What's this risk management thing anyway? Taking students outside the rigid structures of the school ground, can often introduce a higher level of risk than what is found at school. Therefore, there needs to be a level of planning, preparation, and proactive situational awareness to help you reduce risk and run safe programs when outside the school gates.
Risk management is essentially exploring all of the various hazards you may encounter when you're out on a school excursion or activity and looking at the likelihood and the impact that these would have if they did occur when you were out with a group of students. Essentially, you're looking at all the things that could go wrong and how you apply controls to ensure that they either don't go wrong or reduce the impact of them if they do.
School excursions and activities are great ways for students to learn. So much value can be had from learning from real-world experiences that can't be found or replicated in the classroom. It's a great way for them to understand all sorts of aspects of the real world, try new things, push their comfort zones, and see and experience so many different things about relationships, the world, and how it all interacts with each other and works. The fact is doing anything in life involves a certain level of risk. However, if we look at our own lives, the way in which we approach risk ourselves is quite different from the way in which we have to approach risk from an institutional point of view, where we have a duty of care over other people.
What are some key considerations you should make for the management of risks on school excursion and activities?
Where are you going and what are you doing? The context is very important, This establishes a lot of the kinds of hazards you will encounter and dictate how you should approach them. For example, a school trip to the zoo, will have vastly different risks from an international music tour.
Who are you taking with you? The behaviours, attitude and group dynamics of both staff and students has a significant impact on the management of risk. Do your staff members have the right training, skills and understanding of where they’re going, what they’re doing, what their responsibilities are and how to make good decisions to address any concerns which may arise? Do your students know what’s expected of them? Do they understand the activities and aims of the program? Are they the right fit for the programs? Are there any allergies, medical concerns, pastoral concerns or dietary needs?
Equipment? What sort of clothing and equipment will be required for this school excursion? What additional safety equipment, such as first aid kits are needed? What do you actually need in your first aid kit?
Communications? Do the parents and school admin understand the risks and how you’re managing them in the context of where you’re going and who you’re taking? Being transparent within the school and with parents is vitally important in the risk management process. Disclosure is an important part of the overall risk and school safety strategy.
Whilst there is far more to a risk assessment than just these few basic components, if you start exploring and considering each of these, you’re well on the way to building an effective risk management plan for any sort of school excursion you’re running.