School Trips in the UK and Visits Abroad
Written risk assessments for all school trips in the UK or when visiting abroad are legally required. The assessment must include activities, accommodation, flights, ferry crossings and road transport to be used. It must also include who will be driving and how many drivers will be required to comply with Drivers’ Hours Regulations. Emergency procedures need to be in place that the youngest passenger can understand and all passengers, pupils, helpers, staff and the coach driver/s need to be aware of these.
Schools should have a Seat Belt Wearing Policy with details of how this will be enforced. Many coach companies will have a Health & Safety Policy and/or a Safety Charter so it is advisable to request a copy of this prior to booking transport.
It is normal practice to obtain three quotes for coach travel but selecting the cheapest without any questions asked could place a school in serious trouble if something were to go wrong. When making transport arrangements for pupils and staff, schools are legally obliged to provide a ‘safe journey’. A school is unable to do this if it has not researched the transport provider to ensure they are legally and safety compliant. Just because a coach operator has a license does not mean they operate road worthy vehicles or use qualfied drivers. Each week in the coach industry trade press, transport companies exposed as operating with defective vehicles and are called to Public Inquries by the Traffic Commission.
Under the current financial climate, many schools often say they are required to choose the cheapest products and services. Schools must take into account safety and quality as well as cost. National guidance for schools clearly state that schools must look at safety/quality as well as cost and that they must be balanced. BUSK views balanced as meaning 50% safety/quality and 50% cost. Certainly, if a school hired a coach because it was the cheapest they could find and something went wrong during the journey, resulting in a child or teacher being injured or killed, a legal action could be mounted. If this happened, then that school could find itself having to explain to a court why they did not give safety a high enough priority. A school could not raise a defence in court that it did not understand the subject and their attitude to health and safety would be crucial to how a court would determine if a school had done everything reasonably possible to safeguard others in their care. For private and independent schools the damage to reputation might mean it never recovers. What parent would want to send their child to a school that had failed to protect its pupils?
It is worth bearing in mind that a transport company that consistently offers cheap coach hire is normally only possible because the transport company has cut corners, usually on maintenance or using drivers who are not employed by them and may have lost their driving license for driver offences or because they are not medically fit. Usually the additional cost of hiring a coach from a reputable operator is as little as an extra £1 per head. If parents have an explanation of why a trip costs more and understand that it improves the safety for their child, most will agree to pay up. Parents should be given that option.
Parents and carers are entitled to the fullest of information about every aspect of a school trip. If they have concerns these should never be dismissed by a teacher, head, governor or management team of a school. If schools are provided with additional information about safety and how to recognise a reputable transport provider, such as the content of this website, then governors and management teams are legally obliged to take any additional information into account when decision making. When discussed at a governors or management team meetings, minutes will be produced and these should be available to parents upon request, either by coming into the school to view them or asking downloading from the local authority or school website possible. The school’s transport policy should be made freely available to parents and carers if they ask to see it. As good practice, all parents should be provided with a means to access it as a matter of course.
If the school is going to travel abroad on a skiing trip or other activity it is essential to ask the tour company key questions and then make this information available to parents and carers. For further information or advice contact BUSK.
Click here to view and download a template for a School Trip Information & Consent Form that can be used by schools for each day trip.
The link below gives national guidance on hiring coaches for school trips.