Gove seeks to ‘dispel myths’ over school trip safety rules

TEACHERS must not be discouraged from taking children on school trips because of misplaced health and safety fears, Ministers said yesterday.

A “myth-busting” statement has been produced aimed at getting schools to ditch unnecessary paperwork and avoid worrying about potential legal action.

The advice being given to schools has been slashed from an “unduly complex” 150 pages to just eight to free up schools to organise trips and events.

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The Department for Education (DfE) claims that many teachers wrongly believe a written risk assessment has to be carried out for any activity outside of the school gates.

Some schools also mistakenly believe that pupils cannot be taken on any trips without a written consent form, according to the Government.

The newly revised health and safety guidance, published by the DfE, summarises how the existing health and safety law affects schools, local authorities, governing bodies, and staff. The eight-page document focuses on ensuring schools are not discouraged from taking part in trips.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has also published new information for schools and local authorities – explaining what teachers should consider when organising trips.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: “Children should be able to go on exciting school trips that broaden their horizons. That is why we are cutting unnecessary red tape in schools and putting teachers back in charge.

“This new, slimmer advice means a more common sense approach to health and safety.

“It will make it easier for schools to make lessons more inspiring and fun.”

Employment Minister Chris Grayling said: “Learning outside the classroom brings the curriculum to life and is essential to our children’s development. We cannot let confusion over health and safety requirements deprive them of the opportunities we had.

“I want to dispel the myths and remind schools, teachers and local authorities that a disproportionate fear of prosecution should not get in the way of common sense.”

The revised guidance makes clear that a written risk assessment does not need to be carried out every time a school takes pupils on a regular, routine local visit, for example to a swimming pool or museum.

It also clarifies that parental consent is not necessary for pupils to take part in the majority of off-site activities organised by a school and that fear of prosecution should not deter schools from organising events.

The DfE said there had been just two cases of school prosecutions in five years where there was “evidence of recklessness or failure to follow sensible precautions”.