Safety in schools usually makes headlines in the wake of a high-profile accident. Questions are asked, solutions sought, lessons learned and school and local authority leaders think, "There, but for the Grace of God..."
This book eschews reliance on any such divine intervention and offers instead strategies to reduce the risk of such accidents. Protecting children is paramount, but we also need to protect ourselves because, underlying the bland familiarity of the terms in loco parentis and duty of care, is the daunting reality of the huge responsibility for safety shouldered by teachers.
After acknowledging that children are endlessly inventive and so the ways in which an accident can arise are limitless, this guide asserts that apart from elements beyond our control and sheer bad luck, there is a great deal that can be done to avoid accidents. The editor is also sufficiently pragmatic to recognise that, "while accident prevention is the firt priority, making sure that there is proper insurance cover comes very close behind".
Throughout, the editor successfully treads the narrow path between being complacent and being alarmist. Harnessing the twin defences of risk management and "negligence avoidance", she offers primary teachers comprehensive guidance on safe practice across a range of curriculum areas. In addition to advice on general policies and risk assessment there are chapters devoted to design and technology, information and communications technology, PE, science and the "outdoor classroom" all written by specialists. Checklists, statistics and research findings show that risk can be reduced and managed if recognised.
This book is a useful adjunct to safety advice from the DfEE. Realistically, it is unlikely to be at the top of teachers' must-reads, though headteachers and primary health and safety reps would be the better for putting its principles into practice.
Kevin Harcombe is head of Redlands primary school, Fareham, Hampshire