The Independent Letters pages has flagged up the many distinct reasons for school trips – and education outside the classroom – being so vital in the education armery of any child, where ‘every child matters’.
The original article highlighted the difficulties – logistically and of the psyche – of running school trips. The resulting letter highlighted the very real quandary that schools, teachers, and headteachers face on a daily basis.
It highlighted, for example that: ’Whereas £300 million had been earmarked to improve school music over a three-year period, only £4.5 million had been spent on learning outside the classroom since 2005.’
Regarding the Letter: As the Headteacher Martin Priestley points out, refering to Richard Louv, in his excellent book Last Child in the Woods: ”there are vast benefits to be had from a more nature-friendly approach to education, since children develop their conceptual framework through experiencing the world in three dimensions.’
There is very real need to consider what children are missing out on, which cannot be replaced or supplemented in any other way, other than through a range of outoor experiences.
‘Instead of trying (and failing) to create a risk-free, sanitised, indoor environment for young people, we need to decide the sorts of risks we are willing for our children to encounter – and thereafter, the task is to manage it, not eliminate it.’… Attempts to keep children safe by entombing them indoors will backfire, because young people are hard-wired to seek out risk, and in so doing they are likely to turn to the internet, where they are in fact more at risk than in the real world.’
If every child really matters, then what of their connectedness to the environment?
Full versions from The Independent
School trips suffer due to lack of teacher
Children are becoming “entombed” in their homes and classrooms as a result of a demise in organised school trips, MPs were told today.
Thousands are missing out on visits to museums or the countryside because of a new clause in every teacher’s contract aimed at reducing the amount of time they cover for absent colleagues. The clause, inserted last September, says that teachers should only “rarely cover” for colleagues who are away from the classroom. It was agreed between ministers, local councils and teachers’ unions as part of a deal to reduce the pressure on teachers. However, former chief schools inspector Sir Mike Tomlinson, who is also chairman of the National Science Centre – which runs training courses for teachers and school visits, said: “I think there are some headteachers who are taking ‘rarely cover’ and converting it into ‘never cover’.
“There are some headteachers who say there will never be a teacher out of the classroom during term time.” Even in cases where the Government has promised to reimburse schools so they can pay for cover trips have been cancelled.
Tony Thomas, of the Council for Learning Outside the classroom – a body set up by the Government to promote the take-up of school trips, said: “The figures show a decline in the number of visits to parks and open spaces.”
Figures show that – in the time span of just one generation – the number of visits by children to parks and open spaces – had halved. “We’re now becoming entombed in our homes and buildings,” he added.
“Some headteachers are seeing ‘rarely cover’ as a cover for refusing to make a commitment to learning outside the classroom. The MPs, on the select committee, were told a government manifesto aimed at boosting school trips which recommended every pupil should go on at least one a year had failed to have any impact on take-up of outdoor learning opportunities. Other reasons cited for the decline include included safety fears and the risk of schools being sued if an accident occurred.
A survey by the Countryside Alliance revealed that 76 per cent of teachers were worried by the fear of litigation in the event of an accident. This is despite the fact that only half of the 364 claims made during the past decade had been successful – costing the average authority around £293 a year.
MPs were told that a lack of government cash to promote school trips was hampering efforts to improve the take-up. Whereas £300 million had been earmarked to improve school music over a three-year period, only £4.5 million had been spent on learning outside the classroom since 2005.
As a result, students in key subject areas such as science were turning up to university ill-equipped for their courses. ”The consequences are you’re not going forward with the practical skills you need and universities are reporting that students simply don’t have the practical skills they need to start courses,” said Sir Mike.
The MPs are expected to deliver a report on outside learning before the election. A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: “There is absolutely no reason why schools should stop providing planned school trips or visits because of this provision as advance arrangements should already have been put in place.
“Rarely cover would only ever apply if the teacher taking the children to the event is then unforeseeably absent and alternative cover had to be provided.”
Letters: School trips
Children need to go out and learn to live with risk
I was dismayed but not surprised by your article “School trips suffer due to lack of teacher cover” (3 March ). The difficulties of covering for teachers out on school trips should not deter schools from running them, nor should the current irrational approach to risk. Contrary to media coverage, the risks associated with school trips are in fact small. Too often unconsidered are the enriching benefits.
That is why I support the Countryside Alliance’s “Rural Manifesto”, which calls for outdoor learning to feature on the school curriculum. The American writer Richard Louv, in his excellent book Last Child in the Woods, describes the growing “nature-deficit disorder” among children. Too little exposure to nature, and too much to television, leads to attention difficulties. For each hour of TV watched per day by pre-schoolers, there is a 10 per cent increase in the likelihood they will develop concentration problems by the age of seven.
By contrast, as David Willetts, shadow minister for innovation, universities and skills, has pointed out, there are vast benefits to be had from a more nature-friendly approach to education, since children develop their conceptual framework through experiencing the world in three dimensions.
Attempts to keep children safe by entombing them indoors will backfire, because young people are hard-wired to seek out risk, and in so doing they are likely to turn to the internet, where they are in fact more at risk than in the real world. The digital generational divide – with children as digital natives and parents and teachers as digital immigrants – means that many adults are not technologically savvy enough to help children to understand online safety and manage online risks.
Both in and out of school, children need to be given the opportunity for adventure, both as fundamental to the quality of their childhood – for making friends, keeping healthy, inspiring the imagination – and also as fundamental to their ability to learn when they are at school. Instead of trying (and failing) to create a risk-free, sanitised, indoor environment for young people, we need to decide the sorts of risks we are willing for our children to encounter – and thereafter, the task is to manage it, not eliminate it.
Headmaster, Warminster School, Wiltshire