Informa Markets

Author Bio ▼

Safety and Health Practitioner (SHP) is first for independent health and safety news.
November 30, 2011

Get the SHP newsletter

Daily health and safety news, job alerts and resources

Government reaffirms commitment to simplify school-trip safety

The Government has vowed to look at how health and safety legislation can be removed, amended, or simplified so that over-zealous interpretations and decisions, which inhibit school activities, can be tackled.
The promise was made as part of its response yesterday (29 November) to the House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee’s report on what schools need to do to overcome the perceived and real barriers to providing practicals and fieldwork opportunities for science pupils.
The Committee’s report, published in September, found no convincing evidence that health and safety legislation itself prevents science practicals and field trips, but acknowledged that perceived health and safety concerns and the amount of paperwork involved in planning school excursions could be a deterrent to undertaking them.
In its response, the Government agreed with this conclusion and highlighted simplified guidance, published by the Department for Education over the summer, aimed at addressing the problem.
It added: “The Government is making it easier for schools to take pupils on trips, removing paperwork and taking steps to reduce teachers’ concerns about the threat of legal action. Teachers should be confident that they know best how to look after pupils and keep them safe.
“This document summarises the existing health and safety law relevant to schools and explains how it affects local authorities, governing bodies, head teachers and other school staff. It covers activities that take place on or off school premises, including school trips.”
However, the Government did not commit to the Committee’s recommendation that it should establish a central repository, or network of facilities with a common interface, which would contain guidance, including health and safety advice, on standard experiments.
On this matter, it simply stated: “Organisations such as the Institute of Physics, the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Society of Biology, SCORE and the National STEM Centre provide details and guidance on practical experiments, including health and safety guidance, that can be used in the classroom and school science laboratories.”
It also backed away from the Committee’s suggestion that all trainee science teachers should be expected to prepare successfully and lead at least one fieldwork session themselves, and to take part in a field trip, before acquiring qualified teacher status. The content of initial teacher training courses is not something it should prescribe, the Government explained, adding that it will be the responsibility of individual providers to ensure that the content of their courses enables trainees to demonstrate that they meet new teachers’ standards.
Welcoming the Government response, IOSH head of policy and public affairs Richard Jones said: “We’re pleased the Government welcomes the finding that there’s no credible evidence health and safety legislation prevents science practicals, or field trips. Also, that they agree practical learning is essential to good science education.
“We think the proposal that the new teachers’ standards will include teachers demonstrating they provide well-structured lessons, including planning activities and trips to consolidate and extend acquired knowledge, is positive in this regard.”
However, he also issued a warning to the Government about the need to consult on simplifying health and safety requirements, so that efforts to streamline do not result in a lowering of standards.
The Government’s response can be viewed at

Related Topics

Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
12 years ago

I was just going to say Health & Safety legislation has never prevented school trips etc. It is the various school authorities, teachers and councils that stop school trips because they can’t be bothered to interpret it right.

I am a youth leader and never cancelled anything or stopped anything I have always done in the past because of Health & Safety, you just need to think about it and prevent it from being a problem with a common-sense risk assesment. – we all have common-sense… don’t we

12 years ago

I understand the need to simplifiy some legislation but in my expireance as an health and safety rep of eighteen years people who complete risk assessments need to understand them and how to complete them prperly so that both students/teachers and parents know just were they stand.
I work at the largest driving school in the england and this is a problem here also, when shown and understand it better they seem ok with it.
health and safety is not the bogey man of life it’s there to inhance it

12 years ago

Teachers always know how to look after children do they? Like when a PE teacher in a lesson thought it a good idea to get some kids up a tree to shake the apples off to stop kids throwing them at each other, and one of them fell and got a branch stuck in his leg and had to stay in hospital overnight. The excuse was that she’d been a teacher for years and had never done anything like this before, where was the risk assessment in her head before she decided to put those children at risk?

12 years ago

why do the Government always think that they have to change Legislation. They correctly identified the “over zealous interpretations” as the problem. Effective guidance and suitably qualified H&S professionals who have been properly trained is the answer. They always seem to throw the baby out with the bath water and show a complete lack of understanding about the purpose of H&S legislation. I totally agree with Steve except that unfortunately some people do not show common sense.