Outdoor education guidance – the importance of the basics

Outdoor education guidance – the importance of the basics

: Adventure activities : Leadership roles : Management and supervision : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Policies : Residential visits : Risk management NewsBlog

How to make safety and success more likely

Good practice, in terms of what happens on any particular visit can be quite subjective, because it depends so much on the aims and the context.

“Good practice does not guarantee safety or success, but it does make them more likely.”

So begins the OEAP NG guidance document 4.3a Good practice basics, which is the perfect introduction to many of the most important principles of safe and meaningful learning outside the classroom. It’s particularly relevant for educational visit co-ordinators, heads and managers, visit leaders and assistant leaders and outdoor education advisers.

The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) produces National Guidance, which provides comprehensive support for the management of high-quality outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities.

“Good practice is fundamentally about getting the right leaders doing the right activities with the right participants in the right places at the right times” says the document, which covers the following category example of good practice:-

  • Enabling Policies and Systems
  • Clear Aims
  • Competent and Effective Leadership
  • Thorough Planning
  • Proportionate Risk Management
  • Effective Supervision
  • Sound Selection and Use of Providers
  • Preparation for Emergencies
  • Monitoring
  • Review and Evaluation

“Risk management is not about eliminating risk altogether – it is about reducing it as low as reasonably practicable and deciding if this is acceptable so as to gain the benefits.”

Further useful reading

Recommended good practice basics next steps include:-

There are also links to many other supporting OEAP National Guidance documents.

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

Essential reading for anyone involved in outdoor education

Essential reading for anyone involved in outdoor education

: Adventure activities : Management and supervision : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Overseas visits : Parents and carers : Policies : Residential visits NewsBlog

Guidance that is particularly useful for those about to embark on learning outside the classroom activities for the first time

There is a very diverse range of people who make valuable and essential contributions to outdoor education activities. From parents and careers, to employers and advisers, local education officers and school governors, to heads and managers.

One thing they all have in common is that they had to start somewhere. And OEAP National Guidance provides the perfect no-nonsense introduction to these sometimes adventurous activities.

The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) produces National Guidance, which provides comprehensive support for the management of high-quality outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities.

Your introduction to outdoor education guidance

There are three specific documents that provide that all-important introduction. They are:-

All the turns of phrase and terminology that you’re likely to encounter.

This document explains the OEAP National Guidance starting points for the planning and management of outdoor learning, off-site visits and learning outside the classroom.

National Guidance has been written to be consistent with the law and with current good practice. If there is any conflict or inconsistency, the following priorities should be followed, in this order:

  1. Obey the law.
  2. Fulfil the requirements of your employer.
  3. Work within good practice expectations as set out by professional organisations and national governing bodies.
  4. Follow National Guidance.

Guidance for your future role – your onward journey

When you are further into your outdoor education journey, more comprehensive and role-specific help is available in the following categories:

There are also links to many other supporting OEAP National Guidance documents.

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

An employer’s introduction to learning outside the classroom guidance

An employer’s introduction to learning outside the classroom guidance

: Educational visits : Leadership roles : Legal considerations : Management and supervision : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Overseas visits : Residential visits : Risk management Essential NewsBlog

Help for you, your role and responsibilities

An introduction for employers whose staff lead outdoor learning, off-site visits or learning outside the classroom activities.

The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) produces National Guidance, which provides comprehensive support for the management of high-quality outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities.

One useful and efficient way for an employer to access relevant information is provided by the ability to search documents by role: National Guidance for employers is just one such category that can be found within OEAP National Guidance (NG).

The documents outlined below give essential guidance to you for your role and responsibilities – and will help you to implement appropriate systems.

Categories of Guidance for employers

Relevant Guidance for employers occurs in the following three categories of NG:

  • Category 1 – Basic essentials
  • Category 3 – Legal framework and employer systems
  • Category 4 – Good practice.

The document 3.1a Requirements and Recommendations for Employers is particularly helpful for people in senior or controlling positions in organisations that employ staff who provide outdoor learning and off-site visits. Roles that this is pertinent to include:-

  • Chief Executive
  • Chair
  • Company Secretary
  • Director
  • Councillor
  • Trustee
  • Governor
  • Proprietor
  • Owner.

“Employers are legally responsible for the activities that take place in their establishments. This includes a common law duty of care towards their employees and participants in the activities, and duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act (1974) (HSWA) and other legislation.”

In addition to their responsibilities as an employer, local authorities also have a duty under the Children Act (2004) to ensure that there are clear and effective arrangements to protect from harm all children and young people in their area.

This means that, even though they are not responsible under the HSWA for health and safety in establishments for which they are not the employer (such as independent schools and academies), they do have an overarching responsibility to ensure that all establishments have suitable and sufficient arrangements in place for managing health and safety and child protection, including during outdoor learning and off-site visits.

The OEAP NG guidance document 3.2a Underpinning Legal Framework and Duty of Care will also prove to be most helpful.

There are also links to many other supporting OEAP National Guidance documents.

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

Outdoor education guidance for parents and carers

Outdoor education guidance for parents and carers

: Educational visits : Legal considerations : Management and supervision : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Parents and carers : Residential visits Essential NewsBlog

Helping your child to participate in learning outside the classroom

The ideal stating point for finding out how you can safely contribute

The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) produces National Guidance, which provides comprehensive support for the management of high-quality outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities.

One useful and efficient way to access relevant information is enabled by the ability to search documents by role: National Guidance for parents (parents, legal guardians and others who have parental responsibility for a participant) is one such category that can be found within OEAP National Guidance (NG).

NG also helps with parents who may have more than one role within the supervision arrangements for the visit: care must be taken to ensure that the role of parent does not conflict with this other role.

Categories of Guidance for parents

Relevant Guidance for parents occurs in the following three categories of NG:

  • Category 1 – Basic essentials
  • Category 3 – Legal framework and employer systems
  • Category 4 – Good practice.

Not surprisingly, it is generally recommended that the ideal starting point is Basic essentials. Document 1a Glossary and Definitions deals with an overview of terms and definitions that will prove to be a useful reference. It states, for example, that an “Adventure Activity” is

“An Activity which is exciting and challenging and which involves significant inherent risk of harm, without which the activity would lose much of its value, or which takes place in a remote or hazardous location.”

Another significant NG document is the Legal framework and employer systems download 3.4n Guidance for Parents, which includes information on

  • Consent
  • What you can expect
  • Looked-after children
  • Helping with a Visit*.

*This category provides useful information for those parents wishing to take an active part in an activity:-

“Sometimes schools, colleges, youth groups and other establishments ask parents to give practical help during a visit. If you are considering helping with a visit, please see OEAP National Guidance document 3.4m Helper”.

There are also links to many other supporting OEAP National Guidance documents.

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

Why “Ratios and Effective Supervision” is one of the most popular outdoor education guidance documents

Why “Ratios and Effective Supervision” is one of the most popular outdoor education guidance documents

: Educational visits : Leadership roles : Legal considerations : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Overseas visits : Policies : Residential visits : Risk management Essential NewsBlog

It’s been downloaded over 48,000 times…

Planning, preparation and vigilance of competent leaders is key

“Establishments must ensure that the staffing of visits enables leaders to supervise young people effectively” says the National Guidance document Ratios and Effective Supervision.

The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) produces National Guidance, which provides comprehensive support for the management of high-quality outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities.

This significant document covers decisions that will need to be made with regards to the staffing and supervision of learning outside the classroom related activities. Consideration should be given to:-

  • The nature and duration of the visit and the planned activities
  • The location and environment in which the activity is to take place
  • The nature of the group, including the number of young people and their age, level of development, sex, ability and needs (behavioural, medical, emotional and educational)
  • Staff competence
  • The consequence of a member of staff being indisposed, particularly where they
    will be the sole leader with a group for any significant time.

“Staffing ratios are a risk management issue and should be determined through the process of risk assessment. It is not possible to set down definitive staff/participant ratios for a particular age group or activity.”

“Staffing, especially for visits to remote locations or overseas, should take into account how the group will be supervised effectively given the possibility of a leader becoming indisposed or having to leave the group, for example to accompany a sick child to hospital”, advises the document.

The download also contains direct links a variety of other supporting OEAP National Guidance documents.

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

Outdoor education – how to find out about your own responsibilities

Outdoor education – how to find out about your own responsibilities

: Educational visits : Leadership roles : Management and supervision : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Overseas visits : Residential visits : Risk management NewsBlog

A “quick start” guide to help you get underway

OEAP National Guidance (NG) is the go-to resource for outdoor education and learning outside the classroom expertise. And the good news is that it’s available to all – free of charge.

The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) is the professional association for outdoor education advisers and educational visits advisers that has produced the Guidance – and is responsible for keeping it up-to-date in the face of ever-changing and often fast moving circumstances.

One of the key challenges for any person who is involved with an aspect of learning outside the classroom, including offsite and overseas visits, is finding the right type of help for them by their role. Required information will vary depending on whether they are a teacher, parent, governor, local authority officer and so on.

Documents to help you get started

To learn about your own responsibilities, a good starting point will be the document in the following list that most closely fits your role:

Find OEAP National Guidance for your role »

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

Your outdoor education guidance documents – are they up-to-date?

Your outdoor education guidance documents – are they up-to-date?

: Educational visits : Leadership roles : Management and supervision : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Overseas visits : Residential visits : Risk management NewsBlog

OEAP National Guidance is updated frequently – here’s an index of changes

The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) is the professional association for outdoor education advisers and educational visits advisers.

The OEAP is also the body that has also produced National Guidance – which is the go-to collection of outdoor education and learning outside the classroom expertise. And the good news is that it’s available to all – free of charge.

How to check if your versions are current

Many teachers, heads, educational visits coordinators, local authority officers, employers and others download relevant documentation for use from time to time. But of course, things change. Regulations are amended.

The PDF document Table of Amendments, produced in May, lists dates and changes of National Guidance documents.

To make things really easy, each document name is linked directly to the relevant download on the OEAP website, making it a really useful reference.

OEAP NG Table of Amendments »


An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

How to find an adviser for educational visits

How to find an adviser for educational visits

: Educational visits : Management and supervision : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Overseas visits : Policies : Residential visits : Risk management Essential NewsBlog

Learning outside the classroom expertise is available across the UK

As the lead body for guidance, advice and training related to outdoor learning and educational visits in England and Wales, the Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) supports members in their work with schools and services to children and young people.

“When planned and implemented well, outdoor education, offsite visits and adventurous activities contribute significantly to raising standards and developing knowledge and skills in ways that add value to everyday experiences in the classroom.”

They believe every child in every school should have access to a comprehensive programme of high quality outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities as an integral part of their school curriculum.

“The OEAP recommends employing or engaging an OEAP member who can provide high quality advice and training. They have extensive, detailed and appropriate knowledge and experience of all relevant types of establishment and the range of outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities that are provided to young people.”

How to find an OEAP adviser

OEAP members are advisers who support Local Authorities, schools and Academy Groups in England, Wales, the Channel Islands and many overseas settings. They work together to share and develop good practice in Offsite Visits, Outdoor Learning and Learning Outside the Classroom.


An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

Which type of outdoor education guidance do you require?

Which type of outdoor education guidance do you require?

: Educational visits : Leadership roles : Management and supervision : Offsite visits : Outdoor learning : Overseas visits : Residential visits : Risk management NewsBlog

Finding the right information for you, your role and your responsibilities

The Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel‘s (OEAP) National Guidance comprises of a set of documents providing information and guidance for the management of high-quality outdoor learning, educational visits and adventurous activities.

You can browse for relevant information with a text search, by one of eight topics, or, if you are new to National Guidance, it may be helpful for you to search by your role.

Identify your role

Visit Leader »
Are you leading outdoor learning, off-site visits, and/or learning outside the classroom?

Assistant Leader »
Are you an assistant leader for outdoor learning, off-site visits, and/or learning outside the classroom?

Parents » 
Documents for Parents to read. Browse documents that provide guidance about your role in supporting your child to participate in a visit. If you also have a role in helping with a visit, for example as an Assistant Leader, please read the documents for that role too.

Educational Visits Coordinator (EVC) »

Head / Manager » 
Are you responsible for staff who lead outdoor learning, off site visits or learning outside the classroom?

Governors, Trustees and Directors » 
Are you a Board member, such as a school governor, charity trustee or company director?

Employer » 
Are you an Employer? Do your staff lead outdoor learning, off-site visits or learning outside the classroom?

Outdoor Education Adviser » 
Are you responsible for providing advice, guidance, support or approval for outdoor learning, off site visits or learning outside the classroom?

Local Authority Officer » 
Browse documents that set out the particular responsibilities of a Local Authority, as well as its responsibilities as an Employer. These documents are aimed at Directors of Children’s Services (and equivalent roles), Heads of Service, and local authority staff who have involvement with children and young people, such as through social services, youth services, education services etc.

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »

Outdoor education: how to reduce the environmental impact of snowsports

Outdoor education: how to reduce the environmental impact of snowsports

: Outdoor learning : Overseas visits : Residential visits Essential NewsBlog

Method of travel, choice of resort can help significantly…

The OEAP National Guidance document 7.1v Snowsport Visits, has been updated to give more advice on reducing the otherwise significant environmental impact that these activities can have.

This guidance defines ‘snowsport’ to cover both skiing and snowboarding activities.

There are huge benefits to be achieved with a snowsport residential visit says the guidance – not least by a significant contribution to a young person’s personal and social development. Plus points often include for example, respect for self, others and the environment, self-awareness and self-confidence and an interest in a healthy physical activity that may become a lifelong pursuit.

Considering the environmental impact

The update with this particular document deals specifically with ways to reduce the potentially high environmental impact of this otherwise worthwhile form of outdoor education.

“The development of snowsport resorts can have a significant negative impact on the mountain landscape and wildlife, snowmaking uses large amounts of energy and water, and travelling (especially flying) to a resort has a high carbon footprint.”

Example given of ways to mitigate the impact include:-

  • A careful choice of destination
  • Consideration regarding the means of travel
  • Choosing activities such as cross-country skiing instead of mechanised downhill skiing.

Other topics covered include:-

  • Preparation for Snowsports
  • Planning the Visit
  • Leader Competence Requirements
  • Supervision
  • Equipment and Clothing
  • Safety In and Around the Resort.

The download also contains direct links a variety of other supporting OEAP National Guidance documents.


Download OEAP National Guidance document 7.1v Snowsport Visits »

An introduction to OEAP National Guidance »