It is a myth that you need to complete lots of paperwork when organising a learning outside the classroom experiences. Category 1 activities (see below for definition) should need no more planning than planning an inside the classroom activity.
The following provides guidance to employers, Local Authorities and staff in schools and other educational settings, so that they can adopt consistent and proportionate procedures that are in line with good practice. It is essential that you always follow your employer’s guidance.
In most local authority areas, there are 3 categories of activity that should be considered. This guidance places less emphasis on the notion of ‘visits’ and focuses on the management of risk wherever an activity takes place.
- Category 1 Teacher/ Leader planned – under-pinned by school/ establishment policy
- Category 2 Teacher/Leader planned – school/establishment approved – employer notified
- Category 3 Teacher/Leader planned – school/establishment and employer approved
These three categories determine which, if any, of the following procedures you need to complete:
- Adopt a Risk Management process according to your employer’s guidance
- Obtain employer approval (see: application for the approval of Category 2 or Category 3 LOtC by Headteacher, Governing Body or LA)
- Confirm parental consent (see: parental consent for a Category 2 or Category 3 LOtC activity)
Where activities need your employer to be informed (Category 2) or obtain their approval (Category 3), an increasing number of Local Authorities use an on-line system, which necessitates no extra paperwork at all. Where paper systems still operate, schools/organisations may find it easier to integrate employer approval and risk assessment in the one form to reduce paperwork. You should keep all your evidence of planning in one place. The additional checklists, tools and downloadable templates in this section will help you with this.
Three Categories of Activity
It is important that you make the right professional judgement in deciding which of the three categories below shape your planning. However, consult your LOtC team, more experienced colleagues or your Local Authority Adviser, if you feel you need some support.
The following three categories provide a policy framework for managing activities planned to provide a safe learning environment:
Category 1 activity: relatively low risk activities
Many activities taking place in the school grounds, early years or youth setting, immediate locality and sometimes further afield, should require no more management of risk than the application of the normal ‘duty of care’. For these activities, the responsibility for planning, organisation and management should normally rest with the teacher/leader, following the same procedures as your in-class planning. See Managing Risk.
As with all planning, a professional judgement is needed to confirm and document that no special actions are necessary when carrying out the activity. This risk/benefit assessment need not involve any extra paperwork. Any minor aspects of the activity requiring additional organisation – for example where equipment needs to be in a particular location, where young people should wash their hands after an activity, or the need to check if young people have cuts or wounds on hands before working with pond water/ soil/ animals – can be noted in teaching/project plans or policy documents. All that should be needed is a simple statement as below that can be cut and pasted into planning:
“An assessment of risk has been undertaken and no special actions are needed”.
It should not be necessary to obtain approval over and above the systems/policy in operation when planning a lesson/activities in the classroom/project/centre, provided that you are recognised as a competent person. However, it is important to inform an appropriate person of your whereabouts, when off site.
Should an activity involve:
- a more complex school environment (such as a poultry unit)
- a more complex local environment off site (such as busy streets)
- more complex travel within or beyond your local area (busy traffic, combination of travel)
then you should decide what risk management is needed. Should this complexity increase the chance of harm, then the activity is likely to need to move to Category 2.
For schools, the frequency of learning outside the classroom experiences suggested, means that it is likely that most activities will take place in the school grounds or in the local area. It is good practice to inform parents that learning outside the classroom activities are a normal part of the school day in, for example, the school prospectus. See developing a learning outside the classroom policy and Who can help? If so then there is no need to obtain parental consent. However, you may want to inform them for specific purposes – for example if special clothing will be needed.
Category 2 activity: activities which require enhanced planning (for example activities needing additional risk management, some visits further from the school, in more complex environments or with more complex groups)
These activities need enhanced risk management due to some small, but significant, chance of harm. This could be due to the increased complexity of the activity itself, the environment, the nature of a journey or the competency of leaders and learners.
The person responsible should decide whether a generic or a specific risk assessment is appropriate and if parental consent is advisable. For schools, parental consent should be obtained where an activity takes place (or starts or finishes) outside the normal school day.
Approval for these activities should be obtained within your school/ organisation from the appropriate person(s) (for schools, the appropriate person in your LOtC team). Although it should not be necessary for employers to approve them, it is good practice that they are kept informed (you should check your establishment’s and/ or employer’s policies).
The use of Generic Risk Assessments could avoid the need to produce new ones repeatedly. However, their use should be included in any staff training and regularly reviewed.
Category 3 Activity: Activities that require detailed planning to reflect the complexity of the activity, the environment and/or the learners (for example most residential experiences, adventurous activities, expeditions, visits to farms, visits outside the UK, etc.)
You should have effective planning which includes all three administrative procedures (i.e. Risk Management Plan, Employer Approval and Parental Consent) for all Category 3 activities.
It is good practice for a specific risk assessment to be in place and for parental consent to be obtained. A specific risk management plan and full details of the activity should be submitted well before the start of the activity. In most cases you will be expected to do this through your school’s LOtC team / or appropriate person in your organisation. Schools should consider if a suitably competent and/or qualified person will need to be present during these activities and if specialist information is needed.
Remember that, although some Local Authorities delegate approval to schools, most employers will normally require you to gain their approval for all Category 3 activities. See downloadable form: Application for the Approval of a Category 3 Learning Outside the Classroom Activity by Headteacher, Governing Body or LA .
Find out more about the practicalities in our series of ‘Get Ready’ guidance.
Get Ready – Leaders
Get ready – Management
Get ready – Managing risk
Get ready – Parents