Planning & managing risk for educational visits


We've moved a long way from having the "3Rs" as the main focus of education. We have been moving towards giving a more rounded education for a long time. As well as teaching our students essential life skills like reading and mathematics, we work to inspire a lifelong love of learning with lessons on history, geography, art and music. But is it possible to take more of our lessons outside of the classroom? Funding permitting, taking your students on trips out can create diverse and creative enrichment.

The main thing that tends to stop schools from taking the step outside the classroom is the risk assessment paperwork, but this is where a good Educational Visits Co-ordinator (EVC) can shine. EVCs perform a vital role in providing high-quality provision for children to learn in the real world. Skilled planners, support and manage a programme of engaging, well-run and appropriate learning experiences.

A key part of an EVCs job is to accurately assess the risks involved in these outings and manage them accordingly. Risk is an inherent part of life. If we want to eliminate all possible risks from our pupil's time at school, we would leave them with very few activities they could take part in! Not only would this leave them very bored, but it would also deprive them of chances to learn and grow. Risk management should be common sense - focussing on reducing it to a practical level and deciding in if the risks faced are appropriate to the benefits of being outside the normal school environment.

Activity RiskActivity BenefitRisk MitigationActivity Selected

If the activity you have planned would benefit your students hugely but has a medium risk, you should look first at how you can minimise and mitigate that risk. This could be planning how to increase the number of staff for to increase supervision ratios, going on the trip at a different time of year to avoid inclement weather or perhaps holding a session on road safety for your pupils before going. If you can mitigate some of the risks and bring them down to a reasonable level, you should then look at the benefit to your students and if you feel that the risks are worth the potential benefits. If there are clear benefits, you should strongly consider going on the trip.

SAGE Variables

A good way to understand the practical opportunities andconstraints of an educational visit is to use the SAGE variables. This can help, especially in the early stages of planning a visit, to understand the possibility of the visit being successful.

Staffing – do you have enough staff with the right experience to attend the trip?

Activities – are the activities you have planned realistically possible for the group?

Group characteristics – how would you describe the group? What are their abilities and maturity level? Are there any medical or dietary needs?

Environment – Where is the activity going to take place? What will the terrain and weather be like?

Risk Assessment

Risk assessments are a key tool in an EVCs arsenal. They should be simple, easy-to-understand documents that record what you plan to do and show your thoughts on how any potential risks can be managed. When producing risk assessments in schools, it's best practice to avoid using the terms "high, medium and low" when trying to measure the risks as it is too subjective. We would recommend using "Trivial, Minor, Moderate, Serious, and Fatal" for the severity of the risk and "Remote, Unlikely, Possible, Likely, and Very likely" to describe the likelihood of the risk occurring.

Download your free copy of our white-water rafting risk assessment here. 

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