Health and Safety for Schools

Who is Accountable for Health and Safety Within a School?

The legal responsibility and thus accountability for health and safety lies with the employer. While this seems straightforward, who the employer depends on the type of school. There are also differences across England, Scotland and Wales as detailed below.

England and Wales
School type Employer
Community schools The local authority
Community special schools
Voluntary controlled schools
Maintained nursery schools
Pupil referral units
Foundation schools The governing body
Foundation special schools
Voluntary aided schools
Independent schools The governing body or proprietor
Academies and free schools The Academy Trust
State schools funded through Scottish local authorities The local authority
Independent private or fee-paying schools The proprietor, board of trustees or equivalent
Grant-aided schools The governing body, or equivalent,

Health and Safety Duties:

  • Assess the risks to staff and others affected by their
  • To ensure adequate and appropriate health and safety management arrangements are in place to manage the risks to staff, pupils and visitors
  • To nominate a member of the senior management team with lead responsibility for health and safety.
  • Inform employees about the risks and measures to be taken to manage the risks and
  • Ensure that adequate training is given to employees on health and safety matters
  • To ensure all accidents, incidents and near misses are reported and investigated

Safety and risk and its links to the Ofsted framework

Ofsted released new guidance in September 2012 ‘The Framework for School Inspection.’ The guidance outlines key changes including:

  • Inspectors focus sharply on those aspects of schools’ work that have the greatest impact on raising achievement
  • Inspectors engage headteachers, school staff and governors. The views of parents, pupils and staff provide important evidence for the inspection
  • Inspectors are required to report on the quality of education provided in the school and must, in particular, cover:
    • the achievement of pupils at the school
    • the quality of teaching in the school
    • the behaviour and safety of pupils at the school
    • the quality of leadership in, and management of, the school

Both ‘teaching safety’ and ‘teaching safely’ are integral parts of the new framework. In the section ‘Behaviour and safety of pupils at the school’ inspectors assess: ‘whether pupils feel safe and their ability to assess and manage risk appropriately and to keep themselves safe.’

‘Inspectors will also consider the behaviour and safety of pupils attending onsite and off-site alternative provision’.

This requires schools to have safety education as part of the curriculum and to get a good or outstanding score, schools must be able to demonstrate learning outcomes.

In the section ‘Quality of leadership in, and management of, the school’ inspectors assess whether leaders and managers:

  • ‘take steps to promote the safety of all pupils and ensure that they are safe in school.’
  • ‘engage parents in supporting pupils’ achievement, behaviour and safety and their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development’
  • ‘provide a broad and balanced curriculum…, and promotes their good behaviour and safety and their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development.’

Those will apply to senior teaching staff, non-teaching staff such as business managers and Governors.

Why is Health and Safety in Schools Important?

Good Health and Safety management contributes to a schools effectiveness. Aiming for high standards of health and safety is the right thing to do and is not just about legal compliance. Achieving and providing excellence in the way health and safety risks are managed has massive benefits for any educational institution.


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