Submitting a risk assessment for an (overseas) school trip is probably the least exciting – and indeed at times the most dreaded – part of a teacher’s responsibilities when organizing a school trip.
Although some schools are happy with a minimal assessment, others require detailed documents that may take hours to put together.
Fortunately help is here! In this post I will explain the 5 basic steps to quickly and easily put together a detailed risk assessment for any school trip that will almost instantly get approved by your school, to ensure a worry free trip for your students and yourself.
1. Get a copy of any risk assessments available from your trip organizer
A good and reliable trip organizer (be that a language school or an agency) has risk assessments available for their visiting schools. These assessments should include all or the majority of the main parts required for a risk assessment and you should be able to either refer to this risk assessment directly or use the majority of the points in your own evaluation and simply add any specifics that are applicable to your situation. Remember that the language school or agency in charge of organizing the trip will know their facilities and excursion details a lot better than you, so make sure to use their knowledge and expertise!
If you are organizing the trip yourself or if the language school or activity centre doesn’t have a detailed risk assessment available, or to have a look at an example assessment, refer to the risk assessments available on the Spark Spanish risk assessments school page.
2. Ask for your school’s template or a previous assessment
Before starting your documentation, make sure to check with the person in charge of reviewing assessments in your school for a guideline, template or even an example of a previous risk assessment for a school trip. In this way you avoid starting one way and finding out halfway through that your school’s requirements are different to what you were aiming for. The other advantage of getting these documents is that it gives you an idea of how detailed your assessment should be and whether there are any parts already done that you can use.
3. Make a list of the different parts of the trip
Start by putting together a list of the main parts of the trip, including: travel, accommodation, excursions and activities, health and anything else that might be part of your trip or that you feel should be included. After identifying the main areas or parts of your trip, write down possible risks or problems that might arise per area. To give just a few examples:
- Travel: delays, travel sickness, missing or out of date passports, daily travel between lodging and the activity / language centre;
- Accommodation: fire safety, student safety and welfare (especially important in case of host families), language and communication issues;
- Excursions and activities: dehydration and sunstroke, student safety, remote supervision during students’ time off in a city;
- Health: diets and allergies, stomach problems, homesickness.
The above are just a few examples but provide a good starting point for your own particular assessment.
4. Identify control measures for each potential risk
The most important part of a risk assessment is identifying control measures that will be put into place that will help reduce or avoid the potential risks identified as much as possible. It allows all trip leaders to be clear on any specific procedures in order to run a safe trip for the students and anybody else involved during the trip. Ideally there are several control measures per individual risk factor, depending on the risk identified.
As an example here are some ideas on potential control measures identified for “dehydration and sunstroke”:
- All students and trip leaders are encouraged to bring or will otherwise be given a water bottle with their packed lunch that can be refilled.
- In case of activities that include transport by private coach, extra water is brought on the coach to provide students with more water if needed.
- The itinerary is planned so as to avoid long periods of time being out in the sun and with sufficient time for breaks and meals and to reapply sun cream.
- Whenever possible the chaperone leads the group to walk in the shade in case of high temperatures.
- Contingency plans are made in case of extreme rain or adverse weather conditions and the chaperone and other staff will consider changes in weather conditions before running an excursion or event if it is deemed they might affect the safety or well being of the students during the event.
- A suggested packing list will be sent out to the students recommending what to bring to protect students against certain weather conditions (cap, sun cream etc.).
5. Submit your Risk Assessment
That’s really all there is to it :). After having identified all the potential risks along with ways of avoiding or reducing them as much as possible you are ready to hand in your assessment to the relevant person and worry about 1 less thing on your trip preparation tick list.
For an example risk assessment document, have a look at the Spark Spanish school trip risk assessment forms that are available for free download.