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Education Bill [HL]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 24th January 2005.

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Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Shadow Minister, Home Affairs 6:45 pm, 24th January 2005

I am sure that all noble Lords would agree that extra-curricular activities are enriching to a child's education and development—their mental, social, physical development and so on. Those activities that involve physical adventure are particularly enriching, because they help develop the person's character and their team-building skills. Many organisations other than schools also lead and organise such activities but, unfortunately, I was not able to include them in the amendment, due to the Long Title—I had to stick to schools. But I would like your Lordships to keep in mind credible and responsible organisations such as the Scout Association, the Guide Association and Outward Bound, which, in addition to schools, lead such activities.

A difficulty is that many schools and other agencies feel constrained about organising such activities—that stretch young people and are good for them—because we live in a litigious society, where some people believe that you should not do anything with any risk attached at all. But the very risk itself helps young people to develop. They need the opportunity to practice assessing the risks and behaving in a responsible manner, taking into account not only their own safety, but that of the group in which they are working. So I am sure we would all agree on this, but the problem is the constraint posed by the danger and the organiser's career being completely destroyed if something goes wrong.

I would never suggest a measure that would protect people who are genuinely at fault, who behave in an irresponsible manner and who put the safety of children at risk, but there is an inherent risk in some activities. If both the children and their parents undertake such activities in full knowledge of the risks, and accept them, it is reasonable to suggest that, should something go wrong, the fact that they have accepted those risks should be taken into account in any legal proceedings that might ensue.

I would hope that once parents understand and accept risks, they would not go running to the courts if something goes wrong, and they can see that it is "just one of those things" and not the result of criminal irresponsibility, which can never be condoned. I believe that it would be reasonable to insert into the Bill this new clause to allow for the risks to be assessed, to be agreed to in the full knowledge of what they entail and to be taken into consideration in any legal proceedings. I ask the Minister to bear in mind in his reply that such a provision could apply equally to non-school organisations that carry out similar activities. I beg to move.