|School trips are one of the highlights of the academic year for children and offer many long-term benefits. Indeed, venturing outside the classroom can be a powerful learning tool that educates children and helps them develop their social, personal and emotional skills. This can be extremely advantageous for those pupils who aren’t particularly academic and struggle in the classroom, as a field trip lets them engage with the subject matter in a new and more stimulating way. But school trips can potentially be fraught with difficulties for teachers, as the overriding concern can be making sure children are safe and well-looked after. So what steps can you take to reduce the chances of any mishaps and ensure every pupil gets the most out of their trip?
Know your responsibilities
The school governing body and local education authority must make sure they are familiar with the latest health and safety regulations and inform schools of changes when necessary. Once schools are aware of the rules, the onus falls on them to implement them properly.
Carry out risk assessments
Schools must pay close consideration to the potential hazards that could be encountered during a trip. However, the Health and Safety Executive stresses that risk assessments should focus on real risks, rather than “trivial and fanciful” dangers. Once the risks have been identified, proportionate systems can be put in place.
Choose a group leader
One person will be in overall change of the trip outside the classroom and be supported by a deputy and several supervisors, which could include other teachers or parents who have volunteered to help out. The ratio of adults to children will determine exactly how much adult supervision is required and all must be familiar with the health and safety guidelines.
Dress for the occasion
A school uniform is ideal for the classroom environment, but it’s not as practical when you are handling 30 or more kids in the outside world. So equip them with branded school t-shirts that are brightly coloured, or maybe even a hi-vis vests so you can easily identify them even from a distance.
Tell pupils what they must do
Children will naturally be excited to venture beyond the confines of the classroom, but they too must play a part in ensuring the trip goes smoothly. So tell them beforehand what you expect of them during the day out. Have they been explicitly told not to take unnecessary risks, not to wander off alone and to make sure they stay in sight of an adult at all times? Children might not consider the possible dangers and you don’t want to scare them – so there is nothing wrong with saying beforehand that you expect them to act responsibly.
Finally, don’t go overboard and invoke health and safety as your justification for taking extreme measures. The Health and Safety Executive believes misunderstandings about the law actually discourage some schools from organising school trips in the first place. This is despite the fact that it “fully supports schools arranging a wide range of out-of-school activities,” from visits to museums to taking part in challenging and adventurous activities. As a result, schools need to avoid being misled by myths surrounding health and safety and not let these misconceptions stop successful and productive school trips taking place. With the right planning and safety precautions taken, there is no reason why a trip outside the classroom can’t be hugely beneficial and enjoyable for all.
School trips and outdoor learning activities Health and Safety Executive
HEALTH & SAFETY FOR SCHOOL TRIPS AND EDUCATIONAL VISITS UK School Trips
Reasons why school trips are great for SEN students National Centre for Citizenship and the Law