The benefits of educational trips
At the start of this term, news reports were full of the Parsons Green tube attack. The following weekend saw a flurry of emails between Mrs Donnelly, our Educational Visits Co-ordinator at Juniors, and me as we debated the feasibility of going ahead with a Year 1 trip to London Zoo and a Year 2 trip to the London Aquarium. Both trips happened with some adjustments made to recognise the security alert status and the girls enjoyed the experience immensely.
The current terrorist threat is a source of concern to parents and reactions range from the stoically pragmatic to an understandably protective stance. For us as teachers, risk assessment is in our DNA; we have a myriad of written assessments from going on trains to using a sandpit but on a daily (if not hourly) basis, we are constantly thinking about what is best and safe for our girls.
The terrorist threat is taken into account on any trip with particular reference to central London. That most certainly does not mean that London trips are ruled out but we do consider the age of the children, the form of transport being used and the precise nature of the trip. For this reason, in the wake of the Borough Market attack, we decided it was not appropriate for a large group of Year 1 pupils to walk from the Globe to the Tate along the South Bank, stopping for a picnic lunch by the Thames. A Year 4 trip into London did take place a few days later but under very different circumstances.
I know that parents recognise the value of educational trips and see that subjects are brought to life and enriched. We do use the local area; it is after all, a World Heritage site and the experiences available to schools are often very different to those open to families at weekends. We also look to Kent with trips to Leeds Castle and further afield but it would be a tragedy to close our minds to the cultural delights London can offer. Even today, Year 6 pupils have just returned from the Unicorn Theatre and their English work will be enhanced as a result.
Sadly, it appears that the terrorism threat shows no sign of abating so we need to find a way to guide our children through these challenging times, keeping them safe but not terrified of the world around them. An anxious parent asked me about using a tracking device in her child’s bag; the reality is that the most likely disaster to happen would be that the tracker or the bag would be lost. Any teacher would calculate that risk as infinitely more probable than a bomb attack. In all that we do in school, the safety of the children is paramount in the context of a carefully considered risk assessment and that is how we will continue to consider all trips going forward.