In a sensible attempt to reduce the bureaucracy which makes school trips difficult to organise, the Government is attempting to simplify the guidelines, however teaching unions have criticised the move. The Department for Education is publishing new guidance for school staff, reducing the length of the guidelines from a staggering 150 pages to a more manageable 8.
Over recent years the guidelines have expanded again and again due to bureaucracy and a fear of civil litigation. Schools are loath to organise trips due to the complex nature of the paperwork involved and the risk of being sued if an accident occurs. Even the Health and Safety Executive itself is in favour of a change in the guidelines. They hope it will dispel some of the legal ‘myths’ which they are often accused of.
Chris Grayling, Employment minister, said:
“We've got a crazy situation at the moment where, very often, headteachers and teachers think that actually the rules are such that it's not a good idea to plan school trips.”
“There's too much bureaucracy, too many health and safety rules and a risk of prosecution if something goes wrong. There is no reason - and never was - why children should be prevented from going on school trips by over-enthusiastic misinterpretation of rules.”
General Secretary of the teaching union NASUWT, Chris Keates said:
“The decision to scrap over 140 pages of guidance is potentially reckless and could increase litigation against schools and teachers. There is no evidence demonstrating the need for the previous guidance to be abandoned, and no educational reason for doing so. The dilution of guidance for schools is likely to reduce rather than increase the number of educational visits.”
This move to introduce sensible changes and allow children to go on more school trips should be applauded rather than criticised. Only two legal cases have been brought against schools for a breach of health and safety law on a school trip in the last five years, so any measure which removes time-wasting bureaucracy and allows teachers to spend more time with their pupils should be commended.