Risk in Planning and School Operations

Purpose of the policy

To ensure schools apply effective risk management processes.

Prerequisite policy


Risk management forms one of the key elements of an effective planning process.  Understanding the schools objectives and goals, and how to measure success should be followed up by an assessment of the uncertainty (the risks, both threats and opportunities) to achieving the objectives.

​Risk as a planning tool

A thorough understanding of the risk profile for your objectives helps to prioritise the areas of focus for the planning period. It also helps to decide which strategies, activities and processes will have less impact on the uncertainty and therefore may be stopped or not implemented.

When undertaking an analysis of the school environment to determine the goals for the coming year, use a SWOT Matrix  (pdf - 113.86kb) to identify opportunities and threats.

Once the goals have been identified and articulated and measures and targets captured, the risks to their success can be identified and assessed. This risk assessment also includes capturing the controls (the processes, assets and people) you currently have in place that are managing these risks. This risk assessment helps to prioritise which key improvement strategies will have the most impact on improving the management of the risks and therefore the likelihood of achieving the goals.

School Strategic Plan

A school’s Strategic Plan sets the direction and the intent of the school for the coming four years. It is a key driver in achieving school improvement and is the foundation for principal and teachers’ performance and development, school review and accountability, annual reporting, budgeting and capital works planning. 

The school’s priorities for the strategic plan should be determined from an assessment of the profile of uncertainty of achievement of the school’s goals and objectives. This assessment needs to take into consideration the changing context, current and expected within the planning cycle. An understanding of how that context may change should inform the risks. The assessment of the risks with the tools provided will help prioritise the strategic programs to be implemented in the four-year period.

Annual Implementation Plan

An Annual Implementation Plan (AIP) is essentially a school-level work plan. It describes how the key improvement strategies in the School Strategic Plan (or School Charter) will be put into operation during the year.

Whilst developing the AIP, risk management practices should be utilised at key stages of the planning process.

Risk in school operations

As the day-to-day operations at a school are undertaken, there are many areas and contexts where risks need to be identified, assessed and communicated. These range from the ongoing risks to the achievement of the school objectives, to risks for one-off activities and projects.

For each of these areas, the method for identifying, capturing and assessing the risks is the same, only the context, goals and objectives are different. Some contexts require that a risk register is communicated either to the principal, school council or the regional office as part of an approvals process. For all contexts, it is best practice to identify the uncertainty involved to help prioritise the available resources.

The Department's Risk and Decision Branch provides sample registers for each of these contexts, see Blank and Sample Risk Registers below.

Day-to-day running of the school

The school leadership team should maintain a register of risks for the day-to-day running of the school. These risks should inform decision-making at leadership meetings. This register should hold risks about essential school functions, such as:

  • infrastructure and maintenance
  • staffing
  • financial performance
  • educational outcomes.

The leadership team should look at how risks change throughout the year as the school environment changes and as treatments for those risks are completed.

In the classroom

Risks that assist in achieving goals and objectives in the classroom should be considered. This should take into account lesson-specific factors such as class demographics, venue and equipment required. Standard registers can be developed by faculty for reference to help inform risk assessment within the classroom.

See: Selecting Teaching and Learning Resources

Wellbeing and safety risks will also need to be considered for classes such as:

  • science practicals
  • cooking
  • physical education.

See: Safely Delivering the Curriculum

Excursions and Incursions

It is a requirement that all risks to the achievement of the objectives of an excursion or incursion are articulated and assessed. This risk assessment is to be included in the papers for approval by the:

  • principal for single day events
  • school council for overnight events.

The risks to be considered should include:

  • the demographics of the group
  • any travel planned
  • the destination and its environment
  • the activities to be undertaken.

The risk process will inform the planning of the event and help decide what resources, staff and equipment will be required. For information about the planning and approvals for Excursions and Incursions, see:  Excursions and Activities

Education outdoors

As with excursions, it is required that the risks to the objectives of education outdoors activities be captured and submitted to the school council. For the activities to be undertaken, you will need to provide assurance that any third parties have appropriately assessed the risks.

See: Safety Guidelines for Education Outdoors

For guidelines and standard controls for specific activities, see: Activities

Projects and events

Schools may hold one-off events such as school fetes, concerts and science fairs. To ensure these events are effective and achieve their goals and objectives, the risks to their delivery should be captured and assessed. This should take into account risks of:

  • financial handling
  • wellbeing and safety
  • visitor experience
  • infrastructure
  • resources.

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS)

It is a requirement for schools to maintain a register of the OH&S risks facing the school to ensure all potential hazards on the site are identified, assessed and appropriately managed.

See: Health, Safety and Workers Compensation for information on the OHS Management System and OHS Contacts

Blank and Sample Risk Registers

The Risk and Decision Branch has developed sample registers for the various areas of risk within your school operation. These registers need to be tailored to the context of your school and activity. Any controls or assessments provided are purely for demonstration and will need to be reviewed. The Blank Risk Register allows schools to create their own risk register in Microsoft Excel. Information from the Sample Registers can be imported into a new register and tailored to suit the school’s needs.

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