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Last updated on 26 March 2018
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You should determine staffing ratios for school trips based on an assessment of risk, and you must follow your LA's guidance where this exists. Here's what you need to weigh up, including extra needs you must meet for pupils in the EYFS.

Determine ratios based on the risk assessment

You're expected to carry out an appropriate risk assessment, and determine your staffing needs based on that assessment. 

This means that schools must determine the number of adults required on an educational visit, depending on the nature of the outing. This includes trips abroad. There are separate rules for the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), as explained in section 3.

This was explained to us by the Department for Education (DfE).

It's ultimately up to the headteacher whether other adults can be included in staffing ratios for school trips, such as parent volunteers.

However, you should ensure that staff still have primary responsibility for supervising pupils at all times. This is taken from guidance from The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) (see page 24) on planning and leading adventurous activities.

You should also check with your LA whether it has particular requirements about ratios. Read on for more information about this in section 2.

Check whether your LA has requirements

If the LA is the employer in your school, you must comply with its directions on health and safety. Some local authorities (LAs) set their own staffing ratios, so you should check local arrangements.

Guidance from the DfE on health and safety in schools explains that this is a requirement of section 29(5) of the Education Act 2002. This section says that headteachers in schools where the LA is the employer must comply with any such direction from the LA.

The LA is the employer in community and voluntary controlled schools, and maintained nursery schools.

Even if the LA isn’t the employer, if you buy into any educational visits management system it has, you may still be expected to meet ratios set within this system.

EYFS trips

The DfE explained that before each trip with children in the EYFS, you must complete a full risk assessment. There should be at least as many adults to children as there would be in the classroom.

The relevant adult to child ratios are set out on pages 23-27 of the Statutory Framework for the EYFS. We summarise these requirements in our article on staffing ratios and qualification requirements in the EYFS.

The appropriate ratio on an outing is likely to be higher than these minimum requirements, according to guidance from the Outdoor Education Advisers' Panel (OEAP).

The EYFS framework also says:

  • Children must be kept safe while on outings
  • You must assess risks and identify steps to be taken to minimise and manage those risks
  • This assessment must include consideration of adult to child ratios, but does not necessarily need to be in writing
  • At least one person who has a current paediatric first aid certificate must accompany children on outings

This is set out on pages 22 and 31 of the framework.

You can download the OEAP's guidance on ratios and supervision from this page.

Factors to consider

The DfE’s guidance on health and safety, linked to above, says that “common sense should be used in assessing and managing the risks of any activity”. Health and safety procedures should always be proportionate to the risks of an activity. This is explained on page 4.

Try using the framework and factors suggested by the OEAP (in the guidance linked to above) for assessing requirements:

  • Staffing: who is needed or available? How competent are staff? What would be the consequences if a member of staff was indisposed?
  • Activities: what do you want the group to do and what is possible? How long will the visit last?
  • Group characteristics: prior experience, age, abilities, behaviour and maturity, gender and any specific needs (e.g., medical, dietary, emotional or educational)
  • Environment: indoors or out? Public space or restricted access? Urban, rural or remote? Don’t forget about environments you’ll pass through as well

While it isn't possible to set down definitive ratios for a particular age group or activity, the OEAP gives the following starting points for consideration:

  • Years 1 to 3: 1:6
  • Years 4 to 6: 1:10 or 1:15
  • Years 7 upwards: 1:15 or 1:20

However, it says these ratios wouldn’t be adequate to meet the needs of most residential or more complex visits.

The ratios above were originally taken from guidance from the Department for Education and Skills.

RoSPA's guidance, linked to in section 1, looks at factors to take into account when determining ratios on page 26.

Next, have a look at our article on risk assessments for school trips.

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