Overseas school trips are becoming increasingly popular among pupils. An experience of this nature can provide a pupil with a valuable insight into different cultures, different languages and enables the pupil to develop their experience and knowledge through travel.
Schools that embark upon overseas expeditions, visits or exchange programmes owe a duty of care towards their pupils (when on visits) and overseas pupils (who visit) and to act in loco parentis.
The health and safety of that pupil is paramount during their visit. The local authority will be responsible for the health and safety of pupils and staff for maintained community schools and the governing bodies will be responsible in foundation, foundation special and voluntary aided schools. Independent schools should have their own policies but are advised to approach their local authority for advice and guidance.
The Department for Children, Schools and Families' (DCSF) guidance suggests it is good practice for schools to have a named educational visits co-ordinator, whose role is to ensure that the planning and supervision of all visits meets the requirements as laid out in the guidance.
This co-ordinator could be the headteacher or a member of staff. They should seek guidance and liaise closely with their local authority. It is important that the staff that the co-ordinator appoints to supervise activities are of suitable competence. Risk assessments should also be undertaken.
Guidance from the DCSF is available entitled: Health and Safety: Responsibilities and Powers, and can be downloaded from www.teachernet.gov.uk.
What to watch out for
To be sure that pupils and staff gain a full and enjoyable experience from an overseas expedition, it is important that guidelines are followed and policies are adhered to. This would serve to avoid any difficulties arising during the pupils' visit