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School trips and outdoor learning activities

BY Matthew Ramsey
Health & Safety

LAW recognises that school trips have clear benefits for pupils, and large numbers of successful visits and outdoor learning activities take place each year. We are keen to address concerns of clients by providing ongoing consistent advice.

The HSE have also addressed concerns about school trips by releasing this key message: ‘Well-managed school trips and outdoor activities are great for children. Children won’t learn about risk if they’re wrapped in cotton wool.’

They go on to say striking the right balance means that:

  • schools and staff focus on real risks when planning trips;
  • those running trips understand their roles, are supported, and are competent to lead or take part in them;
  • the real risks are managed during the trip; and
  • learning opportunities are experienced to the full.

Striking the right balance does not mean that:

  • every aspect is set out in copious paperwork that acts as a security blanket for those organising the trip;
  • detailed risk assessment and recording procedures aimed at higher-risk adventure activities are used when planning lower-risk school trips;
  • mistakes and accidents will not happen; and
  • all risks must be eliminated.

It is recommended that staff running school trips should clearly communicate the information about the planned activities to colleagues and pupils (and parents, where appropriate). This should explain what the precautions are and why they are necessary, to help ensure that everyone focuses on the important issues.

The planning can involve the following:

  • putting sensible precautions in place, and making sure these work in practice;
  • knowing when and how to apply contingency plans where they are necessary;
  • heeding advice and warnings from others, for example those with local knowledge or specialist expertise (especially in respect of higher-risk activities).

LAW’s Health and Safety managers regularly assist schools with training on Health and safety and providing guidance on risk assessments including school trips.

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