Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ofsted: Health and Safety


Schools with outstanding safeguarding arrangements invariably pay careful attention to pupils’ health and safety, with a focus on prevention and the maintenance of high standards. Day-to-day arrangements to protect pupils’ health and safety are well thought out and workable in practice.

Health and safety are carefully monitored in effective schools, so that senior managers and governors are aware of areas where improvements could be made with an eye to prevention rather than cure.

Monitoring and evaluation of the impact of policies on pupil outcomes were routine at Stratton Upper School and Community College and effective steps were taken to improve practice. For example, information from risk assessments had influenced the timing of classes and the flow of students in corridors to avoid crush and accidents.

At Monton Green Primary School, all staff had been involved in conducting an audit of the school environment which focused not just on the physical building but also on how the space was organised and used to best effect, to improve teaching and learning.

Two of the schools visited had created quieter areas to offer calm in a large busy school. The XL Centre was a safe haven where students at Congleton High School could access specialist teaching and resources. It was open before and after school and at break and lunchtimes and offered a warm and welcoming place to meet with friends. Students at The Deepings School, who were less comfortable mixing with others in a whole-school setting at break times, had the option of attending ‘Breakers’. Here, supervised by staff, they were able to remain inside and socialise with a smaller group of their peers.

Schools with effective provision for their pupils’ health and safety do not neglect their dignity and privacy either, for example by taking particular care to protect those with medical care needs. Arrangements for the storage of medicines or toxic substances are well understood by staff. Staff are clear about the schools’ policies for first aid and emergency aid and know the designated staff to whom pupils should be referred should the need arise. Some schools arrange for all support staff to receive first-aid training. There are references in section 5 reports to schools that provide all pupils with a course in basic first aid. Staff who are authorised to give medication receive appropriate training for the role. At Woodston Primary School, where there was a swimming pool on site, all staff received annual training in resuscitation.

Risk assessment is taken very seriously in schools with outstanding safeguarding arrangements, and is undertaken to good effect in promoting safety. Such assessments cover all aspects of the school’s work, such as premises and equipment, on-site activities, off-site activities and the venues used, use of minibuses and other forms of transport. Where relevant, risk assessments are carried out for individual pupils, and supported by action plans outlining how any identified risks would be managed. Although pupils have some awareness of the risk assessment process in their schools, they could play a more active role in conducting risk assessments both generally and in relation to their own personal needs.

In some schools, electronic systems for conducting risk assessments were said to be invaluable. At Stratton Upper School and Community College, those responsible for arranging educational visits were pleased with the electronic risk assessment system in place in the county. The electronic system stored and retrieved data already provided by other schools for some trips and prompted a very full assessment each time. At Ely Pupil Referral Unit, an electronic risk assessment reporting system was in place which enabled the school’s educational visits coordinator to link directly to the local authority database. This system stored and shared information about the venues and activities which were already known to the local authority. It helped the unit to assess the suitability of visits and to enter in the exact needs of each student, which could then alert the school to any particular risks it needed to be aware of. It had the added advantage of enabling the school to review and analyse data about, for example, the number of students on different trips, individual pupil participation, or how many art-related trips have taken place.

Regular health and safety audits of the premises are carried out by the schools’ own staff, often supplemented by their local authorities conducting six-monthly or annual checks and advising on any improvements which are needed. Where there are good systems in place that are easy to follow, faults or damage can be reported and rectified quickly.
At Stratton Upper School and Community College, the on-site manager could respond to calls for repairs immediately for minor breakages and had good systems for ensuring prompt attention to other defects. Staff reported how they liked the support of the email system for reporting faults and repairs needed. Some senior staff had radio phones and could reach a trouble spot or respond to a security issue very quickly; these are important and valued features on a large site.

Inspection reports on effective schools frequently commend the site security arrangements, for example as ‘tight but not obtrusive’, or ‘tempered by a common sense approach to assessing risk’. Effective arrangements exist for registering visitors to the site and helping them to feel welcomed rather than scrutinised. Pupils are aware that visitors must wear identification badges issued by school reception staff and that they should be cautious of anyone in the school who is not wearing a badge. Similar levels of security are in place for contractors working on site, with schools checking their identity carefully. Increasingly, inspectors report the use of security cameras around schools.

At the time of the survey visit to Woodston Primary School, significant building work was taking place on site. This had been managed very effectively to ensure the safety of pupils. Regular monthly meetings involved the Chair of Governors, the headteacher, local authority officers and the contractors. Daily school routines had been adjusted to minimise the risks to pupils. The pupils at Woodston had a good understanding of the safety measures put in place to protect them, for example the perimeter fencing.

Routines related to health and safety are carried out systematically and thoroughly in outstanding schools. For example, premises and grounds are kept free of hazards. Equipment is maintained to a high standard so that it does not pose a risk to anyone using it. Regular fire drills are carried out so that staff and pupils know what to do in the event of a fire and appropriate checks are made of fire-fighting equipment. Other safety checks, such as testing of electrical equipment, are routinely carried out by external contractors.

High standards in hygiene and cleanliness are evident in classrooms, corridors, dining areas and generally around school, reflecting the schools’ desire to create a welcoming and safe environment for pupils to learn. Particular attention is given to higher risk areas such as laboratories, sports areas and technology rooms; pupils are taught how they should behave in these areas and how to handle equipment safely. Internet safety is given high priority, with appropriate safeguards placed on computer systems to prevent access to unsuitable sites.

The schools revisited for this survey were aware of their responsibilities under the Disability Discrimination Act and took steps to improve accessibility to their premises and facilities, for example through the installation of more accessible showers and toilets to support and protect pupils with physical disabilities.

The fire and emergency evacuation policy at Turton High School Media Arts College was very clear. An additional feature in this school was that, in discussion with parents, a personalised evacuation plan was drawn up for students with disabilities.

Older students have more freedom but are also expected to take more responsibility. At Turton High School Media Arts College, for example, the ‘travel-to-school policy’ provided guidance for students on using their own transport, including their own cars. It included expectations of behaviour and car parking arrangements.

Accurate and up-to-date records are kept for all aspects of health and safety; electronic communication systems are effective in helping all staff to contribute to them. Good systems are in place for reporting health and safety matters to governors, enabling them to check that high standards were being maintained.

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