The following guidance has been developed in consultation with, or taking into account direct advice from, the following organisations:
- The Home Office
- The National Counter Terrorism Security Office
- The Outdoor Education Advisors Panel – National Guidance
- Hampshire County Council Emergency Planning
- Run, Hide, Tell – National Guidance following London terror attacks
Following the terrible events over the past few months and years – physical assaults on UK students in Ghana in 2018, the attack on the Hotel in Kenya in January 2019 and the spate of terrorist attacks in Manchester and London, Europe and other areas of the world, there has been understandable concern from parents and schools regarding school visits to London, other cities, Europe and Africa in general, especially where there are large public events.
Our advice is that there is currently no need to cancel any such visits by default. Updates will be shown on the EVOLVE homepage. However, it is highly recommended that all visits to such locations should be reviewed in terms of the appropriateness of the risk assessment and management strategies, taking into account the following notes.
There is no advice against visits to venues and locations within the UK, including London. The threat level within the UK had been set at 'Severe' for the past 48 months, and is currently still so. This situation provides the Government with the ability to focus additional resources, but there is no information at present to suggest that specific targeted risks have materially changed. The Home Office advises caution and awareness at all times, but does not advise the cancelling of activities in general.
For those travelling abroad, and especially to Africa and South America, advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office includes information about current events. With regard to the threat of terrorism, the FCO states that the threat level is HIGH in most European countries, and in Africa. Advice states, for example, that "the French government has warned the public to be especially vigilant and has reinforced its security measures". For Belgium, the FCO advice is that "You should remain vigilant, stay away from crowded places and follow the instructions of the Belgian authorities". Similar advice is in place for most other countries – Germany, Spain, etc. However, the FCO do not advise against travel to France, Belgium or any other western European country.
With respect to Ghana, Kenya and other African destinations, FCO advice is more focused on the possibility petty crime which could involve, in rare occasions, criminal and physical violence. The FCO note that sexual assaults, although rare, are not unknown in beach and tourist destinations and especially after dark.
However, there is no specific FCO advice against travel to such countries.
As such, insurance companies are treating cancellation as 'disinclination to travel'. Any withdrawal or cancellation would be the personal decision of the individual parent or school, and may incur financial losses as travel insurance will only cover such costs where there is direct FCO advice against travel.
In both the UK and abroad, expect to find heavily increased levels of security in place in all public places, and consequent delays to transport and during entry to public venues.
Schools planning future visits or with any upcoming visits to any location (whether in the UK or abroad) should take the following steps if possible:
- Ensure parents are fully aware of the nature of the visit from the start (and before they ‘sign up’), and understand the potential risks that may be offered by the nature of the venue, location or environment in the city or country to be visited - Pointing parents to the FCO Travel Advice sites for overseas destinations, for example.
- Ensure you are fully following National Guidance (www.oeapng.info) for all visits abroad as far as appropriate. Consult and use the National Guidance documents “Visits Abroad” and “Overseas Expeditions “. These provide comprehensive checklists of issues to be considered –choosing an appropriate Provider or, (if not using a Provider), planning self – led visits, accommodation security, travel arrangements in country, local and cultural considerations, emergency plans, health care actions, insurance, etc. Create or re-assess your risk assessments, travel plans and programmes against the good practice within these documents.
- Ensure that all visits to city locations , large public events are fully recorded on EVOLVE, even if they are just 'day' visits, with all risk assessments, programmes, timetables, staff information, contact details, etc. in place. In most cases, these will not require our 'approval' (unless residential, adventure activities or abroad), but EVOLVE will help us to quickly find 'who is where' in the event of an incident, and thus allow us and Emergency Planning colleagues to provide quick support and aid if required.
- Ensure that risk assessments, programmes and supervision strategies are reviewed and amended if appropriate, and all attached to the EVOLVE form. You should ensure that your pastoral risk assessment and supervision strategy is detailed, and includes planning that is specific to the children you are taking, the actual place you are visiting and the activity you are undertaking. This should include all aspects of travel, as well as supervision throughout the visit, including accommodation, 'downtime', evenings / overnight periods. It is particularly important to minimise the amount of 'free' or downtime during visits, and to ensure that appropriate supervision is in place throughout the entirety of the visit.
- Ensure that all staff and students are inducted into and understand the management and communication strategies in place for the visit. This should involve all staff having each others' mobile numbers, and checks to ensure that phones are operative whilst abroad.
- Where an incident occurs shortly before your travel, communicate with parents at the earliest opportunity to explain what you intend to do, and the actions being taken. Be clear that it is unlikely that school or HCC / School travel insurance would be able to refund any costs incurred by parents withdrawing their child from a visit where there is no FCO or Home Office advice against travel. Discuss options for postponement or transfer of dates with your travel provider as an alternative, if that is possible or desirable.
- Consider how your leadership team would manage an enforced group split. Have you agreed rendezvous locations?
- Consider possible alternative meeting points, safe areas or venues, near where you intend to be, that you could use as a meeting point or as an emergency shelter.
- Consider how you would get out of the location in an emergency, bearing in mind that the direct route and planned transport might no longer be an option and, if on a day visit, consider also the possibility of an enforced overnight stay. Are you aware of alternatives and can you access emergency funds to pay for them? Is there a reserve of any critical medication?
- Be vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times, especially after dark. This is especially true when arriving at accommodation, whether in the UK or abroad, where any agreed or expected security should be confirmed / checked (as appropriate to the nature of the location – eg: from simple locked windows/doors through to possible on site security.)
- Avoid congregating too long inside entrances to major public sites – stations, museums, sports stadiums, etc.
- At ports and airports don't linger unnecessarily on the public side of security screening.
- Where you have a booking with an Educational Service at a large public facility (e.g. National Gallery, British Museum), contact the service to discuss the option of bringing your group into the building via alternative entrances to those used by the general public, to minimise the time spent in public foyer areas where many people congregate.
- Where working with a Provider (eg school travel company or Expedition company) or other Partner (eg Charitable organisation) fully discuss all aspects of the visit and its planning, against the advice within National Guidance for all visits, whether in the UK or abroad.
- You should consider having a 'school mobile', held by the visit leader, which you can give the number of to all students (rather than giving out a personal staff's mobile number).
- Ensure that all students know what to do in the event of any incident, or if individuals become separated. A simple 'emergency card' in the language of the host country, with names and contact details of staff would be helpful, and a similar card for UK city visits would be sensible.
- Ensure all staff have printed copies of the Serious Incident Procedure cards (download from EVOLVE under the 'Resources' tab).
- Contact your travel provider and discuss any specific advice, changes or actions they intend to implement or would recommend. If postponement to a later date is possible or appropriate, then it might be considered.
- Maintain an overview of the FCO travel website.
Outdoor visits are an essential and very positive part of teaching and learning within the curriculum. Statistically, they are and remain very safe. Good management and professional decision making will help to ensure they remain so, and schools should be confident in continuing to access all appropriate outdoor educational opportunities.
If you have any specific concerns or wish clarification regarding your planned visits, please contact the Outdoor Education Service on 01962 876218 or via firstname.lastname@example.org
Further advice will be issued should circumstances change. Please monitor all 'pop up' messages and news links on the EVOLVE homepage prior to any visits.
Current at: 21 December 2018