Summary - School excursions must be carefully planned to avoid the risk of litigation arising out of an accident.
A combination of heightened excitement and less formal activities often leads to the unfortunate consequence of significant injury during the course of a school excursion.
It must be remembered that, if an accident occurs during an approved school excursion, then the school may be held liable if it was negligent because the teacher-pupil relationship is still in existence. This is the case even though the excursion might be on a weekend or during school holidays.
Although the consent of parents is invariably obtained before an excursion, such consent will not entitle the school to take a pupil on a trip fraught with danger.
Accidents during school excursions have resulted in many cases for compensation coming before the Courts. Although the facts of these cases are all different, they have a few lessons which are good to keep in mind:
the activities on the excursion should be carefully planned before leaving the school;
the location of the excursion should be checked by a supervising teacher beforehand as part of prudent risk assessment;
the activities chosen for the excursion should be suitable for children of the age, experience and capacity of those participating;
appropriate warnings should be given before the activities commence;
pupils who are novices or do not understand the activity should receive very thorough instructions;
depending on the nature of the activity, a demonstration might be prudent;
participating pupils must be screened carefully so that they are matched to suitable activities.
The fact that the excursion takes place outside normal school hours and at an external venue does not decrease the standard of care required at law to be discharged by the school.
It is necessary for teachers to closely and actively supervise pupils during excursions despite the often less formal atmosphere in which excursions are conducted.
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