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Risk assessment guide for schools

Your guide to risk management in schools

When it comes to risk management for schools, ensuring you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s can sometimes feel like a moving feast. Risk is inherent in everything schools do to deliver high quality education, and sensible health and safety management means making sure the focus is on risks that have the potential to cause significant harm, rather than wasting resources on more trivial matters and causing unnecessary paperwork.

Endsleigh’s risk management team believes in a creative approach where school leaders are encouraged to promote risk awareness rather than risk avoidance. If you condense down the essentials of creating a risk management strategy, it’s all about looking at the day-to-day risks and moving outwards.

It’s important an individual is appointed to have overall responsibility for risk management, but no one person can be expected to have all the knowledge and expertise required to ensure your school is fully compliant and safe in all areas. Once your risk management strategy is finalised and all the policies and legislative pegs are in the right holes, maintaining the strategy should be more straight forward.

According to the Independent Schools’ Bursars Association (ISBA), risk management is part of a bursar’s key responsibilities. Their website states the following:

  • Formulating, monitoring and implementing the school's policy to comply with the requirements of health and safety legislation. This could include acting as the health and safety assistant within the school and as chair of the health and safety committee. Carrying out risk assessments where appropriate and monitoring all departments to ensure they are carrying out risk assessments. Take professional advice as required.

  • Ensuring the school has adequate insurance cover at all times to include employer's liability, buildings and equipment cover, personal accident, travel insurance and other relevant cover. Professional advice should invariably be sought.

Your risk management strategy should include three pillars: a health and safety audit, a fire risk assessment and a physical security audit.

The health and safety audit

This is all about ensuring your school is a healthy and safe place for everyone who uses it. The Health and Safety Executive provides a useful checklist for classrooms to help identify any areas of concern. The checklist does not however cover drama or sports facilities or specialist classrooms such as laboratories, IT, art or design and technology departments. It is advised to consult an experienced risk management consultant for these areas where specialist equipment and substances are in use.

Some of the higher risks to manage include vehicle and pedestrian movements on site, refurbishment and construction work, and educational visits. Endsleigh’s risk management consultant is able to advise on all areas of health and safety within your school and can even conduct a Health Check, visiting your school to identify areas which you are managing well and those where you may need some extra support.

You will need to appoint one or more competent persons, depending on the size of your premises, to assist in undertaking any of the preventive and protective measures required. A competent person is someone with enough training and experience or knowledge and other qualities to be able to implement these measures properly. Our risk management consultant can act annually as your competent person to fulfil your duty under the management of health and safety at work regulations 1999, regulation 7 - health and safety assistance.

Fire risk assessment

A fire risk assessment should be the foundation for all fire precautions in your school and is intended to help you meet your legal duties under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.

A fire risk assessment is an organised and methodical look at your premises, the activities undertaken, and the likelihood that a fire could start and cause harm to those in and around the premises.

The aims of the fire risk assessment are:

  • To identify the fire hazards
  • To reduce the risk of those hazards causing harm to as low as reasonably practicable
  • To decide what physical fire precautions and management arrangements are necessary to ensure the safety of people in your premises if a fire does start

Your fire risk assessment should demonstrate that, as far as is reasonable, you have considered the needs of all relevant persons, including disabled people.

Five steps you need to take to carry out a fire risk assessment

As mentioned earlier in this blog, our risk management consultant can act annually as your competent person to fulfil your duty under the regulatory reform (fire safety) order 2005, article 18 - safety assistance.

Here’s a comprehensive guide that tells you everything you need to know about fire risk assessments in schools. It may look a little daunting, but we’re always here to help or to answer any questions.

Physical security audit

It is difficult to create a balance between a secure and safe environment without making your school look and feel like a fortress. A physical security audit will need to cover a huge range of areas and potential threats, from access identity passes and intruder alarms to parking, deliveries, gates, CCTV, signage, car parks and lighting.

Our risk management team can always support you with this and ensure you are meeting your legislative duties of care.

There are a million and one things to consider when it comes to ensuring pupils are safeguarded at all times in respect of government legislation. The Department for Education’s statutory guidance publications for schools and local authorities is a useful source for more information.

Insurance for independent schools, pupils and fee payers

As mentioned in ISBAs guide to a Bursar’s responsibilities, part of your role includes ensuring you have adequate insurance in place for your school to mitigate financial, reputational and third-party liability risks, including covers such as cyber liability, public and employers’ liability, professional indemnity, buildings and contents, and more.

With almost a lifetime’s experience providing support for the education sector, we can help you with your risk management and commercial insurance needs. You’ll also receive expert support and advice with a dedicated client executive who will work with you to find the solution that’s right for your school.

We can also add value to your school’s offering with a range of customisable insurance packages for fee-payers, with specialist policies for personal accident, personal possessions and fees coverage following the loss of a parent or fee-payer.

Find out more about independent schools insurance and other services.

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