We have written several School Governance articles discussing the ‘excursion management problem’ which is the need to balance legal risk and practical realities. This three-part series explored this topic in detail: Part One, Part Two, Part Three.
As discussed in those articles, schools have a legal duty to take reasonable care to protect students, and court cases show that this duty can extend outside school premises and outside school hours. A school that breaches this duty by, for example, failing to provide adequate supervision during a camp, tour or excursion may be found to be negligent in failing to safely conduct an excursion.
All schools are required to undertake extensive planning for excursions including the documentation of risk assessments with respect to each aspect of an excursion. These include risks associated with the use of an external provider. A diligence exercise should be carried out for each external provider regardless of the provider’s own risk assessments and documentation.
Importantly, the due diligence exercise is distinct from the provider information management task.
What Do Schools Typically Do with Provider Information?
It is typical for schools to have in place a paper-based set of information that documents key details about common providers used by a school to provide excursion services, for example, the name and contact details of a bus service provider. A paper-based information management system raises several efficiency issues including difficulties in accessing and sharing the information and teachers knowing which providers to use. What if the information is lost?
A paper-based system also allows information to be easily copied. Commonly, provider information included in a risk assessment for one excursion is copied and pasted into other risk assessments for future excursions. As we discussed in our recent article, this practice raises key legal risks, most obviously in relation to external providers that the provider details may have changed since the previous excursion. An excursion risk assessment which uses out of date external provider information threatens the safety of students on the excursion as that risk assessment is not accurate and the risks identified do not reflect reality.
The Importance of Due Diligence
It is understandable that planning an excursion from scratch and therefore having to engage in a due diligence exercise may be overwhelming for teachers and even prohibitive in terms of actually holding the excursion.
Conducting due diligence in relation to an excursion service provider involves a detailed assessment and the preparation of an up to date set of information that can be relied on in the excursion planning process. One of the difficulties with the due diligence process is knowing what information to document. That is, what information is relevant to planning a safe excursion?
Using an automated due diligence process is a useful, consistent and efficient way to help time-poor teachers overcome the preparation hurdles normally associated with planning an excursion.
The Benefits of a Systemised Approach to an External Provider Due Diligence Process
Implementing a systemised approach to an external provider due diligence process has many benefits including:
- standardised categories of risk information, taking the ‘guess work’ out of what to discover
- central location for information
- online processes improving accessibility
- improved efficiencies meaning faster planning.
By using a systemised approach, a teacher in the excursion planning process will automatically be prompted to investigate key excursion risks such as, in relation to using a bus service:
- does the bus have seatbelts?
- does the driver have a working with children check?
- is the bus company’s liability insurance current?
Using an online service also prevents the use of old risk assessments being copied and/or cut and pasted into a new excursion, a practice placing students at risk. Instead a new risk assessment must be created per excursion however the creation process is significantly easier and faster.
CompliSpace’s SafeTripBuilder is an online excursion management tool designed to make planning all aspects of an excursion easier and safer. Conducting external provider due diligence is one step in the excursion planning process. The SafeTripBuilder software makes it easy for teachers as they can select from a list of approved providers, and easy for approvers as they know that the required due diligence process has been completed.
The due diligence process is managed by CompliSpace Assurance and includes questionnaires – created by risk experts – that collect relevant, risk-related information about an external provider for the following risk categories:
- Food and beverage
- Outdoor education.
SafeTripBuilder enables teachers to save time and eliminate the frustration of planning excursions and, importantly, stops external provider information collection being the only source of information in relation to a provider engaged to provide an excursion service.
For more information on safe excursion managment, click here.