The papers today have what I thought might have been be a universally-welcomed good news story about the government's reducing some of the Health & Saftey red tape around out of school activties with a cutting of the "guidance" from 150 pages to 8. But I'd reckoned without the recidivist miserabilists in the NAS / UWT who have long had a down on school trips. Step forward Patrick Roach, the union's deputy general secretary, who is reported as explaining the situation in this way:
Our concern is that the coalition Government has been wedded to an agenda of cutting back on red tape and bureaucracy, as it describes it, in a very cavalier fashion - and in this instance, cutting back on bureaucracy which actually is quite beneficial to schools. The original guidelines were developed by teachers for teachers. Cutting them back could reduce parents’ confidence and make teachers more nervous about school trips.
Magnificent! It makes me wonder if Mr Roach has ever seen the rigmarole that teachers have to comply with for a simple off-site visit. Sunday's Independent quotes the DfE saying that its revised guidance:
* Summarises the legal duties of head teachers, governing bodies and local authorities on health and safety, and covers activities that take place on and off school premises;
* Makes clear that a written risk assessment does not need to be carried out every time a school takes pupils on a regular, routine local visit, for example to a swimming pool or museum;
* Tackles myths and teachers' fears about being prosecuted by making the law clearer;
* Clarifies that parental consent is not necessary for pupils to take part in the majority of off-site activities organised by a school, as most of these activities take place during school hours and are a normal part of a child's education
The last point is particularly interesting as it relates to, and restates, the breadth of in loco parentis responsibilities. All this has been raised by the Health & Saftey Executive. The Independent again:
"Excessive and unnecessary application of restrictions on unfounded health and safety grounds threatens to spoil children's experience of growing up", said [the HSE's Chair] Judith Hackitt. "The creeping culture of risk-aversion and fear of litigation ... puts at risk our children's education and preparation for adult life. Children today are denied - often on spurious health and safety grounds - many of the formative experiences that shaped my generation. Playgrounds have become joyless, for fear of a few cuts and bruises. Science in the classroom is becoming sterile and uninspiring. In many cases the people behind unreasonable rulings were well-meaning but misguided jobsworths who have the public interest at heart but go too far." Ms Hackett added: "A trend of far more concern to me is the use of health and safety as a convenient excuse by employers and other organisations cynically looking for a way to disguise their real motives."
She couldn't mean the teacher unions could she? Meanwhile, I keep looking at the LOTC website for a comment. So far, an eloquent silence.