Whether you are taking children off premises to visit the local museum or taking young people away for a full five days, you need to ensure that every aspect of your planning incorporates safety and protection planning
The governing body, or in some cases the LA, holds responsibility for the health and safety of staff and pupils going on a school trip and is required to carry out a comprehensive risk assessment for all activities. The task of carrying out a risk assessment is, however, usually delegated to the headteacher.
A group leader must be appointed for all school trips. The group leader holds responsibility for supervising and conducting the visit and it is usually the group leader who carries out the risk assessment. Ensure that the group leader has been adequately trained to assess risk. If you are in doubt, check with the LA health and safety officer about the level of training needed and where it can be accessed. The group leader may need to carry out a pre-trip visit to think through what needs to be considered when they carry out the risk assessment.
The risk assessment will need take into account both health and safety issues and child protection issues.
Health and safety issues
The DfES and the Health and Safety Executive offer the following advice for assessing risk:
- Identify the dangers: which are general and which are site specific?
- Identify who may be at risk.
- Consider the likelihood of the risk materialising, and its severity. Put precautions in place.
- Record everything, and identify control measures.
- In the case of visits to outdoor pursuits centres, check that the centre has its own health and safety policies and advice in place and ensure that the centre’s staff are suitably qualified.
- Ensure equipment for activities are both suitable and safe.
- Assess any likely difficulties that might be encountered in the event of an emergency.
Further detailed information can be obtained by reading Health and Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits: A Good Practice Guide (HASPEV) and A Handbook for Group Leaders, which is a supplement to it. See also Health and Safety: Responsibilities and Powers and the other supplements to HASPEV: Standards for LEAs in Overseeing Educational Visits and Standards for Adventure.
These can all be downloaded from: www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/healthandsafety/visits
Risk assessment in respect of child protection should cover the adults who will be accompanying children and young people, the adults that they will meet at centres they visit and or places they will stay and the risks posed by individual children and young people to others.
Parents are often asked to volunteer to accompany children on day trips. It would be unreasonable to expect parents to undergo CRB checks and not at all practicable. However, schools do need to consider how volunteers are used and where possible parents should not be left alone with pupils.
Where the trip involves an overnight stay, volunteers should be asked to undergo a CRB check.
Centres providing activities for children should be asked to provide evidence that their staff have been checked.
Centres open to all members of the public should be asked what ‘child safe’ policies they have in place. Children should not be left unsupervised in any centre that is not able to provide evidence of appropriate checks.
Unfortunately some children are known to pose considerable risk to other pupils. Where it is known that a pupil has subjected another child/young person to abuse, an individual risk assessment should be carried out. While it is recognised that such a young person may benefit from being included, and in some ways it may be even more beneficial to them than for other pupils, very careful consideration needs to be taken to the risk to others.
This is particularly important where the trip involves overnight stays. If the pupil has sexually abused others can they be adequately supervised? Can they have a separate bedroom for instance? Can staff ensure one-to-one supervision for the duration of the trip? In some cases schools may have to decide that a young person cannot go on the trip. Where this is the case make sure that the pupil and their parents are properly informed of the decision and the reasons for it.
Schools need to decide on staff-pupil ratios (some LAs set their own levels of supervision for trips) .Consider ratios in respect of the age of the children, whether any of the children have special needs, the nature of the trip and activities, the experience of those accompanying pupils and the duration of the trip.
Make sure parents are given as much information as possible about the nature of the trip and the activities that are likely to be on offer. Parents may raise concerns about particular aspects of the trip and may need reassurance on safety issues. For longer trips it is useful to invite parents to a meeting to address these issues.
Make sure that travel arrangements are subject to risk assessment. Road travel is considered the most serious hazard on any school trip.
- Who will transport pupils and are they safe?
- Buses and coaches must have seatbelts.
- Children must be supervised throughout the period of travel.
- Drivers should never be expected to supervise.
Next to road travel, taking pupils to coastal areas or rivers is considered the most hazardous activity.
- Check the staff to pupil ratios advised by your LEA.
- Check if any pupils cannot swim and increase the number of times you do head counts.
- Check weather conditions and changes in conditions throughout the duration of the trip.
- Make sure that supervisors are aware of the specific precautions needed on trips to coastal areas and rivers.
Talking to pupils
Talking to pupils about the proposed trip is essential. Pupils may have very individual concerns about the trip or specific aspects of the trip. Stress the importance of safety to all pupils. Explain why you are going to do things like head counts, checking equipment, asking them to be quiet while you give instructions, etc.
Using the completed risk assessment try to ensure that emergency plans are in place in case of:
- bullying or abuse between pupils
- pupils going missing
- pupils making disclosures of abuse.
Finally make sure staff are able to take sure breaks if they need to. Escorting and supervising children offsite brings its own stresses and staff can feel overwhelmed by the responsibility.
For some staff it may be a new experience and to have children under their care and control for 24 hours can be particularly trying, especially if they are expected to manage a particularly unruly child. Make sure such staff are well supported; after all we hope they will volunteer again next year!