This area is complex and subject to change. Below are some issues to consider. For more detail of what is required in Schools in England refer to the relevant documents on the Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) National Guidance website. For Schools in other locations then check the appropriate Government Education Department policies.
For Schools in England there are three main sources of information regarding what is required to comply with legal requirements
The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel provides guidance, activities, training and support for outdoor learning and educational visits.
The OEAP provide guidance on all aspects of School visits. The RGS-IBG is a supporter of this guidance and recommends it as an excellent source of up-to-date and accurate information.
Key OEAP National Guidance documents include:
For DfE advice see:
Law and guidance
It is important to understand the difference between what is required in law and what is recommended in guidance. An example from the DfE publication ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education’. ‘We use the term “must” when the person in question is legally required to do something and “should” when the advice set out should be followed unless there is good reason not to.’
Schools should have a designated safeguarding lead and should have an Educational Visits Coordinator – these are not requirements in law but it would be very difficult to justify the absence of these roles in a School
A clear explanation of the role of an EVC and a checklist can be found here:
The key document for an employee is the employer’s policy on visits and employer’s policies on any other areas relevant to visits – such as safeguarding. Employees have a duty under Health and Safety legislation to comply with what their employer requires. If you do not understand any aspects of your employer’s policy you should ask for training or further explanation and also make your employer aware if there are policies which you find difficult to implement. In writing School policies, it is important to be clear about what staff must do and where should and could apply.
The importance of training
Writing a policy or a set of standard operating procedures has little effect unless there is supporting communication and training provided. Training is a way to achieve consistency, gives a gauge to measure understanding, and can identify any potential issues with compliance.
Should things go wrong a key question is likely to be ‘did you act in line with the training you have received?’
EVC training – provided by a suitably qualified and experienced Outdoor Education Adviser
EVC update training - provided by a suitably qualified and experienced Outdoor Education Adviser
Management of Visit Emergencies training – provided by a suitably qualified and experienced Outdoor Education Adviser
Off-site Safety Management course
Visit leader training – provided by a suitably qualified and experienced Outdoor Education Adviser and/or in-house from an experienced EVC
Bespoke consultancy and training – contact the RGS-IBG directly
First aid training, and consider more advanced first aid for remote locations
In-person training alongside your peers, is likely to be more effective than training linked to a commercial product. Online training can be effective but it is unlikely to achieve everything that group in-person training can achieve.
Duty of care
Organisations and individuals have a legal duty of care towards anyone that they ought to have consideration for. This means that the law requires them to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which can be reasonably foreseen as likely to injure someone.
For those supervising children a duty of care can be expressed as ‘ to act as a reasonably prudent parent would for that child’. Where more specialist knowledge would be assumed – a teacher or a mountain leader, for example – then the duty of care is likely to exceed that of a parent and is better described as that of a reasonable professional. Using what a range of fellow professionals would do in a similar situation is a good measure and avoids attempting to define ‘reasonable parenting’.
It is important to be very clear about duty of care when working with external providers and it is often best to assume that your duty of care as teacher over any pastoral or behavioural issues is cannot be delegated, whereas from the more technical aspects the external provider can hold the duty of care.
It is also clear that what would be expected as a duty of care will vary according to a number of factors such as the age, experience and competence of the pupils and the nature of the environment. Perhaps the easiest way to explore this is by thinking about what might be expected in terms of supervising a road crossing during Geography fieldwork and how this would differ with the age of the pupils and their experience of the particular environment.
When carrying out fieldwork it is important to be aware of particular locations/environments where there are relevant National Governing Body (NGB) Qualifications.
It is relatively easy for Geographers in the UK to be leading fieldwork in environments where relevant NGB qualifications are applicable– lowland leader, hill and moorland leader and mountain leader. For further information see the Mountain Training website.
An example of this might be carrying out fieldwork with your own pupils on Dartmoor a couple of kilometres from a road.
A good question to ask is ‘if we were using a paid external provider to run this activity what level of qualification and experience would we expect in their staff’ and then make a comparison with your own.
Competence can be demonstrated through qualification, in-house accreditation or experience. Having received training without any form of assessment is quite a weak indicator of competence. Similar to having had driving lessons as a measure of driving ability!