Memorandum submitted by the National Association
of Head Teachers
The National Association of Head Teachers welcomes
the opportunity to present evidence to the Committee on this important
matter. Staff, pupils, parentsindeed the whole school community
can benefit from increased opportunity for learning that such
activities can supply. However, there needs to be an awareness
of the implications for the school that the organising and running
of out-of-school activities can have.
The increased demands on school budgets means
that priorities for allocation are contentious and budget allocation
hard-won. Any activity organised by the school must be able to
demonstrate a favourable cost-benefit analysis. This applies to
any out-of-school activity as much as in-school curriculum enrichment
opportunities. There is no doubt that out-of-school activities
can incur substantial costs in time, financial and human resources.
Schools need to budget carefully for these and consider the "value
for money" aspect.
Just to arrange a one-off, off-site visit for
a day has implications for transport costs, staff cover costs,
preparation time and debrief time. A residential visit has the
potential to increase these costs exponentially and also residential
costs must be incorporated. There is no opportunity for schools
to recoup these costs other than through voluntary contributions
from parents. Needless to say, these may or may not be forthcoming!
Where they are not forthcoming, the school can only resort to
placing the whole trip in jeopardy.
Staffing costs for out-of-school visits can
vary hugely, but it is fair to say that there is always an expense
over and above that normally incurred if the pupils were to remain
in the classroom. In ensuring that the degree of extra risk inevitably
associated with off-site visits is kept within acceptable limits,
the adult : pupil ratio is generally higher. Where pupils with
special needs are involved, this can also lead to additional costs
to cater for the pupils' needs. All of these costs have to be
met from the school budget and/or voluntary contributions. This
can produce an unacceptable drain on already stretched budgets.
There is an expectation that learning objectives
will be specified for any educational provision: for education
outside the classroom the imperative is to specify clearly what
is to be learnt, and how, and to indicate why such learning needs
to happen outside of the classroom environment. The value of such
activities in terms of character-forming exercises, team-building,
development of leadership qualities cannot be overestimated. However,
consideration of such benefits must also be weighed against the
costs and the fact that, in general, they not central to the school's
curriculum and learning objectives.
Examples of activities that have historically
formed part of the off-site provision are:
science and geography field trips;
PE/games activities off-site, like
orienteering, horse-riding etc;
historical activities, such as museum
visits to places of worship as part
of religious education;
visits abroad, to support modern
exhibitions, art and music events.
In general, many of these experiences could
not be replicated adequately in classrooms. They should be considered
as essential off-site activities and should be funded as such.
The adequacy and quality of specialist outdoor
provision is the responsibility of the employerthe LEA
for community and voluntary schools, the governing body for foundation
and voluntary aided schools. Obtaining information about providers
is not always straightforward but is necessary. Some routes are
reasonably easy, such as those providers that are covered by the
Adventure Activities Licensing Scheme. Others are less so, though
External accreditation of providers should be
more widespread. Staff involved in organising off-site activities
should be expected to undertake appropriate training.
Planning for even the most straightforward of
off-site visits can be extensive. If the off-site visit starts
and/or finishes outside the normal times of the school day, for
example, this may mean arrangements for delivery and collection
of pupils, checking on availability of parents/carers to meet
the timings, additional opening hours of the school grounds. Work
experience placements can provide their own challenges.
Where not all children from a particular class
participates in an activity, this can add pressure to the resources
of the school. Any children left on the premises must be catered
for. This can happen on a regular basis for sporting activities
off-site, for example, but is not confined to such activities.
Though the setting may be different, the management,
control and authority issues with regard to the pupils still remain
the same as on-site. In some cases, they become more acute. Sufficient
staff must be present, emergency procedures should be in place
and well communicated to all participants, medical needs must
be catered for, playtime must be arranged etc. Managing these
out of the pupils' usual environment can present additional challenges.
Training is available for leaders of off-site
activities, for example, OCR's training course, "Off-site
Safety Management Scheme" is aimed at those who organise
off-site visits of any nature and covers all aspects of planning,
including risk assessments, pre-planning etc. Any staff members
organising and planning off-site visits should be expected to
undertake such training, as this will better prepare them for
the task they are undertaking.
Although staff are generally motivated to plan
and undertake off-site visits, it is true to say that this is
not as widespread as it was. Teachers undoubtedly have concerns
about the possibility of litigation. These may be unfounded but
they are very real. The idea that, if an accident occurs, then
someone must be to blame and that person, in the eyes of the parents,
must be the teacher, does nothing to assist with willingness to
organise off-site visits. Lack of clarity with regard to what
can be expected in terms of right to participate for children
with special educational needs can also cloud the issue.
Workload issues must be taken into consideration
when looking at the additional burden put on all staff. Planning
and organisation is in addition to the normal work undertaken
by staff. Where an educational visit is arranged over an extended
period, for example, staff may be considered to be "on duty"
for the whole period, day and night, as they continue to be responsible
for the pupils in their care. Organising off-site visits is potentially
a great drain on the staff concerned.
In the context of workload issues, it is not
unreasonable to mention work experience. The organisation, monitoring,
assessment, on-site visits to pupils, can reach nightmare proportions,
and not always to great effect. The value of such placements should
be balanced against the huge effort required to set these up.
There is no doubt that there is ever-present
concern with regard to both accidents and the possible litigation
that may arise. It is also true that the compensation culture
mentality does nothing to encourage schools to undertake the additional
workload that off-site visits require. Although the vast majority
of activities take place successfully and without incident, the
tiny minority where problems occur are reported so widely that
the effect is greatly skewed.
Training of staff will help to minimise the
likelihood of things going wrong. Some form of protective insurance
would assist in reassuring understandably nervous staff that they
will not be made the scapegoat for any potential untoward incident.
It might also be helpful if a positive publicity campaign were
to be mounted to demonstrate the value of education outside the
classroom and also how successful and safe almost all activities
can be. The current advice document, Health and Safety of Pupils
on Educational Visits, is seen as very helpful and should
be commended to all those involved with the planning and running
of school visits.
UK COMPARES WITH
We have no comment to make in this area.
We would not wish to see education outside the
classroom diminish. Its value both in supporting the curriculum
and in character development is immense. However, unless adequate
training, sufficient funding and explicit protection/insurance
can be identified, it seems unlikely that schools will be able
to maintain the current provision, let alone increase it. An accreditation
scheme for specialist providers should be more widespread.