This issue takes a deeper look at the role of the educational visits coordinator, answering some of the queries raised by readers about charging, staffing and organisation procedurespdf-6087541

Ski Trip January.pdfpdf-6087541 EVC audit trail.pdf

I have been amazed at the number of emails I have received from SBMs regarding the previous issue, ‘Being an effective educational visits coordinator’, so I would like to expand on the role of the EVC and share with all of you the information that SBMs have requested. First of all I would like to remind EVCs that the LA has overall responsibility for health and safety on all outdoor visits; this is a responsibility that cannot be devolved but elements can be delegated to individual establishments, ie schools.

Charging for school visits

One of the questions I was asked was ‘how much do we charge for a school visit and what about those who cannot afford to go on a trip?’ Legislation (Head’s Legal Guide, Croner, 2009) states:

Each school should have a written policy on charging for educational activities and also a remissions policy setting out the circumstances under which charges can be wholly or partly remitted. The legislative requirements are to be found in ss.449-462 of the Education Act 1996. Education for pupils in maintained schools shall be free of charge if it takes place:

  • wholly or mainly in school hours
  • outside school hours but is part of a syllabus for a prescribed examination
  • is part of the National Curriculum or part of statutory religious education.

A school may charge for optional extras. An optional extra is:

  • an activity that falls wholly or mainly outside school hours
  • does not form part of the National Curriculum
  • is not part of a syllabus towards a Prescribed Public Examination
  • is not in scope of the statutory requirements relating to religious education.

Participation in an optional extra must not be on the basis of parents agreeing to meet any charges and, in any particular case, a charge levied must not exceed the cost of its provision. The cost may include an appropriate element for:

  • travel costs
  • board and lodging
  • books, materials, instruments and other equipment
  • non-teaching staff costs and the costs of hiring teaching or instructional staff (which can include travel, board and lodging) who have been engaged specifically for the purpose of providing the activity
  • insurance costs.

Voluntary contributions

Where charges may not be levied, the school can invite parents to make voluntary contributions. Letters to parents inviting voluntary contributions must make it clear that there is no obligation to contribute. Any pupils involved in a trip must be allowed to participate whether or not their parents have made a voluntary contribution.

Remission arrangements

Parents in receipt of income support, family credit, jobseekers’ allowance or disability working allowance should not be charged. Those parents must receive full remission of board and lodging charges where the activity takes place out of school hours or the activity is necessary for a prescribed public examination or the National Curriculum. Under no circumstances can the cost of remission be recovered by charging other pupils more.

Staffing ratios

This was another question raised and can have serious consequences if an accident should happen and it is deemed that the ratio of staff was inadequate. But how do we know what is the appropriate ratio of staff to pupils?

Where an injury or accident happens to a pupil on a school visit there is no legal liability unless there is proven negligence on the part of the teacher or head. The law expects that a teacher will do what might be expected of a parent, taking into consideration issues to do with responsibility for a larger number of children than just a family (Croner, 2009). Supervision during visits should be in line with professional standards and common sense, and reasonable steps must be taken to avoid foreseeable risk. A pre-visit to the site should enable trip leaders to determine the necessary levels of supervision. The ratio of staff per student may, in reality, be determined by the risk assessment, ie previous experience and capability of party leaders, maturity of pupils, etc, and adequate consideration must be given for the maintenance and welfare of the whole party in the event of one or more adults having to leave the group for any length of time.

The following ratios should be used as guidance for local visits:

  • Years 1 to 3, a ratio of 1:6 (1 adult to 6 children). Under 5s/Reception classes should have a higher ratio
  • Years 4 to 6, a ratio of 1:10-15 (1 adult to 10-15 children)
  • Year 7 onwards, a ratio of 1:15 (1 adult to 15-20 children).

For all residential visits at home or abroad a good rule of thumb is 1 adult to 10 children and there must be a member of staff of each sex for mixed groups. However, in some schools this is not possible and should it be the case where there is only one member of staff to a mixed gender group of students then reasonable care should be exercised at all times, ie boys being taken into the female toilet by female staff. Parents should be informed of this and their views taken into account – parents should agree to single sex supervision of a party on the permission form. The safety of the supervising staff and the recent trend towards litigation should also be considered. The headteacher must take the single sex supervision into consideration and it must be included as part of the risk assessment.

Volunteer helpers

A question was also asked on using volunteers and can they supervise pupils? Voluntary assistants can supervise pupils but they should have a clear understanding of their role before attending the visit. Volunteers have the same insurance cover for negligence as teachers accompanying the party, provided they act at all times under the direction of the trip leader. Volunteers should:

  • never supervise a party of more than 10
  • never be in sole charge of the pupils for more than half a day
  • never be in a situation remote from the support of the leaders
  • be fully aware of the visit risk assessment, itinerary, special instructions and emergency procedures.

Organisation of visit

I mentioned in my previous article the EVC audit trail and I have attached a copy for those who have asked for it. This can be adapted to suit your own school but if there is any information I have missed or you think should be included please let me know. I have detailed briefly below the stages of approval at our school.

Stage 1

  • Initial enquiry by member of staff to EVC – make outline proposals: objectives, activities, staffing, and how the trip will contribute to all subject areas of the National Curriculum. The use of outdoor education or activities may be a central part of the provision and understanding of a curriculum area. Outdoor visits can also provide an important vehicle for personal and social development of young people by:
    • using the challenge and group cooperation aspects of the activities for planned personal development sessions
    • using the residential element to explore the realities of social living in a group.
  • Leader of trip receives travel pack containing forms and procedures.
  • Initial approval: headteacher, EVC, governing body.
  • If the visit is local and does not include adventurous activities then no local authority involvement is required and approval is gained through internal procedures at the school, ie, headteacher and governing body approve on behalf of the LA.
  • If the visit is local and does involve adventurous activities then local authority advice and approval may be needed. It is important to make early contact with your outdoor education adviser when certain types of visit are planned. This will include those with long lead-in times (ie oversees expeditions) or where adventurous activities are planned. This will enable all necessary checks to be carried out before contracts are signed and commitments made.
  • Information sent to pupils/parents.

Local authority procedures may differ from area to area, so please ensure you have up-to-date information from your LA outdoor education adviser. In Leicestershire schools we have a very large file from the authority entitled Code of Practice No. 11 – Guidance for the Conduct of Educational Visits and Adventurous Activities. Every EVC in the Leicestershire authority should have a copy of this file and all leaders of trips should be aware of and have read the guidance before conducting a trip.

Stage 2

  • Compile risk assessments and complete any further planning sheets that your school may require. The leader of the visit has the responsibility for the thorough planning and preparation which is essential for the safety and welfare of all participants. The organisation of overseas expeditions is complex and requires careful thought. (I have attached a comprehensive ski trip risk assessment. I have obviously not included the pupil information that is required on all trips, ie medical history, emergency numbers.) Schools wishing to undertake such visits will need to contact their outdoor education adviser at the LA who will inform them of the procedures to follow and forms to complete.
  • Get final approval of plans: headteacher, governing body and LA (if required).

Stage 3

  • Further information to pupils/parents/staff.
  • Visit.

Stage 4

  • Evaluation form to be completed and submitted to EVC. These evaluation forms are useful and can be used to completed the relevant section of your SEF.

I hope this extra information answers your questions.

New guidance
The DCSF will shortly be publishing new guidance on learning outside the classroom. It is entitled Health and Safety of Learners Outside the Classroom and will be part of the extensive guidance on the Learning Outside the Classroom website. It replaces the advice and guidance Health and Safety of Pupils on School Visits (HASPEV). The focus is on managing risks, not trying to eliminate them altogether. So a small risk of a minor injury is not a significant risk and many learning outside the classroom activities do not need a risk assessment over and above what is required of staff as part of their duty of care. A key message in the guidance is that the law protects staff if a pupil is injured when they have exercised appropriate care in line with their employer’s policy and procedures. Civil actions are not in practice brought against staff because employees are not normally sued. The guidance seeks to reassure staff that it is only in very rare circumstances that an employer can refuse to accept vicarious liability and to support an employee, on the grounds that they were not acting in the course of their employment when an accident occurred

Further information

This e-bulletin issue was first published in April 2010

About the author: Lindsey Lester is School Business Manager at St Martins Catholic School, Leicester