Going Mad for Health & Safety

Thursday 27th May 2021

  • #UKEdChat session 554
  • Mitigation is only part of the battle, and plans are needed if the worst was to happen.
  • Schools are quick to ban, instead of teaching children about risk in the relatively safe environment of the school.
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“It’s health and safety gone mad” is an often-heard battle cry from the popular press, but have we got health and safety all wrong? Rather than being an obstacle, does it liberate us to do what we want within the boundaries of was is possible and safe?

Schools can often tie themselves up in knots trying to appear to be taking a cautious approach to all things. From a no-no to yo-yos policy, to a ban on refillable water bottles over concerns of Legionnaires’ disease, schools have banned and sanctioned more things than UK Border Force and Donald Trump combined! Yet the same schools rely on specially prepared printing registers to check whether all pupils are present for every fire drill I’ve ever taken part in (because the registers will be really already printed when an emergency happens, won’t they?). Madness!

But are schools losing valuable teaching opportunities, both directly (by not allowing pupils to learn how to assess and mitigate risks for themselves) and indirectly (by shutting down learning activities because of fear of want might occur). It shouldn’t be an oxymoron to say that schools are the perfect place to explore risks in a safe environment and under the watchful eye of the teacher. After all, activities like cycling proficiency have a long tradition of exploring the risks of the road in a safe way.

The work of countless statisticians, with David Spiegelhalter (Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk) being just one, shows time and again that humans are simply appalling at assessing risk, and it would make a fine maths project for GCSE maths students to calculate just how unlikely most things that teachers put on risk assessments really are.

This doesn’t mean that all caution should be throw to the wind. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents highlights that mitigation is only part of the battle. The focus should not only be on the myriad possible things that could occur but also a robust framework and concrete plans to put into action if the worst was to happen because things go to pieces quickly in an emergency, yo-yos or no yo-yos.

In this #UKEdChat session, which took place on Thursday 27th May 2021 at 8pm(UK) we discussed how health and safety impacts on your lessons both positively and negatively, what training you have had and what else you want to know, how to make risk management meaningful without jumping through hoops, and how to teach learners about risk in the relative safety of the classroom.


  1. What does health and safety in schools mean to you?
  2. Is health and safety an enabler or a disabler? Why?
  3. How can we help pupils learn about risk in the relatively safe environment of the school?
  4. How could the risk assessment process be changed to reduce workload and be a more meaningful exercise?
  5. How does health and safety concerns negatively impact on your teaching?
  6. How does health and safety impact positively on your teaching?
  7. What are the most important things you have learnt from health and safety training?
  8. What more would you like to know, or what health and safety training would you like to have?

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About @ICTmagic 780 Articles
Martin Burrett is the editor of our popular UKEdMagazine, along with curating resources in the ICTMagic section, and free resources for teachers on UKEd.Directory

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