Prince Philip again calls for the right of young people to experience adventure – TES (26/10/01)

THE Duke of Edinburgh has called for children to be exposed to the risks of adventurous activities as part of their all-round education, despite eight deaths on school trips in the past two years. Tragic accidents and pressure on schools to improve exam results are reducing young people's opportunities to participate in extra-curricular activities, he said.

Writing in The TES today as he celebrates 50 years as president of the Central Council for Physical Recreation, he said that tragic events were inevitable and that schools should ensure children are equipped to deal with risk. "Teachers and clubs should continue to take pupils on adventurous activities, because not to teach children about risk and responsibility, is a failure to provide a rounded education," he said, adding: "If the consideration of safety becomes paramount, any worthwhile physical activity becomes impossible. There has to be a reasonable balance between risk and safety."

Three children were killed on school trips this summer. Bunmi Shagaya, 11, drowned during a trip to France. Amelia Ward, 16 – who had just finished working for her Duke of Edinburgh gold award – was killed by a falling rock while climbing in South Africa, and Amy Ransom, 17, died after falling off a mountain in Vietnam. Five other children have died on trips since January 2000.

In response to the tragedies, the Government issued new guidelines for school trips and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers advised its members not to participate in them because of the threat of legal action. Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "It's all very well for him to say that. He's not going to be sued. He's not going to have his professional life destroyed by some irate parent who doesn't understand that accidents will happen." Marcus Baillie, chief inspector of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority, said: "One of the safest things parents can do with their kids is send them on a school trip. The number of accidents remains remarkably low."

Prince Philip emphasised the role that sports governing bodies and clubs could play in providing the expertise to allow young people to undertake dangerous activities. "You cannot just get onto a bobsleigh and go down the Cresta Run on a whim. "The risk of disaster would be much too great. It needs training, experience, self-control and aptitude before such an activity can be enjoyed with the minimum of risk. Overcoming the risks by preparation is a real satisfaction," he said. The Duke sent his sons to Gordonstoun, the school in Scotland founded by Kurt Hahn to foster "the whole person", including a sense of adventure and service to others. The Duke of Edinburgh Awards are based on these principles.

Earlier this year, he expressed concern that the new AS-levels, which were introduced this year, had driven many sixth-formers to abandon the award scheme to concentrate on the exams.