Excursion Risk Management Webinar Part 3 of 4: Summary and Key Takeaways

28 May 2020

On 21 May 2020, CompliSpace held the webinar “How is Your School Currently Managing Its Excursion Process?” (Webinar), presented by Consultant Deanne Cannizzaro and National Education Lead Craig D’cruz. The Webinar was the third in a four-part series about navigating excursion risk management.

Specifically, the Webinar focused on the five stages of an excursion management cycle framework that CompliSpace has established by working closely with its many education clients:

  • planning and preparation
  • risk assessment and approval
  • pre-departure
  • on excursion
  • post excursion.

A recording of the Webinar is accessible here. This article summarises, and provides the key takeaways from, the Webinar. This article does not contain all the information in the Webinar and does not seek to act as its substitute.


Stage 1 – Planning and Preparation

Deanne explored the planning and preparation stage of the excursion cycle framework. This stage involves four main areas that schools should address:

  • educational purpose
  • suitable staff
  • suitable date
  • initial pre-approval.

Schools should ensure that staff understand that each request to run an excursion needs to have an educational purpose that meets the vision and mission of the school. Since this can be quite labour-intensive, having a robust framework can help guide staff as they consider this.

Schools should also identify, by a due diligence process, suitable staff to attend and lead the excursion. The lead teacher of the excursion should be in the proficient or highly accomplished category, rather than a graduate teacher. A poll question posed to the attendees of the Webinar found that only 20 per cent of those who completed that poll question said that their school has a policy that determines who can be the lead organiser for an excursion.

A suitable date for the excursion should be identified. This may be a challenge because of factors such as vendor availability and the time of the year.

Staff should also seek initial pre-approval for the excursion from the relevant school decision-maker. Once given, teachers can commence the accompanying learning documentation.

Deanne also discussed additional considerations for this stage, including whether the excursion is age and stage appropriate for all students, whether the excursion is inclusive for all students within a specific learning group, and whether the excursion is cost beneficial.


Stage 2 – Risk Assessment and Approval

Craig and Deanne explored the risk assessment and approval stage of the excursion cycle framework. This is the stage that arguably requires the most work, including developing a risk assessment. These policies and procedures should be well-defined because they form the backbone of the risk mitigation strategies that staff will employ while on excursions.

Risk assessments involve three main areas that schools should address:

  • the type of excursion
  • key risk areas
  • key risk control strategies required to be implemented such as supervision strategies, first aid, critical incident strategies, vendor due diligence and leaders’ reviews.

The type of excursion being conducted includes determining whether the excursion will be during the day, overnight, or an international excursion.

The key risk areas depend on the specific excursion. They each have several considerations that schools and staff should look at. Craig provided a list of key risk areas, including transport, venue, accommodation, food handling, activities, student medical conditions, student disability and capability, child protection, and the currently topical risk area of infection control. Specific questions that should be considered under the infection control risk area include whether schools have briefed students and parents on the requirement to stay home if unwell, and whether supervisors have been trained in appropriate cleaning procedures and use of personal protective equipment. A poll question posed to the attendees of the Webinar found that 78 per cent of people who completed that poll question said that their school has an infectious diseases policy in place. This clearly reflects the work that schools have put in over the last few months in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Once key risk areas have been identified, schools should develop key risk control strategies that form the policies and procedures. These allow schools to create a culture of risk thinking, limit their vulnerability and manage the key risk areas to an acceptable level. Every risk has different control strategies. Deanne provided a list of risk control strategies, including informed consent, policies and procedures in place, supervision strategies, first aid, strategies for managing medical conditions, strategies for managing student disability and capability, child protection strategies, communication strategies, critical incident strategies, and vendor due diligence.

Vendor due diligence is a risk control strategy that involves choosing an appropriate provider for an excursion. Schools should prepare their own expectations of due diligence from providers and ask the providers to complete due diligence documents in order to become approved. Once approved, schools should place providers on an approved provider list.

Risk assessments should be prepared by the school so that staff can apply risk thinking and assess the excursion and all its elements more critically. Once prepared, final approval should be sought, generally from a deputy principal and/or principal. This approval process can lead to what Craig refers to as ‘paperwork ping pong’, whereby approvers amend or seek amendments to the risk assessment before giving the final approval. This can be improved over time as staff receive training, and Ian Hird will explore this in the upcoming fourth webinar in this series.


Stage 3 – Pre-departure

Craig explored the pre-departure stage of the excursion cycle framework. This stage involves five main areas that schools should address:

  • receiving informed parental consent
  • reviewing medical information
  • reviewing contact details
  • ensuring that all adults attending the excursion know, understand and comply with the school’s policies and procedures
  • having proper pre-excursion briefings.

Receiving informed parental consent is a crucial part of the pre-departure stage. Schools should give parents sufficient information so that parents can give their informed consent. It is up to schools to decide when this information should be given and in what format. The actual excursion should not include any activities or variations of activities not covered in the informed consent.

Schools should also ensure that student medical information and contact details are up to date.

All adults attending the excursion should know, understand and comply with the school’s policies and procedures. There is a level of accountability for every attending adult, including parent volunteers. Schools still have the ultimate duty of care for students and this was explored by Jonathon Oliver in the second webinar in this series.

Finally, schools should ensure that they have pre-excursion briefings at least 24 hours before the excursion. These briefings must be held for supervisors and students separately and lay the ground rules that support and enact the school’s requirements and relevant policies for the excursion.


Stage 4 – On Excursion

Deanne explored the ‘on excursion’ stage of the excursion cycle framework. This stage involves three main areas that schools should address:

  • active supervision
  • managing incidents
  • recording incidents.

At this stage, staff should start implementing the policies and procedures through their active supervision. Staff should apply all the risk management strategies based on the school’s controls, and if a new risk becomes apparent while on the excursion, they should ensure that any new risks identified are mitigated and that the strategies used are evaluated for their effectiveness.

All incidents should also be managed and recorded while on the excursion. A poll question posed to the attendees of the Webinar found that 58 per cent of staff have been in a situation where they were considerably concerned on an excursion and, given the option, would have been tempted to cancel it (in other words, stop the excursion and ‘go home’). Therefore, schools should empower staff to use appropriate strategies to deal with incidents and respond with confidence.


Stage 5 – Post Excursion

Craig explored the post excursion stage of the excursion cycle framework. This stage involves four main areas that schools should address:

  • storage of excursion records
  • managing incidents
  • review session
  • analysing trends.

Schools should determine exactly what happens to excursion records for every excursion. Craig recommended the type of records that should be stored, including the excursion management plan, all contracts entered into with any third-party organisations such as approved providers, and risk assessments and related key risk control strategies.

While all incidents should be managed and recorded while on an excursion, they should be reviewed post excursion.

Every excursion should also have a formal review session and the outcomes of that session should be added to the excursion records. Craig suggested using the key risk control strategies as headings to guide a post excursion review session.

Schools should also use data from post excursion reviews to analyse trends and anomalies regarding student learning and behaviour.


Key Takeaways – How Schools Can Use the Excursion Cycle Framework to Manage Excursion Processes

The Webinar focused on how schools can manage their excursion processes by using the excursion cycle framework.

The key takeaways from the Webinar are that schools should:

  • plan and prepare for excursions, including by having an educational purpose for each excursion
  • develop risk assessments which include relevant risk areas, such as the currently topical risk area of infectious diseases, and risk control strategies
  • have and appropriately communicate all relevant information in the pre-departure stage
  • implement policies and procedures while on excursions
  • ensure a strong post excursion process, including by having review sessions for every excursion.

If you would like to view the frequently asked questions for this Webinar, please click here.

If you are interested in learning more about these topics in our upcoming two webinars, please register at the following links:

Request the Recording and Register for Upcoming Webinars

Parisa Haider

Parisa Haider is a Legal Research Assistant at CompliSpace. She is currently studying a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Business (Economics) at the University of Technology, Sydney.