Reduce the risk of this winter’s school ski trip
Reduce the risk of this winter’s school ski trip
As winter settles in, many snowsport-enthusiast teachers take their students on what may be a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience for some students. For others, it might be the beginning of a love of snowsports that continues into adulthood. Ski trips clearly provide a fun leisure activity that offer educational benefits including the learning of a new skill, getting a love of the outdoors, learning to overcome challenges and all the social skills associated with overseas travel and residential trips. But how can teachers make sure their planning gives a better chance of a safe, stress-free trip?
Here are a few tips that hopefully serve as useful reminders. These tips are based primarily on our many years’ experience of supporting schools with actual incidents. On many occasions, ski trip related incidents could and sometimes should have been prevented.
If your school would benefit from specialist critical incident support in the event of a serious incident this ski season, you can retain Pharos Response to be on call 24/7 to provide expert support for all your school trips for a whole year for just £1.00 per pupil on roll per year. Remember we can only support schools who have a live subscription at the time of their incident but subscribing is simple and very cost effective.
Top tips to reduce risks on your next school ski trip
1. Choose your ski trip provider carefully. If they don’t have an LOtC Quality Badge, use a provider checklist. There are many good quality operators who understand schools’ needs and it makes sense to use them. Many are members of the School Travel Forum and others even conform to the British Standard 8848, which provides added assurance. So do your due diligence and ask questions – before you book!
2. Check that travel insurance is suitable for the activities you will be taking part in and whether this is included in the package when booked through a tour operator. Know the exclusions and ensure students and parents are made aware if, for instance, personal property is not covered.
3. Consider attending a Snowsport England ‘Snowsport Course Organiser’ course for teachers. Whilst not compulsory, these courses do provide valuable advice.
4. Double check exactly what supervision is provided by the local ski school staff. Also ensure that the school’s own risk assessment covers any aspects that the tour operator’s might not, such as behavioural management and student downtime.
5. Coach travel is probably the highest risk part of a ski trip. Use due diligence to ensure the chosen coach company is reputable and ensure at least one member of staff is awake and watching the driver at all times. In the event of driver fatigue, an alert teacher intervening and insisting on an unscheduled rest break can save lives – even if this delays the schedule. It is essential that everyone wears a seatbelt at all times, minimise or prohibit walking around and restrict use of the onboard toilets – a rest stop in a service station is much better all round.
6. Evenings, when staff and students are relaxing, are another time of heightened risk. Ensure supervision during evening activities such as swimming is sufficient, and that staff know where students are at all times. It makes sense for all staff to avoid the gluhwein or other alcohol-based aprés ski activities (and hopefully it goes without saying that students should not be drinking!).
7. Ensure first aid and emergency arrangements are included in the planning. Highly qualified medics will be available on the slopes but again, for the journey and ‘down time’, suitable cover and access to first aid kits should be planned.
8. Correct clothing and equipment is essential for a safe and happy trip. Parents and students should be given plenty of notice, with practical advice as to what to look for in sufficiently good clothing so they can shop around and find the most affordable items. Some retailers offer special discounts if the school orders items together.
9. Get advice! Talk with other colleagues who have led ski trips, your Educational Visits Coordinator, other schools and ask for references, especially if you’re using a new provider for the first-time. If your school has access to an Educational Visits Advisor who is part of the Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel, they will be able to give you further guidance, including that referring to the National Guidance framework.
10. TravelAware! The Government’s FCDO and TravelAware campaign provides a wealth of advice and help to travellers and the Preparing for Winter Sports Abroad page contains further links that may be helpful.
If your school would benefit from specialist critical incident support in the event of a serious incident this ski season, you can retain Pharos Response to be on call to provide expert support for all your school trips for a whole year for just £1.00 per pupil on roll per year. Remember we can only support schools who have a live subscription at the time of their incident but subscribing is simple and very cost effective.
Click here to register your interest in Pharos’ services and we will be in touch.