Trips and Outdoor Learning Activities


Educational trips have clear benefits for pupils, and large numbers of successful visits
and outdoor learning activities take place each year.

Misunderstandings about the application of Health and Safety law may, in some
cases, discourage schools/colleges and teachers from organising such trips. These
misunderstandings stem from a wide range of issues but may include frustrations
about paperwork, fears of prosecution if the trip goes wrong and the belief that a
teacher will be sued if a child is injured

Main Points

HSE fully recognises that learning outside the classroom helps to bring the curriculum to life, it
provides deeper subject learning and increases self-confidence. It also helps pupils develop their
risk awareness and prepares them for their future working lives.

Striking the right balance between protecting pupils from risk and allowing them to learn from
educational trips has been a challenge, but getting this balance right is essential for realising all
these benefits in practice.

Striking the right balance means that:-
• Those running trips understand their roles, are supported, and are competent to lead or take part
in them
• Focus is on the real risks when planning trips
• The real risks are managed during the trip
• Learning opportunities are experienced to the full

Striking the right balance does not mean that:-
• Every aspect is set out in copious paperwork that acts as a security blanket for those organising
the trip
• Detailed risk assessment and recording procedures aimed at higher risk adventure activities are
used when planning lower risk educational risks
• Mistakes and accidents will not happen and
• All risks must be eliminated

What staff should expect:-
Teachers should expect to have procedures that encourage participation, are proportionate to the
level of risk and avoid bureaucracy

Arrangements for trips should ensure that:-
• Risk assessment focuses attention on real risks – not risks that are trivial and fanciful
• Proportionate systems are in place – so that trips presenting lower risk activities are quick and
easy to organise, and higher risk activities (such as those involving climbing, caving or water
based activities) are properly planned and assessed.
• Those planning the trips are properly supported – so that staff can readily check if they have
taken sufficient precautions or whether they should do more

Key message – Those running school trips need to focus on the risks and the benefits to people –
not the paperwork

It is important that those running educational trips act responsible by:-
• Putting sensible precautions in place, and making sure these work in practice
• Knowing when and how to apply contingency plans where they are necessary
• Heeding advice and warnings from others, for example those with local knowledge or specialist
expertise (especially in respect of higher risk activities).

HSE has brought prosecutions in rare cases where there was evidence of recklessness or a clear
failure to follow sensible precautions, If things go wrong during a trip, provided sensible and
proportionate steps have been taken, it is highly unlikely that there would be any breach of health
and safety law involved, or that it would be in the public interest for HSE to bring a prosecution.
Talk to Atlas about Safety Management for your business

Talk to Atlas about Safety Management for your business