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How to Create a Risk Assessment in Schools

Whilst children are more likely to have an accident than any other age group, some accidents involving children, particularly in school, could be preventable if proper procedures are followed. Furthermore, during the period 2019-22, the Health and Safety Executive in Great Britain found that there were an estimated 1,450 work-related injuries in educational settings, highlighting the necessity of risk assessments to control these incidents.

What is a school risk assessment?

A school risk assessment is an assessment carried out by members of staff in a school in order to understand the potential hazards to health and safety in the school setting. A school may have multiple risk assessments for multiple scenarios, such as experiments in a science lab, or going on a school trip. Risk assessments are created and used to help teachers and members of staff understand how they can keep children safe in line with the national health and safety guidelines. Carrying out a risk assessment is not aimed at ensuring that there are no risks, as this would be impossible. Instead, it is designed to make sure that measures are in place to reduce risks to health and safety as much as possible.

According to the government website, all schools must appoint a ‘competent’ person to make sure that the health and safety responsibilities of the school are being met, and that risk management is being continually assessed and updated.

Risk should be assessed in the following scenarios, but is not limited to these:

  • Managing health infections and outbreaks.
  • Staff injury and accidents.
  • Pupil injury and accidents.
  • Visitor injury and accidents.
  • Residential visits.
  • School trips and off-site activities.
  • Transitioning to online learning.

Day-to-day risk should be assessed too, such as activities within the school day.

These activities include but are not limited to:

  • PE lessons.
  • Playtime.
  • Science experiments.
  • Transitioning between lessons.
  • Lunchtime.
  • Home time.
  • Fire alarm/drills.
  • Detentions.
  • Assemblies.
  • Operational routines such as setting up and cleaning.
Risk Assessment in Schools

Why are risk assessments necessary?

Risk assessments are necessary as they demonstrate that the school is taking action to meet the statutory requirements for health and safety. According to health and safety law in England and Wales, schools are obligated to ensure that a record is kept of all risk assessments. Risk assessments identify who may be at risk in a particular scenario, what the risk may be and what has been put in place to reduce the risk. It is an effective and preventative method, keeping schools prepared for worst-case scenario instances. Furthermore, risk assessments are useful and necessary for other staff to understand their roles and responsibilities in a given scenario.

If risk assessments are not carried out, or are carried out ineffectively, the hazards that children and staff could face, without the appropriate measures put in place to reduce the risk of harm, could result in injury, and even fatalities. Risk assessments are one of the most important procedures an educational setting can undertake.

Who are risk assessments for?

Risk assessments in a school setting are not just undertaken to protect children from harm but serve to protect everyone in the school setting or on residential trips. This includes teachers and teaching staff, supply teachers, kitchen staff, admin and operations staff, visitors and anyone else who may visit the site.

Risk assessments also ensure that staff are doing their job properly to control the risks that may occur. Should the risks occur, staff will have a readily available protocol to follow.

Risk assessments also support vulnerable children and staff. For example, a risk assessment for a school trip would assess the risk to children and staff with disabilities, those with food allergies, and those with behavioural needs. It would ensure that, where necessary, separate provisions would be made to minimise the risk posed to those individuals.

Who creates risk assessments?

Usually in schools, the headteacher would have the final say on risk assessments, though they do not necessarily create them to begin with. Risk assessments may be delegated to those in the responsible remit, and may be collaborative, as they involve different teams. For example, the admin or HR lead might create risk assessments related to processes concerning that particular remit, such as working from home, a risk assessment for strikes, or event planning in the school. The facilities lead might create risk assessments for PE equipment storage, the stairs and corridors and pest control.

If a risk assessment is being created for a singular instance, such as a trip, the risk assessment might draw on existing risk assessments for trips and visits but should be tailored to the visit. Usually, the person leading the trip would create the risk assessment.

School Trip

How do you create a risk assessment?

Your school may have their own template to follow when it comes to creating risk assessments. This is an indicative guide to creating a risk assessment, which can be used alongside your school’s risk assessment guidelines:

Describe the activity

Think about the activity, right from start to finish. Describe the elements that make up the activity, including any movement of pupils, and transport or equipment used, any food. Describe who will be participating in the activity, and any needs that participants may have.

Identify the risks/hazards posed

After listing the different elements of the activity, you will be able to identify the risks at each stage. For example, you may have identified using a coach as part of the activity. A potential risk may be that students will stand up on the coach, fail to wear their seatbelts, use mobile phones and share food.

Identify who might be at risk from these hazards

After the risks have been identified, you should then consider who might be harmed in these instances. For example, all students and staff could be harmed if safety protocol on the coach is not followed, and students with allergens may be at risk of a reaction from food opened on the coach.

Rate the likelihood, severity and overall risk

Next, it is important to identify which risks are probable and which are unlikely to happen. For each risk, rate the likelihood of it happening, from low, medium and high, and do the same for the severity of the occurrence should it happen. Finally, make a judgement about the overall risk, from low, medium and high. Even if you have scored an element of the assessment as low risk, that does not mean control procedures should not be put into place. The terms ‘low, medium and high’ can be replaced with any other measure of ranking, such as ‘mild, moderate and severe’.

Outline the control procedures

You should make reference to any legal requirements, school guidelines and good practice, and look at any previous risk assessment control procedures that may be useful to minimise the risk and its occurrence. Many of the risks identified will result in extra staff supervision as a control measure, and first aid in the case of minor injuries. In some cases, extra equipment will be needed. Any risks that have a high probability of occurring should be thoroughly assessed, with step-by-step measures put in place to avoid them or reduce the chance of them happening. You should consider the number of staff who are trained in first aid.

Make any extra recommendations

Think of any additional recommendations for each risk. For example, perhaps staff involved need additional training on a particular topic.

Can risk assessments be used again?

In short, yes, risk assessments can be used again, so long as they are relevant. Risk assessments should be stored and archived when they are no longer useful or effective. If they are still effective but outdated, they should be updated with any changes that have occurred, either to legislation, staff additions or loss, or any equipment or site updates. Furthermore, incidents or accidents may have occurred since the risk assessment was created, meaning that would change the rating of a particular risk.

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About the author

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Rose Winter

Rose is a qualified teacher with six years of experience teaching in secondary schools and sixth forms across London. Before this, she worked as a communications officer in the Cabinet Office. Outside of work, Rose can be found researching topics of interest and spending time abroad.

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