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education.vic.gov.au

Excursions

including camps and adventure activities

Policy last updated

12 October 2020

Scope

  • Schools
  • School councils

Contact

School Operations and Governance Unit


Date:
January 2020

Policy

including camps and adventure activities

Policy

This policy sets out requirements for schools to plan for and safely undertake excursions, including camps and adventure activities.  

Summary

  • All excursions must be planned in accordance with the requirements outlined in this policy.
  • It is also mandatory for schools to follow the requirements set out in the Excursion Guidelines, on the Guidance tab.
  • Further specific activity guidelines have been developed for adventure activities. These specific activity guidelines are also mandatory for schools to follow and require additional approval and risk management procedures

Details

Excursions are an important part of the learning experiences of all students from Foundation to Year 12. Excursions can support quality curriculum delivery and can provide important social and emotional development opportunities for students that is often not available in the classroom. These might include teamwork, resilience and confidence-building through challenge, problem-solving, connecting with nature, creative and imaginative play and coordination and strength.

While the degree of planning involved will depend on the nature and likelihood of the risks involved, the conduct of any excursion or activity must take into account the following:

  • the educational purpose of the excursion and its contribution to the curriculum or other educational value
  • Department approval requirements for excursions and staff travel
  • suitability of the venue and/or environment for the excursion
  • informed consent from parents or carers
  • adequate student and staff medical information
  • adequate student preparation and clear behaviour expectations
  • the importance of providing an inclusive excursion experience for all students, including students with disabilities and additional needs
  • how school staff will meet their responsibilities under the Child Safe Standards 
  • requirements for any adventure activities
  • assessment of excursion risks and appropriate risk minimisation strategies
  • maintenance of excursion records, including clear documentation of the planning process, in accordance with the Department’s policy on management of school records — refer to Records Management — School Records

Staff must enter the excursion details into the Student Activity Locator (login required) at least 3 weeks prior to the excursion date.

The Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund (CSEF) provides payments for eligible students to attend camps and excursions. Schools must advise eligible parents of this funding.

When planning and conducting excursions, schools must follow the mandatory Excursion Guidelines, on the Guidance tab.

Definitions

Excursions
Excursions are activities organised by the school where the students:

  • are taken out of the school grounds (for example, a camp, day excursion or school sports)
  • undertake adventure activities, regardless of whether or not they occur outside the school grounds

Camps
Camps are excursions involving at least 1 night's accommodation (including school sleep-overs on school grounds). There are 2 different classifications of camps:

  • Base camps are camps that are undertaken at accredited residential camp sites or camping under shelters such as tents. Camping as an adventure activity has its own specific guidelines.
  • Study camps are camps that often involve VCE students. There is a focus on study skills, team building, communication, time management and wellbeing.

Adventure activities
Adventure activities are activities that involve greater than normal risk — there are additional mandatory guidelines associated with these activities.

Local excursions
Local excursions are excursions to locations within walking distance of the school and do not involve adventure activities.

Note: workplace learning and intercampus travel are not considered school excursions.

Relevant legislation

Contact

School Operations and Governance Unit


Guidance

Excursion Guidelines

These Guidelines replace the previous Excursions and Adventure Activities Policy and the Safety Guidelines for Education Outdoors. The Guidelines are mandatory and school staff must follow them in planning and conducting all excursions as defined in the Excursions Policy.

The Guidelines contain the following chapters:

  • Approvals
  • Consent
  • Student medical information
  • Student Activity Locator
  • Risk management planning
  • Emergency or critical incident management
  • Staffing — roles and responsibilities
  • Supervision
  • Student preparation and behaviour
  • Liability information
  • External providers
  • First aid
  • Venue selection
  • Weather
  • Transport
  • Communications
  • Identification
  • Overseas travel
  • Adventure activities, including guidelines on the following activities:
    • Abseiling
    • Artificial climbing and abseiling walls
    • Bushwalking
    • Camping
    • Canoeing/kayaking
    • Challenge ropes courses
    • Cycling (including Bicycle Education)
    • Horse riding
    • Orienteering
    • Rafting
    • Rock climbing
    • Sailing
    • Scuba diving
    • Sea kayaking
    • Snorkelling
    • Snow Sports
    • Surfing and stand-up paddle boarding
    • Swimming and water activities (including instructional swimming)
    • Water skiing
    • Windsurfing

Approvals

Approvals

All excursions must be approved by the principal.

For local and day excursions the process for obtaining principal approval is determined by the school.

For excursions that include an overnight component, adventure activities, interstate, overseas or travel by air or water, a completed Excursions — Principal Approval request form must be submitted to the principal. This approval form includes detailed information that may be needed in an emergency such as:

  • the exact location of the excursion participants at all times, including during travel
  • the relevant contact number/s through which excursion staff may be reached in an emergency
  • the names and family contact details for all students and staff

Additional to the approval form, the following documentation must be submitted to the principal:

  • copies of the parental consent and medical advice forms of students
  • a copy of the risk register
  • a copy of the emergency response plan (if required)

This documentation must be approved by the principal prior to the excursion starting.

To support planning and to ensure all staff have met their responsibilities, use the Excursions and Camps Planning Checklist.

The principal is responsible for the approval of the operational requirements, including the risk register, for all excursions.

School council approves the excursion in so far as it relates to the school’s budget, the parent payments policy or entering into any contract or other such agreement with a third party, as these aspects of excursions fall within the scope of school council powers and functions. If appropriate, principals can consult with school council on other aspects of excursions.

Joint-school activities

Where there is a joint activity involving another school, the above requirements apply to both schools.

The nominated coordinating principal or teacher ensures:

  • planning and approval requirements are met
  • parents/carers are informed that their children may be supervised by teachers and other approved adults from the other school

Note: All schools involved in a joint excursion, must complete an online notification of school activity form in the Student Activity Locator.

Required approvals for staff

The Regional Director is responsible for approving all interstate and overseas travel for Department employed staff (including principals), where those staff are accompanying students on excursions.

A School Travel Application Form must be submitted online to the relevant travel approver for interstate and overseas travel for Department employed staff. See the Department's Travel Policy and Travel Rules of Use — School-based Staff, for more information.

Cancellations or Alterations

The principal approves cancellations or alterations to excursion arrangements.


Schools must obtain written or electronic consent from parents or carers for school excursions to:

  • obtain parent or carer authorisation for:
    • the financial costs of the excursion
    • any adventure activities that may be undertaken during the excursion
  • take the student out of the school environment for a day excursion
  • have the student in its care after normal school hours on an overnight excursion
  • enable the parent or carer to alert the school to any medical conditions or allergies

Requirements for informed consent

Schools must:

  • give parents or carers, who are to provide consent, sufficient information about the excursion to enable them to make an informed decision
  • tell the parent or carer:
    • the nature of the proposed activity/activities. It is important that parents/carers are aware of the activities that students will be participating in on the excursion, if these activities carry a degree of risk of harm, such as swimming, bike riding or any other adventure activities
    • the educational purpose of the activity
    • the location of the activity and any restrictions or barriers to accessing this location
    • the type of transport being utilised if applicable
    • if the excursion will not be supervised by school staff. For example, where the principal has approved a small group of senior secondary age students to participate in an excursion without staff supervision – see Supervision
    • that students may be sent home from an excursion in the event of illness or serious misbehaviour and any costs relating to the student's return will be the parent or carer's responsibility
    • the principal may need to cancel or alter excursions arrangements at short notice, which may lead to inconvenience or financial losses to parents. This would be required to ensure the safety of students and/or due to circumstances beyond the control of the school
    • other information deemed relevant by the school
  • keep records of the consent documentation at the school.

Schools may use the template Parent Excursion Consent Form.

Consent for local excursions

Excursions may be considered 'local excursions' if the location is within walking distance of the school and do not involve adventure activities.

If schools intend to take students off school grounds within walking distance to engage in educational activities within the local area, schools may seek consent for these local excursions on an annual basis, e.g. at the beginning of each school year (or upon enrolment if a student enrolls during the school year). Schools may use the template Local Excursions annual consent form.

Once annual consent is obtained, schools are not required to obtain further consent before the local excursion. However, parents and carers must be informed about the local excursion closer to the date of the event. For example, parents/carers can be notified by email or other appropriate communication channel the week before (or earlier) if students are leaving the school grounds to visit a location nearby, so that parents have an opportunity to inform staff of any medical or other issues that may be relevant to the local excursion. Schools may use the template Local Excursion Notification form, also available in the Resources tab.

For local excursions that occur on a recurring basis, schools can notify parents/carers once of the frequency and location of the activity, at the commencement of the recurring event. For example, it is sufficient to notify parents/carers at the beginning of the year only that students will be walking to the local oval every week for a recurring sports activity.

Electronic consent requirements

Electronic consent can include:

  • the use of a username and password to verify the acceptance of terms or consent
  • a digitally encrypted image of a person’s hand written signature (i.e. a pin or password would be required before the signature can be inserted into a document)
  • email correspondence
  • online scripts and pop-ups requiring ‘tick the box’ and ‘accept’; or
  • SMS.

For electronic consent to be valid, schools must have a process to ensure that:

  • it is the parent or carer providing the consent (for example, requiring identification such as a password); and
  • the parent or carer intends to provide their consent

Student medical information

Student medical information

Schools must provide parents or carers with the opportunity to vary any medical information previously given to the school before any excursion.

Confidential Medical Information Form

A confidential medical information form must be completed by parents or carers before any excursion involving an overnight component, an adventure activity or any travel via air or water.

Schools must:

  • ensure that the teacher-in-charge has immediate access to either hard copy or electronic versions of the medical information forms on the excursion
  • ensure these forms are available to other excursion staff in emergency situations
  • keep copies of the forms at the school

Schools should use the recommended Confidential Medical Information Form for Excursions.

Schools may require additional medical information depending on the nature of the activities undertaken.


Student Activity Locator

Student Activity Locator

To ensure accurate information is available for emergency services, all Victorian government schools must use the Student Activity Locator (login required) to notify the Department of any approved school excursion or camp, at least three weeks beforehand.

Non-government schools are also able to access the Student Activity Locator to register camps and excursions. Non-government schools should log on using their 'NG' user id.

A user guide has been developed to help schools complete the online form, see: Student Activity Locator User Guide (login required).


Risk management planning

Risk management planning

Schools must assess risk for all excursions (including local excursions) and identify measures to reduce reasonably foreseeable risk to students wherever possible. The type and level of risk, and possible consequences, will differ depending on a range of factors including the location, activity and cohort of students.

The type of excursion will determine the type of risk assessment required.

Risk assessment process

The risk assessment will inform the planning of the event and help decide what resources, staff and equipment will be required. The assessment should cover the entire excursion including:

  • all activities to be undertaken
  • excursion location or venue (including environment)
  • student behaviour, safety or illness
  • staff safety, illness or other specific needs.
  • transportation  (for example public transport cancellations, travelling in hazardous areas, student behaviour, travel sickness).

Where appropriate, the risk assessment should also address:

  • risk to intended educational objectives
  • any significant financial risks to the school and/or parents (for example if an excursion needs to be cancelled)
  • reputational risk (the risk that the general community might lose confidence or trust in the school or the Department if a reasonably foreseeable risk is not identified or if inappropriate steps are taken to minimise that risk and this results in injury, loss or damage).

The risk assessment must be completed during the planning of the excursions, reviewed before the commencement of the excursion and where appropriate or required, during the excursion.

Responsibilities and processes for treating risks must be communicated to all excursion staff before departing on the excursion.

Risk assessment for local and day excursions (not including adventure activities)

For local and day excursions (not including adventure activities), schools are strongly encouraged to document their risk assessment. Documenting risk is important for a number of reasons, including:

  • it allows staff to have a clear record of the risks they have identified and the measures they have put in place, and gives them greater ability to identify any possible gaps in their risk assessment that need to be addressed
  • it is a useful way of communicating roles and responsibilities relating to risk to all relevant staff
  • it can become important evidence in the event that someone is injured during the excursion and the school’s actions regarding risk planning and management are scrutinised.

A template Risk Assessment for Local and Day Excursions is available to support schools in documenting their risk assessments for local and day excursions that do not involve adventure activities.

Alternatively, schools may wish to use the same risk register as required for all other excursions.

All other excursions

For excursions that involve:

  • overnight stays
  • interstate travel
  • overseas travel
  • adventure activities
  • travel via water or air
  • weekends or school holidays.

a risk register assessing risks across the entire excursion must be completed and submitted to the principal when seeking approval for the excursion (refer to Risk Register and Emergency Management Plan template).

All risks need to be evaluated using the Department’s risk rating matrix. Risks rated:

  • low or medium do not necessarily require further treatments and are considered acceptable. These risks should be reviewed periodically.
  • high or extreme will require further treatment to reduce their level of risk to a more acceptable level.

If planning a camp that involves multiple adventure activities, a risk assessment for each adventure activity must be conducted. Schools may choose to place all risks associated with each activity on the one camp risk register, or complete a risk register for each activity.

Consultation with external providers

Schools should consider whether to consult with external providers during the preparation of the excursion risk register. Schools should also consider whether using an accredited provider and/or appropriately trained staff to lead activities (such as adventure activities) is sufficient mitigation for some activity specific risks. If so, the excursion risk register should not focus on treating risks relating to technical aspects of an activity (e.g. ropes or harnesses used in abseiling). Instead, these risks should be identified and include ‘the use of external provider’ as a control.

Sample risk registers for excursions, camps, overseas travel and specific adventure activities can be found in the Resources tab.

For further information on risk management more generally, refer to the Department’s policy Risk Management — Schools.


Emergency or critical incident management

Emergency or critical incident management

Excursions which involve:

  • overnight stays
  • interstate travel
  • overseas travel
  • adventure activities
  • travel via sea or air
  • weekends or school holidays.

must have an emergency management plan (refer to: Risk Register and Emergency Management Plan template).

A school must have a clearly written set of emergency response procedures that:

  • address the consequences (rated moderate or above) of all risks identified in the risk register
  • are understood by those involved in the program (this may, where appropriate, include a trial evacuation exercise carried out at the venue to ensure that procedures are appropriate and staff and students are familiar with them)
  • include
    • rescue, resuscitation and first aid procedures
    • how to contact a doctor, ambulance or emergency service
    • how to maintain situational awareness at all times (e.g. weather forecasts for outdoors activities)
    • the effects of an emergency on student supervision in the event of excursion staff being required to assist injured students or to go for help
    • support for students who may have difficulty communicating in an emergency because of age or disability and ways to manage any specific risks to these students in an emergency
  • covers arrangements if the excursion needs to be cancelled, recalled or altered (for example, due to forecast severe weather conditions, changes to Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel advice or an emergency). This should include arrangements for communicating with parents/carers.
  • where relevant, are consistent with the procedures used by venue owners, managers or rescue and life-saving patrols.

The teacher in direct control of the group is responsible for implementation of the procedures, which may include the involvement of others who have more experience in dealing with emergencies.

To support the development of the Emergency Management Plan, schools should view the Sample Emergency Responses Procedures, which outlines key actions in a variety of emergency situations (such as bushfire, flood, hypothermia, hyperthermia).

In the event of an emergency, accident or injury:

  • staff on the excursion should:
    • take emergency action to establish safety as per the emergency management plan
    • immediately notify the school principal or designated school contact
  • the principal or designated school contact:
    • should make arrangements for the incident to be recorded by calling the Department’s Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC)  on 1800 126 126 (24 hours)
    • may obtain further information, such as statements from witnesses, where required to provide appropriate support to affected students or to properly document the incident and retain these on file. Any such documents should be managed in accordance with the Schools' Privacy Policy.

Staff must also ensure that details of accidents or incidents are recorded on the injury management system on CASES21.

For further information refer to: Reporting and Managing School Incidents (Including Emergencies).


Staffing — roles and responsibilities

Staffing — roles and responsibilities

Staff members are those adults who provide the supervisory, instructional and educational elements of the activity.

A teacher registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching and either employed by the Department or school council or approved by the principal must be present and have overall responsibility for the activity, unless other arrangements have been approved by the principal in accordance with the section on Supervision in this guidance.

Excursion staff must be approved by the principal and may include:

  • teachers employed by the Department or school council
  • other adults on a volunteer or paid basis such as:
    • parents or carers
    • education support class officers
    • community members
    • trainee teachers
    • campsite staff
    • specialist instructors for excursion activities.

School students cannot be used as excursion staff.

Schools must ensure that excursion staff comply with Department or the school’s own policy in relation to the Child Safe Standards and having a Working with Children Check.

The names of volunteer workers must be recorded for the purposes of volunteer workers insurance refer to: Volunteers in Schools.

Where approved excursion staff who are not teachers employed by the Department or school council are in attendance they can be included in the staff-student supervision ratio:

  • for the duration of a specific activity for which they have a designated supervisory responsibility or
  • for the overall staff-student supervision ratio for the program, where they are on duty and available on the same basis as other staff (usually a 24 hour basis), for example third party providers such as residential camp staff, World Challenge staff etc.

The specific roles and responsibilities of each staff member (teachers, instructors, campsite staff, volunteers, etc) must be clarified and understood by all staff prior to the commencement of the excursion.

School staff

School staff participating in an excursion should:

  • understand the purpose of the program and its connection to student learning
  • be aware of their supervisory responsibilities throughout the excursion
  • know which member of staff will provide first aid if required
  • know the exact location of students they are responsible for at all times including during travel.

In addition the nominated teacher-in-charge must:

  • ensure risk assessments have been completed and treatments are communicated to all staff involved in the excursion and/or activity
  • know the exact location of students at all times including during travel
  • maintain a record of telephone contacts for the supervising staff accompanying the excursion
  • know who the school contact person is and their phone number
  • have immediate access to the names of family contacts for all students and staff on the excursion
  • have immediate access to copies of medical advice forms for those students on the excursion
  • maintain a copy of the completed Excursion — Principal Approval Form (including all attachments) submitted to the principal for approval and school council for noting
  • have submitted, three weeks prior to the excursion, a notification of school activity using the Student Activity Locator

Specialist staff

Schools must:

  • ensure that where specialist instructors are employed they:
    • have the necessary skills or qualifications for the activity
    • have appropriate experience for the age and skill level of the students
    • hold appropriate public liability insurance
  • while specialist instructors have the technical knowledge and expertise to instruct the students, the teachers have overall responsibility for the safety and welfare of the students, even where the teachers do not directly provide the actual instruction.

Where not directly responsible for the instruction of the activity or assisting the instructor, the teacher responsible for the activity should understand the activity and the environment in which it will be conducted. This teacher must confer with the designated instructor about the supervisory role and establish areas of responsibility. If this teacher is not the designated instructor, they are to act on the advice of the designated instructor on technical safety issues.


Supervision

Supervision

To ensure appropriate and effective levels of supervision, the risk assessment should take into account:

  • the experience, qualifications and skills of staff (including volunteers, instructors, etc)
  • the age, maturity, physical characteristics and gender of students
  • the ability and experience of the students
  • the size of the group
  • the nature and location of the excursion
  • the activities to be undertaken
  • known or anticipated weather conditions
  • requirements outlined in the information for specific adventure activities (see Adventure Activity Guidelines section)
  • emergency response planning
  • any other relevant factors.

Minimum supervision requirements

Department policy provides minimum requirements for staff-student ratios. Schools may need to enhance these measures with additional staff or volunteers to ensure student and staff safety.

Schools must take into account the likelihood of circumstances where a staff member may be unable to actively supervise the group (e.g. staff illness, staff needing to support a particular student because of illness, behaviour etc.), and the time it will take for a replacement staff member to arrive at the excursion destination.

Except where otherwise indicated, all excursions and camps must have a minimum of two staff members.

  • Local excursions
    Regular class teacher-student ratios with an additional accompanying staff member (as required)
  • Day excursions
    1 to 20 staff-student ratio with a minimum of 2 staff
  • Overnight base camps
    1 to 10 staff-student ratio with a minimum of 2 staff
  • Overnight study camps
    1 to 15 staff-student ratio with a minimum of 2 staff
  • Interstate travel
    1 to 10 staff-student ratio with a minimum of 2 staff
  • Overseas travel
    1 to 10 staff-student ratio with a minimum of 2 staff
  • Adventure activities
    Specific ratios for each activity, see section on Adventure Activities

The excursion must:

  • be under the direct control of a teacher employed by the Department or the school council at all times, with at least one other excursion staff member present
  • have enough teachers employed by the Department or school council to maintain appropriate control of the excursion and of each activity and to provide for the safety and wellbeing of participating students and staff
  • have teachers comprising at least half of the excursion staff.

How to apply the ratios

A minimum of two staff must accompany students on all excursions.

For example:

  • if a day excursion includes 16 students, there would need to be a minimum of 2 staff members accompanying the group
  • if planning a day excursion for 60 students, there would need to be a minimum of 3 staff members accompanying the group. This meets both the 1:20 staff-student ratio and the requirement that a minimum of two staff accompany students on all excursions.

The need for further staff should be identified through appropriate risk management planning.

Mixed gender groups

For overnight stays for mixed gender groups the excursion must include staff of at least one person of each sex. In primary schools this requirement may be waived, where staff of each sex are not available.

Exceptions to minimum supervision requirements

Excursions in the local area

For small group excursions in the local area, a teacher must be responsible for the excursion. However, with the approval of the principal, a small group can be supervised by one or more excursion staff employed by the Department or school council who are not teachers (for example, education support class officers such as integration aides and teacher assistants).

Day excursions for senior secondary students

Schools can consider having less than the minimum supervision ratios for senior secondary students attending local or day excursions, only when student safety will not be compromised.

Consideration should be given to the age, number and individual needs of the students as well as any relevant factors relating to attending staff.

Unsupervised excursions

For unsupervised excursions, the excursion must:

  • be approved by the principal only:
    • in a small number of instances
    • for secondary-aged students
    • for activities involving small groups of students
  • and the teacher responsible for the activity must maintain a formal record of:
    • a description of the activity, including locations
    • the names and ages of students involved
    • the time of leaving and returning to school.

The teacher responsible for the activity must ensure that students have appropriate methods of communication in the event of an emergency.

Transport to and from excursions

Schools can consider having less than the minimum supervision ratios when transporting students to and from the excursion venue.

Consideration should be given to:

  • distance travelled
  • type of transportation
  • the age, number and individual needs of the students.

The decision to alter the supervision ratios for transportation to and from the venue should be documented in the risk assessment and controls enacted accordingly.


Student preparation and behaviour

Student preparation and behaviour

Schools must ensure that:

  • students are adequately prepared for excursions
  • the disciplinary measures for students on excursions are appropriate and consistent with the Student Engagement and Inclusion Guidance and the school’s student engagement policies
  • reasonable adjustments are made for students with disabilities, including students with medical or health conditions that may have an impact on the student's ability to meet expected standards of behaviour
  • preparation also includes supporting the mental health and wellbeing of students

Student preparation

In preparation for excursions, and in addition to the information required in the consent documentation, schools should advise students and parents/carers of:

  • the organisational arrangements
  • the roles of each staff member supervising the activity or excursion
  • the risks involved in the activity or excursion
  • relevant safety arrangements or emergency procedures (as appropriate)
  • expected standards of behaviour
  • the prohibition of alcohol and smoking for all students on all school camps and excursions, and the consequences of non-compliance with this instruction (See: Alcohol and Other Drug Use — Students and Smoking Ban)
  • that in extreme cases, students may be sent home from an excursion at the cost of the parents

In some cases, particularly when undertaking adventure activities, students may require specific skills or training before going on excursions. Staff should utilise the Documentation of participant preparation, prerequisite skills/knowledge to assess students’ suitability to undertake the activity and what support they may need. 

Returning a student home

In extreme cases the excursion staff, following consultation with and the approval of the school principal, may decide to return a student to their home from an excursion. Excursion staff should:

  • advise the student’s parent or carer of the:
    • circumstance associated with the decision to send the student home
    • time and location for the parent or carer to collect their child from the excursion or the anticipated time that the student will arrive home
  • consider the age and maturity of the student when making travelling arrangements

Liability information

Liability information

Duty of care

School staff owe students a duty of care to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of reasonably foreseeable harm. Planning of and conduct during an excursion may be scrutinised later on if there is a legal claim resulting from an injury or damage to property. The information in these mandatory excursion guidelines has been developed to support staff to take reasonable and appropriate steps to prevent and reduce risks to students, in accordance with their duty of care obligations.

For more general information on duty of care in schools, see Duty of Care.

Waivers of liability

Schools cannot sign 'waivers of liability' on behalf of students. Regardless of the role of the external provider, schools retain overall responsibility for the program and any activities involving students.


External providers

External providers

External providers may be engaged to deliver specific activities (such as adventure activities) or a whole program. They may provide expertise in a certain activity and can form a valuable addition to a program.

Clear and open communication that occurs well in advance of the planned program is the key to an effective and well-informed relationship between a school and an external provider.

Schools must be aware that even when they are using external providers, school staff still have duty of care for the students.

Before an external provider is selected to assist with the delivery of a program, a thorough check should be completed by the school to ensure that they are appropriate for the program and have experience working with groups of children and young people.

Prior to commencement of a program the school should ensure that the external provider has:

  • a current public liability insurance certificate (minimum $10 million) provided by an Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) approved insurer
  • demonstrated that staff have the correct qualifications and/or experience for their specific role/s. For information on required qualifications please see the specific Adventure Activity guidelines
  • ensured that students are supervised by either a registered teacher or an approved staff member with a current Working with Children Check
  • agreed with the school who has responsibilities for first aid, emergency communications and other specialist equipment
  • agreed with the school who will be responsible for emergency procedures, and that these are well understood prior to the excursion taking place
  • read the relevant sections of the Department's Adventure Activity Guidelines (if relevant) and understood their obligations under these guidelines

With respect to arrangements between the school and third parties, principals should:

  • carefully negotiate terms and conditions with third parties (e.g. camp providers, specialist instructors, expedition providers) prior to accepting arrangements
  • ensure school staff know who to report any concerns to
  • provide relevant information about students to the external providers that they need to know in order to look after the students and reduce risk

First aid

First aid

Excursion staff must have first aid and emergency response knowledge appropriate to the excursion location, the students involved and the activities undertaken by each group of students.

Staff must also have a first aid kit appropriate to the excursion location, the activities undertaken and the specific needs of participating students with health or medical conditions. Staff must also carefully document first aid incidents and outcomes in CASES21.

The extent of the first aid training required by staff will be determined by:

  • the environment in which the group will operate
  • the remoteness of the location
  • length of time the staff are required to provide patient support before definitive medical help arrives
  • the resources available to support a patient in these conditions
  • the known medical history of students and staff

For excursions involving adventure activities or locations without readily accessible medical support, at least one member of staff responsible for each group of students must hold, as a minimum, a current first aid qualification and a current Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) qualification.

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2010 and the Code of Practice from Safe Work Australia, all first aiders should hold nationally recognised Statement/s of Attainment issued by a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) for the relevant nationally endorsed unit/s of competency.

Three relevant first aid training courses for excursion staff include:

  • Provide First Aid — Provides competencies required to recognise and respond to common life-threatening injuries or illnesses, including life-support using cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), and to manage the casualty and incident until the arrival of medical or other assistance.
  • Remote Area First Aid — Provides competencies advised for staff who will be on excursions which are more than an hour (by any means) from definitive care such as a hospital and where there is reliable vehicle access and communication options available.
  • Wilderness First Aid — Provides competencies advised for staff who will be conducting excursions which are more than an hour (by any means) from definitive care such as a hospital, when access to the patient/s is difficult and and/or communication is unreliable. Wilderness first aid courses are also advised for staff who may be required to coordinate an emergency response or be required to care for a patient for an extended period of time prior to help arriving.

For more information about first aid, see: First Aid for Students and Staff.

Sun Protection

Sun Protection is required when the UV Index is above 3. Schools must ensure their SunSmart Policy applies to excursions.

For further information see Sun and UV Protection.

Further information on sun protection can be found at SunSmart.


Venue selection

Venue selection

Excursion venues must be assessed and selected on the basis of their safety and suitability for the activities proposed. This includes outdoor locations.

It is recommended that venues are selected based on the recent and first-hand knowledge (for example, through an inspection of the site) of at least one member of the planning and supervising staff. If a staff member plans to inspect a venue or location, either within or outside of normal school hours, prior approval should be sought from the principal.

Residential campsites

Residential campsites are campsites which usually have permanent facilities (such as cooking and eating facilities, beds and an amenities block) and adventure recreation options. This definition does not include caravan parks, hotels/motels, ski lodges or Victorian government residential schools.

Schools using residential campsites for overnight camping must use accredited campsites, to ensure these venues meet minimum criteria regarding safety and suitability.

The Department recognises three accreditation providers:

  • Australian Camps Association’s Campsite and Outdoor Activity Provider program see: ACA Accredited Camps
  • Australian Tourism Accreditation Program (ATAP) see: Trust the Tick (select relevant state or territory). Further information regarding Quality Tourism Accreditation can be found at Quality Tourism Australia
  • National Accommodation, Recreation and Tourism Accreditation program see: NARTA

Other venues

Other venues may include:

  • overnight campsites and venues that only provide accommodation such as caravan parks, hotels/motels or ski lodges
  • Victorian government residential schools (for example: Rubicon Outdoor Centre or Bogong Outdoor Education Centre)
  • interstate camps or excursions
  • overseas venues

Criteria for assessing venues such as campsites or overnight accommodation venues should include:

  • health and hygiene
  • buildings and facilities
  • activity equipment and the conduct of activities
  • certification and qualifications of venue staff
  • participant supervision provided
  • risks posed by other users of the site
  • emergency and risk management plans of venues
  • fire precautions
  • first aid facilities
  • quality assurance and consumer protection
  • relevant accreditations
  • references from other schools

Outdoor locations

Outdoor environments can be unfamiliar settings for students and can present hazards which may not be immediately obvious.  Environmental factors must to be considered when planning activities. Outdoor activities may be affected by, yet not limited to environmental conditions such as surrounding landscape and vegetation, prevailing weather and micro climates.

Outdoor environments are extremely variable by nature. Conditions need to be planned for and monitored regularly in the lead up to, and during the activity.

When preparing for outdoor activities, staff should consider ways to minimise the environmental impact of the activity.  

Schools conducting excursions on land operated by Parks Victoria must complete an Education Group Activity form via ParkConnect at least one month before any visit. This will assist Parks Victoria to alert schools to any park closures, storm damage or management activities that may affect the visit, such as planned burns or pest animal programs.

To ensure safe conduct of the excursion, schools should consider whether there are any environmental factors, or access or permit requirements that they need to be aware of.

This information may be obtained from other relevant authorities such as:

Factors to consider when assessing the suitability of outdoor locations should include:

  • staff experience and qualifications required for the activity and location (including first aid)
  • the level of access to resources, services and facilities that may be needed, such as campsites, water, walking trails, toilets, shelter from extreme weather, or interpretive information
  • the level of access to communication equipment and networks for routine and emergency use
  • evacuation points and routes including alternative routes in the event of an emergency
  • the external assistance available in the event of an emergency or extreme weather conditions. The more remote the location, the more self-contained and self-reliant the group must be. This must be taken into account in the planning of the activity
  • the potential exposure to environmental hazards and difficulties
  • the ability and fitness levels of students

Weather and emergency warnings

Weather and emergency warnings

Staff must check weather forecasts and emergency warnings for the location in the days leading up to the excursion and on the day the excursion commences.  If the activity extends overnight, staff must access weather forecasts and warnings daily and monitor and assess the weather throughout, and be prepared to cancel, modify or relocate at any time.

Weather warning telephone services

The telephone numbers below may be useful to have available during the activity. Location specific numbers are also available and can be accessed at Bureau of Meteorology — Telephone Weather Services Directory.

  • Coastal, Land Weather and Flood Warnings on 1300 659 217
  • Full State Telephone Weather Service on 1900 955 363 (call charge applies)
  • Coastal Waters Telephone Service on 1900 969 930 (call charge applies)
  • Australian Tsunami Threat Information (1300 TSUNAMI) 1300 878 626
  • VicEmergency Hotline (Includes bushfire information) 1800 226 226

Online services

Weather and warning forecasts should be obtained from the Bureau of Meteorology. Staff using mobile apps to obtain this information are responsible for checking the source of the apps data.

Fire danger or ban

When planning excursions in bushfire prone areas or in areas surrounded by grassland, schools are advised to regularly monitor forecast fire danger ratings for that fire weather district.  

On days determined Code Red by the Emergency Management Commissioner, all excursions in the fire weather district determined Code Red must be cancelled.

In the days leading up to activities in or around bushfire prone areas, schools must regularly check the forecast fire danger rating. If the forecast fire danger rating is identified as severe or extreme, or a total fire ban has been declared, then Principals must reassess the excursion risk assessment and can seek advice if required from regional emergency management staff about whether the excursion should be cancelled. Please see the CFA website for information regarding fire bans and fire danger ratings. Additional information can be obtained by calling the VicEmergency Hotline on 1800 226 226.

If an excursion is not cancelled, alternative lower risk activities may be required, depending on the location.

Schools must ensure they consider the risk of bushfire or grassfire at the excursion location when conducting their risk assessment and developing their emergency management plan. Schools can be guided by the Department's Bushfire and Grassfire Preparedness policy.


Transport

Transport

The transportation of groups to and from activity locations must be carefully considered and planned, taking into account the following:

  • If using public transport, transport authorities should be consulted on appropriate travel times, fares and at least a fortnight’s notice of travel provided to relevant transport authority.
  • Excursions that run late, failing to meet times agreed to with private bus operators, are likely to incur significant costs.
  • Vehicles used to transport students must comply with VicRoads registration requirements.
  • Drivers must comply with all licensing requirements.
  • Occupational Health and Safety laws require employers and employees to take all reasonably practicable steps to manage driver fatigue.
  • Equipment carried inside vehicles must be securely stowed and not create a risk of injury or damage. Equipment and luggage should be carried and secured as appropriate in trailers, roof racks or behind luggage barriers. VicRoads offers advice on load restraint at Securing your load.

In circumstances where a teacher or staff member is to drive a vehicle transporting students, particular care should be taken to ensure that they have adequate rest prior to driving. This is particularly important when the activity includes an overnight component.

For information on transporting students in private cars refer to: Private Vehicle Use

For information on school owned buses and hired vehicles, refer to: Vehicles (including Buses) — Owned or Hired by a School


Communications

Communications

For excursions with an overnight component, parents or carers should be advised of the telephone numbers (both during and outside school hours) for the designated school contact person in the event of an emergency. 

Arrangements for communicating with parents in the event of an emergency, cancellation or recall of the excursion must be made.

If conducting an activity in a remote location with limited access to technology and emergency services, a documented communication plan must be developed prior to the activity. This can be incorporated into the risk register. The plan must:

  • be developed specifically for the location.  It will be based on current information about the area and other relevant information such as mobile phone coverage maps.
  • enable staff to receive weather / fire danger forecasts, updates and warnings, communicate with the school, outside parties and engage support in the case of an incident or emergency
  • identify equipment to be used based on current communication technology and the location of the activity
  • be clear to all staff involved in the program, including its limitations
  • include a communication strategy for the group during the program that also enable communication with outside parties including the school and emergency services
  • not rely on a single device

The communication plan should enable staff to:

  • receive weather forecasts, updates and warnings
  • communicate with the school
  • engage support in the case of an incident or emergency

Principals should consider providing communication equipment that may be reliably used in emergencies (for example, for excursions to remote areas with little mobile coverage, satellite phones may be considered).

A sample template for developing the communications plan can be found in the Resources tab of this page. This is one method for documenting the communications plan; schools may adapt the template or use another method which best suits the needs of the school or the excursion.


Identification

Identification

Easy identification of staff and students can be an important factor in the safe conduct of some excursions, including adventure activities.

Staff must determine the most suitable system/s of identification, based on the assessment of the environment, students’ skills, the type of activities to be undertaken and the age and number of students. Information on identification strategies is available in relevant specific adventure activities guidelines set out in the section on Adventure Activities.

General outdoors activities

Students may wear high visibility items such as vests or reflective items when bushwalking or cycling.

Water activities

Strategies to identify participants may include:

  • high visibility rash tops
  • skull caps
  • wrist bands

Overseas travel

Overseas travel

In addition to the requirements set out in relation to all excursions (such as approvals, risk management planning, consent) there are additional steps when planning and conducting overseas excursions. When planning and conducting overseas excursions, schools are required to:

  • comply with DFAT travel advice
  • ensure all participants have appropriate travel insurance
  • ensure copies of appropriate documentation are available on the excursion and left at the school
  • a School Staff Travel Application has been completed and approved within the correct timelines
  • complete a post-travel report on the School Staff Travel Applications Page
  • ensure staffing arrangements are sufficient in the event of an emergency
  • ensure excursion planning and risk management planning considers the School’s child safety responsibilities. This is especially important if there are any times where students are not under the direct supervision of school staff (such as homestay arrangements).  For more information on the Child Safe Standards refer to Child Safe Standards.

Schools should also:

  • ensure there are appropriate contingency funds available for staff on the excursion to access in the event of an emergency
  • develop a communications plan, including assigning a Designated School Contact
  • conduct a pre-trip briefing for staff, students and the parents/carers of students attending the excursion.

DFAT travel advice

Schools must confirm that the locations and activities planned comply with any current Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade travel advice. Risk and emergency management plans must be developed in consideration of the location, students, activities planned, types of travel undertaken and any relevant advice from DFAT.

The Smartraveller website is the DFAT travel advisory and consular assistance service. This site also provides useful travel information and tips. Before travelling overseas, schools should check the Smartraveller website to ensure that they have the most up-to-date travel advice for the proposed countries and locations to be visited.

Schools planning and conducting overseas excursions must ensure that they:

  • comply with any DFAT travel advice current for the proposed location 
  • subscribe to receive automatic travel advice updates from the Smartraveller website both prior to the excursion and when overseas
  • review their risk assessment if there are any changes to the DFAT travel advice. This will require the Principal to consider whether there is a need to cancel, recall or alter excursion arrangements.

This section describes the four levels of DFAT travel advice with the required actions and considerations.

  • Level 1: Exercise normal safety precautions.
  • Level 2: ‘Exercise a high degree of caution’ — requires additional attention to planning and assessment of risk.
  • Level 3: ‘Reconsider your need to travel’ — would generally mean excursions should be postponed or cancelled as the educational goals are unlikely to justify the risks.  Any decision to continue would require consultation with the Security and Emergency Management Division (emergency.management@education.vic.gov.au), a detailed risk assessment and treatment plan together with detailed contingency planning.
  • Level 4: ‘Do not travel’ — principals must cancel or postpone the excursion.

For a sample overseas travel risk register refer to: Sample Overseas Travel Risk Register (login required).

Travel insurance for overseas excursions

The cost of medical and hospital treatment is high in some countries; therefore, all students and staff must take out travel and medical insurance for the entire overseas trip.

The Department prefers that schools arrange travel insurance through the Victorian Managed Insurance Authority (VMIA). The Department has arranged a cost-effective travel insurance facility for students and accompanying teachers on international excursions which provides generally broader cover than most commercial insurers. 

Travel insurance purchased through VMIA also provides the travellers access to AHI Assist, a 24/7 medical assistance company and emergency hotline, which includes services such as:

  • immediate access to doctors and nurses
  • case management if hospitalised
  • assistance in replacing a lost or stolen passport
  • legal assistance
  • the arrangement for transport by road, aircraft or special air ambulance to an appropriate medical centre if this is required for treatment, accompanied if necessary by a doctor or nurse
  • arrangements for evacuation and transportation home if necessary
  • civil unrest evacuation
  • natural disaster evacuation
  • immediate access to safety and security experts.

Refer to Insurance for Schools for further information on VMIA travel insurance.

Documentation

The teacher in charge of the excursion must have access to the following documentation while overseas:

  • the front page (the photo page) of each participant’s passport and any visas
  • medical information/ relevant health management plans for all participants
  • risk management plan
  • emergency management plan (including details for in-country emergency assistance)
  • communications plan (if applicable)
  • contact details of families
  • contact details for students (if applicable)
  • contact details for host school (if applicable)
  • contact details for host families(if applicable)
  • each student’s consent form (paper copy preferred)
  • detailed itinerary
  • details of travel insurance for all participants.

A copy of these documents must also be left at the school. 

Contingency funds

Teachers accompanying students on overseas excursions should have access to sufficient contingency funds provided by the school to be used in the event of an emergency. Contingency funds must be approved by school council. 

Travel Application Process

Schools must read the Department’s Travel Policy including the Travel Rules of Use — School-based Staff before completing a Travel Application.

Schools must complete the DET School Staff Travel Application form located on the School Staff Travel Applications intranet page. The DET Travel Tracker — Admin/User Guide is a useful resource throughout the application process.

International travel applications must be completed at least three weeks advance.

The information included in the Travel Application will be reviewed by the Region’s Travel Registrar, and will determine whether the travel is approved by the Regional Director. The application is then forwarded to the Central Travel Registrar for a quality assurance check and approval by the Assistant Deputy Secretary, Schools and Regional Services.

For further details regarding the travel application form, please contact your Region’s Travel Registrar.

Communications

When conducting an overseas excursion, a communications plan should be developed. This should consider the type of communication, the responsible party, timing of communication in response to a variety of situations (including emergencies).

Any overseas excursion must have a Teacher in Charge, who is the central point of contact for the group on the excursion. It is also recommended that schools assign a Designated School Contact. This should be a senior staff member who is not travelling with the group, and can be contacted in the event of an emergency. The Designated School Contact should be used as a key liaison between the travelling group and the Department, parents/carers and the school community. 

Pre-trip briefing

Schools should undertake a pre-trip briefing for students attending the overseas excursion and their parents.

Attention should be given to the following topics:

  • educational purpose
  • code of conduct for students while on the trip
  • cultural considerations
  • emergency response procedures (including communications)
  • risks associated with specific activities
  • logistics
  • travel SIM cards
  • passports/visas and security measures
  • money
  • recommended packing lists (including weather considerations).

Post-travel reporting

Upon return of the overseas trip, a staff travel report must be submitted to the Regional Travel Registrar to within 14 days of return from trip. The template for the Travel Report can be found on the School Staff Travel Applications intranet page. The completed report musty be uploaded to the existing online form. Change the tracking status to: 'Submit Travel Report' and assign to your Regional Travel Registrar. Please see the Department's the Department's Travel Policy for further details.


Adventure activities

Adventure activities

The following information is additional to the requirements relating to all excursions. Mandatory guidelines are also provided in relation to specific adventure activities, under each activity name below.

An adventure activity is an activity that involves greater than normal risk which may include:

  • physical activities beyond the scope of the regular physical education curriculum
  • travel into a relatively undeveloped area of the country in which vehicle contact is difficult and/or uncertain
  • confrontation with natural environmental challenges requiring greater reliance upon personal resources than would normally be required in day-to-day life
  • less than normal contact by person or by telephone, with medical and other public services available in normal day-to-day life
  • exposure to the natural elements with less than the normal physical protection provided in day-to-day life
  • theme parks, fun parks and trampoline centres
  • an activity listed under the Adventure Activities Guidelines, outlined below.

If a principal does not have detailed knowledge of an adventure activity as listed in the Adventure Activities Guidelines below, it is recommended that further information and advice is sought from:

  • activity peak bodies (see activity specific guidelines)  
  • teachers or other qualified person with recent experience instructing the activity, who can offer an understanding of both the technical requirements and the educational context.

Pre-activity Check Statement

Prior to any adventure activity, the teacher in charge of the activity must undertake a pre-activity check (see template Pre-Activity Check). The pre-activity check aims to identify any reasonably foreseeable issues that could possibly affect the planned activity negatively particularly in regards to the safety of the participants and staff.

A pre-activity check must include establishing:

  • the current weather, warnings and forecast conditions
  • the fire danger index and current fire conditions and warnings
  • the conditions and nature of the environment in which the activity is being undertaken and the impact on the activity
  • the psychological and physical health and wellbeing of participants and staff on the activity
  • the condition of the activity specific and safety equipment being used in conducting of the activity e.g. helmets, life jackets, bikes etc.

A decision to proceed with the activity, modify it, cancel it or implement contingency plans should be made based on the pre-activity check and any issues that could reasonably be considered to negatively affect the activity and/ or the health and wellbeing of the participants and staff.

Adventure activity guidelines

The safe running of outdoor and adventure activities requires:

  • appropriate planning
  • the identification of potential risks and difficulties
  • active decision making.

These adventure activity guidelines are for developing a risk register specific to the location, activity and group participating. They support teachers’ professional judgement and experience. These may be incorporated into the risk register for the overall excursion or developed separately, using the risk registers available in Resources tab – under Activity Specific Risk Registers. 

If the excursion has an overnight camping component, the camping guidelines are relevant in addition to any planned specific activities. The length and difficulty of an overnight route should be selected so that groups generally arrive at the camp well before dark, with sufficient energy left to make camp and prepare a meal.  This may not, however, be appropriate in all situations, for example, when it is preferable to walk at cooler times of the day.

These adventure activity guidelines are agreed minimum activity standards for adventure operators and they do not necessarily reflect the greater duty of care owed to students.

Specific activities guidelines

Adventure activities without guidelines

Schools may consider adventure-based activities for which specific guidelines have not been provided. A thorough risk assessment is critical when undertaking an activity for which guidelines have not been provided.

For these activities schools need to comply with the Australian Adventure Activity Standards, and consider the greater duty of care that is required for students.

Before undertaking these activities, principals must satisfy themselves that the activities:

  • are of education value
  • are supervised and instructed by appropriately experienced and/or qualified staff
  • when offered by an external provider, have appropriate insurance cover.

Further information and advice should also be gathered from more than one source. This may be obtained through:

  • peak bodies
  • professional associations
  • colleagues with experience instructing the activity with students.

Flying Foxes

Flying Foxes are covered under the Challenge Ropes Course Guidelines.

Caving

Caving activities must only be conducted under the following circumstances:

  • novices must only attempt the simplest caves
  • only teachers and other adults with extensive caving experience lead and supervise students
  • there is a ratio of no more than five students to one instructor
  • permission to enter caves is obtained from the appropriate land manager.

Flying or hot air ballooning

Only commercial operators licensed to carry passengers can be used for school organised activities.

Unsuitable activities

These activities are unsuitable for school students because of the potential risks involved:

  • bungee jumping
  • hang gliding or other gliding activities
  • parachuting or skydiving
  • flying ultra-light aircraft.

Resources

Resources

Local school policy

A downloadable excursions policy template for Victorian government schools is available on the Department’s School Policy Templates Portal — Camps and Excursions (including local excursions) (login required). Schools can modify the template to suit their local circumstances.

Forms

The forms below have been developed by the Department to ensure that schools’ legal obligations with regard to the duty of care towards students are met.

Schools are not required to use these exact forms if they have other communication methods for seeking consent and collecting information for excursions. However, schools should ensure that they do not make substantive modifications to the key information, or remove questions contained in these forms, without seeking advice from the Department’s Legal Division.

Schools are also reminded that privacy legislation covers the collection of personal information by schools. Further information about the collection of personal information may be found at Privacy and Information Sharing.

Planning Documentation

These documents have been developed to assist in the planning of excursions 

Risk Management Tools

Activity Specific Risk Registers

Schools may use the below risk registers, developed for specific activities. School must tailor these risk registers to the individual circumstances of their activity and participating group. For guidance on specific activities, see the Guidance tab.

External information resources

School Update articles relevant to this topic (login required)


Reviewed 02 June 2020