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Balancing Risk and Benefits for Pupils
In planning and providing opportunities for activities such as play and learning outside the classroom then the goal cannot be to completely eliminate risk but to consider both risks and the benefits of the activity.
There are plenty of documents which support such an approach to risk management in particular:
HSE 'Children's Play and leisure -promoting a balanced approach
HSE 'School trips and outdoor learning activities'
Tim Gill 'Nothing ventured … balancing risks and benefits in the outdoors'
Managing Risk in the Curriculum
Teaching staff should consider any significant health and safety issues such as class size, pupil behaviour, maturity, limitations of space, layout, equipment etc. as part of their planning and preparation, risk assessment is just another name for that process.
For most activities rather than create additional paper records or a specific risk assessment this is generally best achieved by incorporating your assessment into materials normally used in teaching, annotating schemes of work, lesson plans, pupil worksheets etc.
Generic Risk Assessments
A list of potential hazards within school environments are detailed below with accompanying generic assessments and advice on other possible ways schools could demonstrate risks have been considered.
The generic assessments are intended as a starting point to consider the steps you may need to take to control the risks. It is unlikely that they will be appropriate for each individual school and they should therefore be adapted for your own specific circumstances.
Further guidance on risk assessment is available in the education H&S manual
There is a general legal requirement to conduct risk assessments, in addition some legislation requires specific risks to be assessed. These are indicated in the following table.
Schools are low risk environments, albeit with some higher risk areas and we would therefore expect that health and safety activity is proportionate, with more consideration being given to significant risks and thus risk assessments would be expected in these circumstances.
It is not possible to produce a definitive list of risk assessments which may be required in every school, the process of risk assessment is very contextual and thus depending on the activities, environment and people involved additional risk assessments may be required as follows.
Please note that these generic risk assessments are not to be regarded as definitive and that there are more to follow, particularly for adventurous activities. They have been prepared to assist with preparation of site or activity specific risk assessments. Staff should refer to, or cut and paste, the relevant bits of these generic risk assessments to fit them to their own specific requirements.
In compiling them I owe a particular debt of gratitude to Taff Bowles of East Riding Yorkshire Council and Martin Smith of Nottingham City Council, whose works I have heavily plundered. I am also grateful to the many colleagues who have sent me risk assessments as part of their offsite visit notifications, which have been extensively trawled in the process of producing these documents - if you see something you recognize as possibly being your work, then it probably is.