School trips can provide a fun and independent way for children to learn and develop their educational minds and social skills. Over the years the issue of health and safety of children while on school trips has attracted much debate. It is imperative that the school strikes the right balance between the importance of teaching children outside the classroom and the need to maintain the child's safety. This will involve a risk assessment to ensure that "reasonable precautions" are taken.
Teachers who accompany children on school trips owe a duty of care to act with reasonable competence and responsibly, ensuring that a high level of safety is demonstrated at all times. A breach of that duty will only occur if the teacher in charge has acted or omitted to act in a way causing harm to a child, that harm was reasonably foreseeable and that no other teacher would have acted in that manner. The duty imposed on the teacher is to act with prudence towards these children as a parent would in the same circumstances.
Unfortunately, and with the fear that litigation on this issue has not diminished, many teaching unions advise members not to take children on school trips because of the legal implications associated with it.
There is a plethora of guidance available to schools and teachers through the Department for Children, Schools and Families that will serve to guide them when planning school trips. Visit www.dcsf.gov.uk.
What to watch out for
It generally applies that, in accordance with section 451 of the Education Act 1996, "where the education is provided for the pupil during school hours no charge shall be made in respect of it".
If a school wishes to charge for school trips, a clear and written policy should be agreed with governors and made available to parents in advance.