Examination of Witnesses (Questions 180-199)|
1 NOVEMBER 2004
Q180 Chairman: Would you favour getting
rid of this responsibility? A specialist organisation in the private
sector could take this all over and take the load totally out
Dr Hammans: Our view is very much
that it is about holistic education of youngsters and it is not
about, "We will deliver national curriculum plus a couple
of options." It is about seeing a youngster when they arrive
at 11 at our schools through to when they finish at 19 even, their
complete growth from the eleven year old through to the 19 year
old; and if we start parcelling it up so that behaviour is to
do with one group of people, outdoor education someone else, classrooms
to do with this, I think we lose sight of what is unique about
the UK education system.
Q181 Chairman: What is your view on that,
Mr Sinnott: I think a lot of commonsense
has just been spoken, and what I think we have started to see
is considerable agreement on those people who represent teachers
on this issue. The fear is a real fear. The fear of litigation
is not something that Chris Keates is inventing; it is a real
fear in the part of schools. So I share what my colleagues have
said about that fear. I also say that that places an enormous
responsibilitybecause you are asking the questions and
we are answering themit places a considerable responsibility
on the Committee here in its report to do something about assuaging
the fear that is out there on the part of parents and others.
By asking the questions you really are placing a tremendous responsibility
on yourselves. The way in which we do it, I think, is by a good
report from you, about all the teacher organisations.
Helen Jones: All our reports are good!
Q182 Mr Turner: Another good report!
Mr Sinnott: I would only say it
because I have got absolute confidence in the type of reports
that you produce.
Q183 Chairman: It is very nice of you
to say things like this, Steve, but our reports have a curt reputation
for being quite good?
Mr Sinnott: They have.
Q184 Chairman: I say that reasonably
modestly, and our reports absolutely reflect the quality of evidence
that we are given. We have been given good evidence today. Some
unions sometimes have been relatively reluctant even to come to
see the Committee, but that is not the situation today and the
quality of evidence we get we can pick up the resonance, and what
we are being given today is a very interesting amount of evidence;
it is very positive; so do not worry about it.
Mr Sinnott: Can I steer you in
a particular direction?
Q185 Chairman: It depends upon which
Mr Sinnott: The direction is to
. . . This is in terms of looking at the value of the types of
activities that you are looking at, and it is to look at what
was developed in Birmingham LEA and in terms of their secondary
guarantees and primary guarantees in which they outlined
specific guarantees or entitlements on children at different ages
and the way in which all youngsters would benefit from having
those guarantees met; and they relate to a whole range of activities,
as I have mentioned, from artistic to sporting, residential or
foreign visits. For youngsters whose parents cannot afford to
do those things or whose parents are not interested in providing
those things for their children, it is schools who decide to pick
up those pieces. No private sector agency can do that in relation
to your question earlier, but it has to be the schools and the
teachers who make professional judgments about what is best in
the interests of their school and in the interests of those children.
What Birmingham did there, I believe, should have been taken up
more nationally. It is tremendous evidence and I think there is
evidence of youngsters, in particular from the economically deprived
backgrounds, who have benefited from that. But there are a range
of measures that may take place in the future that will make it
for difficult for youngsters to go on some trips. It may be that
some of the developments in relation to the Gershin review and
the Lyons review may impact on staffing in some libraries or museums,
and it may be that at the same time some of the pressures that
will flow from the Lyons review in terms of local authority staffing,
but local authority resources and local authority sites and local
authority amenities, there may be pressure on them getting rid
of sites and amenities that benefit youngsters. So that is an
area in which you might want to have a look too, Chair.
Q186 Chairman: If you could write to
us about the implications of the Lyons review, because that is
a relatively new one for us.
Mr Sinnott: We will do?
Q187 Chairman: We spent a week not very
long ago in Birmingham, so some of the questions I was asking
civil servants really come from that experience in Birmingham.
Can I bring all of you back quickly, before we move on to education
events coordinators. What is your general view of this as an initiative
that will . . . When I was asking the civil servants should there
be a champion in the Department or a champion minister, what about
champions in schools or someone who has a specific role in seeing
if the school is really up to good practice on these issues and
energise them? Let us start with Dr Hammans and move across.
Dr Hammans: From our point of
view, and I am speaking now as the head of a school, it has been
a very useful addition to us being able to persuade staff that
they are safe; because it is the fear of litigation, not necessarily
the reality, which is the real concern. So we have our education
visits coordinator. I will say that we would not let staff go
unless we were fully convinced we were complying with everything
such that if there were an incident it would not be the individual,
it would be me that ended up in court. So the EVC, which is somebody
who is nominated, trained, etc, is another layer to reassure those
staff who do want to take students out on trips for good and valid
Q188 Chairman: Chris, does that help
you in terms of having that?
Ms Keates: We have actually identified
some very good practice that has come out of the national agreements,
and the DfES is currently circulating to schools a video, which
one of the examples they give from a Pathfinder school is an Educational
Visits Coordinator, that is a highly qualified member of sports
staff who has actually taken a huge burden off teachers in term
of planning, coordination, identifying if risk assessments have
been done, liaising with the local authority outdoor educational
advisers, and we think that is very good practice to look at that,
because teachers, quite frankly, with a full teaching load, one
of their concerns is having the time to do those kinds of things
properly, and we are very pleased in the way the remodelling of
the school workforce is bringing on board other staff who are
qualified to do those kinds of things and relieving that kind
of administrative and coordination burden from teachers.
Q189 Chairman: So if there were not any
of your members, if someone else was doing the job, you would
be happier, would you?
Ms Keates: We think that it is
better that there is somebody, given the issues that have to be
addressed in the planning of these kinds of activities because,
I think my colleagues have emphasised, a great deal of the time
and effort needs to go into these if they are going to be done
properly. We do not think that it is appropriate to do something
that a teacher can do on top of a full teaching commitment and
that they are better focused on concentrating on the teaching
and learning, look at the curriculum needs in terms of what kind
of visit might support some of the curriculum and having somebody
on the school staff who can devote some time to that. Certainly
the feedback that we are getting is that where people have looked
at remodelling of the workforce seriously, that is one of the
issues they have looked at and staff are reporting that it has
taken quite a considerable burden off them in that respect.
Q190 Chairman: Would you not miss out
that sort of bonding that students get with staff when they do
things outside the school?
Ms Keates: We are not taking it.
I am talking about somebody who is doing all the preparatory work,
providing all the information, making sure risk assessments are
done. That is not necessarily, in fact quite often is not, the
person who will conduct the visit. That can either be teachers
or support staff.
Q191 Chairman: You still prefer your
members to go on visits?
Ms Keates: I think if they are
totally curriculum related and things like field work, and so
on, you have to have a qualified teacher who is relating that
back to the classroom issues. Some of the other visits that might
not be quite such a subject based link, it might not be necessary
for it always to be teachers. What we have said is in terms of
teacher workload the big issue of administration, risk assessment
and various other things, there are other people who can do that
and have the time to do that. In terms of conducting the visits,
we think there has to be an appropriate mix of people. What we
do not support is the automatic assumption that every aspect of
a school visit must be done by a teacher.
Q192 Valerie Davey: I think in this session
I need to register my continued membership of the NUT. A slight
change. In terms of the Government and its involvement, I would
like to ask the two head teacher representatives, first of all,
whether they feel that the recent Government initiatives, and
particularly, I guess, the Growing Schools initiative, has been
successful in highlighting the value of outdoor activities and,
indeed, promoting them?
Ms James: Do I think it has been
successful? I think it has been partially successful. I think
it has been part of a growing move on the part of the Government
in that there are lots of conversations taking place, if I can
phrase it in that way, in terms of seeing how outdoor activities
can benefit education and can be promoted. We talked before about
the holistic nature of education and the use of outdoor activities
within it, and I think we need to continue to see that being promoted
so that all staff and parents and the general school community
can see the value of the outdoor activities and, therefore, again
positive promotion, I think, is an important aspect.
Dr Hammans: I would agree with
that. Anything which comes from any central source which says
that this aspect is part and parcel of education, it is not just
about sitting in the class room and doing your book work or doing
some work on the inter-active white board, it is about a whole
range of experiences which have educational outcomes, and I think
anything is going to be positive.
Q193 Valerie Davey: So if the school
were going to take this forward, do you think the decision to
expand outdoor activities is more likely to happen if it has got
the head teacher's backing, if it has got the LEA's backing, if
it has got Ofsted's backing or the Government's backing. Where
is the pressure going to come from that would be most effective
in recharging the batteries in terms of outdoor school activities?
Dr Hammans: I think it needs the
head teacher's backing, because that is the person who is likely
to end up in court. So if we are talking about that fear, if the
head is going say quite clearly, "These are valuable educational
activities which we will run at minimum risk for the very
best interests educationally of our students", then you are
going to take your staff with you. You inevitably will have the
backing of your governors anyway for that. If the LEA supports
it, plus there are national initiatives and agendas to support
it as well, then it is a winning situation, but I think it has
to start with the school, much as the evidence from the DfES officials
earlier on saying that it is for the school to determine its priorities
locally, but, if it can link in with other national priorities,
including Ofsted, then that is a stronger argument.
Q194 Valerie Davey: Would you agree with
Ms James: I would in the main,
yes, though, again, we keep going back and I know we keep returning
to this fear of litigation, but until we start to unpin that and
actually almost start to try to remove some of that fear . . .
Fiona referred before to the fact that the head is always the
one that fears that they are going to land up in court. That is
still there. If we want to promote a positive attitude towards
outdoor activities being wrapped up within education, absolutely
essential, then I think head teachers must be secure in saying,
"Yes, I know that I can promote this, I know that this is
safe, I know that this secure and I am going to be the one that
ends up in court if anything goes wrong, but I know that I am
secure in saying this", and I think that really needs to
Q195 Valerie Davey: It is really rather
ironic, is it not, that we are using the word "fear"
and yet many of these outdoor activities are there to help children
overcome fear of climbing, or all the other things. It has to
happen. We have to overcome it. I would like to come back very
specifically because I know Banbury from old. There is a lot of
overseas work, indeed, international European visits?
Dr Hammans: There is less now.
We no longer do European work experience on the advice of the
Education Authority. We do a number of overseas trips, which are
the day trip to France or the Christmas shopping trip to Germany,
which is two or three days, or a week in France residential, or
Spain, including expeditions to more exotic places in the summer
holidays for a month, but we are very clear that one of the things
we offer as a very large school, which makes us distinct from
other schools in the area, are staff who are keen and interested
in running those sorts of activities, plus it is something value-added
for education at our school. So we are fully committed to it as
a school anyway, but that is a different starting point, I think,
to other schools.
Q196 Valerie Davey: But clearly that
is potentially the largest risk when you are taking children abroad
and you are committed still, even if perhaps to a lesser degree
you are still committed, to that work and you have overcome personally,
as you must have done, the fear which says this is more important
than me sitting here worrying that the world will collapse?
Dr Hammans: If I am honest, the
fear is still there sometimes. Certainly when you are getting
to the end of a month's expedition in Madagascar, for instance,
and you get a phone call at 3.30 in the morning and they are saying,
"Actually things are okay; we had forgotten the time difference",
there is always a moment of panic then, but it is about as a school
we do believe we should be doing it. It is about something special
and distinct that we can offer our students. There is a risk there,
but our parents have opted into the fact that we will do everything
we can and more to minimise that risk, but there is no learning
without some risk.
Q197 Chairman: Steve Sinnott wants to
come in on that question, but can I push you on what do you give
up on the advice of the Educational Authority?
Dr Hammans: We gave up European
Q198 Chairman: Why is that?
Dr Hammans: We were effectively
sending students solo to places that we had not visited ourselves,
were not able to risk assess in advance, had not met the adults,
were not aware of the work situation. So in terms of the tick-list
that we had to fill in, there were too many blanks and we were
being too trusting, so we were not up for that.
Q199 Chairman: Steve Sinnott?
Mr Sinnott: Thank you. I wanted
just start by correcting Valerie in terms of the way in which
she viewed her union. The NUT is a head teachers' organisation
and we claim to have the second highest number of head teachers
in all the teachers' organisations, and I think I am speaking
for Chris Keates here, because she cannot speak for herself this
afternoon, as you will have noticed, so I will say they also have
head teachers members in the NASUWT. So we are head teacher organisations
Valerie Davey: I take rebuke from the
leader of my union!