The Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (National Law) and the Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011 (National Regulations) prescribe a number of requirements for education and care services and family day care educators when they take children outside the education and care service, family day care residence or approved family day care venue as part of an excursion.
Excursions, including regular outings, provide valuable opportunities for children to explore the wider community and to extend the educational program. Approved providers, however, must be mindful of additional risks that may be present. Excursions must be conducted in a way that:
- ensures the safety, health and wellbeing of the children being educated and cared for by the service (section 167)
- meets the educational and developmental needs of the children being educated and cared for by the service (section 51).
For information and definitions of excursion, see regulation 4 of The Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (National Law).
Considerations for excursions
In addition to the specific requirements of the National Regulations for taking children on excursions, important requirements of the National Law must be met at all times. The National Law requires the approved provider of an education and care service to ensure that:
- all children being educated and cared for by the service are adequately supervised at all times that the children are in the care of the service (section 165)
- every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children being educated and cared for by the service from any harm or hazard likely to cause injury (section 167)
- relevant number of educators educating and caring for the children is no less than the number prescribed for this purpose (section 169).
- maximum number of approved places for children who can be educated and cared for by the service at any one time must not be exceeded (section 52(g)). This means that the service will need to consider all the children being educated and cared for by the service at any one time, including the children at the education and care premises and those on the excursion.
Policies and procedures
A service must have in place policies and procedures in relation to excursions (regulation 168(2)(g)), including procedures complying with the requirements for conducting risk assessments and seeking authorisation for excursions set out in regulations 100 to 102.
The policies and procedures must be followed, be readily accessible to all educators, staff members, and volunteers and be available for inspection at the service upon request (regulation 171).
Services must ensure these policies and procedures include strategies for monitoring and accounting for children on excursions, that include regularly monitoring children in attendance to ensure they are accounted for at all times. Services should ensure children’s presence is always checked against an accurate attendance record.
Family day care
Each time a family day care educator takes children outside the family day care residence or approved family day care venue they will need to consider whether the excursion is a regular outing. Written authorisation must be obtained prior to an excursion from a parent or other person with authority to authorise taking the child outside the family day care residence or approved venue.
Children being educated and cared for by a family day care educator must not be educated and cared for by any other person at the family day care residence or approved venue unless they are a family day care educator or an approved family day care assistant.
The approved provider may approve a family day care educator assistant to assist a family day care educator under certain circumstances. Written consent for the use of the family day care educator assistant in these circumstances must be provided to the approved provider by the parent of each child being educated and cared for by the family day care educator (regulation 144).
With the approval from the approved provider, a family day care educator assistant can stand in the place as the family day care educator:
- to transport children between the family day care residence or venue, to a school, another education and care service or children’s service, or a child’s home
- in emergency situations, including when the family day care educator requires urgent medical care or treatment
- to enable a family day care educator to attend an appointment (other than a regular appointment) in unforeseen or exceptional circumstances, if the absence is for less than 4 hours; and the approved provider has approved that absence; and notice of that absence has been given to the parents of the child.
Family day care educator assistants may also assist family day care educators while family day care educators are educating and caring for children as part of the family day care service.
Authorisation for excursions
A child must not be taken outside an education and care service, family day care residence or family day care venue on an excursion unless written authorisation is given by the child’s parent or other person named in the child’s enrolment record as having authority to authorise the taking of the child outside the education and care premises.
The authorisation must state:
- child’s name
- reason the child is to be taken outside the premises
- date the child is to be taken on the excursion
- description of the proposed destination for the excursion
- method of transport to be used for the excursion
- proposed activities to be undertaken by the child during the excursion
- period the child will be away from the premises
- anticipated number of children likely to be attending the excursion
- anticipated ratio of educators to the anticipated number of children attending the excursion
- anticipated number of staff members and any other adults who will accompany and supervise the children on the excursion
- that a risk assessment has been prepared and is available at the service (regulation 102(4)).
Authorisation for an excursion that is a regular outing
If an excursion is a regular outing, the authorisation is required to be obtained once in every 12 month period (regulation 102(5)). However obtaining authorisation in these circumstances more regularly would be advisable.
Authorisations for excursions must be kept in the enrolment record for each child enrolled at an education and care service (regulation 161(1)(b)) and in the enrolment record for each child educated and cared for by a family day care educator (regulation 161(2)(b)).
The National Regulations require a risk assessment to be completed before an authorisation is sought for an excursion (regulation 100). A child being educated and cared for by the service must not be taken outside the service or the family day care educator’s residence or approved family day care venue on an excursion unless written authorisation has been provided (regulation 102).
The purpose of a risk assessment is to identify possible risks of harm to children prior to an excursion, to ensure risks to children’s health, safety and wellbeing are minimised or avoided when taking children outside an education and care service , family day care residence or family day care venue. A risk assessment must include strategies for minimising and managing the identified risks (regulation 101).
When taking children outside an education and care service, a family day care residence or family day care venue, every aspect of the environment must be considered at each stage of the excursion to make sure that risks have been identified and addressed. A risk assessment must consider:
- proposed route and destination for the excursion
- any water hazards
- any risks associated with water based activities
- method of transport to and from the proposed destination
- number of adults and children involved in the excursion
- given the risks posed, the number of educators or other responsible adults that is appropriate to provide supervision and whether any adults with specialised skills are required to ensure children’s safety
- proposed activities
- proposed duration of the excursion
- items that should be taken on the excursion.
The risk assessment should also include strategies for accounting for all children on the excursion, particularly during transition times, such as ensuring all children have been transported to the destination and have been returned to the service at the conclusion of the excursion.
Conducting a risk assessment for an excursion that is a regular outing
A risk assessment is not required for a regular outing if a risk assessment has been conducted not more than 12 months before the excursion is to occur. Consideration should also be given to whether circumstances of the regular outing have changed since this risk assessment was completed (regulation 100(4)).
Once risks have been identified, the approved provider should categorise the risks as high, medium or low and then decide how the identified risks should be managed. Some risks may be able to be removed or strategies put in place to reduce children’s exposure to the risk.
Many potential risks can be managed by increasing the number of educators and/or adults accompanying and supervising children during the excursion.
It is important to make a final check for risks before departing on a regular outing or excursion. Extreme weather or other unexpected events may increase the level of risk and may make it necessary to reconsider whether to proceed with the excursion.
All excursions must be conducted in a way that ensures the health, safety and wellbeing of children. This means that an adequate number of educators and where necessary, other responsible adults, accompany the children.
Generally, educator to child ratios will need to be higher than the prescribed ratios to ensure adequate supervision during an excursion. Depending on the supervision requirements for the excursion, educators will usually have other staff members and/or other responsible adults with them to ensure that adequate supervision of children is maintained at all times.
Supervision is not confined to children. It also includes the supervision of responsible adults that assist with the excursion. The number of educators must be adequate to supervise any responsible adults who volunteer to assist with the excursion.
Educator to child ratios must be met whenever children are being educated and cared for by the service (section 169). This means maintaining educator to child ratios for the total number of children being educated and cared for by the service. To be included in the educator to child ratios, educators must be working directly with children (regulation 122). In addition, the qualification requirements for educators must be met (regulation 126-7).
A family day care educator must not educate and care for more than seven children at a family day care residence or approved family day care venue at any one time (regulation 124). For further details please see:
Family Day Care
Consideration must be given to the number of educators who have the required first aid qualifications and to the number of educators required to educate and care for children who remain at the service.
Where a group of children are taken on an excursion while a number of children remain at the service, at least one educator who holds the following qualifications must be in attendance at both the excursion and at the service where children are being educated and cared for, and must be immediately available in an emergency. At least:
- staff member or one nominated supervisor of the service who holds a current approved first aid qualification
- staff member or one nominated supervisor of the service who has undertaken current approved anaphylaxis management training
- staff member or one nominated supervisor of the service who has undertaken approved emergency asthma management training (regulation 136(1)).
It is also important that any educators or responsible adults attending the excursion are aware of the service’s policy and procedures that set out the instructions for what must be done in the event of an emergency (regulation 97(a)) and are aware of the risk assessment for the excursion.
Family day care services should also be mindful of their obligations in relation to the number of children that can be educated and cared for at any one time (regulation 124).
Factors to be taken into account when planning an excursion include the educational program, the children’s behaviour and any individual needs, the age of the children, the number of children, the proposed duration of the excursion, the abilities of children, the method of transport, any contact with water, accidents and access to toileting and nappy changing facilities.
Most important is the requirement to ensure adequate supervision is provided at all times.
The degree of planning required is influenced by the nature of the excursion, the level of risk and the children and adults who are participating. For excursions including regular outings that have previously been planned and conducted, previous risk assessments may need to be reviewed and revised.
Consideration should be given to visiting the proposed excursion destination, where information can be gathered about the availability of toilets, hand washing, drinking and shade facilities including adequate mobile phone coverage and access for emergency services.
When planning an excursion educators and family day care educators must consider how the excursion supports the educational program and contributes to the outcomes outlined for each child (regulation 73(2)).
Toilet, washing facilities, food and beverage requirements
When planning for an excursion, consideration must be given to how long the children will be away from the service, family day care residence or family day care venue. If toileting facilities will be required, educators must ensure that adequate toilet, washing and drying facilities are provided for safe use by children (regulation 109).
Educators must ensure that children have access to safe drinking water and are offered appropriate food and beverages during the excursion (regulation 78).
Adequate health and hygiene practices when handling, preparing and storing food must be in place to minimise risks to children (regulation 77).
Items to take on an excursion
When children are taken from the service, family day care residence or family day care venue on an excursion, the following items should be taken with educators:
- appropriate number of suitably equipped first aid kits (regulation 89)
- operating mobile telephone with an appropriate telephone network (regulation 98)
- contact information of any person who is to be notified of any incident, injury, trauma or illness involving the child and the child’s registered medical practitioner or medical service (regulation 162)
- items specific to the excursion circumstances, such as sunscreen and hats.
Meeting children’s medical needs
Children’s medical needs must be addressed during an excursion. This may include the requirements for the administration of medication. Where a child attending the excursion has a specific health care need, allergy or relevant medical condition, the risk assessment should consider the management of the child’s medical needs (regulation 160(3)).
Developing a risk assessment
There are many ways of developing a plan for an excursion that includes a risk assessment. The approved provider will need to develop one that works for educators, responsible adults and children taking part in the excursion.
State the purpose of the excursion
Identify how the excursion fits into the educational program for the children
Note the length of the excursion
Indicate how long the children will be away from the service, family day care residence or family day care venue and any considerations relating to the length of the excursion.
List the activities of the excursion
List the activities of the excursion, breaking them down into parts. For example, leaving the service, family day care residence or family day care venue, travelling to the location, the environment at the location, each activity that will be done at the location, food and drink requirements and returning to the service, family day care residence or venue.
Identify risks and hazards
Identify what risks, hazards and other considerations may be present for each stage of the excursion. This may involve educators going to the location before the excursion to identify any risks and hazards. Be mindful of issues such as the method of travel, any equipment that will be used, and the environment. Consider the individual needs of children, including any medical needs and any behavioural or emotional support needs. * Determining the number of adults that will be needed to supervise the children will be a large factor in managing identified risks.
Evaluate the level of risk and decide on precautions
Once you have identified the risks, you will need to categorise the risks as high, medium or low. You then need to decide how to manage each risk. You may be able to remove a risk altogether or reduce the children’s exposure to the risk. Occasionally, after completing a risk assessment, you may decide the risks for the children are too high to undertake the excursion.
Record your findings
Document what you have found and what you intend to do about each of the risks that have been identified, to ensure precaution is taken to protect children being educated and cared for by the service from harm or hazard likely to cause injury.
Implement any plans you have to reduce or remove the risk
If it is possible to remove or reduce any risks or hazards do this before the excursion.
Communicate your plans
Communicate your plans to all educators, other staff and other responsible adults going on the excursion and to parents and guardians of the children involved.
Monitor and review your plans
Always check that your plans are effective. Monitor and revise them as necessary during the excursion.
Communicate your plans
Services must ensure that the risk assessment includes strategies for monitoring and accounting for children on excursions, to ensure children are accounted for at all times. Services should ensure children’s presence is always checked against an accurate attendance record.