Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the NASUWT

  1.  NASUWT is the largest union representing teachers and headteachers in all sectors of education throughout the United Kingdom. The Union is pleased to have the opportunity to submit evidence to inform the Education and Skills Select Committee Inquiry. This submission draws upon the extensive knowledge the Union has gained from feedback from members undertaking these activities outside the classroom and from the representational casework in which the Union has been involved.

  2.  The submission focuses in particular on educational visits, including academic fieldwork but also makes reference to the other activities highlighted within the Committee's terms of reference.

  3.  NASUWT recognises that education outside the classroom can provide valuable educational experience and curriculum enrichment, providing it is planned, properly resourced, linked to the curriculum and has clearly identified intended learning outcomes. However, NASUWT is not convinced that that is the basis on which all such activities are planned and there are a number of issues of concern which the NASUWT would like to draw to the attention of the Committee.

EDUCATIONAL VISITS

  4.  The NASUWT's position on teachers accompanying educational visits has been well publicised. The Union strongly advises members not to participate. This advice is rooted in extensive experience of supporting members who have been involved in high profile incidents which have resulted in serious injury or death of teachers and pupils. A copy of the NASUWT advice is attached to this submission. It details the Union's position but also provides information for those teachers who may, despite advice, choose to accompany a visit.

  5.  The concerns of the NASUWT are as follows:

    —  the possibility of litigation;

    —  vulnerability of staff accompanying visits to false and malicious allegations;

    —  the workload of teachers;

    —  the lack of consistency of the role of LEAs in planning, monitoring validating and risk assessing activities; and

    —  the quality of staff training.

THE POSSIBILITY OF LITIGATION

  6.  Society is increasingly litigious and no longer appears to accept the concept of a genuine accident. It also fails either to understand that perfect judgement, total attentiveness and faultless foresight are beyond normal human capacity or to accept that in the best ordered of activities things will occasionally go wrong. Schools, therefore, find themselves increasingly vulnerable to the growing compensation culture.

  7.  Claims against schools are not, of course, confined to incidents which occur on educational visits but there is an increased risk involved in activities off-site.

  8.  NASUWT has witnessed, at first hand, the personal and professional devastation experienced by teachers who have volunteered to conduct an educational visit, have followed local and national guidelines and then, following an accident during the visit, have faced months of internal and external investigation as a result of being cited in legal action instigated by parents or carers.

  9.  To add to their trauma teachers in this position find that their employer will decline to support them citing "conflict of interest" between the employee and the pupil.

THE VULNERABILITY OF TEACHERS TO FALSE AND MALICIOUS ALLEGATIONS

  10.  NASUWT has for a number of years been campaigning for recognition that teachers are vulnerable to false, malicious or exaggerated allegations by pupils. Vulnerability is increased when teachers are away from the school environment, particularly when they are in residential situations. A number of NASUWT members accompanying residential visits have been victims of false allegations of abuse.

THE WORKLOAD OF TEACHERS

  11.  The National Agreement, "Raising Standards and Tackling Workload", has introduced contractual changes which are the much needed drivers for remodelling of the school workforce to reduce teacher workload and to free teachers to focus on teaching and learning. The Agreement provides for enhanced roles for support staff, recognising the valuable contribution they can make in supporting teaching and learning.

  12.  The remodelling agenda is bringing about a number of changes in relation educational visits and other types of education outside the classroom. The traditional assumptions that only teachers can organise and supervise these activities are being abandoned. There are now numerous examples of appropriately qualified support staff organising and co-ordinating and, in some cases, supervising these activities. This has removed from teachers many of the time consuming administrative tasks often associated with these activities.

  13.  Unfortunately there are still too many schools who have not explored the full potential of remodelling and much of the existing guidance produced by the DfES and LEAs still places the responsibility for all aspects of these activities on teachers.

  14.  Despite the success of the remodelling agenda in alleviating the workload burdens on teachers, NASUWT believes that the best solution for schools is to use professional providers of educational visits if such activities are thought to be essential in meeting the school's curriculum objectives.

  15.  As a result of the National Agreement on Raising Standards and Tackling Workload the teacher's contract was changed in September 2003 to ensure that they were no longer required to be involved in any administrative and clerical task which did not require the professional skills and judgement of a qualified teacher. The administration of work experience was one of the examples specifically cited in the Annex to the School Teachers' Pay and Conditions Document as a task which could be transferred to appropriately qualified and trained support staff. There is evidence that an increasing number of schools are now doing this.

  16.  Whether teachers or support staff undertake this role, there is no doubt that the provision of high quality work experience places considerable burdens upon schools.

  17.  Time is needed to source appropriate placements, make site visits both before and during the placement and conduct risk assessments. Members have raised with NASUWT the problems of finding appropriate placements and their concern about the expectation that they will conduct the necessary risk assessments.

  18.  It is also important to recognise that remodelling and transferring responsibilities to support staff does not address the issues and difficulties NASUWT has identified elsewhere in this submission as the risks for support staff would be exactly the same as for teachers.


THE ROLE OF LEAS

  19.  NASUWT believes that there is inconsistency in the way in which LEAs support schools with regard to educational visits. The National Outdoor Education Advisers' Panel has recognised this and has made consistency of practice a key aim over the next two years.

  20.  The DfES does advise schools and LEAs to consider the educational value of any visit which is organised. Despite this there are still significant numbers of schools which conduct visits to venues of dubious educational value and which bear little relationship if any with the school curriculum.

  21.  There also appears to be an increasing tendency for some schools to consider distant, exotic locations for visits increasing cost, risk and difficulty.

  22.  NASUWT believes there should be clear educational justification in every visit and a relationship to the school curriculum. However, there is a tendency to define educational benefit so widely that any activities, even visits to fun fairs can come within the definition. NASUWT believes that the question schools and LEAs should pose is not: "Can the pupil gain any benefit from this activity?" "Rather, "Is this an activity the school should be organising for this pupil rather than it being provided by a parent, voluntary organisation or specialist centre?" A visit to a fun fair is of course interesting and enjoyable for most children but the question is not whether these activities are "educational" in the broadest sense but whether it should be schools and teachers who take the responsibility for organising and supervising them.

  23.  NASUWT welcomes the DfES "Standards for LEAs in Overseeing Educational Visits" and believes that all maintained schools in an LEA area should be subject to these standards and not just those for whom the LEA is the employing authority. The DfES supplement to the Standards says that "the LEA will need to monitor and where necessary challenge the educational objectives that schools have stated for a visit. " NASUWT has no evidence to demonstrate that this responsibility is being carried out with any rigour.

  24.  NASUWT has argued consistently for LEAs to identify and conduct generic risk assessments of sites and venues which have a clear educational benefit and to recommend these to schools. This would address the problem of teachers, often untrained, feeling obliged to conduct their own risk assessments.

  25.  NASUWT has provided specific advice to its members on the particular risks involved in accompanying pupils with disabilities on educational visits. The health, safety and welfare of these and all other pupils and staff should be paramount. Proper risk assessments by appropriately trained staff should be undertaken prior to the activity to identify what reasonable adjustments may be required for particular pupils, including whether additional staff above the recommended ratios are needed.

THE QUALITY OF STAFF TRAINING

  26.  The main "training" for staff appears to be "on-task training" as they organise and supervise these activities. There is training available for educational visit co-ordinators but there is no requirement for this to be undertaken before an activity is organised. Given the potential risks to all those involved, the lack of attention to this important issue is of serious concern.

WORK IN PROGRESS TO ADDRESS THE CONCERNS

  27.  The Government is very keen to ensure that all pupils have the opportunity to have a residential experience and participate in activities which enrich and enhance curriculum provision. The Government has also recognised the validity of the NASUWT's concerns. At the NASUWT's Annual Conference in April 2004 the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, Charles Clarke, gave a commitment to work with the Union to address these.

  28.  Since that time NASUWT has engaged in discussions with senior DfES Officials and the following are currently under consideration:

    —  strategies to ensure that LEAs undertake more consistent monitoring of activities and take seriously the role of outdoor education advisers. The role of Ofsted is being considered in this context;

    —  the production of a checklist to assess the educational value of visits and discourage more dubious outings;

    —  the review of all DfES guidance to take account of workforce remodelling, particularly highlighting the role support staff can play in co-ordinating visits;

    —  more emphasis on the generic assessments already recommended by the DfES in its "Standards for LEAs in overseeing educational visits";

    —  further guidance from the DfES on the indemnification of staff who accompany visits and the on the role of LEAs in providing legal support for employees.

  29.  With regard to the vulnerability of teachers to false and malicious allegations, in response to the NASUWT Campaign the DfES has engaged in discussions with the Union to develop proposals to which will seek to address the concerns. The proposals will be published for consultation in the next few weeks.

COSTS AND FUNDING OF OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES

  30.  NASUWT believes that a strong case can be made for the review of the charging policies of schools in relation to these activities. Many are now funded by parents being asked to make a "voluntary" contribution. Many activities are costly, particularly the residential activities in outdoor pursuits centres or abroad.

  31.  Parents are advised that their contribution is voluntary but can be told in the information about the visit that failure to contribute may mean that it cannot proceed. This places unacceptable pressure on parents, particularly those from low income families, who may already be feeling concerned that they are not be able to afford to pay for their own child to go and then face the additional burden of responsibility for whether other children are able to participate.

  32.  Ofsted's recent report on Outdoor Education highlighted cost as an issue as it prevented some pupils accessing these activities.

  33.  The costs to parents has to be considered in the context of other "voluntary" financial contributions parents may be being asked to make eg school fund, music tuition and special events.

CONCLUSION

  34.  The timescale for submissions has prevented the inclusion of information on how provision in the UK compares with that of other countries. As a member of Education International NASUWT has access to a wealth of information on education systems throughout the world, in particular Europe, and would be able to submit information at a later date.

  35.  NASUWT will be pleased to expand on the points in this submission and other related issues at the oral evidence session on 1 November 2004.

Annex

EDUCATIONAL VISITS

A CHECKLIST FOR MEMBERS

  An educational visit is defined as any excursion with children outside the perimeter of the school.

  NASUWT advises members to carefully consider whether they should be involved in educational visits at all. When something goes wrong on a visit the leader bears a legal responsibility and so the finger of blame will almost certainly point at the teachers.

  In recent high-profile cases teachers have been heavily penalised. Some have lost their jobs as a result of alleged misjudgements.

  If you decide against NASUWT advice to take part in such a visit either as a leader, or an accompanying professional, you must follow the relevant advice and guidance set out below.

  In particular, you must follow exactly your LEA guidance on educational visits, and NASUWT strongly recommends that you check the activities against the other checklists provided in this leaflet.

ESSENTIAL INFORMATION

  1.  LEA advice on educational visits.

  2.  Health and Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits (HASPEV) (DfES).

  3.  Standards for Adventure (DfES).

  4.  Standards for LEAs in Overseeing Educational Visits (DfES).

  5.  Handbook for Group Leaders (DfES).

  6.  Group Safety at Water Margins (DfES).

  2-6 above are all available at www.teachernet.gov.uk/management/healthandsafety/visits/

CHECKLIST FOR GROUP LEADERS

  A group leader is responsible for the health, safety and wellbeing of the group under common law. If you are a group leader use this checklist to ensure you have taken proper care in organising your visit.

  1.  Obtained appropriate experience, qualifications and training.

  2.  Carried out a pre-visit and liaised with the Educational Visits Co-ordinator.

  3.  Carried out appropriate risk assessments and are aware of health and safety issues regarding both staff and pupils, eg use of seat belts in a coach or minibus.

  4.  Gained approval from the employer for the visit and ensured there is adequate insurance coverage.

  5.  Arranged appropriate supervisory duties and ensured effective communication between adults on the visit, the children, their parents and the base school.

  6.  Ensured other adults are appropriate in terms of maturity, experience and police checks.

  7.  Ensured the visit has a clear educational purpose.

  8.  Have a clear plan of the activities to be undertaken and their educational objectives.

  9.  Have a clear understanding of emergency procedures and ensured there will be a qualified first aid person available at all times.

  10.  Ensured all staff on the visit are given a list of group members and that they check pupils' presence at regular intervals.

  11.  Have detailed clearly by letter to parents the activities on the visit and enlisted their support regarding acceptable behaviour and obtained their written consent.

  12.  Have a reasonable prior knowledge of the group, including any special educational or medical needs or disabilities.

  13.  Ensured the exclusion from the visit of pupils whose behaviour may put others in the party at risk.

  14.  Ensured that all monies have been collected and accounted for by school administrative/clerical staff. (Also see 36 below.)

CHECKLIST FOR ACCOMPANYING TEACHERS AND OTHER EDUCATION WORKERS

  15.  You should be familiar with the LEA guidelines on educational visits.

  16.  You should have been actively involved in the planning of the visit.

  17.  You should be supportive of the group leader and be prepared to act on his/her instructions.

  18.  You should carry a list naming all the pupils and adults on the visit.

  19.  You should be aware which pupils have special educational or medical needs or disabilities.

  20.  You should be fully aware of the nature of the activities that the group is going to be involved in.

CHECKLIST FOR HEADTEACHERS

  If the headteacher has delegated responsibility for a visit to a suitable group leader then s/he should have ensured they are satisfied:

  21.  All LEA visits guidelines have been followed.

  22.  The visit is educationally justifiable and will not affect the efficient running of the school.

  23.  The group leader is suitably trained, qualified or experienced.

  24.  The LEA and Governing Body have been notified and have authorised the visit.

  25.  Child protection measures are in place.

  26.  A school contact has been nominated and there is a contingency plan for delays including a late return back to school.

  27.  Full and comprehensive information has been provided to parents including details of costings, modes of transport and the precise nature of activities the pupils will be involved in.

  28.  Parental consent has been obtained in writing with specific consent for activities such as swimming, along with relevant pupil medical information.

  29.  Supervision of the group is appropriate in relation to gender, experience and police checks.

  30.  The mode of transport is suitable and all safety measures will be taken.

  31.  Detailed costings of the visit have been approved.

  32.  Appropriate cover for teachers on the visit has been organised.

  33.  An emergency procedure has been planned with well-established lines of communication should the need arise, including the provision of a mobile telephone if requested.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

  34.  Since the Children Act was introduced NASUWT has dealt with many more allegations of abuse by teachers. Members are therefore advised:

    —  not to give a child/children a lift in your own vehicle;

    —  not to place yourself in a one-to-one situation;

    —  not to administer any medication.

  35.  NASUWT strongly advises any member contemplating driving a minibus in the course of an educational visit or journey to reconsider and instead enlist the services of a specially trained driver.

  36.  In order to ensure the avoidance of personal liability as the "provider" of the visit, NASUWT recommends that the group leader should:

    —  only act on behalf of the employer as the employer's agent;

    —  take professional advice on the level and type of insurance required for the visit;

    —  use a tour operator that has an externally verified safety management system rather than making arrangements on a "diy" basis.

  37.  A visit involving outdoor activities should engage the services of a specialist provider (for example, an LEA-run centre or a commercial organisation licensed by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority) where pupils can be placed in the care of qualified instructors.

October 2004





 
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