School groups

Keeping in mind the principles of in loco parentis and ‘duty of care’, outdoor leaders need to be especially diligent in the preparation of a risk management strategy when leading school groups. With the increasing risk of litigation, leaders of school groups need to be very well prepared.

In addition to normal risk management strategies, there are specific requirements which need to be followed. Each of the states and territories of Australia has publications which outline the requirements which apply in government schools, available from the relevant state or territory government education department. As an example, the guidelines for Victoria are found in Safety Guidelines: Camping and Bush Activities (1998) and Safety in Outdoor Adventure Activities (1992). It would be prudent for leaders of many other groups (e.g. Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expeditions, Scouts, youth groups, etc.) to follow these requirements. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme is very commonly conducted within schools, and so it must comply with the relevant guidelines.

Table 6.2 summarises some of the main guidelines for the states and territories. Some common requirements throughout Australia include:

  • approval from principal (plus school council in Victoria, and operational superintendent in Northern Territory)
  • signed parental consent required (after detailed briefing)
  • medical information and medical alert (summary) required
  • emergency contact person/procedure required
  • minimal impact bushwalking practices outlined (except in Queensland)
  • preparation of students
  • risk management plans and or strategies in place (in Victoria, the Emergency and Security Management Branch must be notified for government schools)
  • notification of local authorities (e.g. national parks, police, fire authorities).

As with most things, requirements change over time. All leaders of school or other groups are urged to check information with the relevant education authority section responsible for these matters.

Table 6.2 Summary of some guidelines for bushwalks in remote or semi-remote areas for school students in Australia
 Staff:Student ratio day walksStaff:Student ratio overnight walksGender balance for staff required for co-ed groupsOther staffing requirementsQualifications required for staff
ACT1:101:8Not specifiedNot specifiedRAFC1 recommended.
NSW1:151:10RecommendedAt least two staff and at least one a teacher.First aid.
NTNot specifiedNot specifiedMandatoryAt least two teachers or staff recomended.First aid, BLC6.
QldNot specifiedNot specifiedNot specifiedAt least two staff, at least one registered teacher.First aid.
SA1:10 to 1:1521:103 1:54RecommendedMinimum of two staff.First aid. One with BLC6 from SA.
Tas1:101:7.5 (Max group=17)RecommendedAt least two staff, usually at least one teacher.TAS BLC7 recommended for teacher in charge. First aid, RAFC1 recommended.
Vic1:101:6Recommended for overnight walks.At least two staff. One must be a teacher employed by the Education Department or the school council.Appropriate first aid and experience for activity. RAFC1 recommended.
WA1:222:118 1:119RecommendedAt least one teacher.First aid.

1: RAFC remote area first aid qualification is recommended or highly recommended. 2: Day walk ratio changes with year level in SA. Years 1-3=1:10, Years 4-5=1:12, Years 6-12=1:15. 3: SA ratio is 1:10 for walks of up to three days in easy terrain on predominantly marked trails. 4: SA ratio is 1:5 for remote or isolated areas. 5: BMLC - Bushwalking and Mountaincraft Leadership Certificate. 6: BLC - Bushwalking Leader Certificate (SA). 7: BLC - Bushwalking Leader Certificate (Tas). 8: WA ratio is 2:11 for Years 1-7. 9: WA ratio is 1:11 for Years 8-12.