We recognise the complexity and detail of organising a school trip so we have attempted to highlight the likely stages of planning a visit. Every establishment will have specific requirements however we hope the following will help.
The first stage is an outline proposal to the Headteacher or governing body or LEA seeking approval in principle. Proposals might include:
- Visit's objectives
- Likely date, duration, venue
- Pupil group, staffing
- Resources, estimate of costs
Proposals for longer visits may need making well before the start of the relevant academic year.
You need to ensure you are you clear about the approvals necessary before the activity can go ahead and have allowed sufficient time to set the necessary wheels in motion.
Role of LEA in Approval Process
LEA’S provide guidelines for governors, Headteachers and teachers including advice on risk assessment, they will also assess proposals for certain types of visit.
Emergency telephone contact for the duration of a visit where necessary can be provided and they ensure training needs have been addressed. They should also provide access to named staff for advice and maintain appropriate insurance cover.
Finally they will have in place procedures to monitor and review safety during off-site visits and activities.
Role of Governors
Governing bodies in all types of school should ensure the visit has specific and stated objectives. The Headteacher/group leaders plans must comply with health and safety considerations and the Governors should also be informed of less routine visits well in advance.
Governors should ensure visits are assessed where involving overnight stays or overseas trips and submit proposals to LEA if appropriate.
Role of Headteacher
Headteachers should ensure visits comply with all relevant guidelines and the group leader is competent to monitor risks throughout the visit, they should also have the address and telephone number of the venue and a contact name.
The Headteacher should also check that adequate child protection procedures are in place. They should ensure all necessary actions including a risk assessment with suitable safety measures have been completed before the visit begins. Training needs should have been assessed and the needs of staff and pupils considered.
The group leader must be experienced with the pupils’ age group, be competent to instruct in the proposed activity and familiar with the location where this activity is taking place, they should also have sufficient time to organise visits properly.
If non-teacher supervisors are to be used they must be appropriate people to supervise children with the ratios of supervisors to pupils being correct.
The governing body and LEA (if appropriate) must have given approval for the visit and the parents should have signed consent forms.
Arrangements for any medical/special needs of children should be in place along with adequate first-aid provision. The Headteacher must arrange for the appropriate type of transport and that all travel times are known, a contingency plan for any delays including late return home must be in place.
Copies of agreed emergency procedures should be with group leaders, supervisors and the nominated school contact, they should also have the names of all the adults and pupils travelling in the group and contact details for their next of kin.
Finally adequate and relevant insurance cover must be in place for the visit.
These considerations do not claim to be comprehensive and should not be regard as such. It is not possible to create an exhaustive list as unique and/or specific considerations will inevitably arise. If you believe that we have omitted a crucial, general consideration we would be very grateful if you could let us know. Contact us.
Planning following approval in principal
When approval in principal has been received contact the venue and establish why it is considered to be suitable for the group. Review the transport options and consider who will lead the group and who would help to supervise it.
Establish who will be paying for the visit and make an exploratory visit in order to undertake a risk assessment.
A substantive proposal to the Headteacher, governing body, and/or LEA will need to be made including:
- Details of dates
- Risk assessment
- Emergency procedures
- Any group membership advantages/requirements
Finally obtain approval to prepare the visit subject to satisfactory preparation.
As part of the final preparations set up a briefing evening for parents, so they can ask any questions, meet the supervisors of the trip and take deposits/full payments from them, the pupils will also need to be briefed as part of this process.
Obtain final approval from LEA or governors, along with the parental consents.
Safety, Emergencies and First Aid
There are a number of areas you should consider when looking to run off-site activities they include:
Are you clear about why you are running an activity, does it have a good educational purpose? Do you think young people see the activity as part of their learning, that way they are more likely to respond to instructions as if they were in school which is an important element in safety.
Any off-site activity may involve more or less complicated arrangements, these will take time to complete, do make sure you’ve allowed enough time as rushing things can be dangerous. Making a list of what has to be done and by when can help
Have you assessed the risks associated with your proposed activities and made arrangements to minimize them? Are you developing a culture and expectation of safe practice among the staff and young people involved, have you thought through emergency procedures?
Will you have sufficiently ready access to first aid facilities and expertise?
Do you know enough about the venues to ensure safety and educational effectiveness, are you familiar with the guideline/license requirements of certain venues?
Programme and activities
Will the planned programme meet your educational objectives, are the activities appropriate for the age, maturity and experience of the young people involved? Have you undertaken a risk assessment?
Supervision and staffing ratios
There are young person/teacher/youth worker ratios required, have you checked you are in line with them, aside of this are you happy that the young people involved on this activity can be adequately supervised? Not only the amount but also the nature, sex and qualifications of those supervising must appropriate?
When you’re at the venue/location there may be specific supervision requirements, ensure you know what these are. Arrange for ‘heads’ to be counted at critical times such as arrival and departure from the venues, planning beforehand who should be doing this.
Before the visit make sure everybody involved directly and indirectly been appropriately briefed and that they all know what they should do and when, also is there any adult with the party who is not a member of staff at your school been checked with the police in line with the requirements of the Home Office Circular 86/44, DES Circular 4/86 and the Disclosure procedures detailed in the Police Act 1997, Section V? Schools and/or local authorities will probably have copies of the relevant forms to complete in order to initiate this process.
Parental consent and information
If there is anything outside of the published curriculum have you asked for parental consent on the right form and in the right way? Do check your school's or education authority's detailed guidance on this. It’s important that parents have sufficient information to make an informed decision as to whether their child should go on a visit.
Sufficient information should be made available by Group leaders in writing. They should invite all parents to any briefing sessions, at these sessions parents should be told how they can help prepare their child for a visit by reinforcing the visit’s code of conduct,
If a pupil should be sent home early, parents should agree arrangements ahead of the visit for how the cost will be met. Parents should also be aware of the scope of the insurance cover provided with copies of the insurance schedule made available to them as early as possible .
Special arrangements may be necessary for parents for whom English is a second language.
Before the trip you will need to obtain emergency contact number(s) from the parents, a signed consent form and any relevant information on their child’s emotional, psychological and physical health.
Consider the time and information you have given parents to allow them to make an objective decision about whether they want their children to go or not. Do you know enough about any medical conditions that the child might have to enable you to look after them appropriately? Obtain permission from parents to agree to medical treatment for their children in an emergency.
Make sure you have made sufficient, appropriate and safe arrangements, there is a wide range of statutory and LEA regulations regarding the use of minibuses and coaches. These are often changed. Check your school/Education Authority advice and regulations to check that your arrangements comply.
Is the form of transport being used is properly insured, how long will the journey be? Tired young people are more at risk than normal.
Your responsibilities under Health & Safety legislation
Under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, employers are responsible for the health and safety and welfare at work of their employees and ensure as far as practicable the health and safety of anyone else on the premises of anyone who may be affected by their activities.
Importantly, for schools and colleges, this includes responsibility for all participants in all educational activities that take place outside the boundaries of schools.
Who has responsibility?
There are different responsibilities to ensure off-site visits are conducted safely and without incident.
Where the governing body is the employer, the governors' role will be the same as that for an LEA. The Employer must satisfy themselves that the risk assessment has been carried out, that appropriate safety measures are in place and that training needs have been addressed.
Governing bodies should also ensure the visit has a specific purpose and stated objective, that the Headteacher/group leader plans comply with regulations and guidelines and that it meets the school's own health and safety policy.
If there are any out of the ordinary visits they must be discussed well in advance and careful assessment of any type of visit which involves overnight stays or travel outside of the UK must be made. Submission must be made to the LEA if necessary to ensure that it meets LEA guidelines.
Headteacher/group leader should also report back to the Governors/LEA after the visit .
Headteachers should ensure that visits comply with regulations and guidelines provided by the LEA or governing body and the schools own health and safety policy. Headteachers should ensure that the group leader is competent to monitor risks throughout the visit. If the Headteacher is taking part in the visit, they should follow the instructions of the group leader who will be in charge of the visit.
One teacher, the group leader, should have overall responsibility for the supervision and conduct of the visit and should have regard to the health and safety of the group. The group leader should have been appointed by or approved by the Headteacher or the governing body.
Teachers on school-led visits act as employees of the LEA or of the governing body, whether the visit takes place within normal hours or outside those hours. They must do their best to ensure the health and safety of everyone in the group and act as any reasonable parent would do in the same circumstances.
Non-teacher adults on the visit should be clear about roles and responsibilities during the visit.
Pupils should not be placed in situations which will expose them to an unacceptable level of risk. Any risk assessment should be broadly based on the following considerations:
- What are the potential hazards?
- Who might be affected by them?
- What safety measures need to be in place to reduce risk to an acceptable level?
- Can the group leader put the necessary safety measures in place?
- What steps will be taken in an emergency?
There are a number of other places that the group leader can look to for more detailed advice about risk assessment, they include the LEA health and safety officer, Health & Safety Executive or the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (www.rospa.co.uk).
The person who carries out the risk assessment should record their findings and give copies to all teachers/supervisors as well as LEA’s, Headteachers and governing bodies so that approval can be given with clear understanding that effective planning is taking place.
Ideally exploratory visits should be made by the group leader when going abroad, on a residential visit or if leading any kind of outdoor activity. If it is not possible to make an exploratory visit, as a minimum a risk assessment should be obtained.
This could be done by letter to the venue in question, by contacting other schools who have recently visited the same venue, getting additional information from local organisations such as tourist boards or reviewing Internet blogs, review and comparison sites.
Is there sufficient experience of working with young people to meet your needs? However accomplished in other areas volunteers will not always have the skill to manage large groups of young people, particularly away from home. Off-site activities raise some issues which rarely occur in the classroom or back at base.
You need to consider if there is sufficient specialist experience to meet the needs of all the pupils and to deliver the planned programme safely and effectively. This might involve a wide range of matters from meeting the needs of a pupil with special needs to the ability and qualifications to teach outdoor activities.
Checking a Venue or Trip Provider
As part of the risk assessment process there are a number of considerations around checking the venue or the trip provider. Have you been to the venue before, if not can that be arranged? Do you have enough information from reliable sources to ensure that you are not unwittingly putting the party at risk, you could speak with group leaders from other schools that have used the venue or provider previously.
Consider the affect party members at the venue for different weather conditions.
If you are using an outdoor activity centre check it has a current licence to operate from the Health and Safety Executive? Ensure you are familiar with the specific guidelines governing other types of venue/location.
If you’re using a travel company check it’s bonded through ATOL, ABTA or a similar body.
At the venue what level of qualification do the staff have that are involved, how safe and appropriate is any equipment that will be used. Do the buildings have the appropriate precautions against, and in the event of, fire and how effective are their emergency procedures?
Is access to the buildings suitable for any disabled pupils to gain access and participate in any activity?
Are any vehicles that will be used safe and appropriately insured and maintained?
Ultimately will the programme achieve what you want it to achieve, appropriately and safely, if you have any worries that pupils will be put at risk, ask. If you feel inadequately qualified to consider some of these points then seek specialist advice.
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“Almost £20,000 paid to school for cancellation of a planned trip to Nepal”