Across the Australian school sector, there is evidence of a growing commitment to duty of care. More schools are planning their student trips with a stronger focus on identifying, avoiding and minimising all possible risks; ensuring their travellers are in safe hands while on the move; and developing strategies to manage any issues that may occur during the trip.
‘Duty of care’ is the school’s legal obligation to provide a standard of reasonable care while undertaking any activities that could potentially put their travellers at risk. If this standard is not met and the school’s actions are considered negligent, the school could be at risk of a lawsuit. This can also create knock-on effects including financial and reputational damage.
Schools not only have a duty of care to students and staff participating in group tours, but also a responsibility to protect the wellbeing of principals and teachers travelling for conferences and professional development courses.
To fulfil their duty of care, schools should take the following steps with the specialist support of an academic travel management company such as Campus Travel:
- Develop a risk management plan or matrix that identifies and rates all possible risks, and provides mitigation measures
- Provide briefings for travelling students and their families to increase their awareness of simple ways to avoid risks, and steps to take in an emergency
- Check and qualify all suppliers including hotels, tour operators and bus companies – particularly those based in other countries – to ensure they have the necessary indemnity insurance and are reputable and financially stable
- Provide adequate travel insurance
- Ensure booking compliance with the school’s travel policy, to assist in the tracking of travellers if required
- Ensure the school and its travellers have access to 24/7 emergency assistance
- Establish procedures for medical or emergency evacuation of students in a crisis situation.