A bit of background:
The Common sense: Common safety review by Lord Young in 2010 recommended ways for removing unnecessary bureaucracy in health and safety, and tackling the compensation culture. In his report, Lord Young identified that schools have been prevented from taking pupils on educational visits, citing health and safety as a ‘reason for non-participation’. He goes on to say the process ‘involves a huge amount of form-filling – ranging from consent forms to risk assessments – and the valuable time of education officials including the school governors, the head teacher, group leaders and the educational visits coordinator.’
In order to tackle these issues, Lord Young made recommendations to:
- Simplify the process that schools and similar organisations undertake before taking children on trips.
- Introduce a single consent form that covers all activities a child may undertake during his or her time at a school.
- Introduce a simplified risk assessment for classrooms.
- Shift from a system of risk assessment to a system of risk–benefit assessment and consider reviewing the Health and Safety at Work, etc Act 1974 to separate out play and leisure from workplace contexts.
In March 2011, the Government commissioned an independent review of health and safety legislation, chaired by Professor Ragnar Löfstedt, to make proposals for simplifying the existing legislation. The findings were published in a report; Reclaiming health and safety for all, in November 2011.
In this review, Professor Löfstedt went further to recommend a reduction in the burden of unnecessary regulation in health and safety and also made it clear that care must be taken to ensure that ‘regulations do not prevent children from being exposed to new or exciting activities that contribute to their education and development’. One of the report’s headline findings was that a key problem lies less with the legislation itself and more with the way the legislation is interpreted and applied.
Government revised Health and Safety Guidelines for education – July 2011:
Following the Lord Young review the Government published revised health and safety guidelines and showed its commitment to making it easier for schools to take pupils on trips, removing paperwork and taking steps to reduce teachers’ fears of legal action. Teachers should be confident that they know best how to look after pupils and keep them safe.
The new guidance reduces a 150 page document to just 8 pages, and replaces a number of documents on health, safety and security in schools, including Health and Safety: Responsibilities and Powers (2001) and Health and Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits (HASPEV 1998).
The key points within the guidance state:
- Children should be able to experience a wide range of activities. Health and safety measures should help them to do this safely, not stop them,
- It is important that children learn to understand and manage risks that are a normal part of life. Common sense should be used in assessing and managing the risks of any activity. Health and Safety procedures should always be proportionate to the risk of activity.
- Staff should be given the training they need so they can keep themselves and children safe and manage risks effectively.
Announcing the changes, 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’.
These guidelines will be reviewed in Summer 2012.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) high level statement for school trips:
In July 2011 the HSE published a high-level statement; Tackling health and safety myths, which sets out its position on applying health and safety legislation to school trips.
The statement makes it clear:
- That the focus should be on how the real risks arising from such visits are managed and not on paperwork;
- The need for a proportionate and sensible approach for planning and organising off-site activities;
- That those organising visits should simplify the planning process and authorisation arrangements for visits that involve everyday risks;
- That HSE’s primary interest is real risks arising from serious breaches of the law. Any HSE accident investigation will be targeted at these issues.
National Guidance on health and safety for educational establishments and young people’s services
The Outdoor Education Advisors Panel has produced guidance that provides a reference for sound planning for learning and recreational activities that involve taking groups of children and young people away from their usual operational base. The guidance should be implemented when an establishment or setting uses places such as:
- the establishment’s own grounds
- the local environment
- places further afield e.g. visits to local libraries, museums and theatres, etc.
- residential venues
- learning ventures abroad.
View the Employer Guidance website.
What CLOtC is doing:
CLOtC was set up to help schools gain freedom and confidence to incorporate more learning outside the classroom into the curriculum.
The Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge is the national benchmark for the provision of educational visits, recognising organisations offering good quality educational experiences where risk is effectively managed.
The LOtC Quality Badge has been designed to give schools assurance regarding the safety and quality of LOtC and to reduce bureaucracy when planning educational visits. The LOtC Quality Badge is the only accreditation scheme for all types of LOtC provision from adventurous activities and farms through to museums and expeditions overseas – meaning that you only need to look for ONE accreditation when planning visits.
Teachers can find venues accredited under the LOtC Quality Badge scheme at www.lotcqualitybadge.org.uk . The LOtC Quality Badge website is one of only a few sources of additional information mentioned in the new government guidance.