The ISI document, “Handbook for the Inspection of Schools”, contains guidelines of what inspectors will require from a school in sections 150 – 154 when looking at their off-site visits.
“150. Inspectors must exercise professional judgement in assessing the adequacy of the school’s documentation and provide advice as necessary to help schools in being vigilant about the welfare of pupils. In addition, the advice states that schools may wish to include any of the following in their health and safety policy and associated risk assessment.
(a) Training of staff in health and safety, including risk assessment
d) Policy and procedures for off-site visits, including residential visits and any school-led adventure activities. (Note the specific legal responsibility Independent Schools have when using third part providers.)
e) Dealing with health and safety emergencies – procedures and contacts
and the following items 151 – 154 (see below).”
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151. Educational visits are no longer treated separately from other aspects of health and safety. The DfE advice seeks to make it easier for schools to take pupils on trips, removing paperwork and taking steps to reduce teachers’ fears of legal action and stating that it is rare for teachers to be prosecuted under criminal law with regard to accidents involving children. There is no requirement to have an Educational Visits Coordinator (EVC). Schools should remain mindful of any requirements set by their insurers when planning educational visits.
152. A written risk assessment is not required for every visit and schools should make the decision about when to carry out a risk assessment. However, where a risk assessment is carried out, the employer must record the significant findings of the assessment. A risk assessment is not needed every time a school takes pupils to a local venue such as a swimming pool, a park or a museum. Circumstances when a risk assessment is appropriate would include activities away from school; for example. mountaineering, canoeing, and sailing. Trips abroad also need careful attention to duties under health and safety.
153. Written consent from parents is not required for pupils to take part in the majority of off-site activities organised by the school as most of these activities take place during school hours and are a normal part of the child’s education at the school. However, parents should be told where their child will be when not on school premises and of any extra safety measures required. This can be via a specific communication, or a more general termly calendar or similar. Written consent is usually only requested for activities that need a higher level of risk management or those that take place outside school hours. A ‘one-off’ consent form may be used for parents to sign when their child enrols at the school but it is for the school to decide on how parental consent is to be sought.
154. When planning an activity involving caving, climbing, trekking, skiing or watersports, schools must currently check that the provider holds a licence as required by the Adventure Activities Licensing Regulations 2004 (for England, Scotland and Wales). Two additional pieces of guidance have been published about health and safety issues. DfE have provided guidance on the requirements for driving minibuses, replacing the section previously located within the general health and saftey guidance.