Jake Wiid at EVOLVE Advice, which supports schools in planning and running educational visits, gives the lowdown on staff/student ratios, using particular providers and more.
As educational visits advisers, our role is to provide advice, guidance and support on all matters relating to outdoor education, co-curricular activities and learning outside the classroom but in practice, it is more than that.
We are critical friends and a sounding board for heads and the senior leading team, challenging and advising, listening and developing visit leaders and educational visits coordinator (EVC) in their respective roles.
Here are the top three questions we’re asked as a service (as always, your employer/adviser should be your first source of advice):
1. What is the ratio of staff to students?
This is by far the most common question we get (e.g “we are taking 30 Year 6’s to the museum on a train, is two staff sufficient?”). It is not a simple yes or no. On all visits, there must be an effective level of supervision that has been approved by the EVC and head, and where applicable, in accordance with the governing body/employer policy.
The EYFS statutory framework sets ratios to be followed in those settings. For all other visits the visit leader, EVC and head must make a professional judgement regarding the number and suitability of staffing considering staff competence, the nature and requirements of individuals within the group (including those with additional needs), the activities and environment etc.
2. I have a student who is badly behaved. Do I have to take them?
This is a complex question and one which would need exploring on a case-by-case basis, however, there are some principles which can be applied. With all visits, inclusion should not be an after-thought and all visits should be planned with the whole cohort in mind.
The first thing we would check is if the student is in receipt of an EHCP (Education and Health Care Plan). If so, then consideration of The Equality Act 2010 should be given. If the student is not in receipt of an EHCP, then exclusion should not be the default position. If you are aware of a student’s behaviour you should address this at an early stage, involve parents, students and the visit leader, set a behaviour management plan and reasonable targets, hold regular meetings and ensure that if the student is excluded this does not come as a surprise.
Of course, if the student’s behaviour poses a real and credible risk to the health, safety and welfare of themselves, staff or other students, then your only alternative may be exclusion.
3. Can I use a particular venue/provider?
It is not an adviser’s job to tell you if a particular venue is right for the school or will meet your needs. However, what we can do is advise on the suitability from a safety perspective. Most advisers will recommend you visit a venue/provider who holds a Learning Outside the Classroom Quality Badge. If they do not, we may advise to ask the provider to complete a provider statement asking questions on safety, safeguarding, training, etc.