School excursions/off campus activities provide valuable learning experiences for students and are an integral part of a differentiated and engaging educational program for all students. However, as a teacher/support staff/principal you have a strict duty of care and need to be aware of potential risks associated with these activities and the appropriate management of such risks.
In order to guide employees with off campus excursion processes, the Department of Education (DoE) has produced a document titled, ‘Procedures for Planning Off Campus Activities’, which can be found on the DoE website (see reference below). In this document, the department states that itself and its employees owe a duty of care to all students to protect them against any foreseeable risk of injury. The DoE also instructs that any off campus activities must be designed to ensure a maximum level of supervision and safety. This comprehensive document outlines detailed procedures and requirements for planning and implementing both minor and major off campus activities, with additional information on specific activities such as swimming, boating, cycling, surfing, rafting, rock climbing, etc. This document also lists several activities which are currently banned by the department, including bungee jumping, canyoning and shooting. The department has determined that it is essential that off campus activities are an integral part of risk analysis in schools.
The Principal, under the departmental document mentioned above, has a non-delegable duty of care to students and as such must sign off on the operational arrangements for all off campus activities and associated risk assessment documents. In short, the Principal has the ultimate determination in relation to excursions and, given this onerous duty, is obliged and entitled to refuse approval of an activity if they consider it unsafe, or even exclude a student from the activity on the basis they pose a risk to the safety and wellbeing of themselves, the group and/or the general public.
The Teacher in charge of the off campus activity has the ultimate responsibility for all decisions made over the duration of the activity. The Principal must appoint this registered teacher in charge, and give them the authority to make decisions that are to be supported by other staff.
The other Support Staff participating in the off campus activity are responsible for assisting the teachers in their duties’ of care.
The approval process for off campus activities is essential to ensure the validity and safety of all undertakings. The department has identified a number of mandatory actions: approval of all off campus activities by the Principal, timely notice to be given to parents and carers, all DoE approval requirements must be met, any regulatory
The department states that appropriate risk management processes must be in place for all off campus activities and that an approved risk management plan must accompany all such activities. The department provides examples of standard risk management process forms on the DoE website. In addition to this, your school should have its own standardised risk management process/template. All risk management plans must be documented and kept on record for legal reasons.
The Principal has the responsibility to ensure that all students are adequately supervised during all off campus activities. The specific requirements for supervision are determined by the level and scope of the off campus activity and are detailed in the departmental document referenced below.
In addition to these responsibilities, a mandatory requirement of every off campus activity is a completed and recorded head count before, during and at the completion of the activity.
The Principal must be informed of the details of all off campus activities and give approval before any such activity can proceed. In addition to this, the Principal must sign off on all detailed plans and risk management strategies for any off campus activities prior to their commencement.
Particular off campus activities may have specific requirements, which are determined by the nature of the activity – these are identified by the department as Minor Excursions and Major Excursions. The departmental document referenced below provides specific detail as to the planning and risk assessment requirements for these activities, including information on ratios, venues, equipment, supervision, notice and approvals. The document also provides links to relevant forms such as excursion consent forms, risk management forms, risk management plans and consent forms for aquatic activities (see page 80).
This document has been developed by the AEU as a general fact sheet, which has been designed to deliver basic information about your responsibilities and the procedural requirements for any off campus activities you may be planning or participating in. This is not intended to be a comprehensive document and, as such, it is noted that more detail may be found within DoE documents.