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Thinking of skiing in the Himalayas?

OFF SITE ACTIVITIES MANAGEMENT VIDEO AND HANDBOOK PACK. Published by Cigna International and Holmwoods Insurance Services. Available direct or through local authorities "once an insurance package has been purchased". For more information tel: 01634 280108

When do you take short cuts? Marking? Lesson preparation? Reading the instructions before loading your new CD-Rom?

Or when taking children out of school? This is the one area where there are no short cuts, no second chances, no acceptable apologies. There's not a teacher today who hasn't visualised the consequences of a serious out-of-school accident: the distraught children, distressed parents and morning headlines.

The seriousness of risk management - because risk management is all you can do, you can't guarantee absolute safety - is at the heart of this video and handbook pack produced by Cigna International and Holmwoods Insurance Services.

Yes, that's right, there's vested interest here. But more of that later. What is important is that the materials provide a sensible and disinterested framework for teachers, parents and governors. It deals with major and minor risk, from the trip to the local library to the two-week skiing holiday in the Himalayas.

The videos, one aimed at staff, the other at headteachers and governors, outline the issues and provide a range of starting points. The 20-page handbook supplements the videos with a series of checklists on six topics: planning, approval, insurance, venues, staff and emergencies.

In many respects, these lists are the core of the resource. Practical and simple, they guide users through the detail of off-site activity management.

Although the pack is promoting a practical, anxiety-free, approach to the job, the checklists do serve as a reminder of how things could go wrong... the nightmare scenario.

The first checklist questions the educational purpose. Are you clear why you are running an activity? Does it have a well-defined educational purpose? These are the simple end of the scale.

By the end of the last checklist, you are in a different realm altogether. Never admit liability of any sort if things go wrong. Do not allow anyone to see a party member without a witness being present. Do not speak to the Press or media, other than to refer them to whoever is designated to deal with them in such circumstances. Serious advice.

The pack is endorsed by the National Association of Head Teachers and the Secondary Heads Association - representatives of both speak on the video. Two local authorities - Berkshire and West Sussex - also helped in its preparation. These bodies add extra credence.

It should also be noted the pack contains one very important caveat: it is designed to draw attention to fundamental issues, not replace the documentation and advice already provided by local authorities.

The link with local authorities is important because this is the route most schools follow when it comes to insurance. It is insurance that is uppermost in the minds of Cigna International and Holmwoods Insurance Services, the publishers of the pack. They are "the" specialists in education insurance and obviously have a vested interest in not only selling the insurance but also getting schools to minimise the risk involved. Although they unashamedly promote their services, all topics are given the appropriate weighting. There is no bias.

Sponsorship ofevery kind is common in educational provision today, so there's no real issue involved. The only problem with the sponsorship in this case is that the pack is only issued to schools, via their local authority, once an insurance package has been purchased. So although there's no specific charge, it's not exactly free. And you only find out about your insurance needs once you have bought the insurance!

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