Press release

150 pages of unduly complex guidance slashed to just 8

Teachers must no longer be discouraged from taking children on school trips because of misplaced health and safety concerns.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
  • Ministers dispel health and safety school trip myths

Teachers must no longer be discouraged from taking children on school trips because of misplaced health and safety concerns, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Employment Minister Chris Grayling have said.

A myth-busting statement, prepared by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), has been published for schools and local authorities - explaining what teachers should consider when organising trips. The statement dispels myths about legal action and encourages all schools to ditch unnecessary paperwork, ensuring that precautions are proportionate to the risks involved.

Newly revised health and safety guidance for schools has also been published by the Department for Education, summarising how the existing health and safety law affects schools, local authorities, governing bodies, and staff - particularly in relation to school trips. This advice has been slashed from 150 pages of unduly complex information to just eight pages.

At the moment, many schools wrongly believe that:

  • written risk assessments - some totalling up to 100 pages - must be completed for every activity that takes place outside of school, such as visits to museums
  • teachers must ask parents to complete written consent forms for every school trip or visit.

The new guidance clarifies these myths and urges a common sense approach, making it easier for schools to give pupils more opportunities to learn outside of the classroom.

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:

Memories of our school trips stay with us. 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:

  • summarises the legal duties of head teachers, governing bodies and local authorities on health and safety, and covers activities that take place on and off school premises
  • 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.
  • tackles myths and teachers’ fears about being prosecuted by making the law clearer
  • clarifies that parental consent is not necessary for pupils to take part in the majority of off-site activities organised by a school, as most of these activities take place during school hours and are a normal part of a child’s education.

The fear of prosecution is often cited as an obstacle to arranging school trips, but action is rare. In the past five years, only two cases have been brought by the HSE for breaches of health and safety law in relation to school visits and this was where there was evidence of recklessness or a clear failure to follow sensible precautions.

To help schools further, the Department for Education has also developed a ‘one-off’ parental consent form, which covers activities outside the normal school day. These include residential visits in school holidays and at weekends, adventure activities, off-site sporting fixtures outside the school day, and all off-site activities for nursery schools which take place at any time. The consent form will cover all activities and will only need to be signed once, when a child enrols at the school.

Schools will then only need to inform parents in advance of each activity and give them the opportunity to withdraw their child from the activity if they wish, rather than conducting bureaucratic form-filling exercises for every school trip.

Notes for editors

  1. The newly revised Department for Education health and safety guidance for schools.

  2. The guidance replaces a number of guidance documents on health, safety and security in schools, including Health and Safety: Responsibilities and Powers (2001) and Health and Safety of Pupils on Educational Visits (HASPEV 1998).

  3. The previous guidance for schools included information for teachers on how to do head counts (page 14 of HASPEV), five pages of detailed guidance on different kinds of visits (page 35-40 of HASPEV), and advice on how to maintain the school minibus (page 26 of HASPEV).

  4. The two HSE prosecutions referred to were completed between April 2005 and March 2010.

  5. The policy statement on school trips has been developed by HSE in conjunction with the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department for Education and the devolved administrations. External bodies such as teaching unions and professional teaching associations have also been consulted.

  6. Chris Grayling announced a package of changes to Britain’s health and safety system in March to support the government’s growth agenda and cut red tape by focussing regulation on high hazard sites, tackling rogue employers and consultants and freeing Britain’s businesses from unnecessary red tape. It also announced a review of all existing health and safety law. Good health and safety, Good for everyone, is available from the Department for Work and Pensions website.

  7. The Schools White Paper The Importance of Teaching describes a long-term programme of work to reduce burdens and give schools greater freedom. Find out more about how the Department for Education is reducing bureaucracy.

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Published 14 November 2011