challenged and we are excited to see there is such a positive direction of travel on this agenda”.
However, despite such government advice as “Schools should not let ungrounded fears of a compensation culture deny children educational opportunities”, it remains to be seen whether these efforts to boost educational outings are strong enough to subdue the existing, albeit exaggerated legal fears currently plaguing teachers and schools across the country.