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How it all began

In early 2019, I was running a small school trip to an educational talk in a nearby big city. It was supposed to be about as easy a trip to run as a teacher could hope for. Well it certainly didn’t start that way.

There was just me and a handful of sixth formers, all lovely, perfectly behaved students and I was all ready with my pack of medical forms and a few slips of paper to give to the students with a contact number to ring should they get lost (just like they probably did on trips in the 1950’s). Well as you can expect, the 8:30am meeting time came and went and there is one boy who hasn’t  arrived. I’m certain most teachers have been in this situation and i’m still not entirely sure there is a defined protocol. Some teachers will ring home after a period of time, some schools take the phone numbers of all the students and try to burn the evidence after the trip to make sure GDPR lawyers stay happy, whilst some teachers do what I did and just ask other students if anyone has the boys number and can they ring him. 

Well unfortunately for me, no-one had this lads number. One person said they think they have him as a facebook friend, so he can contact him through that, but I couldn’t help but feel the absurdity of the situation. I am supposed to be the boys in loco-parentis for the day, but until he turns up and I hand him a slip of paper, we can’t contact each other directly if there is an emergency. In fact, even when the paper is handed over, I can’t contact him if I think there is a problem, I have to hope he contacts me if this young student decides he has an issue.

In truth, I never really got too worried at any point, he was old enough and mature enough for me not to panic and he turned up 20mins late as his train was delayed, I only felt frustrated that for that 20mins my hands were pretty much tied and all I could do was decide when to hit the red alert button and contact parents to say “I can’t find your child”. 

It was a very easy trip after that and I spent most of the day thinking about the morning’s situation. Even current procedures of giving out “emergency contact number” slips of paper seems wrong. I can see how it was the best option before students had mobiles, but it seems absurd that we leave the decision of what constitutes an emergency to the un-responsible child and the responsible adult has to look after the school’s mobile (usually bought in the 1990’s) hoping they can figure out to unlock it when they see the missed call.

TripAid was created to give us the chance to contact the students if they are late, or go missing mid trip (99% of the time, we stress about where they are, when they are usually just at the sweet shop). Now we can decide when to contact them if there is a problem, and can keep track of them, making sure they stay in the areas they are allowed to go. We can see if they are staying in groups, or if they split and go off on their own. We can then contact them and put them in another group, before anything happens to them. It puts us in control of all the students, even when they are exploring a museum, theme park or city.