01 October 2004
Education inspectors are unsympathetic and dismissive of the litigation problems faced by schools, a leading teaching union said this week.
An Ofsted report, The outdoor education: aspects of good practice, published on September 20, called for wider take-up of field work and outdoor pursuits. Chief schools inspector David Bell said: 'The benefits of outdoor education are far too important to forfeit, and by far outweigh the risk of an accident occurring. If teachers follow recognised safety procedures and guidance they have nothing to fear from the law.'
Ofsted cites the Better Regulation Taskforce, which found little evidence to support the charge that compensation claims were increasing.
But Chris Keates, acting general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, said Bell had 'failed to grasp the reality' of what happened when accidents occur.
'As NASUWT casework has demonstrated time and time again, following the procedures and guidance is no protection against litigation,' she said.
'Fortunately, the government is now taking our concerns seriously, having recognised that the demise of the concept of the genuine accident and the rise of the blame culture has left teachers and schools vulnerable.'
Keates said the Department for Education and Skills was working with the union on a solution to protect teachers.
The Ofsted report says outdoor education helps pupils to develop their physical and social skills. It calls on schools to do more to ensure that all children are able to benefit from them.
The leadership and management provided by staff are praised as 'good or better' in more than half of centres and at least satisfactory in the large majority. But there is concern over the limited numbers of places, especially on residential courses, which means some pupils are not able to participate.
Ofsted also notes that some schools do not value outdoor education highly enough to make sufficient room for it in their curriculum.
The inspectorate is urging schools to improve provision and planning so that residential activities support pupils' future work. Teachers accompanying groups on courses are also encouraged to develop specialist skills and knowledge.