By Leila Holmyard, Associate Director, Safeguarding, Well-being, Belonging, Frankfurt International School & former CIS International Advisor
As international schools continue to expand their horizons with off-site educational trips, the importance of ensuring student safety during these excursions has never been more paramount.
The latest CIS Briefing for members offers invaluable guidance. It serves as a comprehensive resource for schools planning off-site trips. While all staff at our member schools can access the full briefing and several others on other safeguarding topics via our member-only portal (CIS Community portal > KnowledgeBase > Briefings), I’ve outlined ten practical steps all schools can follow to ensure their off-site adventures are not only educational and enriching but also safe and secure.
All CIS Briefings are written collaboratively with experts in relevant fields. For this one, we collaborated with CIS Affiliated Consultants Jake Wiid, an educational trips advisor; Jane Foster, with expertise in safeguarding and child protection; Dr Emily Meadows, specialising in LGBTQ+ inclusion; and Chris Durbin, CIS International Advisor. (Find out more about Jake, Jane, Emily and other CIS Affiliated Consultants).
Our goal? To support schools to develop well-considered and consistent practices for off-site trips so that students can safely explore and learn beyond the school, truly embodying the spirit of international education.
Here are ten key considerations for schools:
- Developing comprehensive policies: Policies need to address all facets of student safety and well-being, from the planning stage to post-trip reflections. They should take account of legal requirements of safeguarding students in diverse environments as well as practice guidance from local and global settings.
- Background checks: The safety of students begins with the people they travel with. Schools should be aware and understand that students will most likely view any adult accompanying a trip as a trusted adult, even after a trip is concluded, and therefore should conduct background checks for all staff and volunteers.
- Staff training: The success of any off-site trip relies on the preparedness of staff. Training should be tailored to the school’s context as well as the specific trip, covering crucial areas like supervision expectations, risk assessment, emergency procedures, and the nuances of handling different age groups and needs. Our members can use the briefing to guide in-depth training sessions.
- Risk management: Schools should meticulously evaluate potential risks associated with different locations and activities. This process should be thorough and dynamic and involve experts where necessary. Where the school has a standard risk assessment template, the briefing emphasises the importance of reviewing this for each trip, taking account of unique aspects such as weather conditions, individual student needs and global or local circumstances.
- Special considerations: Evaluate the unique needs of different student groups with care. These might include athletes, LGBTQ+ students and those with seen and unseen disabilities. Schools should develop strategies that are inclusive and ensure that these groups are safe and supported throughout the trip.
- Student orientation: Students should not be passive participants in their safety. Schools should organize orientation sessions that inform students about conduct expectations, safety protocols, and self-awareness needed to navigate different environments safely. Ideally, such expectations of students should be co-created to foster a sense of ownership and personal responsibility.
- Parental communication: Clear, transparent communication with parents is essential. Schools should provide detailed information about the trips, including itineraries, safety measures in place, and procedures for obtaining informed consent.
- Supervision strategies: Effective supervision is key. Schools need to implement these strategies to ensure continuous oversight of students. The briefing provides guidance for how to determine supervision requirements for trips, taking into consideration the age and needs of the students, the type of activity, the experience level of the staff and other factors that would impact supervision.
- Emergency procedures: A well-defined emergency response plan is critical. Schools must not only develop these plans in line with the briefing's recommendations but also ensure that all relevant community members—staff, parents and students alike—are familiar with and can execute these plans effectively.
- Review & reflect: How did it go? After each trip, review and reflect on the experience. This practice helps identify areas for improvement, highlights/celebrates successes, and fosters a culture of continuous learning and enhancement in off-site trip management.
Here’s wishing you fun and safe off-site learning adventures and experiences!
For anyone working at CIS member schools:
- Member schools can leverage the CIS briefing in the member portal to develop or review their policies regarding off-site trips. Member-only CIS Briefings focused on safeguarding topics in the CIS Community portal > KnowledgeBase > Briefings
- Child Protection Workshops
- Complex questions: LGBTQ+ inclusive approaches to overnight school trips
- What does an Educational Visits Coordinator do?
- Blogs about safeguarding and well-being
- About child protection at CIS
- Child protection
- Diversity (I-DEA)
- Student well-being