The roles of school business manager (SBM) and educational visits coordinator (EVC) have many parallel responsibilities. As people often hold both posts, we look at what is involved in organising a school visit
After attending a recent workshop I discovered that most of my school business manager colleagues were also educational visits coordinators (EVCs), something that surprised me. I took on the role of EVC because I was already responsible for risk assessments within the school, I knew I had an assistant to help with the detail and I wanted to ensure that school visits are planned correctly and that risk assessments are completed and adhered to.
Risk assessments and educational visits have always been an essential part of the school curriculum, especially since the Learning Outside the Classroom Manifesto was launched in 2006. This initiative has proved to have significant learning benefits for students, developing their knowledge, understanding and skills outside of the school setting. However, we must not forget the importance of ensuring that our students are not at risk whilst off the school premises and all educational establishments must have a member of staff specifically trained in the conduct of off-site visits, normally the educational visits coordinator (EVC).
The overall responsibility and approval of visits remains with the head and governors, but the head may delegate certain tasks to the designated EVC, who will normally be a senior member of staff, but can be a member of support staff.
Suggested functions of the EVC
As EVC, I am appointed by and act on behalf of and assist the headteacher. I am involved in the planning and management of all educational visits and I have attended the courses required. Training courses are usually provided by your local authority. Whenever an existing EVC leaves the school, a replacement must attend the next available course. If a local authority finds that the school does not have a trained EVC all visits could be prohibited until the situation has been rectified.
Functions of the EVC are to:
- ensure educational visits meet employers’ and schools’ requirements
- support the head and governors with approval and other decisions
- organise training and induction of leaders and other adults taking students on a specific visit, such as first aid, hazard awareness, etc
- ensure parents are informed and give consent, or refuse consent on a fully informed basis. I always ask for a copy of the letters before they are sent out, approve them and then pass for distribution
- keep records of visits, and accident, incident and near-miss forms
- review systems and monitor practice
- ensure the risk assessments meet requirements – all staff must have an up-to-date CRB check that has been cleared. The EVC must ensure that all staff who attend residential visits have an up-to-date CRB, however, it is important to remember that the law now requires all adults who have significant contact with young people to disclose any cautions, bindovers (legal agreement to adhere to certain behaviour requirements), or convictions of a criminal nature. If an adult has a clear CRB, but then says that he or she forgot to disclose something, please remember that you must report this to your local authority; it is for them to investigate. Volunteers who have regular contact with students must have a CRB check. Volunteers who come in for a one-off visit and will not be attending the school again may not need a CRB check. If you are unsure always check with your local authority.
More importantly I ensure that the planning and organisation of all visits and particularly those of a residential nature include precautions to protect young people from abuses such as racial, sexual or physical harassment from either adults or young people in the group.
Following the tragedy at Glenridding Beck, HSE have issued a 10-point checklist that EVCs should consider for all ventures:
1. What are the main objectives of the visit?2. What is plan B if the main objectives cannot be met?
3. What could go wrong? Does the risk assessment cover:
- the main activity
- plan B
- travel arrangements
- emergency procedures
- staff numbers, gender and skill mixes
- generic and site-specific hazards and risks (including plan B)
- variable hazards (including environmental and participants’ personal abilities and the ‘cut off’ points)?
4. What information will be provided for parents?5. What consents will be sought?6. What opportunities will parents have to ask questions (including arrangements for a parents’ evening)?7. What assurances are there of the leader(s) competencies?8. What are the communication arrangements?9. What are the arrangements for supervision, both during activities and ‘free time’ – is there a code of conduct?
10. What are the arrangements for monitoring and reviewing the visit?
I always use a sample visit audit trail; basically it’s a tick box list and your local authority should be able to supply you with one, but if anyone would like a copy please feel free to email me on email@example.com I find this audit trail useful, as should an incident or major accident occur on your visit (I hope there never will be one), then you will have the evidence and documentation to assist any investigation that will take place.
With the risk involved when planning and preparing for school visits, it is vital that you understand that there can be consequences when anything goes wrong. Do not take on this role if you do not feel competent to do so, and before you undertake any responsibility insist on attending relevant courses, which are usually held by the your local authority.
Competence of the EVC
What actually is the definition of competence? You will all have various definitions, but basically I believe it means having the possession of the required skill, knowledge, experience, qualification or capacity to perform the task given. Personally, I think common sense should be included in the definition too!
The DCSF outlines the necessary competence of EVCs as:
The member of school staff designated as the EVC should be specifically competent. The level of competence required will relate to the size of the school and the types of educational visits proposed. For example, the needs of a small infant school will differ from those of a large secondary school with an active Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme.
Check with your local authority for the training that your staff will need to undertake in order to lead trips, considering whether they will be organising trips, attending them, or both. Our local authority insists that in order to better meet safeguarding requirements on educational off-site visits, at least one member of staff has to attend a group leader training course, and for residential ventures, the Certificate of Residential Leadership course. Obviously, not every authority is going to have the same procedures and I recommend checking with your own authority their requirements for staff training on participating in visits. It is impossible to train staff quickly in the short term and our school aims to be ‘working towards’ a position where all visits off-site will have one member of staff who has completed group leader training and/or the Certificate of Residential Leadership – you can find out about these through your local authority. It is also ‘strongly recommended’ by our authority (Leicestershire County Council) that at least one member of staff has attended the Snowsport Course Organiser training for skiing trips.
Sensible risk management
It is a legal requirement to write a risk assessment for any activity that a party leader has responsibility for. The risk assessment must identify potential significant hazards and show what measures will be taken to avoid them or to reduce either the chances or consequences to an acceptable level. Staff only need to risk assess the parts of the ventures for which they have responsibility, ie they would risk assess their group in the Space Centre not risk assess the Space Centre itself. A pre-visit may be required in order to complete the assessment. If the leader cannot write the risk assessment owing to lack of first-hand knowledge, then the EVC should not accept the responsibility of completing it. This must be done by the party leader, who is the person responsible for the assessment. A pre-visit even applies where the activities are being provided by a commercial provider, in which case the centre, hotel or base would need to be visited.
The government is promoting a ‘Quality Mark’ system where commercial providers will become members of certified organisations. Once a member, they will receive a Quality Mark showing that their health and safety systems have been independently verified. Once the provider’s establishment is up and running then all the school would need to do is book up without the need to request risk assessments.
I do have a comprehensive ski trip risk assessment that I am willing to share. If you would like a copy, please do not hesitate to contact me.
I suggest that any SBMs new to risks and school visits searches out the school’s or the local authority’s code of practice for educational visits, or looks at www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/healthandsafety/visits
This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2010
About the author: Lindsey Lester is School Business Manager at St Martins Catholic School, Leicester