Teachers scared to leave the classroom, says Countryside Alliance

Children are being denied school trips for fear teachers will be sued if something goes wrong, new research by The Countryside Alliance Foundation (TCAF) has revealed.
The Countryside Alliance Foundation commissioned the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) to include questions in its Teacher Voice survey. It found;

  • Of the 1400 teachers surveyed, 97% of teachers thought it important that pupils learn about the countryside within the National Curriculum.
  • 76% felt the main barrier in taking pupils to the countryside to facilitate learning was 'concerns about health and safety'.
  • 49% of teachers felt that a main barrier was ‘fear of litigation in the unlikely event of an accident’.

In response requests made by TCAF under the Freedom of Information Act, TCAF found;

  • Of the millions of individual school trips taken over the past 10 years, only 364 ended in legal action
  • In fewer than half of cases, 156, were schools found to be culpable and ordered to pay compensation.
  • Over a ten year period the total amount of compensation paid out was £404,952.14, meaning on average local authorities paid out just £293.44 per year in compensation between 1998 and 2008.

The Countryside Alliance Foundation and Young Poll also questioned 2127 children aged 6-15 as part of their research. The survey found;

  • Whilst 85% of young people would like the chance to be able to enjoy activities like fishing, falconry and farm visits through school, only 46% of children actually had been on a trip to the countryside with their school in the past year
  • A substantial 64% said they did not feel they learnt enough about the countryside at school.

The research backs up the Countryside Alliance’s Rural Manifesto, which calls for outdoor learning to feature on the school curriculum. Simon Hart, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, said:

"Statistically, the chances of accidents happening are low and we are working to explode the myths that the countryside is any more dangerous than anywhere else. The benefits of practical countryside education far outweigh the concerns.

The Countryside Alliance wants to facilitate outdoor learning for the next generation without teachers feeling threatened by 'compensation culture'. It believes by making the countryside more accessible for teachers and pupils, learning will be enhanced and pupils will be tolerant and understanding of the countryside."