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.
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
the quality of staff training.
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
A CHECKLIST FOR
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
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.
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
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/
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
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
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
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
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.)
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.