The Common Sense, Common Safety report, commissioned for the Government, considered the implementation of health and safety law and the compensation culture. When it was published, the Prime Minister announced that the Government accepted all of its recommendations, including those that affect schools. A more common sense approach to health and safety in schools is important in order to reduce the bureaucracy that can stifle school activities, particularly off-site educational visits. The Government wishes to encourage teachers to take pupils off-site by making it simpler to do so safely and by showing how little likelihood there is of legal action if, despite all a teacher’s care, something goes wrong.
The Department for Education will lead on
The Department also supports the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on taking forward a range of other recommendations.
The Department for Education is revising its advice on health and safety, including security, for schools. The existing pieces of guidance are unduly complex and, at 150 pages in aggregate, too long. Our new departmental advice, in briefly setting out the law, should help school employers and staff to a clear knowledge of what must be done for a reasonable and proportionate observance of the duty of care, both in school and during off-site visits as recommended by Lord Young. We will consider including useful information on good practice that can assist compliance. We plan to share a draft with the Health and Safety Executive, school workforce representatives and a range of other organisations engaged in accident prevention, for consultation in March 2011. We expect to publish the final advice in the late Spring.
The Department will remind schools that, as stated in Common Sense, Common Safety, parental consent is not necessary for most off-site educational visits, such as those that occur during the school day and for which information will suffice. We are considering what practical options will best take forward the recommendation that a generic consent form be prepared for every pupil during his or her school career for those activities on which consent is advised – such as residential trips in the UK or abroad, adventure activities and activities for Years 1-3. We are consulting on this work as well, engaging the same people as for the health and safety guidance.
The Department is supporting the Health and Safety Executive as it takes forward work on the abolition of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority in favour of a code of practice to be overseen by the HSE.
We are also supporting the HSE in its consideration of whether or how to separate play from workplace-related general health and safety requirements, and in its consideration of new guidance that will explain to schools how health and safety law is implemented. This will help to dispel the myths about prosecution – and, by extension, litigation and the compensation culture – that may deter some teachers from taking pupils off-site.
The Department also contributed to the in-classroom risk assessment toolkit on which the Health and Safety Executive has been consulting.