The words ‘health and safety’ often fill teachers, coaches and sports club managers with dread. The reams of paperwork, in-depth risk assessments, and lengthy reports for every scratch and scrape (which they think must be completed in order to not be in breach of health and safety law), is not necessarily the reality.
Organising a school trip shouldn’t be overshadowed by a concern about health and safety. In fact, the Health and Safety Executive makes it clear that schools simply need to take “sensible and proportionate steps” to ensure students are as safe as possible. So, whether you’re taking the sports team on a residential tour abroad, or you’ve organised an educational school day trip for your students, here are some tips on how to keep young people safe while they’re in your care.
General health and safety tips
A school trip naturally carries an element of risk. This could be as simple and unavoidable as a student tripping over a broken piece of pavement on the way to a museum, or as serious as the failure of a piece of equipment during an adventurous activity. It is up to you to create an environment that is as safe as possible for your students by putting basic health and safety components in place, such as:
- Carry out a risk assessment: Before you take young people on a school trip, you need to identify, specifically for your group: any significant hazards, who may be harmed, and the likelihood of these hazards occurring. Make a note of this and review it before the school trip, in case anything has changed (e.g. more children have signed up, the mode of transport has changed or the school has decided to do a different activity).
- Collect details of any health conditions or medication: Being aware of your students’ health needs, and making sure any medication they may require is readily available, will ensure you can respond quickly and efficiently in a medical emergency.
- Make sure you have met all the supervisors, irrespective of DBS clearance: You wouldn’t dream of leaving your students with a group of strangers, so it is advisable to meet any parent volunteers before the trip to ensure you’re happy for them to supervise.
- Ensure there’s a first-aider in the team: For very young children, it is often a requirement that at least one person with a current paediatric first aid certificate is available. Even if you’re taking a group of 18-year-olds, you may find it reassuring to have a first-aider on the team. You should always have a basic first aid kit available anyway, regardless of the age group.
Make sure students know what’s expected of them
When you’re in charge of a big group of students, it is important that they know what they are supposed to be doing, as this minimises the risk of anyone getting lost or left behind. Make sure everyone on the trip has the details of where they need to be at certain times, as well as contact details that they can use in an emergency.
Have a plan in place for emergencies
If an emergency does occur during your school trip, then it’s important to have a thorough plan in place so that everyone knows what to do. This could involve anything from a child breaking their leg to the group being involved in a near-fatal accident. The school will need to know how to deal with the immediate incident at hand (e.g. calling the emergency services and getting the other students to safety), as well as handling the process that follows – for example, releasing a statement about the incident and talking to any parents whose children are affected.
Prepare supervisors properly
You should provide parent volunteers and non-teacher group leaders with everything they need to supervise the school trip confidently and competently. This includes details about times, destinations and activities, as well as information about any medical issues. They should also have access to the risk assessment for the trip, the school’s health and safety policy, and key contact details in case of an emergency. It is important to remember that, while volunteers can support teachers in the supervision of a school trip, the main responsibility for ensuring health and safety ultimately lies with the teachers.
Let older students show their maturity
You may find that older students misbehave if they are supervised too closely or treated like children. It can sometimes be a good idea to allow older students a degree of independence, while also giving them clear instructions to make sure they are safe. This can encourage them to act more mature when they rejoin the group and means that you can focus on group safety rather than dealing with disruptive behaviour.
With careful planning, thorough preparation, and open communication with students and supervisors, keeping young people safe during educational trips and tours is simple and stress-free. To find out more about organising a fun, educational and safe school trip for your students, contact us at Study Experiences today.