A major feature of planning successful school group travel relates to the risk assessment. The analysis used in risk assessment can help to highlight potential hazards and put in place appropriate controls. To gain maximum benefit, risk assessment should be applied at the outset and fine-tuned as the project unfolds.
However, no one knows your class like you do, and as each group brings its own dynamic the risk assessment is your responsibility and as the group leader/ tour organiser you need to refer to your employer’s guidelines, and that of the Local Educational Authority.
Creating a risk assessment is not as daunting as you may think, and The School Journey Association can support you through it.
What is a Risk Assessment?
Risk assessments are an essential element of every educational visit or school trip. It is nothing more than careful examination of an activity in order to identify what could cause harm to the people involved, establishing the likelihood of the harm occurring and checking to ensure whether or not sufficient precautions are being taken to prevent it.
It is the group leader’s responsibility to complete the risk assessment. However, risk assessments should be viewed as a process that all members of a visit, including your class, should be involved in.
All significant hazards should form part of a risk assessment and the importance of this cannot be over-stated. It will be necessary to consider risk assessments for all visits- both in the UK and abroad.
Please note it is not totally necessary for group leaders to undertake the risk assessment of activities run by external providers; however, it is essential to seek assurances that providers have undertaken risk assessment and copies should be obtained. For instance, if the provider is on the Local Authority approved suppliers data base this will already be carried out by the Local Authority and you can request a copy.
Undertaking a Risk Assessment
A risk assessment for a visit need not be complex but it should be comprehensive.
It does not generally require technical formulae or professional health and safety expertise but special information for some visits may be necessary, and Head Teachers should ensure that the person assessing the risks is competent to do so.
A formal assessment of the risks that might be met on an educational visit should have the aim of preventing the risks or reducing them. Young people must not be placed in situations that expose them to unacceptable risk. Safety must always be the prime consideration. If the risks cannot be contained then the visit must not take place.
The risk assessment should be based on the following considerations:
- What are the hazards?
- Who might be affected by them?
- What safety measures need to be in place to reduce risks to an acceptable level?
- Can the visit leader put the safety measures in place?
- What steps will be taken in an emergency?
The following factors are important when assessing the risks:
- the type of visit/activity and the level at which it is being undertaken;
- the location, routes and modes of transport;
- the competence, experience and qualifications of supervisory staff;
- the ratio of teachers and supervisory staff to young people;
- the group members’ age, competence, fitness, temperament and the suitability of the activity;
- any special educational and medical needs of the young people;
- the quality and suitability of available equipment;
- seasonal considerations, weather and timing;
- emergency procedures. How to cope when a young person becomes unable or unwilling to continue;
- the need to monitor the risks throughout the visit;
- the need to monitor the young people at night.
Recording Risk Assessment
The person carrying out the risk assessment should record it and, from the outcome, formulate a set of procedures for the safe management of the visit. These procedures must be agreed and shared with all staff on the visit, thereby enabling them to avoid or reduce risks.
The Head Teacher and Governing Body should also be given a copy so that approval, as necessary, can be given with a clear understanding that effective planning has taken place. For all school trips / visits involving potentially hazardous/adventurous activities and residential trips the Local Authority must also be provided with the information.
Once you have chosen your destination, please feel free to Contact Us for further information on getting started with your risk assessment or refer to our ‘Organising Educational Visits’ document for further information.