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Australian School Excursion Policies

An educational excursion is a student activity, organised by the school and approved by the principal or student council that will take place outside of the school grounds. School excursions play an important role in educating students based around the curriculum.

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In Australia, each state provides public schools with an Excursion Policy for all schools to abide by. The policy document used for this analysis is the Victorian Excursions Policy retrieved from the Victorian Government Education website,
http://www.education.vic.gov.au/management/governance/referenceguide/enviro/4_4.htm. The apparent rationale of this policy is to ensure duty of care to the students with a safe environment and to prevent any foreseeable risks through careful planning and sound knowledge of everything involved in the school excursion. The policy also covers matters required during an emergency situation. The policy covers all aspects of duty of care for the students, teachers and others involved in the excursion.

Planning plays a major role in the decisions of having an excursion. A policy is the main guideline for planning and covers all aspects that are important to maintaining a safe environment, including making decisions when unforeseen circumstances occur. Under section 4.4.2 headed ???school excursions??™, this covers many areas relevant.

Under section 4.4.2.2 is information regarding approvals of any excursions. Appropriate approval, based on initial planning must be obtained by the school principal or school council prior to implementing pre-preparation of the excursion. Joint school excursions will need corresponding approval and planning consistently between principals of both schools.

Section 4.4.2.2.4 obtains key aspects regarding selection of the venue for a camp or excursion activity. Areas of consideration and assessment are; health, hygiene and safety, building and facilities, activity equipment and the conduct of activities, certified qualifications of staff, participant supervision, emergency plans, fire precautions, first aid facilities, accreditation of camp site, quality assurance and consumer protection and references from other schools whom have already attended the venue are also of good value. These factors must be considered based on risk management principles. When considering a venue for the first time, it should be inspected by the teacher in charge of the excursion and constant discussions should take place with the camp manager in order to prepare risk management documentation. Further risk management criterion must be assessed when travel interstate or overseas is involved.

Section 4.4.2.3, Emergency Management refers to a comprehensive process, which is put in place to ensure the safety of staff and students before, during and following an emergency situation. The Department??™s requirements and guidelines relating to preparation and safety must be observed in the conduct of all excursions. Four key elements for the process of emergency management are preparedness, prevention, response and recovery (Roberts & Stephens, 2002, p 3).

Preparedness: the school should prepare an emergency management plan prior to an excursion covering all bases of foreseen and unforeseen circumstances that may occur.
Prevention: the main part of a school plan is focused on strategies to help prevent emergencies.
Response: Some emergencies are not preventable and therefore planning to minimise the effects of any emergencies that do occur.
Recovery: is the process following an emergency where students and families may require support from available school resources (Roberts & Stephens, 2002, p 3).

Section 4.4.2.4 emphasises the importance of parental / guardian approval and information. They must be given clear, detailed and true information regarding all aspects of the excursion and then give the school written consent for their child to participate in the excursion. Section 4.4.2.5 covers the importance of retrieving confidential medical reports from the parents / guardians and these reports should be copied with one set going with the teacher in charge on the excursion and one set of copies obtained at the school.

Section 4.4.2.6 and sections under 4.4.2.7 considers appropriate supervision, excursion staff and instructors that will be involved with the students on excursion. Matters to consider would be qualifications / experience, age / maturity, size of the group, ages of the students, nature / location of the excursion and activities that would be conducted throughout the excursion. In deciding what constitutes sufficient excursion staff, the principal should consider the factors listed above as well as the Safety Guidelines for Education Outdoors website. Section 4.4.2.8 is a guideline of staff-student ratios for different excursion types.

Student behaviour and discipline under section 4.4.2.9 should correspond with the school??™s student code of conduct, along with the state-wide Student Discipline Procedures 1994. Students and parents should understand the schools code of conduct and under extreme cases of misbehaviour the principal may decide that it is best for the child to return home. The parents will be informed and any expenses will be paid for by the parents of the student.

Under sections of 4.4.2.10, 4.4.2.11 and 4.4.2.12 is detailed requirements regarding use of private transport. All students must be accompanied by a school staff member in any form of transport. Light aircraft must be a licensed charter operator with full liability insurance. Private motor vehicle transportation should be avoided at all times unless corresponding with an approved pre-licensed driver education program. Overseas travel requires further criteria and the smart traveller website should be checked for any travel warnings.

A policy is a predetermined course of action which is established to provide the essential duty of care. This policy is important because it allows teacher to understand their roles and responsibilities within predefined limits with appropriate procedures to ensure the safety and to protect the rights of students. This policy identifies key activities and provides a choice of alternatives that can be used to guide their decision making process. This policy helps to control excursions in advanced and assists in preventing possible risks.

The requirements of the policy is subject to the principal, school council, teachers and excursion supervisors, parents, students, venue staff and activity guides on the excursion. Everyone involved in the excursion needs to have a common understanding of the policy.
Listed below are three hypothetical scenarios which the policy document would have impact on:

Scenario One;
???A school takes the grade 6 students away on a 5 day camp. Teachers become concerned when one student repeatedly ignores safety rules which can put others at risk. After discussion with the school principal, it was decided to notify the parents of the students??™ misbehaviour. On day 3 of the camp, the same student was found striking another student with considerable force. So, the teacher contacted the principal who arranged with parents to pick their child up. The decision was made because the student was causing significant risk to their peers.??™ Section 4.4.2.9 of the policy relates to student behaviour and discipline and that principal approval must be obtained before sending a misbehaved child home.

Scenario Two;
???A class of grade 3 students were on a day excursion, bushwalking through a national park. A student gets bitten by a snake. The teacher immediately identifies the wound and applies a crepe pressure bandage and a splint as initial treatment. These items retrieved from the first aid kit provided by the national park (section 4.4.2.3.5). The rangers were contacted immediately to arrange a safe pick up for the student. Whilst waiting for the rangers, the other students were kept together in their groups with their selected supervisor (section 4.4.2.6). The rangers picked up the injured student assisted by one supervisor and returned to the educational centre at the national park where an ambulance was waiting, prearranged by the national park staff. The student was taken to the local hospital accompanied with a school supervisor. In the mean time, the school principal was notified who contacted the student??™s parents with continual up to date knowledge of the student??™s condition prior to their arrival at the hospital. The principal also contacted the Department??™s Emergency and Security Management Unit (section 4.4.2.3.4). The student was soon released with appropriate medication with no serious condition. During recovery, the school had constant contact with the family.??™ This scenario covers all sections under 4.4.2.3 excursion emergency management.

Scenario Three;
A joint school camp was organised for grade 5 students for the duration of 5 days. Thorough planning between the two schools was conducted prior to camp approval and checks of the camp site were again conducted at arrival (section 4.4.2.2.4). Local authorities had already been informed of the school camps details and were given full contact details for the school management team at the camp. Unfortunately a deliberately lit fire occurred within the area and authorities immediately contacted the camp managers of the high fire dangers ahead with unpredictable wind changes. It was advised that an evacuation should be conducted as soon as possible. Evacuation plans had already been trialled and were put into action with students understanding the procedures instantly, the fire and police authorities lead the groups to a safe area (section 4.4.2.3). School supervisors stayed with their designated group at all times with continuous head counts conducted during the evacuation. The school principals were immediately informed of the situation who then contacted the Department??™s Emergency and Security Management Unit and the principal also informed all parents / guardians of updated knowledge of the student??™s safety (section 4.4.2.3.4). The students soon arrived safely back at school and once the dangers were lifted, all belongings were then returned. Students, camp supervisors and others involved in the camp had continuous support from the school during recovery (section 4.4.2.3).

The State of Victoria??™s policy on school excursions is an essential guide for teachers to abide by to ensure that students are always protected by duty of care under all circumstances. Teachers should refer to this policy whenever conducting a curriculum based activity outside of the school grounds ensuring that the students are always in a safe environment.

References:
Medowie Public School. (2000) Educational Excursion Policy. Retrieved from http://www.medowie.ps.education.nsw.gov.au/policydocs.html

Warrumbungle National Park. Judd, J. (1998) Safe Walking In The Warrumbungle National Park. Retrieved from www.warrumbung-e.schools.nsw.edu.au/…/safe%20walking%20booklet%20for%20web.pdf

State of Victoria (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development) (2007) Student Safety & Risk Management. Retrieved from http://www.education.vic.gov.au/management/governance/referenceguide/enviro/4_4.htm

Roberts, M., Stephens, M. Department of Education and Training, Victoria. Emergency and Security Management Branch. (2002) Emergency Management in Schools Vic. Retrieved from http://www.aic.gov.au/en/events/aic%20upcoming%20events/2002/schools.aspx

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