School trips are a lot of fun but whether it’s a simple day trip or a longer excursion over several days, it’s imperative that safety issues are at the very forefront of your planning and that will always begin with carrying out a full risk assessment.
The local education authority or, in some cases, the school’s governing body will be responsible for ensuring that a full risk assessment is carried out. On a practical level, this will usually be done by a school’s head teacher in conjunction with the person who will be acting as the group leader on the trip and it should not simply cover health and safety issues on the trip itself but also needs to take into account the wider element of child protection in terms of any other adults who will be accompanying the children and the adults that they are likely to encounter on the trip in places like activity centres, outdoor pursuit centres etc. as well as making sure that the location to which you are taking the children also complies with Health and Safety Regulations.
Transporting the children to and from the destination of the trip is going to be one of the main focuses of your risk assessment strategy. You’ll need to ensure that any buses or coaches you use are safe and that there is sufficient seating to accommodate all of the party and that each seat is fitted with seatbelts. A driver is there to drive – not to supervise, so you will need to make sure that there are enough adults on the trip to supervise the children. Most local education authorities will stipulate the recommended ratio in the number of adults to children and this can differ from one authority to the next as well as depending on the nature of the trip so it’s important to check up what the policy is.
Considering the Nature of the Trip
Different types of trips pose different kinds of risks. For example, a day out near the coast is obviously going to be have to be treated differently than a day trip to the museum so, in certain instances, you may need to determine things such as whether or not a child can swim. There may be additional equipment to check, e.g. ropes if you intend doing any kind of climbing and, obviously, any trip you plan needs to be appropriate for the age group that will be going on it.
Speaking to Parents and Children
You should ensure that you give parents as much relevant information about the trip as possible and be prepared to answer any questions they might have. They’ll need to know the pickup time for the return journey and you should also be prepared to provide them with a contact phone number that they can reach you on at any time as well as you needing to have their contact details. Other issues such as a child’s medication might need to be discussed and pupils themselves may also have specific questions or concerns relating to the trip that need answering.
Most school trips are very successful and live long in the memory. However, whilst the aim is to give the pupils as good a time as possible, this can only be achieved if you’ve planned for all aspects of safety and have emergency contingency plans too. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use them but it’s important that you’re fully prepared, just in case.