Barcelona Field Studies Centre

Fieldwork Safety Issues

The health and safety of students is always our main priority throughout your stay in Barcelona. We support the view that accidents just 'don't happen', but have physical or psychological causes that can, with careful preparation be largely planned against.

Britain has amongst the world's strictest school trip guidelines which involve close attention to the detail of trip planning and risk assessment. The guidelines have been criticized for their bureaucratic nature, for no matter how many rules are imposed they will not include the key ingredients to a safe visit: sound judgement and plain commonsense.

Life can never be completely risk-free and accidents may still occur, despite the best of plans. For example, students (and staff) may still slip and fall on footpaths normally safely used by the very young and elderly - despite wearing the most technically-advanced footwear and giving close attention to where they are putting their feet. The footpaths we use, however, are not normally dangerous and such slips may result in a twisted ankle but not a tragedy.

We need to be aware that some students are unfamiliar with rural environments, and some will have been protected by their parents from experiencing the risk situations regarded in the past as part of a normal childhood. The identification of individuals who may require extra support is therefore very important.

It is unrealistic to assume that all students can be directly supervised for every second of every hour of the day. High risk points, however, should be identified where students must be watched and protected appropriately for that 'every second' and a comprehensive risk assessment should aim to identify these.

Our task, in the words of the coroner James Kenroy, (after another recent well publicised U.K. school trip tragedy) is to avoid assuming nothing can go wrong. "I would look to the Titanic for a classic illustration, in that the impossible must be planned for," he said.

Our philosphy is to take no unnecessary risk. Undertaking fieldwork overseas is adventurous and stressful enough - involving a huge commitment of initiative, time and energy on the part of the school staff, particularly the group leader and trip organiser.

"The potential hazards... should not discourage teachers. Pupils can derive a good deal of educational benefit from taking part in visits with their schools"
Department for Education

We offer very strong support in helping you meet all of the health and safety guidelines, ensuring, for example that you have access to comprehensive risk assessments and a Spanish speaker with you throughout your work. We assist you in structuring student free time, since it is during the 'free time' more relaxed and less strictly supervised breaks that incidents are most likely to occur. We hope students will appreciate that some restrictions are inevitable on their natural exuberance.

The need to examine very carefully what we do is a positive one and we hope that parents (and the media) will publicly support the efforts of the increasingly small number of staff prepared to give up their free time and take the risk of leaving the school or college premises with a student group.

To view a BBC news summary of DfEE fieldtrip guidelines, click UK Government fieldtrip safety guidelines summary.

A discussion of the issues surrounding the 'suing/blame' culture in the U.K. can be viewed by clicking UK fieldtrip issues: the blame culture.