For most children, school trips are one of the highlights of any school term. They represent a time to experience something interesting and fun and to bond with friends beyond the confines of the classroom. Unfortunately, every school trip also comes with the added risk of being away from the safety and security of the school environment, where there is always the danger of children being accidentally hurt.
Recently, the unthinkable happened when an 11-year-old girl was tragically killed during a school trip to a Staffordshire theme park. The accident took place at Drayton Manor Theme Park when the girl fell from a rapids ride. She was subsequently airlifted to a children's hospital in Birmingham, but very sadly died shortly after arriving.
This tragedy serves as a devastating reminder of the need for schools to ensure that painstaking, comprehensive risk assessments are undertaken before any trips are embarked upon. Figures from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reveal that fatalities during school trips are no more common than one per year, but of course even this is one too many and everything must be done to ensure that such a thing never happens.
In law, responsibility for pupil safety remains with schools
Even today it is not unusual for schools to mistakenly believe that when outsourcing the organisation of events and activities to third parties, they are no longer responsible for the supervision or safety of its pupils. In reality, the opposite is true and the safety of its pupils remains the primary duty and full responsibility of the school. It is actually only the supervision and execution of the activities themselves that may be delegated or contracted to a third party.
In the landmark case of Woodland v Essex City Council in 2013, when one 10-year-old boy received injuries during a swimming lesson that resulted in brain damage, the boy's school claimed that any negligence on behalf of the lifeguard on duty was the responsibility of the company they had contracted to supervise the pupils. However, the Supreme Court ruled that such delegation was not permissible and the responsibility for the child's safety remained with the school and its Local Authority. In all such cases, it is therefore the responsibility of schools to ensure that all third-party contract employees are sufficiently skilled in their jobs and trained in first aid.
What can you do if your child is hurt during a school trip?
Details of the horrific accident at Drayton Manor Theme Park are still emerging and as yet it is not known whether supervision was lacking or whether the accident was wholly unpreventable. It is important for parents to know, however, that help is available if the unthinkable should happen.
Sometimes of course, even when all possible risk assessments have been carried out and children are fully and appropriately supervised, accidents will still happen and no blame can reasonably be apportioned. However, in cases where parents feel that a school's duty of care has not been adequately engaged, Match Solicitors' team of dedicated education lawyers are on hand to represent the family and see that justice is done.
If you feel your child's school has not adequately extended its duty of care to your child, please don't hesitate to get in contact.