” To be alive at all involves some risk. ” – Harold Macmillan.
Many elements are involved in the creation of effective schools. In this post we will look at some of the factors and best practices which are commonly found in risk management in our schools.
Every school must have a comprehensive risk management policy which enables the proper management of all risks and hazards faced by that particular school. Risks have to be identified, assessed, eliminated or managed, and this entire process must be recorded. Every individual on the school compound, staff member or student, has some responsibility in the identification, reporting, and management of risk although principals carry most of the responsibility.
Principals must identify, assess and manage or eliminate any risks or hazards that threaten the health, safety, and well-being of students, staff and visitors to the school. Each principal is required to produce a risk management policy which is consonant with the needs of his or her school and the parameters set by the central Ministry of Education. The principal must then put risk management strategies and systems in place and make sure that everyone complies with them. This helps schools to attain their curricular goals and enhance their public image, since good risk management supports school effectiveness.
The Ministry of Education, the Board of Management and the principal of each school should arrange adequate insurance coverage for the school and its contents. They should also ensure that any relevant legal liability, such as public liability, is fully covered. Each school owes a common law duty of care to all its users. Principals must prevent breaches of this duty of care, which would attract legal claims for damages caused by their negligence.
To this end they establish committees which deal with occupational health and safety risks and emergency management in each school. The Board of Management and the principal of each school must also take various measures to create a safe and productive learning environment. These measures include, but are not limited to the following:
- Employing security guards to deter intruders and criminals.
- Installing perimeter fences and guarded gates.
- Trimming rotten branches from trees and removing rotting trees to prevent injury to students, staff and visitors.
- Replacing broken panes of glass and repairing anything which can cause physical injury.
- Repairing defective or damaged electrical, natural gas, or plumbing fixtures.
- Repairing or removing any surface, structure or object which can cause any person to slip, trip, fall, or be hit by a falling object.
- Keeping the school plant in good repair.
- Keeping playgrounds and sports equipment in good condition.
- Implementing safety regulations for the use of science laboratories and technical and vocational workshops.
- Arranging supervision for all curricular and extracurricular activities, on and off the premises.
- Insisting on written parental permission for all students going on tours, field trips or off-campus visits.
- Ensuring that students who had any contagious disease have medical certificates stating that they can return to school.
- Insisting that parents report their children’s pre-existing medical conditions when they are admitted into the school.
- Enforcing all school rules.
The principal’s management team, the occupational health and safety committee and the students’ council all have special roles to play in risk management. Finally, the principal must select interested members of staff for risk management training and should organize emergency practice evacuation drills from time to time. One cannot overstate the importance of good risk management in schools and its contribution to a positive school climate.