Newly revised health and safety guidance for schools has been published by the Department for Education summarising how the existing health and safety law affects schools, local authorities, governing bodies and staff, particularly in relation to school trips (including residentials). The advice has been slashed from 150 pages of complex information to just eight pages.
At its publication, Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "Children should be able to go on exciting school trips that broaden their horizons. That is why we are cutting unnecessary red tape in schools and putting teachers back in charge. This new, slimmer advice means a more common sense approach to health and safety. It will make it easier for schools to make lessons more inspiring and fun".
The revised guidance:
A summary of the guidance (i.e. the accompanying press release) can be found at: http://www.education.gov.uk/inthenews/inthenews/a00191772/150-pages-of-unduly-complex-guidance-slashed-to-just-eight
The full advice can be found on the DfE website at: http://www.education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/advice/f00191759/departmental-advice-on-health-and-safety-for-schools
The statement dispels myths about legal action and encourages all schools to ditch unnecessary paperwork, ensuring that precautions are proportionate to the risks involved.
It contains four key messages:
1. Well-managed school trips and outdoor activities are great for children. Children won't learn about risk if they're wrapped in cotton wool.
2. Teachers should expect their schools to have procedures that encourage participation, are proportionate to the level of risk and avoid bureaucracy.
3. Those running school trips need to focus on the risks and the benefits to people - not the paperwork.
4. Accidents and mistakes may happen on school trips - but fear of prosecution has been blown out of all proportion.
A PDF of the full statement can be downloaded at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/education/school-trips.pdf
However, it is important that schools continue to follow their employer's guidance. For most schools this will continue to be their local authority's guidance.
Up until quite recently this guidance has tended to vary quite considerably from local authority to local authority. This lack of a consistent approach has made it quite difficult for schools. As a result, the Outdoor Education Advisors' Panel (OEAP) has recently produced its new Employer Guidance for the Management of Outdoor Learning, Off-Site Visits and Learning Outside the Classroom. It can be found on a new website at: http://www.oeapeg.info/
OEAP has written this guidance for employers to adopt as their policy, and as guidance for their staff to use.
The home page of this new website makes the following important statement:
"None of this guidance constitutes red tape. Employer Guidance is about how to plan your activity so that those taking part enjoy a valuable learning experience where the risks are properly managed. It is not about form filling for form filling's sake. Where the guidance recommends record keeping, this is to help with your planning and/or audit trails. The guidance can also help employers to simplify their systems and reduce red tape."
However, it is essential to note that schools must be sure that their employer has adopted this guidance before using the site. To check if this is the case, you can find your local authority adviser at: http://www.oeap.info/find-an-adviser
The RGS-IBG Off-site Safety Management course provides invaluable training for anyone planning visits in the UK or overseas. Over two days the course takes an in-depth look at the practicalities of risk management while planning, leading and evaluating local visits, fieldtrips, expeditions, residentials and.