Articles for Teachers
I'm too terrified to take children out of school - the responsibility is too great!
Learning beyond the school is immensely valuable. Children behave differently in new environments, they learn in different ways and often more intensely than in the relatively predictable classroom. They deserve to be offered lasting educational experiences - yet our litigious society, an obsessive health and safety culture and the amount of organizational effort involved make it so easy simply to stay at school.
Teachers are right to be wary of taking children on visits and journeys where they have greater responsibility for health and safety and risk being sued for any errors. The best way to overcome this fear is to take every reasonable precaution to avoid known risks and put into place checks and balances to reduce the chances of problems. You must be well organized.
This applies to a one-hour traffic survey in the local town, a day out in the city or a four-day visit abroad. In every case you have to ensure the safety of all pupils. Nevertheless there will be different regulations for brief local visits and overnight visits abroad.
First and foremost consult school, union and local authority policies on procedures for school trips. Consider these all carefully before agreeing to take responsibility for an out-of-school visit. Refer to them constantly during your planning.
Follow staffing guidelines for the age and gender of your party. Remember that while parents and governors may count as adults in some circumstances they may not be as responsive or child-orientated as members of staff.
Consider the educational benefits of the visit. Distinguish between an escorted holiday and an educational visit. Both have merits but only a well-prepared, educationally orientated visit deserves to be carried out in school time. That doesn't mean it has to stick rigidly to the National Curriculum, but it does mean it should be both enjoyable and focused on learning.
Consider how the learning can integrate with classroom curriculum work and take advantage of this in preparation and follow-up activities back at school.
Compile a thorough checklist for your specific visit using the official guidelines. Then have it checked by experienced staff or your local authority. Include information about:
risk assessment, medical issues, travel sickness, travel, transfers, luggage security and transport, local food, insurance, contact information, phone lists, telephone trees, signed parent agreements and consent to cover responsibilities of both parents and children, preliminary parent and pupil meetings, proposed action in case of disruption by pupils, action and insurance in case of hospitalization or crashes, insurance to cover emergency flights home, staffing ratio to cover your group, competency of any other adults, staff training, first-aid training, a published and agreed itinerary, supervisory arrangements for 24-hour care, worksheets, standards of behavior, finance and payment, spending money, allowed and recommended equipment and clothing, passports and visas, ski passes, museum tickets, weather conditions, ....
Obtain official approval first for your outline of the activity, later for the complete plan with aims, outcomes, itinerary and safety.
Follow official advice to the letter.
Cover all foreseeable problems and as many of the unforeseeable ones as you can.
Justify the visit educationally.
Check everything. Then again.
Likely Page Break
Stay at school and watch a DVD.
Visit websites created by schools who have used their experience educationally and presented them to benefit others.