Leading sensible health and safety management in schools

Sensible health and safety management means making sure that the focus is on real risks with the potential to cause harm, not wasting resources on trivial matters and unnecessary paperwork. In short effective leaders follow a sensible and proportionate approach to health and safety management that promotes risk awareness rather than risk avoidance.

While many schools manage health and safety effectively and sensibly, some have adopted over cautious approaches. This means that pupils are missing out on challenging and exciting activities and learning opportunities, and the chance to develop new skills.

In schools sensible health and safety starts at the top and relies on every member of the management team making sure that risk is managed responsibly and proportionately. It is about creating a safe learning environment, giving pupils an appreciation of risk and how to deal with it. It means doing what is reasonably practicable This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, you do not need to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.  to reduce significant risks by putting in place control measures to manage the real risks. It is not about the elimination of all risk.

Health and safety arrangements in schools need to be proportionate and appropriate to the risks involved:

  • Primary schools and 'traditional' classrooms in secondary and sixth form colleges are typically lower risk environments, and you will probably already be doing enough. The classroom checklist, which is not mandatory, provides a useful prompt for these types of classroom.
  • Risks may increase in Design and Technology workshops, science laboratories, art studios, textiles, drama, and PE.
  • Some of the higher risks to manage include vehicle and pedestrian movements on site, refurbishment and construction work, and adventure activities. You may wish to consider the joint high level statement 'Children's play and leisure: promoting a balanced approach.'

The following guidance provides advice for all schools on:

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Updated: 2024-02-09