Government's response to the Second Report from the
Education and Skills Committee, Session 2004-05.
The Committee's conclusions and recommendations are
in bold text. The Government's response is in plain text.
The Government welcomes the Education & Skills
Select Committee report which highlights the important issue of
education outside the classroom. A number of recommendations point
to a strategic response by the Government and partners (Recommendations
1, 18, 21, 24, 25, 26, 27). The Government recognises the value
of education outside the classroom for all ages and abilities,
on site and beyond, during the formal school day and beyond. We
are promoting these benefits widely to encourage out of classroom
learning to be seen as an integral part of all children and young
We do not accept the Committee's conclusion that
education outside the classroom is in decline. We have seen no
factual supporting evidenceeither in the submissions provided
by different organisations to the Committee, or elsewhere. The
evidence collected by the Department, direct from schools, as
well as that gleaned from discussions with groups of schools and
LEAs gives a picture of stable or increasing activity, and positive
support and understanding of the benefits which pupils derive
from these experiences. However, we are also clear that there
are a number of ways in which education outside the classroom
could be strengthened and we are keen to engage external organisations
and school communities, including Heads, teachers, parents and
pupils, in moving forward.
As we said to the Committee in both our oral and
written evidence, the Government is keen to develop, with partners,
a Manifesto for Education outside the Classroom. For it to be
successful and to draw together the expertise, energy and commitment
of all interested parties, it must be a product of consultation
We are working with a range of bodies to get the
Manifesto underway. On 11 February the Department for Education
& Skills (DfES) brought together around 30 partners from across
the outdoor learning, cultural, heritage, built environment and
museum sectors at an initial scoping workshop for a Manifesto.
On 15 February, the Secretary of State for Education
and Skills announced a Manifesto for Education outside the Classroom,
to be launched in the new school year. In her announcement she
said that, bringing together a range of stakeholders, the Manifesto
will: set out a joint commitment that all children should have
the opportunity of a wide range of high quality outdoor learning,
including at least one residential experience; encourage schools
to partner with other schools and outdoor learning providers;
encourage parents to take an active interest in outdoor learning;
set out a range of advice and support; provide information and
good practice guidance on health and safety issues; and set out
priorities for the development of outdoor learning. The Secretary
of State also announced new forthcoming guidance to remind employers
how they must treat staff fairly in investigating any rare but
unfortunate case of pupil injury: the law protects from liability
all school staff who take reasonable care.
In the Manifesto, we want to vigorously promote DfES's
standard forms, and remind schools in plain terms how to keep
risk assessment proportionate. We will underline that schools
should not over-complicatethey should ignore the trivial,
and make risk assessments sufficient, not perfect. We want to
work closely with our partners, to reduce duplication and conflicting
paperwork by increasing use of common standards right across the
education visits sector.
We share the Committee's concern for pupils in deprived
areas having the same chances as those from well off families
and this is something we shall pursue in our Manifesto discussions.
We will also include the future role of Educational Visits Co-ordinators
and the Committee's suggestion of a 'champion'. We will link with
key DfES programmes, including Extended Schools and activities
We think it is important also to acknowledge the
value which schools themselves place on the help they already
get from the Government and from many other organisations. We
trust the professionalism of teachers, and that of the many people
working in different settings, and will continue to work with
them to change attitudes and expectations over time. The support,
advice, and resources we and other organisations offer schools
are greatly appreciated and help teachers to make these experiences
a reality for their pupils.
We set out below our response to the Committee's
The value of education outside the classroom
Like all educational processes, the benefits of
education outside the classroom should be rigorously researched,
documented and communicated. Positive and reliable evidence of
the benefits of outdoor activities would help schools determine
the priority to afford to such work. (Paragraph 13)
We agree with the Committee. We have co-sponsored
two recent studies and have recently published the results of
our current research. We will promote the findings to schools.
The potential of education outside the classroom
It is clear to the Committee that outdoor education
is a sector suffering from considerable unexploited potential.
We agree with the Committee that there is a wealth
of good practice and many committed teachers, Heads and providers
who value the benefits of learning outside the classroom and who
make sure pupils experience a range of safe and stimulating activities.
We believe these experiences should be widely acknowledged as
an essential part of children's education at all stages.
We also agree that evidence from different sources,
sometimes contradictory, provides a patchy picture. Evidence direct
from schools appears generally more positive than that from other
In July 2004 MORI research on study support (out
of school hours activity) found that 67% of secondary schools
provided field trips; the 2003-4 survey of school sport partnerships
showed that 68% of the 6500 schools taking part in the survey
offered outdoor and adventurous activities (which are part of
the PE curriculum).
In Autumn 2004, we commissioned the Duke of Edinburgh's
Awards (DoE) and The Scouts Association (SA) to do a survey of
school visits for 7 to 16 year olds in 900 secondary & primary
schools. The draft report shows 86% of primary and 99% of secondary
schools offer pupils at least one residential opportunity during
their time in the school. We will publish the full report soon.
We are planning a further sample survey of LEAs and
schools, with in-depth study of visit records and school patterns
Managing risks and streamlining paperwork
Recommendations 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9
Many of the organisations and individuals who
submitted evidence to our inquiry cited the fear of accidents
and the possibility of litigation as one of the main reasons for
the apparent decline in school trips. It is the view of this Committee
that this fear is entirely out of proportion to the real risks.
The Government welcomes this conclusion. We agree
that seven million pupils from schools in England go on school
activities off-site or outdoors throughout the year, on which
mishaps are rare, and serious ones even more so. We believe that
this excellent record is due to good risk management by LEAs,
schools and their staff, supported by good behaviour by pupils
and cooperation by parents. (See also our response to recommendation
We welcome the DfES health and safety guidance
which clearly sets out what is expected of all those involved
in organising school trips. There remain some concerns relating
to guidance on trips involving children with special educational
needs, where there could be more specific recommendations on levels
of staffing and the right of children to attend. This area is
likely to be affected by the enactment of the Disability Discrimination
Bill and we recommend that the DfES review its guidance in this
context. (Paragraph 22)
The Government is pleased that the Committee welcomes
current guidance. We had already noted internally that, when we
next update our guidance, it would be useful to say a little more
on Special Educational Needs. We aim to publish updates (on the
web) in 2005-06, with links to our recent SEN travel checklists,
and to the outcomes of two projects now underway with external
partners. These two projects will develop tools to help schools
and LEAs review and revise their Accessibility Plans and Strategies
and a DVD to help explain to schools how they might make Reasonable
Adjustments to their policies and practice to include disabled
pupils in all aspects of school life. It is intended that the
DVD resource will include a section on school trips. (See also
Recommendation 22 about guidance.)
We do not believe that the NASUWT wishes to see
the end of all school trips. We therefore recommend that the union
seriously reviews its advice to members not to participate in
school trips, which is not a helpful attitude. (Paragraph 26)
NASUWT, as they told the Committee in their oral
evidence, are already preparing to review their advice as a result
of good progress made in talks with DFES. We are glad that DfES's
announcement on 15 February of forthcoming new guidance to school
employers on treating staff fairly was greeted by NASUWT as a
further step forward, which should help their review towards a
We recommend that the DfES makes it clear to schools
and LEAs that it is unacceptable to settle frivolous and unfounded
claims out of court simply to get rid of the problem. By working
with teacher unions, including the NASUWT, the DfES should be
able to address their concerns and persuade the unions to move
forward from what is in our view, a needlessly obstructive attitude.
We agree with this point. We will emphasise it in
our forthcoming guidance, and will make links with current work
by the Department for Constitutional Affairs on improving the
compensation system and public confidence in it, as highlighted
in Lord Falconer's 22 March announcement that we will use the
law to regulate the activities of claims managers. Andrew Adonis
now represents the Department for Education and Skills on the
working group looking at compensation, chaired by Baroness Ashton.
We recommend that the DfES takes action to streamline
the risk assessment system surrounding school trips, promoting
its standard forms more vigorously and deprecating bad practice.
We further recommend that AALA licensed centres be subject to
a much streamlined risk assessment process, and that the DfES
considers expanding the AALA licensing scheme to include other
sectors, such as foreign and voluntary operators. (Paragraph 35)
We will be happy to promote our model forms further
in the context of the new guidance on treating staff fairly, and
of the forthcoming education outside the classroom manifesto.
We already point LEAs and schools to HSE guidance which makes
clear to employers that they should not over-complicate risk management,
but should "ignore the trivial" and make assessments
"suitable and sufficientnot perfect". (See also
our reply to recommendation 22.)
We wrote to all local education authorities in England
in May 2004, reminding them that they need not seek duplicate
assurances of safety for adventure activities already safety-inspected
by the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority (AALA).
As to expanding the AALA, DfES considered such matters
relatively recently in its latest review of the Authority; as
a result, Ministers decided last year, in line with broad support
from consultees, not to widen the remit of the AALA at this time.
We believe it is too soon to revisit such issues at present or
in the near future, especially in the light of the Government's
recent acceptance of the Hampton Report recommendation that an
expanded HSE should take in the functions of the AALA, among other
regulators. We are pleased that the AALA are doing a good job
in assuring, by inspection, the safety of higher-hazard paid-for
adventure activities for under-18s.
We recommend that the DfES thoroughly investigate
the extent to which difficulties securing insurance cover are
a barrier to education outside the classroom and develops options
to resolve any problems. (Paragraph 38)
We agree with the Association of British Insurers,
who are confident that insurance cover for schools is not a significant
barrier to activity by schools. To make quite sure, we are including
public liability insurance in our current pilot to help LEAs manage
insurance better, even though it is much less significant than
their largest insurance cost, which is premises (e.g. fire). We
are also keeping in touch with work by the Home Office on risk
management and insurance matters for the voluntary and community
sector, which includes some providers of activities to schools.
Recommendations 10, 11 and 12
We recommend that the DfES work with the Teacher
Training Agency to ensure that Initial Teacher Training courses
demonstrate the potential benefits of education outside the classroom
and point teachers towards ways to develop their skills in this
area as their career progresses. (Paragraph 43)
Initial teacher training programmes have a great
deal of ground to cover and delivery is subject to tough time
constraints. Nonetheless, "Qualifying to Teach", which
sets out the professional standards for qualified teacher status
and requirements for initial teacher training (ITT), requires
those awarded QTS to demonstrate that they are able to plan opportunities
for pupils to learn in out-of-school contexts, such as school
visits, museums, theatres, field-work and employment-based settings,
with the help of other staff where appropriate.
For the future, the Teacher Training Agency is likely
to be setting in train a review of the standards in "Qualifying
to Teach" with a view to implementation in the school year
starting in September 2007. This would be subject to public consultation
and reporting and provide an opportunity for interested parties
to propose changes to the standardsfor example, that more
emphasis should be placed on education outside the classroom within
initial teacher training.
Any attempt to raise the quantity and quality
of outdoor education depends crucially on the skills and motivation
of the teachers involved. We therefore recommend that the DfES
give an explicit commitment to support Continuing Professional
Development in this area. Any Departmental Manifesto for Outdoor
Learning that may emerge should include an entitlement to training
for teachers. Networks such as Teachers TV can also be of significant
benefit in spreading good practice and should be engaged in this
project. (Paragraph 44)
The DfES Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners
recognises that continuing professional development (CPD) is central
to improvements in teaching and learning. The Government's ambition
is that all teachers should benefit from and contribute to professional
development throughout their careers, and that professional development
should be planned, appropriate to the individual concerned, be
informed by performance management, and be linked to plans for
school improvement. Decisions about professional development activity
will continue to be taken by schools and teachers.
The Teacher Training Agency (TTA) has been given
a new remit for teachers' continuing professional development
(CPD). They will be working with a wide range of partners, including
teachers' professional bodies and subject associations, to bring
greater coherence to professional and occupational standards and
to CPD; to provide leadership and guidance to schools and local
authorities; to monitor the quality and coverage of provision;
to help to shape future strategy priorities; and to co-ordinate
specific programmes. Their remit starts to become operational
from April this year.
We strongly support the Committee's view that the
drive to raise standards in this area, as in others, depends on
the skills and commitment of the school team. We agree that it
will be valuable for schools, as part of their strategic planning
for training and development, to think about what preparation
and support their staff need in order to develop their capacity
for education outside the classroom.
We agree Teachers' TV is a good method of disseminating
good practice to schools. It is run independently of the Government,
but there are opportunities to propose programming ideas to the
channel. In fact there are 8 episodes in 'Worth the Trip', with
one featuring the Growing Schools programme. Others include a
maths trip to an arboretum, a geography trip down a cavern and
a visit to an exhibition about ancient Egypt. Early Years programmes
include 'the Outdoor Environment', and how to use it as an integrated
part of the classroom. In Primary programmes, there are two on
field trips and classroom follow up'Invaders and
Settlers', with Year 4 extending their knowledge of place and
environment by studying their own locality. Two Geography experts
comment on the organisation and content of the field trip.
We recommend that the DfES engage teachers' professional
bodies and subject associations in the provision of fieldwork
training for science and geography teachers, ensuring that appropriate
programmes of professional development are on offer to all those
teachers who might benefit. (Paragraph 47)
We acknowledge the importance of engaging teachers'
professional bodies and subject associations.
We have funded the Association for Science Education
(ASE) to develop training courses that will increase teacher skills
and confidence in providing outdoor learning opportunities. These
are currently being delivered through Science Learning Centres,
a national network for professional development in the teaching
of science, set up by the DfES in partnership with The Wellcome
Trust. Since the Centres started delivering courses in October
2004 many of them have delivered or are in the process of delivering,
field work related courses.
We have also funded the Geographical Association
(GA) to develop a Professional Development Unit on fieldwork which
is now available on the Open University Teach and Learn website.
This series includes units on supporting fieldwork in Primary
and Secondary Geography as well as in History and Science.
Last year DfES supported, via the subject associations,
the development of geography resources and networks for primary
and secondary schoolsall emphasise outdoor learning as
a defining characteristic of high quality geography.
The Geography Focus Group, which we outlined in our
written evidence, has an outdoor learning working group.
The subject associations also provide, independently,
substantial support, including the Royal Geographical Society's
three fieldwork safety training coursesattended in the
last 4 years by over 750 teachers and outdoor leaders. This summer
the GA in association with the Field Studies Council will be publishing
a number of resources to support teachers with fieldwork, enhancing
an already rich list of published leaflets, posters and handbooks,
for all phases of education from early years to post-16.
Recommendation 13 and 14
Our evidence suggests that EVCs are working well
in schools, but we would re-iterate our comments on training.
In order to be effective, educational visits co-ordinators must
have access to high quality programmes of Continuing Professional
Development. We also consider that the EVC role should be developed
further into that of a champion for outdoor learning within a
school. This should include not only the promotion of off-site
visits but also the benefits of using the school grounds as a
resource. (Paragraph 49)
Responsibility and funding for Continual Professional
Development is delegated to schools. The establishment of EVCs,
which the Committee welcomed and which DfES helped to fund, was
in large part aided by the Outdoor Education Advisers Panel (OEAP),
who are currently:
a) continuing and sustaining the original EVC
initiative by work to:
- deliver training, with LEA
trainers, to new staff to be the EVC for the school they work
in, where new staff have replaced colleagues leaving to other
jobs or are otherwise new to the role;
- update the skills of existing EVCs, as many were
trained some time ago.
b) initiating a new scheme to train visit leaders.
This is for teachers, youth workers and support staff who lead
and support visits. It focuses on active risk management in the
outdoors and in particular, near key hazards (e.g. water), for
staff of the school/ group. It comprises national and regional
Trainer-Training, to help each LEA to have 1-3
trainers for its schools and groups; and LEA training for schools
and Youth Groups, with an eventual target of covering all establishments.
We are interested in the Committee's suggestion for
a wider EVC role, and will pursue this in our discussions with
partners on the Education outside the Classroom Manifesto.
It appears that some new schools are being built
without due regard to the educational potential of school grounds.
This is a result of the lack of leadership and strategic planning
from the DfES with regard to outdoor learning. We urge the Department
to take action to ensure that new capital projects incorporate
good design of outdoor spaces into their plans. (Paragraph 53)
Schools, LAs and their partners are encouraged to
look as widely as possible at all educational needs, both inside
and outside the classroom, as part of their overall construction
To support the delivery of high class outdoor learning
facilities, we provide design guidance in the form of Building
Bulletins, which apply to all maintained school sectors, including
academy and non academy secondary schools, primary schools and
special needs schools:
- Building Bulletin 71: 'The
Outdoor Classroom' (2nd edition 1999) and 85: 'School Grounds'
(1997), highlight the potential of school grounds as a valuable
resource to support and enrich the whole curriculum and the education
of all pupils;
- Building Bulletin 95: 'Schools for the Future'
(2003), gives guidance on developing external areas in "schools
for the 21st century"; and
- Non-statutory area guidelines for outdoor areas
have recently been updated and are available in Building Bulletin
98: 'Briefing Framework for Secondary School Projects' and Building
Bulletin 99: 'Briefing Framework for Primary School Projects'.
For the first time, these now include specific recommendations
for 'habitat areas' developed for a wide range of activities (such
as meadowland, wildlife habitats and gardens to support the curriculum
and improve play and recreational spaces), as well as outdoor
PE facilities and informal and social areas.
The DfES recent publication Schools for the Future:
Exemplar Designs, where many designs have considered how the grounds
can enhance learning and links with the community. These include
confined urban sites where a number of solutions including play
decks and terraces were proposed to create additional space to
make up for the lack of social and informal spaces. The use of
external spaces is generally carefully considered from all aspects
and there are examples where use is being planned and made of
site features and spaces:
- At Liverpool Kensington Academy,
a core theme is sustainability. Gardens and overflow spaces are
being provided, together with ecological design features.
- Reading Academy is using an exemplar design,
one of whose principals is the creation of strong links with the
outdoors for teaching and pastoral care: featuring courtyards,
external teaching areas and an amphitheatre.
- The more traditional use of external space is
proposed for Leicester Academy, one of whose stated aims is that
the landscape design is of high importance to promote the 'Healthy
Mind, Body & Soul'. The site includes an existing covert of
about 0.5 Ha (1.2 acres) mature mixed woodland which have a variety
of uses in relation to both the formal and informal curriculum
and can also be beneficial to wildlife.
- Kingsmead Primary in Cheshire is a good example,
where the school intended to grow food for school lunches as part
of the learning experience.
- Good Classrooms of the Future projects are in
Bedfordshire (external interactive facilities developed by the
Science Museum); Sheffield (Ballifield Primary and Mossbrook Special);
and Bournemouth (field studies centre).
Recommendations 15, 16 and 17
Much of our evidence cited cost as a significant
barrier to the organisation of educational visits, yet we do not
believe that cost alone is responsible for the decline of education
outside the classroom, or that simply throwing money at the problem
would provide a solution. (Paragraph 56)
We agree with the Committee's view that cost is one
of the complex factors affecting education outside the classroom.
We would emphasise the variety of options open to schools, not
all of which carry a high cost, for example, using school grounds
and local facilities as a rich resource for learning. However,
we would not want to underplay the value of pupils experiencing
unfamiliar places, particularly as part of a residential experience.
We urge the DfES to monitor any unintended consequences
of the Workforce Agreement to determine whether it has led to
an increase in the cost of arranging supply cover during school
trips. (Paragraph 57)
We can appreciate why some people who gave evidence
to the Committee saw potential difficulties with the annual limit
of 38 hours on cover. However, we believe that this is based upon
a misunderstanding of the provisions and purpose of the limit.
We are clear that, provided school trips are planned well in advance,
there need be no conflict with the cover limit. This view is shared
by members of the Workforce Agreement Monitoring.
Teachers must be given better support so they can
focus more of their time on their professional role of teaching
and on activities which directly improve pupil attainment. The
limits on cover introduced in September and the commitment to
guaranteed planning, preparation and assessment (PPA) time from
next September, together with enhanced roles for support staff,
present real opportunities to make a difference to each pupil's
Support staff, who have relevant experience or skills,
can be deployed by schools to take part in a visit, or to provide
cover for an absent teacher. The Department envisages a number
of ways in which support staff may help teachers, including acting
as Educational Visits Co-ordinator or Group Leaders. Head teachers
and local authority advisers will decide on appropriate roles,
based on their assessment of the skills and experience of the
support staff member.
Parliament is currently legislating on school
transport, an area we considered during our previous inquiry into
the draft School Transport Bill. As we recommended in that report,
we would expect the DfES to strongly encourage local authorities
trialling alternative arrangements for school transport under
the new legislative framework to include transport for school
trips in their pilot schemes. This should lead to a reduction
in costs. (Paragraph 58)
Most schools organise transport for visits themselves,
whereas Local Education Authorities organise children getting
to and from school. The School Transport Bill fell when Parliament
was prorogued for the General Election. LEAs do not require the
School Transport Bill in order to achieve efficiencies in the
organisation of school trips, and will be encouraging schools
to collaborate. For example, small primaries could decide to take
their year 5 pupils swimming at the same time each week and share
Centres and operators
Recommendations 19 and 20
In its Five Year Strategy, the Government proposes
that all secondary schools should become independent specialist
schools and that LEAs should lose control over school budgets.
We recommend that the DfES give serious consideration to how it
will structure funding for central outdoor activity services under
this new system, or help schools access private and voluntary
provision, so that students still have access to high quality
outdoor education. (Paragraph 64)
Under current arrangements, funding for outdoor education
can be retained centrally by local authorities. In a number of
instances such funding has been delegated to schools. Where this
is the case, schools have discretion over their budget to support
the provision of outdoor education for their pupils.
The Government has recently consulted on proposals
to implement the promise in the Five Year Strategy of guaranteed
three-year budgets for all schools, geared to pupil numbers. The
proposals include the introduction of a dedicated schools grant
that will be paid to local authorities, who will as now be responsible
for its allocation to schools. Under the proposed new system,
local authorities who retain funding for outdoor education will
continue to be able to do so. The Government's intention is that
the certainty and predictability of multi-year budget settlements
will give schools greater confidence in planning their curriculum
and the resources needed to support it. In areas where the funding
is delegated to schools, this might include the provision of outdoor
education, where at present schools may be reluctant to commit
to such provision in the long term.
It is essential that the DfES and DCMS develop
a strategy for the long-term viability of activity centres, helping
them to retain staff, build strong links with schools and develop
expertise. (Paragraph 65)
We do not consider it to be the role of central Government
to intervene in the running of activity centres operated by private
companies or voluntary sector bodies or the operations of other
organisations who offer education outside the classroom to schools.
The DfES allocates project based funding in some circumstances,
where, for example, the quality of what is offered needs to be
enhanced or upgraded. It is important for schools to make their
own decisions about the opportunities which best meet the needs
of their pupils and to assign funding as appropriate from within
their own budgets. The longer term certainty of budgets should
offer the opportunity for schools to build up relationships with
those centres where they feel their pupils' needs are catered
for and where provision is of high quality.
The role of the DfES
Recommendations 22 and 23
The Department as well as LEAs should take care
to ensure that schools and activity centres are not becoming overloaded
with risk assessment bureaucracy from different, overlapping organisations,
as this can be a significant deterrent. (Paragraph 68)
We will double-check with LEAs that they only ask
schools to do what is reasonably practical to keep pupils safe
from injury, which will also protect staff from liability. On
the reference to requests for assurances of safety from different
overlapping organisations (which we take to refer to requests
to activity centres, not to schools), we are in discussions with
stakeholders both in adventure and in the wider education visits
sector, such as the AALA, British Adventure Holidays Association,
OEAP, School Travel Forum, and other industry representatives,
about the future scope for common standards.
We commend our partners in the sector for the progress
they are making, independently of the Government, in this area.
They have also made available a range of guidance which LEAs and
schools can choose from, on how to assess risks straightforwardly,
e.g. the simple process for assessing and managing risk which
the Outdoor Education Advisers Panel published (on its website)
in 2004, which includes a clear form and a worked example; the
BAALPE guidance on PE and sport; for adventure, AALA guidance
on its website; and for e.g. overseas tours, the School Travel
Forum website on "de-mystifying risk assessment".
The DfES needs to take the lead by demonstrating
the low levels of risk attached to school visits. This could perhaps
be achieved via a statistical comparison with other everyday activities.
Given the relatively low levels of risk attached to outdoor activities,
the Department should now give a clear steer to schools that educational
innovation outside the classroom is to be welcomed and even to
be expected. (Paragraph 69)
We recommend the guidance of the HSE, which clearly
distinguishes hazard from risk. Apparently low-hazard visits could
become high-risk unless the school puts proper risk management
in place. Through good management, schools can ensure that planned
high-hazard activity becomes a low risk. As to a clear steer that
education outside the classroom is welcomed and even to be expected,
we have done this consistently, most recently in our 15 February
announcement, and are happy to continue to do so.
Department for Education and Skills