Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary evidence from the Department for Education and Skills


  DfES guidance contains model assessment forms for risk assessment, which take up just two sides of A4. It is up to LEAs and schools whether they use our forms. Activity providers can, if they wish, encourage schools to use standard forms. The main point is to assess and manage the risks. Forms are useful for structuring and recording, but the doing is more important than the recording.

  Additional information in response to points raised during oral evidence sessions is attached at Annex A.


  Evaluation: The evaluation of the Academies programme is a five-year longitudinal study. The first annual report is due to be delivered in December. There are no plans to publish the findings at the end of the first year as these would be based on a very small number of schools over a very short timescale.

  However, preliminary, indicative findings of the study are that "Academies do seem to have made a strong impact on the educational aspirations of large numbers of children from disadvantaged areas and their families." We also have provisional 5+ A*-C GCSE results for Academies which again show an overall increase to 30% (compared to 16% in the predecessor schools of the first wave Academies).

  But the Academies policy is a long term strategy and we do not expect all Academies to be an immediate success. They are a radical solution to the most intractable problems of poor performance.

  Outdoor education: Most of the outdoor education proposals from Academies are still in the very early stages, and as many of the Academies themselves are still in the planning stages, the information provided below could change. Most of the information refers to plans rather than outdoor education which is currently provided by Academies.

Bexley Business Academy

  The Academy is planning to provide an outdoor learning area and have taken advice from the Department's "Growing Schools" programme. One of the guiding principles behind the approach is that it is sustainable. The Academy has been advised on sources of funding from the voluntary sector.

Grace Academy

  Whitesmore school, the predecessor school for the Grace Academy which is due to open in September 2006 has an impressive market garden which is built into the vocational curriculum for KS4 pupils.

Macmillan College

  At Macmillan CTC, which is due to open as an Academy in 2005, all pupils have a module of outdoor education as part of their core curriculum. The school works with Mobex which provides outdoor education activities, equipment and minibuses. Planning for this area of work is in the very early stages.

Academy of St Francis Assisi in Liverpool

  The Academy, which is due to open in 2005, has a planned specialism of the Environment and Sustainability. Each Year 7 class will have its own garden and the produce will be used in the canteen or sold to the public. There are also plans to work with local conservationists to restore a local park.

The Waltham Forest Academy of Design

  This Academy is in the early planning stages but has part of its vision that each student should embrace the richness of the world beyond the local community. Students will be encouraged to understand the land and learn through doing, in particular by growing their own food, preparing, cooking, and sharing it with their families and friends. There are also plans to convert some adjacent ground into a meadow for use by students and the local community.


  In the last three years, the Department has initiated and part-funded several studies. This year, through the Growing Schools programme we are funding Action Research by NfER/King's College/CREE with teachers and outdoor providers and scoping further studies into Initial Teacher Training and practice in a sample of LEAs. The Department commissioned Ofsted to report on outdoor education, which was published in September. The Department is also funding a survey into residential experiences with the Duke of Edinburgh/Scouts Association.

  The literature review of the research into using food, farming and the countryside as a context for learning (UK and abroad) was funded by Growing Schools in partnership with CA & FACE (published report available at Among the main findings, the study found current evidence highlights the potential of:

    —  school visits to farms—which offer a wide range of learning opportunities in the affective and cognitive domains;

    —  other out of school learning associated with fieldwork, after school programmes, camps, outdoor centres and supermarket visits.

  The Department part-funded the Field Studies Council led literature review into outdoor learning which was published earlier this year. The study examined 150 pieces of research published in English between 1993 and 2003. The literature covered three main types of outdoor learning with primary and secondary pupils and undergraduates: fieldwork and outdoor visits; outdoor adventure education; school grounds/community projects. The study found strong evidence of the benefits of all three. The executive summary reports:

    —  substantial evidence to indicate that fieldwork, properly conceived, adequately planned, well taught and effectively followed up, offers learners opportunities to develop their knowledge and skills that add value to their everyday experiences in the classroom;

    —  substantial evidence of how outdoor and adventurous education can impact positively on attitudes, beliefs and self perception; and on their interpersonal and social skills;

    —  significant evidence that social development and greater community involvement can result from engagement in school grounds projects. Students develop more positive relationships with each other, with teachers and with the wider community.

The Growing Schools Action Research is due to report Spring 2005. The research has three strands:

  Strand 1: The research team has undertaken in-depth qualitative investigations into the processes and impacts of outdoor learning activities in the three research contexts (school grounds and gardens, farms and city farms, field study/nature centres and parks). The aim is to carry out research with pupils, teachers and other educators both during and after outdoor learning activities in order to generate grounded understandings of outdoor learning across a range of age levels.

  Strand 2: Involves a small group of teachers, field study centre staff and farm educators carrying out small-scale investigations in their own outdoor settings. With support and training from the research team, these have focused on: (a) trialling and evaluating teaching and/or evaluation strategies, or (b) exploring ways of planning outdoor experiences into schemes of work.

  Strand 3: designed to explore individuals' and organisations' different perspectives on the benefits (academic, social or personal), planning, management and evaluation of purposeful and/or successful outdoor learning provision in relation to curriculum requirements, alongside other possible constraints and barriers.

  The Ofsted report into outdoor education concentrates on the opportunities provided for students of age 9-16 years in outdoor education, linked to the National Curriculum in physical education (PE). Among the main findings, Ofsted report:

    —  outdoor education gives depth to the curriculum and makes an important contribution to student physical, personal and social education

  The Department has commissioned the Duke of Edinburgh's Awards and the Scouts to carry out a map of Residential Experience opportunities for young people. It will help us to look at how residential opportunities can contribute to more young people taking advantage of extra curricular activities. The work is due to be completed by the end of December.

Annex A

Q101, Q179.  LEAs and schools, by adding to DfES guidance, deter teachers?

  We have had good feedback on our safety guidance from the education sector. Our guidance says upfront (page 1, para 2) that we do not intend it to replace LEA guidance where that already covers the same topics. We would be interested to hear first-hand from any teacher who has decided not to organise an outdoor activity because of LEAs and schools asking them to follow two lots of local safety guidance, and DfES guidance on top of that. So far we have only heard third-hand, that someone thinks they heard of someone else who might have felt deterred. Our first-hand evidence is that most LEAs tell us outdoor activity in their schools is stable or increasing.

Q103.  Is there no need for schools to assess aspects of a centre which AALA have already safety-inspected?

  DfES agrees. DfES wrote to all AALA licence-holders and every LEA in England in May 2004, to remind them that there is no need for schools to duplicate AALA safety inspections at AALA-inspected centres.

Q105.  What about schools which banned playing conkers because they believed it was dangerous?

  DfES is not aware of any school in England banning playing conkers for safety reasons. We read in the press of one school that was happy for children to play conkers, and gave them safety-goggles in case splinters went in their eyes. In response to press coverage of that isolated case, the HSE stated that wearing safety goggles while playing conkers is the sort of thing that gives sensible health and safety a bad name.

Q107, Q113.  Is DfES aware of claims rising or falling in this area, litigated in court or settled out of court?

  Published Government figures show that public liability claims overall fell by 16.7% last year (including both claims that went to court, and claims where the insurer settled without going to court), as mentioned by Lawrie Quinn MP during the debate on the Promotion of Volunteering Bill [Hansard col 1672-3, 16 July 2004]. We have not found any insurance company that separately records personal injury claims against schools, which in itself might suggest that claims against schools are not a significant proportion of claims overall.

Q109.  Government has issued requirements that lead to a lack of insurers willing to insure school activities?

  We would be surprised if the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act, or the recommendations of DfES guidance, in any way deterred insurers from insuring school activities. On the contrary they should, by reducing the likelihood of injuries, have a positive effect. If a school can demonstrate its good practice on safety, that should help it to find insurance on reasonable terms. The Government has recommended that the insurance industry should take full account of a school's safety practice when it costs the risk of insuring an educational activity, and is working with the industry to that end.

Q111, 179.  How many accidents on different types of visit? When a pupil is injured where staff leading the activity had followed guidance from eg the employing authority, should that authority (and not the staff) be answerable?

  In the last eight years, DfES is aware of 26 fatal accidents to pupils from England on educational activities, of which nine so far have led to prosecutions. Of those, four were overseas—hence our 2002 Guidance on LEA oversight and on adventure standards; and six involved water—hence our water margins guidance in 2003. Courts found that an employer in the case of four fatalities, and an employee in five, had neglected health and safety law or their duty of care. In cases where the court found that the employer was at fault and not the staff, the court did hold only the employer responsible, fining one LEA £30,000 plus £50,000 costs over two drownings, and another LEA £120,000 plus £11,000 costs over one drowning, and not penalising staff in either case.

Q173.  Should outdoor centres provide generic risk assessments?

  Centres inspected by AALA have done such assessments in order to pass their AALA safety inspection—schools can rely on this (see Q103 above). School staff should still discuss the assessment with the centre: the centre knows the activity, but only the school knows its pupils. For school-led provision, generic risk assessments are discussed at paragraphs 17-36 of the Department's "Standards for LEAs in Overseeing Educational Visits" (2002). Generic assessments for activities regardless of venue are usually prepared by the LEA; we do recommend sharing these with others, to reduce duplication and spread good practice. Venue- or group-specific assessments were seen by our drafting group of outdoor experts as best carried out by the in-school EVC on the basis of knowledge of the group's needs in the venue. But there is nothing hard and fast about this. EVCs and outdoor education advisers can come to their own mutually helpful arrangements.

Q82.  Continuing professional development

  We do not have statistics on the volume of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) in outdoor learning. This is because the majority of CPD is carried out at school or LEA level.

  Central to improvements in teaching and learning is excellent professional development for all teachers—with more emphasis on classroom observation, practice, training, coaching and mentoring. We are building up teachers' demand for high quality training and development, by linking participation in professional development with career progression.

  There is no evidence of lack of opportunities. The Growing Schools web service regularly updates training and development opportunities available. For example, in October and November alone 44 are listed, ranging from Mountain Leader awards and managing coastal zones, through to bird identification, first aid and garden design. Many LEAS run their own courses for teachers as well.

  We do know, however, that many more teachers than before are being trained in the practicalities of outdoor supervision. This results directly from the DfES establishment of the Educational Visits Co-ordinator or EVC programme. Training the trainer sessions were begun in 2001-02 at local authority level and the Department distributed £3.5 million to LEAs in England to help them send delegates. All LEAs are signed up to the programme and at least two local authorities in England already have an EVC in every one of their schools. The second phase training for teachers will soon begin.

  The aim of the EVC programme is to ensure that school staff are competent—and therefore more confident and ready—to lead pupils off-site to the benefits of learning beyond the classroom. The EVC function is not a new idea—it formalises what exists in some degree in most schools. The programme encourages co-operation between schools and LEAs over such matters as visits-approval and monitoring. For the high-risk kind of exercise—where the overcoming of natural hazards is the whole educational objective—we continue to encourage those teachers who lead pupils and who are properly experienced and qualified.

  At the same time we have recently renewed our commitment, by means of a revised Statutory Instrument, to the operation of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority; this means that schools wishing to contract with a licensed provider—one inspected on the government's behalf and declared to be safe—can continue do so. Some 1,030 providers hold licences to provide outdoor activities to schools and youth-groups, a good sign of a booming market.

15 November 2004

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