Health and Safety and Data Protection Lecture

Introduction

Health and safety has become almost synonymous with pedantry and negativity: it is all too often the reason why something does not happen at all, rather than being a way to do something safely. As with the other chapters in this unit, learning about the principles which underpin legislation will help you to make sense of guidance and find ways to improve, rather than restrict, your practice. You will learn about some of the key legislation which you need to comply with, but also about how there is far more trust in your professional judgement than you might have thought. By working through an example of a school trip risk assessment to the British Museum, you will hopefully see how the task need not be overly bureaucratic (or at least, no more than any other area of teaching!).

This chapter also covers data protection regulations. While these are brief and relatively straightforward, failing to ensure data protection can have severe consequences, both legally and to your reputation. As with the policies in other chapters, the actual rules and regulations are far less than the standards you are expected to uphold as a member of the teaching profession. It is therefore important that you understand the principles which underpin the regulations, and ensure that these principles are woven into your teaching practice.

Learning objectives for this chapter

By the end of this chapter, we would like you:

  • To understand the key principles of health and safety;
  • Be able to correct colleagues who believe common health and safety myths;
  • Be able to plan an off-site activity;
  • Understand the responsibilities and expectations you must follow regarding health and safety and data protection.

Why does health and safety matter?

Wright et al. (2007, p.52) note that health and safety is one of the "general teaching requirements", but that teachers in specialist subjects will need to give more careful consideration. These subject areas are "design technology, art and design, physical education, science and ICT". For these subjects, it might be appropriate to highlight health and safety issues on each individual lesson plan. You might also keep a list of resources and the health and safety considerations related to each one (a spreadsheet can help you to manage this efficiently). For teachers in other subject areas, Wright et al. recommend that health and safety be considered on the medium-term plan, with individual lesson plans only needing to mention health and safety when there is a specific issue to address.

This chapter will give you some of the background on the controversies around health and safety legislation in schools. However, it also aims to reassure you that health and safety can be a positive influence and need not stop you doing anything nor be overly burdensome. As you will see from the examples, many schools have developed health and safety habits as highly visible signs that they have thought about health and safety. You may find some of these habits helpful to adopt, but you should also make sure that adopting these habits does not lead to complacency. Whilst legal responsibility and the risk of prosecution will rest with your school in the vast majority of cases, taking proper care of your pupils is still a responsibility you should take seriously under the principle of in loco parentis (see chapter 2). It is the school's responsibility to give you adequate training, but this may simply be guidance given as part of your induction. It is unlikely that you will be sent on a training course unless there is a specific need identified. For example, most staff may be advised to adopt a strict 'no touch' policy, while some senior staff or those on a special behaviour team will have dedicated training in safe restraint or physical intervention processes (in any event, all instances of physical intervention must be formally recorded).

Reflection

Before you read this section, how specific did you expect the guidance to be? Are you surprised that it is so vague? Why do you think the government wants to do this? Do you like broad guidelines, or would you prefer more specific regulations? Try to think of some positives and negatives for each approach.

What does the guidance say?

Despite how often you hear about health and safety in education, there is no specific legislation for schools. Instead, the Health and Safety at Work Act (HM Government, 1974) outlines the responsibilities that any employer has, including the responsibility employees have to keep each other (and anyone else on the premises) safe. More specific regulations are given in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (HM Government, 1999). Many of these regulations are procedural and will not concern you as a teacher, although you should note that you have a responsibility to report any obvious failings of health and safety. Nobody knows your classroom better than you do, and it can be all too easy to simply stop using a faulty electrical socket or step over a loose floor tile. You could also be considered negligent for failing to follow (or be aware of) school procedures, such as for reporting pupil absences and knowing school evacuation plans.

Specific guidance was issued for schools by the Department for Education (DfE, 2014a). With only 8 pages of content, this guide is well worth a read to reassure yourself that health and safety is not meant to be an onerous task. The very first sentence emphasises the government's commitment to "reduce burdens on schools", and in particular, a desire to "simplify health and safety requirements and explain them better" (DfE, 2014a, p.3). There is also the reassuring advice that "teachers should be confident that they know best how to look after pupils and keep them safe… 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" (DfE, 2014a, p.3-4). Teachers are similarly encouraged to use a common-sense approach, including helping children to recognise and manage everyday risks. This type of guidance is consistent with the safeguarding advice looked at in chapter 2: you are not expected to anticipate and eliminate all potential risks, but rather to take reasonable care and, most importantly, give pupils the skills to recognise and manage risks for themselves. The guidance for schools emphasises the role of exercising sensible judgement, and very strongly supports a 'common sense' approach without too much prescription. However, practice is very different for very young children. The Early Years Foundation Stage guidance has specific requirements for supervising this age group, including policies for supervising children when they are asleep, bathroom and nappy changing provision, and even the level of English proficiency required of supervising staff.

Risk assessments

The DfE guidance is very clear that an individual risk assessment is not required for every activity, and that "needless or unhelpful paperwork" is avoided (DfE, 2014a, p.5). The principle is that a risk assessment should help you to identify and manage safety concerns, removing unnecessary risk. Your focus should be on helping pupils to do something safely, but in practice, documentation runs to great detail and seeks to identify every potential risk. You only need to prepare a new risk assessment when you are planning a new activity, otherwise simply reviewing existing arrangements is sufficient. Unfortunately, many schools are reluctant to let go of existing documentation and established habits. As a new teacher, you may find that you are still expected to produce copious paperwork for a risk assessment - it takes a lot of confidence to be the teacher who says that something is not necessary! It may be worth, however, pointing out some of the myths about health and safety (see next section) and opening your colleagues to a dialogue about what the principles of safe practice are. There is a case to be made that focusing too much on risk assessment paperwork actually obscures risk. Teachers may feel complacent that they have completed the forms and so they do not need to think about risks again, and the list of risks might be so cumbersome that important points are overlooked in all the 'noise'.

The guidance states that employees should ask for procedures to be reviewed if those policies are too bureaucratic or otherwise inappropriate, so asking for a process to be reviewed and simplified is actually more in line with the guidance than using elaborate or overly-specific processes.

Example: Glenridding Beck

In 2002, an off-site adventure school trip ended in tragedy with the death of a pupil. The Health and Safety Executive investigated, concluding that there were "serious errors of judgement by the party leader in planning and leading the activity" (HSE, 2013, p.1) as well as shortcomings in procedures and planning at the Local Education Authority level. The activity was plunge pooling, which involves climbing rocks before jumping into water. In retrospect, the activity itself is now regarded as higher risk and would require professional supervision and additional safeguards. In the Glenridding Beck case, the group leader went first and judged the water to be fine. However, the cold water was a major factor in the pupil, Max, struggling to swim to the exit point after jumping. The difficulties posed by the cold limited the ability of the group leader, the pupil's mother and another pupil to attempt rescues - leading to them suffering from hypothermia.

The investigation pointed out several failings which on their own might seem minor, but contributed either to an increased risk or a reduced ability to respond to an emergency. In particular, the supervision ratio did not take account of the type of activity - highlighting the importance of not just sticking to a specific number, but thinking about what supervision is required. The level of expertise of supervisors also needed to be considered - as the HSE points out, having done an activity before does not mean that you are qualified to instruct. The activity leader may also have felt under pressure to deliver the activity, so while it does not specifically relate to risk it could have helped to have a back-up activity planned. Similarly, deciding in advance which weather conditions would mean postponing or cancelling the activity could have helped make an informed decision. Very cold water might be fine for actually doing plunge pooling, since it requires only very short swimming distances. However, consideration should have been given to the temperature which would make a rescue (which requires much more time in the water) difficult.

The investigation also highlighted several areas where the leader did not sufficiently plan ahead or check local policies and procedures. Simple omissions in the consent form and failing to offer a meeting to parents would obviously not have avoided the accident, but should have indicated that the group leader needed to be more attentive to the procedures. More serious errors were also found - for example, nobody was a trained lifesaver (a Lancashire LEA requirement for any watersports activity), and the group leader only had emergency first aid training (requirements state that a fully trained first aider should be present). Focusing too much on the adult:child ratio similarly failed to appreciate the poor experienced:novice ratio.

This is a worrying example of how poorly prepared trips can still go ahead on the assumption that everything will be fine. Planning for unlikely events is crucial for keeping them unlikely: as we look back with hindsight, we can see how every minor mistake or oversight slightly increased the risk to pupils of something bad happening and staff being unable to help effectively when it did.

Staff ratios are usually a matter of school policy and depend on age ranges. However, it is important to remember that simply having an adequate number of staff is not enough to ensure proper levels of supervision (as in the Glenriddy Beck example). Laverty and Reay (2014) point out that teachers need to be able to see or hear children and be able to help immediately if needed. The ratio can be made up of anyone over 17, including volunteers, provided that you are confident in their competence, but you can only count people whose role is to directly supervise children. This means that support staff such as receptionists or cleaners cannot be counted, which can be tricky if these people double up in roles which do count, such as lunch-time supervisors.

Reflection

Were there any times where you or someone you know overlooked what they saw as insignificant risks? Looking back now, did any of these decisions either (i) increase the chance of something going wrong, or (ii) decrease the ability to react in the event of an emergency? Reflecting on 'near misses' like this will help you to spot and avoid potential risks in the future.

Myths about health and safety

There are three main myths that you will encounter as a teacher: health and safety requires lots of paperwork, teachers will be prosecuted if anything goes wrong, and strict guidelines must be followed.

The Health and Safety Executive has produced guidance which aims to tackle health and safety myths. This is not just about repairing their own reputation - myths can be damaging, and lead to practices which actually increase risks. The HSE points out that "copious paperwork" can act as "a security blanket" for teachers (HSE, 2011, p.2). Listing every conceivable risk might look like attention to detail, but this level of description might fail to consider the most significant or real risks. Similarly, the level of planning should reflect the level of risk - using a 'high risk' template for every activity is not only necessary, but reduces the importance of real high-risk situations. The listing of risks should not include those which are "trivial" or "fanciful" (HSE, 2011, p.2), again because this can lead to trivialising real risks. When even getting on the coach is classed as a high-risk activity, real risks will be missed.

The risk of prosecution is also much less than many schools and teachers seem to believe. The HSE points out that it only seeks to prosecute in cases of "recklessness or a clear failure to follow sensible precautions" (HSE, 2011, p.3). The fact that something goes wrong does not mean that someone is at fault, and it is repeatedly emphasised that prosecution is very rare and only occurs when it is deemed to be in the public interest.

Finally, there are very specific procedures which must be followed - unless your LEA has specified them. National guidelines only apply to EYFS pupils, otherwise your professional judgement is often the only standard. Habitually sticking to a certain adult:child ratio or putting every pupil in a hi-vis jacket when going anywhere falls into the 'security blanket' fallacy mentioned above: this is more about making teachers and schools feel better than they are about managing risks. Normalising such routines might even risk pupils becoming complacent and failing to learn to manage real-life risks, which is a key element of an effective health and safety policy. Learning to safely cross the road without a team of escorts and high-visibility clothing might be a reasonable demand for certain age groups. Similarly, keeping this routine in reserve for special situations will help to underline the specialness of the situation and reinforce that pupils need to be extra vigilant. As a simple example, special clothing might be useful if a route involves partially-obscured road crossings. This would be a simple justification to underline the need for pupils to pay attention (for example, by turning off mobile phones), but a teacher would struggle to make the same justification for a straightforward route with lights-controlled crossings.

Reflection

Can you think of any health and safety practices you have seen which fall into the 'safety blanket' category? How could you change these practices to focus less on making the teacher feel better and become more about managing risk? Alternatively, are there any procedures which you would like to see become standard?

Planning a school trip

The rules regarding school trips can vary depending on the type of trip. One obvious difference is a trip outside of the UK: since you will be in a different country, there will be a different legal system which you need to make sure you comply with. You also have a responsibility to check the licence of any adventure activities providers in England, Scotland or Wales. If an activity has a higher level of risk than normal school-based activities, or occurs outside of school hours, then you will also require written consent from parents/guardians. If you are teaching nursery-age children, you will need written parental consent for any off-site activity. It is also normal practice that parents should be informed of any trips so that they at least know where their children will be during the day, and schools typically ask for written consent as a matter of routine.

Who can help me plan a trip?

Legislation applies to employers, so the legal duty to ensure health and safety rests with your Local Education Authority for the majority of teachers, although this may be different if you are directly employed by an Academy Trust, supply agency, or other organisation. However, this responsibility is often delegated to a named individual within a school. There may also be Educational Visit Coordinators available locally to give specific support, but not all areas have these, nor do you have to use them even when they are available.

Consent forms

Consent does not need to be sought from parents/guardians for every trip. It is only a legal requirement for activities which are higher risk than a normal school day, or trips which are outside of normal school hours. In practice, however, your school and LEA will want parents to give consent. There will probably be a standard template completed at the start of the school year. An example is produced by the Department for Education (DfE, 2014b).

While it is not specified as a requirement, you should also think about the level of information you need to give so that parents are giving informed consent. They may wish to know the type of activity, the educational reasons for doing so, or what the likely risks are and how you are managing them. As with health and safety in general, giving too much information can be counter-productive. A brief summary might be best, accompanied by an invitation to contact you for more information or holding an information session.

Example: identifying 'real risks'

The British Museum is one of the best museums in the world, and is understandably popular for school trips. The museum produces a hazard identification resource for schools (British Museum, 2016). This is a very detailed document which identifies a wide range of risks for all age groups. Athena is planning a trip for her year 8 history group and wants to use the hazard identification resource to make her own risk assessment. She thinks carefully about what are everyday risks and makes the following comments and changes:

Entry to Museum via Main Entrance

Slip/trip/fall is an everyday risk, and the control measures are superior to what we have at school. The only major consideration is the busy road and children being more excited than usual, so some staff leaving the coach first to supervise the crossing would be helpful. The hazard list does not include the very limited coach parking - if we cannot get one of the six spaces, the nearest waiting space limits us to 10 minutes, which puts us under pressure to get pupils off the coach safely and organised to walk in a group. If this happens, we need to resist pressure from the coach driver and make sure that we start the day safely - as a contingency, make sure that the school is willing to pay a penalty parking fee if necessary. Same policy when leaving - if it takes us longer to check everyone is present or chase up someone who is missing, then it will just have to take longer. Probably easier to gather in groups at the museum entrance to go back to the coach.

Establish a meeting point inside the museum for handing out tickets, a useful check that everyone is together.

Entry to Museum via North Entrance

As above, there is no significant difference in health and safety needs for the two entrances.

Museum Forecourt

Only everyday risks. The lack of familiarity could cause problems if children become lost, so making sure that everyone knows meeting points would help. Pupils are not allowed to leave the site, so supervision at the exits will be needed. We should also make sure there are enough staff to cover the different areas of the museum - discourage volunteers from going around in groups, as this limits coverage. Making sure that every adult has a school mobile and all pupils have these details would be useful to establish before we leave the school.

Galleries and exhibitions

Everyday risk, and provision of first-aiders and supervising staff is better than we have at the school. However, museum first aiders might need to know about special medical needs - make sure any pupils with these needs have a card with all necessary information, and notify the museum in advance if this applies to any pupils.

GREEN BOX CONTINUED

Lifts

Everyday risk, although we do not have lifts at school. Revise floor plans in advance at the school, and make sure pupils know not to overcrowd lifts.

All stairways and doorways

Everyday risk, contingency plans are better than at school. We just need to supervise and make sure children are not over-excited.

Museum Shops

Everyday risks, although we should think about overcrowding - perhaps let pupils enter in small groups.

Schools and families lunch room (Ford Centre)

Everyday risk; just double-check any children who might have allergies in case they have unknowingly bought something they should not have.

Toilets

Everyday risks; just need to remind pupils to treat the facilities respectfully. Should we insist that pupils inform staff if using the toilets so that we know where they are?

All sessions taught by Museum staff

Make sure students are aware of any situations when the might need first aid, feeling unwell, falls, etc. Reassure them that people to help will always be close by. Behaviour management important- why is it even more important that they behave sensibly in these situations? What could happen if they don't? The risks for different sessions are shown below- make sure students and staff are aware of these risks for each of the different types of sessions that they may be taking part in.

Category A Sessions taught by Museum staff

Use of projector, so check any epilepsy details.

Category B Sessions taught by Museum staff

Standard science lab rules for handling objects with sharp edges/small parts. Advise pupils to handle objects with great care. The museum will need a list of allergies in advance.

Category C Sessions taught by Museum staff

Standard art/design rules. Comments here about risk of swallowing paint would hopefully not apply to our age range, but could be worth a reminder just to be careful. Museum notes suggest bringing some old clothes, so best to check this in advance. Will we need someone to supervise proper hand-washing afterwards?

Category D Sessions taught by Museum staff

Everyday risks of using electrical equipment and computers. Remind students of rules in IT classes, e.g. they do not try to 'fix' problems themselves or touch any cables.

General

The museum has generally good provision in place, in many respects much more thorough than we have at school. In almost all cases, it will be quicker to get help from the museum staff rather than school staff trying to intervene. The only extra precaution is knowing the nearest hospital with accident and emergency provision is University College or Royal London, both under 10 minutes by taxi. Great Ormond Street does not have A&E, so even though it is just across the road it would be a waste of time to go there.

Reflection

In the example above, Athena has used her judgement to identify risks which are different from those experienced in school. Her first draft is 840 words, about half the length of the British Museum's template. This has helped her to focus on the key risks by asking herself if the risk is greater than at school, or if the ability to deal with a problem is less than at school. Look at her decisions and think about how you feel. Is there any other information you would like or preparation you would like to do? Has she been too brief, or would you like to make it briefer?

Incident reporting

Your school will have its own incident reporting procedures, and there may also be guidance from your LEA. If so, you need to follow these. They will normally require reporting of serious incidents immediately and all others by the end of the day, and data will be held for three years. However, this level of reporting is more likely to relate to your safeguarding policies than health and safety policies. In terms of health and safety, the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations (RIDDOR) are very specific in terms of what should and should not be reported to the health and safety executive. You need only report incidents where pupils are injured or killed as part of a work activity and are taken directly to hospital. Being taken to hospital as a precautionary measure, remaining at school or being taken home, even if for several days, is not reportable under health and safety rules - although it would be extremely unusual for a school to not record such incidents for their own purposes. Common playground accidents or even physical violence between pupils need not be recorded under the health and safety regulations, but again, you will probably have processes for recording these as part of your safeguarding policies.

Reflection

What incidents need reporting in your school? Try to think of the different reasons for reporting and recording these incidents - which are to do with health and safety, safeguarding, inclusion, or other policies?

Data protection

All UK schools will be registered with the Information Commissioner's Office. This is a requirement for any organisation which handles personal information. Notification is usually through your LEA, and must be renewed annually. You must also inform parents/guardians and any children aged 13 or over about your intention to process personal information. This is known as a privacy notice, and needs to be renewed each year. Many schools do this at the same time as checking that basic details (e.g. contact details) are correct. Schools must also give the option to opt-out. This could make routine tasks very difficult for the school, so it is important to show restraint and respect when collecting and using personal information so that opting-out is less likely. A good example of this is fundraising - schools might routinely send out letters, emails or texts to a full database without really considering whether consent has been given to use data for this purpose. As a compromise, it is good practice to offer an opt-out (or better yet, an opt-in) for marketing purposes.

As a general principle, you need to respect the purpose for which consent has been given. Giving contact details for emergency situations cannot be taken as consent for being sent notices about the school play, so as a teacher you should be wary of using databases of contact details. You should also be aware that the Information Commissioner's Office disapproves of profiling. Using a database of work contact details when you are looking for a sponsor for the football team's new kit could be seen as wealth profiling, which is not a legitimate use of personal data.

Your school will take care of many of the requirements of the Data Protection Act (HM Government, 1998) through routine communications. Monitoring for accuracy will usually take place each year when a renewed privacy notice is issued, but you can also help by highlighting any errors you find. If you are given a different contact number or know a pupil is moving home, this is a good point to check which details are held. However, your main dealings with data protection as a teacher will be making sure that data is kept secure. Your school will probably have an IT policy requiring secure passwords and setting computers to automatically lock, but you should also take care to secure a computer if you are going to be away from your desk (on a PC, press the windows key and L; on a Mac, press control + shift + eject or control + shift + power). You might also want to encrypt any USB sticks or put passwords on particular files (e.g. spreadsheets). You should also be aware of any files you have open while using an interactive whiteboard. It might be convenient to take the register while the projector is switched on, but be aware of any other information which might be displayed on the same screen. It is also good practice to check that important information is correct, so for example you will want to check phone numbers and medication/allergy details before a school trip.  

Reflection

Make a list of the different reasons you might want to use personal information about pupils or their parents/guardians. Do you have consent for these specific purposes? If challenged, how could you demonstrate that you have consent (including from pupils themselves if aged 13+)? How is the data held, and is this secure enough?

Conclusion

This chapter has looked at health and safety and data protection policies. Health and safety requires using your professional judgement to think about real risks, being wary of simply following routines to make yourself feel better. Pupils need to be encouraged to identify and manage everyday risks rather than teachers trying to eliminate risks. Procedures vary locally, but should all help you either to identify increased risks or decreased capacity to deal with problems. Similarly, there will be set practices for gaining consent even though this is only legally required for increased risk or out-of-hours activities.

Your professional judgement should be your guide, so you should be able to confidently defend your decisions on the suitability of your preparation. As we saw in the tragic case of Glenriddy Beck, it is more important to think about adequate supervision than any particular ratio of adults to children. We also saw how the conditions for being able to do an activity are not necessarily the same as the conditions for successfully dealing with an emergency. The over-riding principle of health and safety is not to stop pupils doing anything in particular, but to help them do it safely. However, sometimes we need the courage to cancel activities if the situation changes - particularly weather-dependent activities. A good 'plan B' is therefore important.

We have also looked at your duties under data protection rules, most importantly that you respect the limited consent of parents/guardians - think about the purpose you are using their data for, and if you can demonstrate that you have consent for it. Respecting privacy is as much about upholding your professionalism as it is about following the law, and as teachers we rely on lots of information so it is important to keep the goodwill or those who share their details with us.  

Reflection

Now that you have completed this chapter, you should feel more confident in:

  • Knowing how the principles of health and safety relate to your practice.
  • Challenging myths of excessive paperwork, fear of prosecution and strictness of regulations.
  • Evaluating the real risks of off-site activities.
  • Following best practice in record-keeping and following policies and guidance.

Looking back at the British Museum example, have a look at the scenario at the end of this chapter where you will plan for the hazards when visiting a theme park.

Reference list

The British Museum. (2016). Hazard identification for schools. Available from: https://www.britishmuseum.org/docs/Hazard_identification_for_schools_2016_17.doc

DfE. (2014a). Health and safety: advice on legal duties and powers. London: HMSO. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/335111/DfE_Health_and_Safety_Advice_06_02_14.pdf

DfE. (2014b). Consent for school trips and other off-site activities. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consent-for-school-trips-and-other-off-site-activities

Head, E. (2016). Heritage attractions risk assessment form. Available from: https://www.lightwatervalley.co.uk/uploads/docs/Schools_and_Children_Groups_Risk_Assessment_2016.pdf

HM Government. (1974). Health and Safety at Work Act. London: HMSO. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1974/37

HM Government. (1998). The Data Protection Act. London: HMSO. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1998/29/contents

HM Government. (1999). Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. London: HMSO. Available from: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/3242/contents/made

HSE. (2011). School trips and outdoor learning activities: tackling the health and safety myths. Available from: http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/education/school-trips.pdf

HSE. (2013). Glenridding Beck - investigation report. Available from: http://www.hse.gov.uk/aala/glenridding-beck-investigation.pdf

Laverty, B. and Reay, C. (2014). Health and Safety in Early Years and Childcare. London: National Children's Bureau.

Wright, C., Ellis, V., and Peverett, M. (2007). Planning for learning. In: Viv Ellis [ed.], Learning and Teaching in Secondary Schools (3rd ed.), Exeter: Learning Matters, pp.45-62.

'Hands on' scenario:

Scenario: You are planning an end-of-year reward trip for year 10. Any pupil with 20+ merits and no detentions will be given the trip for free, and there is a sliding scale of costs depending on behaviour. Any pupil with more than 3 detentions for the year, or who has been suspended, will not be permitted to attend. You are looking at Lightwater Valley, a short journey from your school in York. Looking online, you find a risk assessment template (Head, 2016). Your colleague wants to just submit this template to the administrator and send out a letter to parents asking for payment, but you decide that the form is not suitable for your purposes. What changes will you make? What do you think are the 'real risks'? Do any of these risks need to be communicated to parents/guardians or to the pupils themselves?

Answer: Public transport links to the theme park are relatively awkward, involving one train and two buses. You will therefore almost certainly be travelling by coach - your school is likely to already have a list of suppliers, so you can be confident of a safe and professional service. The length of journey is short enough that you are unlikely to need to plan refreshment or toilet stops, but it might still be prudent to point this out to pupils in good time before leaving. You should also think about alternative options - how long will you wait for latecomers? Will you arrange the school minibus as backup (you probably don't want parents driving children directly to the park, but this might be objectionable for parents who live or work in that direction), or will alternative provision be offered at the school? Even though this trip is a reward, some pupils might want an alternative: they may have already been to the park enough times before, simply not like theme parks, or want to catch up on coursework - thinking in advance of a pleasant alternative might be appreciated.

The template risk assessment lists a wide range of hazards, including a rating for their severity and likelihood. Multiplying these gives a rough 'risk rating', which is a helpful guide to what might be the real risks you need to consider more carefully. For example, sunburn, sunstroke or dehydration is classed as high severity (5/5) but low likelihood (3/5), giving a risk rating of 15/25. In contrast, being run over is more likely, giving a risk rating of 20/25 (5x4). Every hazard is rated either 4 or 5 and the lowest likelihood score is a 3, suggesting either that lower scoring risks are not documented or that the hazards are rated too highly (a third option is that the park is full of high-risk hazards which are highly likely to occur: if this is true, probably best to go somewhere else). You might want to do some re-scaling to decide what the real risks are.

The risk assessment also seems to over-state the impact of its controls, bringing the risk rating (the 'after controls' columns) down to single figures. You might want to question how effective these measures really are, and if they are overstating their claims. For example, restricting alcohol sales on site and conducting bag searches, as well as CCTV and on-site monitoring, brings the risk rating for drug or alcohol use down from 20 to 6. In a large group of year 10 students, it might be very difficult to control - for example, many 'vaping' devices can be easily adapted to use cannabis. Similarly, many of the risks of alcohol misuse can also be caused by excessively consuming energy drinks - and these are widely available at the park.

Finally, remember that this trip is likely to be outside school hours, so you will need specific written consent from parents. You might also want to think about supervision: the park specifies a 15:1 ratio, is this appropriate for your group? Will you need to be able to see/hear pupils at all times, have regular check-in arrangements, or simply make sure that pupils save your mobile phone number? If the latter, your school should have a ready stock of mobile phones for this purpose to avoid giving your personal details - make sure they are charged and have call credit. 


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