Teachers should adopt a “common sense” approach to health and safety to boost the number of school trips and expose pupils to risks, according to new guidelines.
Schools in England have been told to dramatically cut back on levels of red tape because of concerns that too many outings are being cancelled amid fears staff will be sued over accidents.
Guidance issued to head teachers says that health and safety rules should “not stop them” embarking on a range of outings to museums, adventure centres, parks and trips abroad.
The document from the Department for Education says that legal action is rare and schools can protect themselves by taking care of pupils “in a way that a prudent parents would have done”.
It is unnecessary to carry out separate risk assessments or seek parental consent for every outing, guidance says. All staff can be given necessary health and safety advice without attending costly and time-consuming training courses, it says, adding that “basic instructions” are often the only necessary requirement.
The 10 page document represents a dramatic change of course compared with the 150 pages of health and safety guidance issued under the last government.
It comes amid concerns that health and safety may still be getting in the way of traditional cornerstones of school life such as trips out and science experiments.
Last year, Prof Tanya Byron, the child psychologist and former government advisor, said that children’s natural development was being stunted because “paranoia about health and safety and well-being” had reached “insane” levels.
But the latest document says: “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 the risks that are a normal part of life. Common sense should be used in assessing and managing the risks of any activity.”
The guidance – covering more than 21,000 state schools – says that separate written risk assessments are often not needed, saying staff should “avoid needless or unhelpful paperwork”.
It says infrequent activities such as annual trips should involve risk assessments. But schools need not carry out them out for activities that form a regular part of the day, such as trips to the swimming pool, park or a place of worship.
The document also says that written consent from parents is not required for the “majority of off-site activities” that take place during school hours. It is only needed for those such as adventure activities and off-site sporting fixtures outside the school day.
Concerns have been raised about the possibility of schools being sued by parents if a child is injured during an outing. But the guidance says that legal action is “very rare”.
Claims are only likely to be successful if the school had failed to act like “a prudent parent” or allowed a child to be injured as a “foreseeable consequence” of a dangerous activity.
A DfE spokesman said: “Exciting school trips broaden children’s horizons and are an important of their education.
“That is why we are cutting unnecessary red tape in schools and putting teachers back in charge.
“Our advice to schools outlines a common-sense approach which will make it easier for schools to make lessons inspiring and fun.”
Source The Telegraph
Lighthouse Comments: We are glad this has been flagged up as an issue. One of our members of staff is involved with Kent Scouts, he takes the approach of RISK CONTROL rather than risk avoidance. Children need to learn the dangers of life and need to be exposed to a controlled level of risk to develop fully. For instance: Abseiling, a rather dangerous activity? NO, not really, if suitably controlled the activity is of no risk at all. The practice of avoiding risks and bubble wrapping children only leads to incompetence in the future.