24 Oct 2009

Exchange and Smart?

I've been teaching 12 years, and in that time I've been on countless foreign trips, visits and exchanges. Viewed all too often by my non-MFL colleagues as 'jollies' or holidays, these trips, while priceless in the experiences that can be gained by the students, as any teacher who has run such a trip will testify, can be a nightmare in terms of stress and worry.

The cause of this stress is not to do with the conduct and behaviour of the children. I'm very fortunate in that respect. The cause of my personal stress has more to do with the numerous health and safety issues and child protection issues that we have to remember and be constantly aware of.

I'm not trying to belittle the risks that are ever present, but the situation in UK schools appears so restrictive compared to our European neighbours, who don't seem shackled by the same chains that we are.

As many of you may be aware, I've just come back from Spain, where one of our days out included a visit to a beach. The Spanish students, effectively unsupervised, were allowed to dive into the sea and enjoy the full benefits of the hot weather. Our students on the other hand were not even allowed to get their feet wet, as we had not managed to pack a trained lifeguard with us.

I'm also aware that we're not allowed to give paracetemol to students with headaches, or apply plasters to children for fear of 'assulting' them.

I know it's not just teachers. I know that in many other walks of life, a common sense approach, and a reliance and respect for a professional judgement call have been replaced by a higher authority who have no faith in trained adults being able to make their own decisions.

If a train driver crashes his train he faces the consequences, but train crashes are rare because those that drive them are trained to do so. Teachers are trained for the job. It seems a bit ironic to me that the councillors and politicians who play the 'protecting our children' card are in careers that actually have no training.

We are now so submerged in a nanny state that it is impossible to get back out again. CCTV cameras everywhere, professionals being dictated to by here-today gone-tomorrow politicians. Many of my colleagues, working in a sector that traditionally leans to the left politically, are now unfortunately moving to the right in the hope that we can bring some common sense back to the job.

In France, Spain and Germany, teachers laugh off the concept of running criminal background checks on families who host students in exchanges. Why? Because it's stupid and impractical. The politicians claim they have to protect people, but in 12 years, and over 20 exchanges, I have had to move one student who I had serious concerns about. Can't we be trusted any longer to make these decisions?

Photo by Darwin Bell


aliceayel said...

I totally agree with your post and now that I am teaching in Germany, I can really sense the difference. Even my little boy who is 4 years old and who goes to a kindergarten has already gone out several times on long walks in the park or in town without me having to sign a single paper. Something that would be impossible in the UK. In his previous nursery in Leicester, he never went out and was stuck inside most of the time! people in the UK are becoming so obsessive with child protection, they forget about child education and well- being!

Mr Sykes said...

Well said!

PTLLS said...

In Europe lifelong learning takes now has a different approach, we hope to see more development as a result of new legislation, good luck all teachers!