The Association’s recommendation is that any trip which takes pupils outwith the School Grounds or Campus is regarded as an Educational Excursion.
IF IN ANY DOUBT ABOUT THE QUALITY OF ARRANGEMENTS, PLEASE CONTACT THE ASSOCIATION FOR ADVICE. IN THE EVENT OF ANY OCCURRENCE WHICH COULD LEAD TO LITIGATION OR DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS CONTACT THE ASSOCIATION IMMEDIATELY.
BEFORE YOU COMMIT YOURSELF
- The Association recognises the many benefits to pupils and to staff/pupil relations which can derive from educational excursions. However, members thinking of planning such excursions must weigh these potential benefits against the potential for disaster in such ventures. It is not unusual to find teachers being made the scapegoat in the event of some tragedy and, only by ensuring that every conceivable contingency has been considered, planned for and, most importantly, recorded, can members have any hope of avoiding a highly stressful, professionally damaging and possibly financially ruinous outcome in the event of a major incident.
- While the Association will obviously support and represent members in the event of litigation, the outcome of such action is likely to depend on the member’s preparation prior to the excursion. It is in the light of the seriousness of the possible consequences of this that the Association offers this advice to members.
- Do you really want to organise the excursion, or do you feel that you are under pressure to do so? Excursions are not a contractual requirement and an unwilling organiser is unlikely to give the commitment to detail which is required.
- If the school organises trips abroad on an annual or more frequent basis, are you aware that an EC Directive on Package Travel may have fundamental implications for you? Failure to ensure that it is agreed and written down that the school is the provider and that the teacher is merely acting as an agent of the school could result in the teacher being held liable for, among others, financial guarantees, and any death, illness, or injury of group members.
- Have you read and understood your employer’s Policies / Regulations / Emergency Procedures relating to school travel. Considering several tragic incidents, which have occurred on excursions recently, many authorities have upgraded and redrafted their guidelines. Be aware of the new guidelines and be sure that you can comply with them. Any request for clarification should be in writing.
- Do you have a clearly defined educational objective for the trip
The association strongly recommends that you obtain, read and retain for reference the education Scotland publication - “Going Out There – Health and Safety Guidance on Leaving The School Grounds”
- Staffing: the staff - pupil ratio, the gender cover, and the experience/qualifications of the staff on the excursion are the responsibility of the organiser. Non staff adult helpers (e.g. parents, coaches) should be screened by Disclosure Scotland. If arranging an exchange, have you considered how you can guarantee that host families do not include child/sex abusers?
- Financial transparency and rigour at all stages, including allocation of any free places, is vital to prevent recriminations. Do not accept any monies unless you can receipt them immediately. The Association advises that members should not be directly involved in any payments, particularly cash.
- Communications: all communications should be confirmed in writing, with the date sent or received clearly shown. This would include communications with school management, providers (e.g. tour companies) and parents. The chain of management responsibility must be unequivocal and known to all concerned.
- Contracts: the organiser must ensure that parents/guardians understand that the Contract will exist between them and the Tour Operator, in the case of an arranged tour, and that the organiser is merely an intermediary.
- Initial Information to Parents: this must make clear that attendance on the trip is subject to adherence by their child to the highest standards of behaviour always, in and out of school, and that failure to comply with this will, at the sole discretion of the trip organiser, working under the authority of the Headteacher, lead to exclusion from the trip with possible loss of monies already paid. If the misconduct is on the trip, whilst abroad, the parents need to be aware that they would be liable for the cost of repatriation.
- Parental Consent forms must be explicit, contain a declaration of any relevant medical condition(s) and/or special needs of the pupil. Itinerary and activities must be explained clearly to parents beforehand and written consent obtained. This is particularly important on ski trips, activity holidays and trips abroad. Issue each pupil/parent/carer with a relevant and up to date list of hazards, risks, and appropriate control measures to avoid dangers.
Your Local Authority Consent form must be used. Do not make up your own!
- Adequate planning means carrying out a full risk assessment as required by the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1992. The local authority will demand this, and you must use their Risk Assessment forms. This may require a preliminary site visit and the cost of this must be borne in mind when budgeting for the pupil cost.
- Foreign Trips: all transport, routes, accommodation, and excursions are subject to a risk assessment, as above. By you or your tour operator.
- Activity Holiday Centres: It is your responsibility to ensure that centre staff are suitably qualified and experienced. Obtain guarantees of this in writing. Where responsibility for the party is to be ceded to centre staff, obtain written confirmation of the demarcation of responsibility.
- Field Trips: Where possible, the site to be visited should have been previously inspected to identify any hazards, particularly access from parking areas and natural hazards e.g., water. Many activities companies offer inspection tours.
- Industrial Visits: Where possible, a preliminary visit should be undertaken to familiarise the teacher with the site and discuss potential problems with the site Safety Officer.
- Theatre Trips: Ensure that the route is clearly known, and that toilet stops etc. are planned. Disembarking areas should also be clearly identified.
- Lines of emergency communication, with backup, must be clear to all involved, ensuring that responsibility for statements on any mishap is known to rest with the school or Local Authority.
- Insurance: Ensure adequacy, certification and especially be familiar with all exclusions. Ensure that cover is sufficient in scope and amount to cover the possibility of the entire party making claims.
- Transport: Especially if going abroad on a privately arranged trip, ensure that the transport provider has documentary evidence of familiarity with the country to be visited. It would be highly advisable to use coach operators who have seatbelts fitted in their vehicles. School minibuses should be checked for tyre condition, lights, door function and fluid levels, and that a maintenance record is kept with the vehicle. A visual inspection of the vehicle should be carried out before use. Ensure that you are entitled to drive under the Local Authority regulations.
ON THE EXCURSION
- Have a copy of your employer’s Policy/Regulations/Emergency Procedures with you for reference.
- On all trips, especially if there may be a language problem, ensure that evacuation procedures are rehearsed immediately on arrival.
- Maintain a supervision schedule for all members of the party.
- Financial/personal security: Caution needs to be exercised when carrying cash, consider using a safe in the accommodation where possible.
- Carry a mobile phone to enable contact with appropriate parties.
- Allegations of child/sexual abuse: try to avoid any opportunity for such allegations by avoiding being alone with a pupil.
- Keep a written log of any incident on the trip – include date, location, nature of incident, names and addresses of witnesses, witness statements taken at the time. This can be of great value in the event of claims being made later.
The possibilities for problems on excursions out of school are manifold and clearly every eventuality cannot be foreseen but members must protect themselves by thorough preparation, meticulous recording of all correspondence, and consideration of all conceivable mishaps.
IF IN ANY DOUBT ABOUT THE QUALITY OF ARRANGEMENTS, PLEASE CONTACT THE ASSOCIATION FOR ADVICE. IN THE EVENT OF ANY OCCURRENCE WHICH COULD LEAD TO LITIGATION OR DISCIPLINARY PROCEEDINGS, CONTACT THE ASSOCIATION IMMEDIATELY.