The current Western Australia’s Department of Education (WADoE) Excursions policy document was enacted in 2003 and serves as the primary guidance for the planning, and initiating of off-site school excursions. A school excursion is defined as an activity that take place off of the school grounds as an integral opportunity to bridge in school teaching to unique learning activities. The Excursions policy is significant because it provides a complete outline for the successful and efficient planning process, analysis of risks, and the required approvals for all excursions to include process for overnight, camps, interstate, and international excursions.
The Excursion policy has 4 general areas that must be addressed to properly plan for and carry out off-site school excursion in a safe manner. The four areas include the assessment of the overall risk of off-site excursions, the supervision strategies for those in charge, the provision of information to parents and parental consent, and communication strategy development. All four areas must be properly addressed and included in the Excursion Management Plan and in the Emergency Response plan. The emergency response plan shall include the names of all students and their parental contact information, all Student Health Forms and Health Care Authorizations, any known health conditions and health information of the adult supervisors (WADoe, 2003). This Emergency Response plan shall be in the possession of the teacher in charge and a copy left with the school during the excursion.
The Excursions policy provides guidelines for off-site school planned educational opportunities. The policy provides the provision that covered excursions are supervised and organized by a school employee as defined by school policies the School Education Act of 1999, and having received prior approval from at a minimum the principal, for interstate excursions the Executive Director and for international, the Minister for Education (WADoE, 2003). The DoE supports the use of off-site educational excursions to reinforce the normal in school curriculum and is essential to the in-depth understanding of skills and ideas. Given the importance of the excursions it is also understood that any off-site excursions carry a great deal of risk and as such require good planning and in-place action plans for any incidents involving students.
Before an off-site excursion is approved the staff member responsible for planning the excursion must submit an Excursion Management Plan. According to WADoE Excursion’s policy (2003) the Excursion Management Plan must include any risks relevant to the environment to include the environment for the excursion, transportation, and student capacity. The capabilities for the staff to supervise students, any external contributors to the excursion, strategies to communication during the excursion, emergency response planning, means of identifying excursion participants, what information will be provided to parents/guardians to obtain their consent, and the overall briefing of those participating in the excursion. The excursion management plan is a required document that is available as in Appendix A of the Excursions policy document.
The teacher in charge must conduct an overall risk analysis of all parts of the Excursion Management Plan. Given an instance where students must be billeted any external adult must apply and currently have a Working With Children Checks, and standards for housing based on gender age and asthmatic medical conditions (WADoE, 2003). The principal must verify adequate transportation and credentials of drivers and parents notified of all transportation arrivals and departures.
A valid assessment of the skills of the supervisory team is needed to identify and potential risks associated with the excursion. The safest environment for the excursion must be identified and a rescue emergency plan must be set. Other factors for consideration are the weather, student’s physical activity as well as the number of students and the ability for the supervising adults to manage the students given their health, skill, and prior experience with children (WADoE, 2003).
Full details about the excursion must be provided to parents/guardians and their written consent returned to the school for each child to participate. The details must be given in advance of the scheduled excursion and must include a detailed schedule of events to include the purpose, the dates, what activities students will participate in and for how long, the location, the method of transportation, costs, the supervision that will be provided and liability in regards to student accident or injury and any other special items required (WADoE, 2003).
A proper communication strategy is a part of the initial Excursion management plan. The chosen methods of communication should indicate the methods to garnish the attention of the entire group out on the excursion as well as any special signals for emergency purposes. The communication strategy must be able to contact those at the excursion and off-site in the event of an emergency. The communication strategy must be rehearsed well before the excursion and then just prior to departure to the.
Given the in depth specifications of the Western Australia’s Department of Education (WADoE) Excursions policy document it can be applied to a variety of scenarios in order to determine the appropriate actions as allowed by the Department of Education and general teaching principals. Given three different scenarios the Excursions policy document will be analyzed to ensure appropriate and justifiable measures are taken and adhered to. The first area for discussion is the issue of parental finances. If a student’s parents are experiencing financial hardship and cannot afford to pay for their child to participate in a planned school excursion, according to the excursion policy schools should attempt to provide financial assistance (WADoE, 2003). The excursion policy of South Wales’ Exclusion Policy Implementation Procedures (2009) has clear provisions on inclusivity, in that al students unless there are exceptional circumstances will be included to participate an that excursion costs should be planned as to not cause undue hardship or financial burden to any individual or their family.
An important part of the Excursion Management Plan includes an Emergency Response Plan that should be understood by each member of the supervisory team and applied in the instances of emergencies. A thoroughly executed plan shall include a proper assessment of the supervisors accompanying students on the excursion. In deciding upon supervisors they must be skilled and able to effectively render emergency care, and monitor and assess the physical status and wellbeing of all students (WADoE, 2003). In the event that a student under the care of a parent helper is injured and requires medical assistance, the Emergency Response Plan should be referred to for the best course of action. According to the WADoE Excursion policy (2003) each adult staffer on the off-site excursion should supervise the behavior of students and take initiatives to prevent them from harm or injury. Given an injury the appropriate communication signals for an emergency must be utilized and on-site and off-site emergency personnel notified. Parents/guardians must be made aware that for excursions not involving overnight stays that the staff members having provided n adequate supervision in the absence of negligence cannot be held responsible for bodily injury to students or their personal property (WADoE, 2003).
Another situation, which required adherence to the Excursion policy, is in the event that three students miss the bus. Only if the school Principal provides authorization can a teacher use their private vehicles to transport students. Additionally, the Principal must verify that any privately owned vehicle that is utilized has comprehensive motor vehicle insurance coverage (WADoE, 2003). Also it is noted that private vehicles are only utilized if there is no other option.
Off-site excursions are proven beneficial to enhance the education of students. In fact it is proven that students learn just as much and more by incorporating lessons and activities from outside the classroom (Hurst & Cook, 2010). While any off-site excursion carries greater risk than normal classroom participation a well-planned excursion can be carefully executed to ensure the general health and wellbeing of all involved.
- New South Wales Department of Education & Training (2009). Excursions Policy Implementation Procedures (02) 9561 8514. Director School and Regional Policy, New South Wales. Retrieved from: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/
- Hurst, C. & Cooke, A. (2010). Introduction to Teaching. South Melbourne, Vic: Cengage Learning.
- Western Australia Department of Education [WADoE]. (2003). The Government of Western Australia. Retrieved from: http://www.det.wa.edu.au/