Risk Assessments

School trips offer children a unique learning experience, where they are introduced to a number of different environments, scenarios and situations where they are able to use a combination of skills to gain new knowledge.

Exposure to new learning environments comes with an element of risk and as such, a formal assessment of each situation needs to be completed before a trip takes place.  Children should be able to experience a wide range of activities, and health and safety measures should help them to do this safely, not stop them.

A very useful starting point is the Outdoor Education Advice Panel‘s National Guidance website, where teachers, EVCs and Heads can access a wide range of information and resources.

The Council for Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge is the only nationally recognised indicator of good quality educational provision AND effective risk management.  Schools choosing a provider who holds this badge can be assured of quality and safety across all sectors, from museums to farm visits and adventurous outdoor activities such as coasteering.

Risk Assessment Categories:

Category A: Activities where the risks are considered the same as in everyday life, eg. Visits to the theatre, sports fixtures, visits to zoo, coastal and countryside walks.

Category B: Adventure activities in the UK, eg. Rock climbing, walking on moorland more than 30 minutes from a road or habitation, caving or kayaking.

Category C: The most demanding category. Includes visits abroad and all those activities that, if not school-led, would be in the scope of the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 1996 (see below). It also includes activities that fall outside the scope of licensing, or are less commonly pursued by pupil groups, such as motor sports, whose safe supervision requires that the leader should normally complete some prior test of his or her specific competence. Such testing might include a recognised course of training, the recorded accumulation of relevant experience, or an assessment of competence by an appropriate body. Visits and activities overseas where there is concern or uncertainty about the health, safety or welfare of staff or pupils.

External Verification: Some venues (usually those doing ‘adventurous’ type activities will get external verification of their risk assessment from an independent body, eg. the AALA (Adventure Activities Licensing Authority).

Legal requirements

(Taken from DfE Health and Safety Advice)

The main legislation covering this area is the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and regulations made under that Act.

The employer (the local authority, governing body or proprietor) is responsible for health and safety, though tasks may be delegated to staff. Employees also have a duty to look after their own and others’ health and safety.

It’s very rare for school staff to be prosecuted under criminal law with regard to accidents involving children.

Employers, school staff and others also have a duty under the common law to take care of pupils in the same way that a prudent parent would do so. Most claims for negligence are brought against the employer (who has public liability insurance) and not individual members of staff.

Useful sources of guidance and risk assessment planning

Outdoor Education Adviser’s Panel

A very useful Check List for Educational Visit Coordinators is available via the Outdoor Education Advisor’s Panel website, which details all aspects of the EVC’s trip planning process in an accessible format.

Downloadable guide to creating your own risk assessment by the HSE

HSE guide to educational visits

Department of Education Health and safety advice for schools

Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge

For curricular activities in areas of potentially higher risk (science, PE) staff should be familiar with and extract relevant information from the generic risk assessments and guidance produced by advisory bodies –